Trails and Getaways
There’s no doubt that Highlands is made for those looking to lose themselves or find themselves amidst the forests and hills that surround us. Generations of naturalists, artists and dreamers have discovered paradise on the trails that wind through the wilderness. Take a camera with you! (This isn’t Chamber of Commerce hype – each one of the trails is loaded with charm and spectacle.)
BARTRAM TRAIL: The Bartram Trail runs from Oconee State Park in South Carolina through Georgia and North Carolina to the Great Smokies. It’s marked with yellow blazes.
CHATTOOGA LOOP TRAIL: This is an almost two-mile loop trail that begins to the left of the Iron Bridge. From Highlands, proceed east on Main Street for 4.5 miles. Main Street will become Horse Cove Road. Look for the intersection with Bull Pen and Whiteside Cove Roads. Turn right onto Bull Pen Road (#1178/#1180). Proceed for 5.4 miles to the Iron Bridge. The trailhead is on the left just before bridge.
CHINQUAPIN MOUNTAIN: This 3.2mile round trip starts with its trail head at the Glen Falls Parking Lot. It’s a moderate walk, and the trail crosses streams many times. A mile-long series of switch backs leads to the top. Length: 1.5 miles. Difficulty: Moderate
CLIFFSIDE LAKE RECREATIONAL AREA: This is a delightful plunge into nature’s glorious bounty. Take US 64 West for 4.5 miles, turn right at the Cliffside Lake sign and continue for 1.5 miles. There are several hiking trails and picnic tables with grills and a lake for swimming and fishing It’s a fee area, for day use only. It also features a LOOP TRAIL, an easy 0.75 walk around the lake.
ELLICOTT’S ROCK / BAD CREEK TRAILS: This seven-mile round trip starts on Bull Pen Road. It boasts Ellicott’s Rock, an enormous boulder embedded in the Chattooga Riverbank, bearing the letters NC, carved by surveyor Andrew Ellicott. He thought this was the intersection of North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina. Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t. That’s Commissioner’s Rock, bearing the symbol NC/ SC 1813, 10 feet downstream. At the far end of Horse Cove, turn onto Bull Pen Road. Ellicott’s Rock trail starts at six miles, the Bad Creek trail starts at 10 miles. Both drop steeply down from opposite sides of the river near Ellicott’s Rock (left bank looking down stream) and continue down river. This will give you a good workout.
HICKORY KNUT GAP: Take Hwy. 106, 4 miles to Turtle Pond Road and turn right. Take a left on Hickory Knut Gap Road. Drive 0.9 mile to the trail, which is a Forest Service Road on the left. Park on the right and walk road for 0.28 miles then the trail leaves the road sharply to the right. Follow the blue blazes to the junction with Bartram and continue to Scaly summit or beyond. You’ll feel like you’re far, far away from civilization.
HIGHLANDS BOTANICAL GARDENS: This is lovely spot with several different gardens to explore, just a half mile from downtown on Main Street/Horse Cove Road. Park on the gravel area across from Highlands Nature Center. The garden paths start to the left of the Nature Center with maps posted along the trails. The gardens are free and open to the public year-round, from sunrise to sunset. This is a little jewel just a few hundred yards from the bustle of downtown.
JONES KNOB: Take US 64 West to Turtle Pond Road. Go 1.1 miles to the intersection and continue to the right on Dendy Orchard Road for 1.4 miles to the top of the hill. Turn left on Jones Gap Road and continue for two miles to the parking area. An old roadbed leads right to a wildlife management field. At the far end of the field, yellow blazes mark Bartram to the right and blue blazes mark the Jones Knob spur trail to left. Follow the blue blazed trail for .03 mile to a delightful mountaintop view.
LAKE SEQUOYAH: Formed in 1927, Lake Sequoyah is Highlands’ largest body of water. Take in the sights of the lake while savoring a delicious meal at On the Verandah restaurant (ontheverandah.com), located right on the banks of the Sequoyah.
LITTLE SLIDING ROCK: Take Horse Cove Road to the end the of pavement. Take the left (Whiteside Cove Road) for approximately five miles, then start looking for a little parking area off the road. This quiet spot, seemingly a million miles from 21st century stress, has delighted its guests for generations. Stop along the way to see the World’s Smallest Post Office.
THE NARROWS: This is an easy four-mile round trip. Its trail head leads off Whiteside Cove Road. It features spectacular views of the Chattooga River forced into a narrow channel, exploding over boulders, and revealing an unexpected swimming hole. Turn left onto Whiteside Cove Road and drive 0.9 mile. The trail is on a logging road on the right and descends two miles to The Narrows. You’ll pass a trail to the right, which continues to Bull Pen Bridge on Horse Cove Road. Be sure to return the way you came.
SLICK ROCK TRAIL: This is a simple 0.2-mile round trip. Take Horse Cove Road to the end of the pavement. Take the right fork onto Bull Pen Road and continue one mile. On a sharp left curve, look for a pull-off and a steep unmarked path on the right. The hike is short, but the summit offers an impressive view of the mountains.
SUNSET ROCK: This is an astonishing site, just a few hundred yards from downtown. Take Main Street for half a mile east until the Nature Center is on the left. Park on the gravel on the right side of the road. Sunset Rock is an ideal choice for a late afternoon stroll. It’s a short half-mile walk to the top. Beautiful sunsets can be seen over the town, while you sit on a natural amphitheater on slabs of granite. Some people will tell you that you can drive to the summit. This is good advice if you don’t mind that your vehicle could (almost certainly will) sustain a broken axle. Trust us – walk to the top.
YELLOW / SHORTOFF MOUNTAIN: To reach the trailhead, take US 64 East from Highlands three miles and turn left onto Buck Creek Road. Follow Buck Creek Road for 2.3 miles. The trail will be on the right. The destination of this hike is a spectacular panoramic vista scene from the top of Yellow Mountain. This strenuous hike is 4.8 miles one way, so allow for a full day.
WHITESIDE MOUNTAIN: This jaw-dropping spectacle is six miles from town on US 64 East. Turn right at the sign onto Whiteside Mountain Road. Go one mile to a well-marked parking area on the left. This is a fee area, and there’s a restroom located in the parking area. The two-mile loop trail climbs above sheer cliffs and offers outstanding views. This moderate trail, crowned by a panoramic vista, is a loop.
WHITEWATER FALLS TRAIL: This easy 0.6 mile-round trip will reward you with a spectacular view of the highest waterfall in the Eastern United States. Take Highway 64 East to Cashiers, turn right onto Highway 107 South for 9.3 miles. At the Whitewater Falls sign, turn left to SC 130. Continue 2.3 miles to a stop sign and turn left onto Whitewater Road (SR 1171). Drive 1.1 miles to the Whitewater Falls sign and turn right. The trail descends very steeply to the river. There is another overlook about 100 feet further down the trail. To the left, the trail continues to the river and fords the river. There are numerous places for picnicking as well as shallow pools for wading and quick dips.
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