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Hike the Whiteside Mountain Loop

Highlands, North Carolina

based on 2 reviews



2 miles

Elevation Gain

595 ft

Route Type



Added by Christian Murillo

The Whiteside Mountain Loop is a short, but excellent trail that climbs up the back of the mountain, revealing sweeping vistas over its steep 700-foot cliffs. This hike is one of the best mountain hikes in this part of North Carolina.

Whiteside Mountain is simply breathtaking, there is no way around it.  Views of the mountain from the South expose its sheer granite face, which runs almost its entire length East-to-West.  However, the views of the mountain are just the beginning, as this hike climbs to higher heights than just about all of the surrounding mountains within sight.  Do not get fooled by the impressive prominence and elevation of the mountain, as the hike up the mountain is quite easy with mild-grade elevation gain, making it perfectly doable in an hour or two. 

Starting from the Whiteside Mountain Trailhead, nestled in the Nantahala National Forest between Highlands and Cashiers, the 2-mile hike begins with some stairs rising through some Rhododendron tunnels.  After a short climb of about 0.1 miles, you will find the fork of the loop.  If you start off going left, the climb is a bit more gradual and most of the views are preserved for the back half of the hike.  A nice wide gravel-ish path will take you up the Northern face of the peak.  In the winter, you will see much of this side of the mountain lined with icicles and on especially icy days, this becomes a popular spot for ice climbing.  This part of the trail continues for almost a mile before the trail hooks to the right, revealing some incredible views from the cliffs to the East and the South. 

The exposed granite wall is the result of volcanic activity millions of years ago, with weaker rock peeling away over time, leaving the sheer cliff that we see today.  Following this cliff on the South face can be a bit nerve-wracking if you have a fear of heights, but there are some nice metal railings and wooden platforms in place to get some epic views from a perfectly safe vantage point.  For adrenaline-seekers, it might be obvious to see why this has become a pretty legendary and challenging climbing spot in Western North Carolina over the years.  Whiteside Mountain really does have something for everyone, so for nature lovers, you have a solid chance of spotting Peregrine Falcons nesting in the summer.  From many of the viewpoints dotted along the South rim, you can spot Lake Jocassee well into South Carolina, as well as the foothills surrounding the Chattooga River in Sumter and Chattahoochee National Forests.

Shortly after you reach the highest point on Whiteside Mountain, at 4,931’, the trail begins its descent to the North.  There is one last viewpoint that faces Southwest, just before the trail leads to stairs.  The rest of the trail following the stairs should be straight-forward enough to return you to the parking lot.

All in all, this hike is definitely in my top 10 of short day-hikes in the Southeast.  It is the perfect blend of just enough difficulty to make it feel like you got an exercise while still being packed with multiple classic Blue Ridge Mountain views. 

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Rock Climbing
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Food Nearby

Hike the Whiteside Mountain Loop Reviews

A must see if your in the area

Gorgeous views. Would recommend hiking counterclockwise to get to the views with fresh legs

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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