Whiteside Mountain near Highlands is always a favorite winter hike. Usually, we hike in ice and snow. This time it was just cold and wintery. I posted some of these photos on FB but wanted to talk about the hike itself.

This hike is a looping two miles which leads to one incredible overlook after another. It is a great hike in any season, but it’s particularly beautiful in spring, when the wildflowers are in full bloom. The hike is relatively short and moderate in elevation gain, which makes it very popular with all levels of ability. If you are seeking a place of solitude better visit early in the morning weekdays.

Standing on the Eastern Continental Divide. I always forget this part about being on Whiteside!

We enjoyed Lenea being with us and hope we can hike more together. I love these views!

On the way up, you pass several overlooks. This is one on the lower end of the hike.

Steel cables protect you from edges that are inches away from sheer drop offs.

I just wanted to take this photo. I don’t know why. The pathway is below in it and the mountains are peeking at us through the winter trees.

On this day, we almost had the mountain to ourselves. A few others were there but that was all. We were able to enjoy moments filled with pure, silent, summit bliss and a little sunlight streaming down through the clouds.

Years ago this area was not fenced off! But now it is and I felt safe climbing through the small passage and stepping out to enjoy the view below.

Whiteside’s massive, exposed cliffs rise nearly 750 feet above the tree line. It has the highest perpendicular bare rock face east of the Rocky Mountains. Endangered peregrine falcons nest on the mountain’s towering cliffs, and soar in the thermal uplifts beside Whiteside searching for prey. The mountain’s summit vistas stretch far and wide in some of the most incredible panoramas in western North Carolina. I always forget this because the mountain is so close and I have hiked it so often.

It’s not unusual to see rock climbers on the cliffs, but not when the peregrine falcons are nesting. This particular falcon is one of the world’s fastest and most beautiful birds. They return annually to Whiteside to nest on rock ledges. Because peregrines are nervous parents, climbing routes over the rocky faces, are closed during the nesting season.

Tag: I never knew just how high this mountain is. It is a very reasonable hike (two mile loop). I always find myself very eager to get up to the top so I can enjoy the views and climb around on the rocky areas.

Pat on top of one of the rocky faces. There are three to four open areas like this offering expansive views of some of North Carolina’s tallest mountains.

The trail down: So much work has been done on this entire trail. It once was rutted badly, held water, and had lots of steep downs. But the ruts have been filled in and even some really nice wooden stairs have been added. It’s a great afternoon hike and only takes about 45 minutes, especially if you take time to stop along the way. Or you can stretch it out and make it longer. We have even prepared hot tea at the summit!

Directions: Whiteside Mountain is located 4.7 miles from the Cashiers Crossroads (the intersection of Highway 64 and 107). To access the hiking trail, enter the Wildcat Cliffs Country Club development via Whiteside Mountain Road. Proceed 1.1 miles on Whiteside Mountain Road to the parking area on the left