Highlands is one of my favorite getaways in the Southeast U.S. This quaint, picturesque, mountain town is perfect for a romantic, girls, or mother-daughter trip. This is also a foodie destination, so budget to eat out a lot.
The best way to experience Highlands is on a Blue Ridge Mountains Road Trip!
This town has hiking, waterfalls, golf, a spa, and shopping, so there’s no shortage of things to do here. And Highlands’ prime location in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains makes it a beautiful destination year-round.
So here’s what you need to know for a trip to Highlands, North Carolina!
Hike to at least one of these waterfalls: Glen Falls, Whitewater Falls, Rainbow Falls
If you’re staying at Half Mile Farm, kayak and bike around the property
Drive the Cullasaja River Gorge along the Waterfall Byway
Wine tasting at the Highlands Wine Shoppe
Spa day at Old Edwards Inn (which you can do even if you’re not staying here)
Walk up and down the quaint, picturesque Main Street
Hike Whiteside Mountain (moderate two-mile round trip)
Make the short drive to Whitewater Falls and see the cascade from the Upper and Lower Overlooks
When To Go
Highlands’ peak season is from June – August. The town’s 4,000+ elevation makes it one of the few Southeast getaways with mild humidity in the summer. The weekends will be particularly crowded, so you’ll want to make accommodation and restaurant reservations in advance. And be prepared for prices to be at their highest.
Fall is the second most popular season for Highlands. September and November have shoulder-season prices and crowd numbers, but October is comparable to the summer peak months because of the foliage change. The mornings and evenings are already cold by September, so make sure you bring layers. If you’re visiting in November, then you’ll want to plan your trip around the Highlands Food & Wine Festival.
Winter is frigid here. From December – February, daytime temperatures are usually below freezing, so bring your warmest clothes. Shops, restaurants, and accommodation remain open in these months, but everything usually opens later and closes earlier. Snow is widespread in the area. The roads are well-maintained, plowed, and salted, but you’ll want to plan for extra driving time on these winding mountain roads in Winter.
Spring will still be chilly, so bring layers. Crowds and prices won’t start significantly rising until June, so March – May are great budget months to visit, especially since this isn’t a popular Spring Break destination. The wildflowers will be in full bloom in April and May, so make sure you plan some mountain hikes. Rain is common in the Spring, so always have a rain jacket with you for pop-up afternoon showers.
Where To Eat
Fine Dining: Madisons at Old Edwards Inn, Wolfgangs, Ristorante Paoletti
Brunch Places: Blue Bike Cafe, Randevu Restaurant (in nearby Cashiers), Brunch HQ
Quick Eats: Mountain Fresh Grocery, Calders Coffee, Kilwins, Highlands Deli, SweeTreats Craft Ice Cream
Pizza and Burgers: Four65 Woodfire Bistro and Bar, Whiteside Brewing Company (in nearby Cashiers)
Where To Stay
Highlands is full of inns, bed and breakfasts, and boutique hotels, and I don’t think you could go wrong with any choice. My personal favorites are Old Edwards Inn, 200 Main, and Half Mile Farm. These accommodations have the same owners, so you can enjoy discounts at the shared spas, golf course, and restaurants.
If you want to camp or bring your RV, I recommend Van Hook Glade Campground or Highlands Hidden Creek RV Park. There are also cabins and cottages to rent through Airbnb.
Best Day Trips
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The North Carolina park entrances are only about an hour and fifteen minutes drive from Highlands. You can head to the towns of Cherokee or Bryson City to explore the lesser-visited North Carolina side of the park. I highly recommend driving the scenic Road To Nowhere. Here’s my Great Smoky Mountains National Park Guide!
Asheville. Asheville is about a two-hour drive from Highlands. You can spend the day at the Biltmore, explore downtown Asheville, or drive sections of The Blue Ridge Parkway. So check out out my Asheville City Guide.
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This post is not a sponsored post, and, as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this Highlands, North Carolina travel guide are entirely my own. Some of these links are affiliate links, and, at no cost to you, I may earn a small commission.