Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail In North Carolina

Here is everything you need to know about the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: North Carolina
  • Length: 5.5 miles.
  • Type: Multi-use.
  • Surface: gravel
  • Managed By: Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail Committee
  • Permit Required?: Yes
  • Website: https://www.highlandsplateaugreenway.org/

The Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail, located in the town of Highlands, North Carolina, has a rich history that dates back to the early 20th century. The trail follows the path of an old railroad bed that was once used for transporting timber and other goods from the surrounding mountains. This railway, known as the “Shortline,” was constructed in 1890 and played a crucial role in the economic development of the region.

During the early years of the Shortline, the Highlands area experienced a boom in logging and mining activities. The railway provided a convenient means of transportation for the abundant natural resources found in the mountains. However, as the timber industry declined in the mid-20th century, the railway fell into disuse and was eventually abandoned.

In the late 1990s, the idea of repurposing the old railway bed into a recreational trail began to gain traction. Local residents recognized the potential of transforming this historic route into a scenic pathway that would showcase the natural beauty of the Highlands Plateau. With the support of the community and various organizations, the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail project was initiated.

Over the years, the trail has undergone significant development and expansion. Today, it stretches for approximately 5 miles, offering visitors and locals alike a unique opportunity to explore the picturesque landscapes of the Highlands area. The trail meanders through lush forests, crosses charming bridges, and provides access to several points of interest, including waterfalls and scenic overlooks. The Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail stands as a testament to the region’s industrial past and its commitment to preserving its natural heritage for future generations to enjoy.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park: This park serves as a major access point to the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail. It is located in downtown Highlands and offers parking, restrooms, and picnic areas.

2. Highlands Nature Center: The Highlands Nature Center is another access point to the trail. It provides educational exhibits and programs about the local flora and fauna. Parking is available at the center.

3. Highlands Biological Station: This research facility and educational center also serves as a trailhead for the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail. It offers parking and access to the trail.

4. Sunset Rock: Located near the Highlands Country Club, Sunset Rock is a popular access point to the trail. It offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and is a great spot for picnicking.

5. Highlands Recreation Park: This park provides parking and access to the trail. It features sports fields, playgrounds, and picnic areas.

6. Highlands-Cashiers Hospital: The hospital serves as an access point to the trail, providing parking and restrooms for trail users.

7. Highlands Biological Foundation: This organization supports the Highlands Biological Station and provides parking and access to the trail.

8. Highlands School: The local school serves as an access point to the trail, offering parking and restrooms.

9. Highlands Botanical Garden: The botanical garden is another access point to the trail. It features a variety of native plants and offers parking for trail users.

10. Highlands Community Building: Located in downtown Highlands, the community building provides parking and access to the trail. It also hosts various community events and activities.

These are some of the major access points or trailheads along the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail. There may be additional smaller access points or trailheads along the trail as well.

Transportation Available

1. Highlands Taxi – Local taxi service providing convenient transportation in the Highlands area.
2. Highlands Shuttle – Shuttle service offering reliable transportation to and from various locations in the Highlands region.
3. Highlands Rideshare – Ridesharing service connecting passengers with local drivers for convenient and affordable transportation.
4. Highlands Bike Rentals – Bike rental service offering a fun and eco-friendly way to explore the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail.
5. Highlands Car Rentals – Car rental service providing options for those looking for independent transportation in the Highlands area.
6. Highlands Trolley – Trolley service offering a unique and scenic way to travel around the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail.


The amenities available at the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail may include:

1. Restrooms: There may be restroom facilities available along the trail or at designated rest areas.

2. Parking: There may be designated parking areas or parking lots available for trail users.

3. Camping sites: Depending on the trail, there may be designated camping sites or nearby campgrounds for overnight stays.

4. Picnic areas: There may be designated picnic areas along the trail where visitors can stop and enjoy a meal or snack.

5. Benches and seating areas: There may be benches or seating areas along the trail for visitors to rest and take in the surroundings.

6. Water fountains or hydration stations: There may be water fountains or hydration stations along the trail to provide drinking water for visitors.

7. Information kiosks or signage: There may be information kiosks or signage along the trail to provide trail maps, directions, and other relevant information.

8. Dog-friendly amenities: Some trails may have designated areas or amenities for dogs, such as dog waste stations or off-leash areas.

9. Bike racks: There may be bike racks available at trailheads or other locations along the trail for cyclists to securely park their bikes.

10. Accessibility features: The trail may have accessibility features such as ramps, handrails, or paved paths to accommodate individuals with disabilities.

Please note that the availability of these amenities may vary depending on the specific section or segment of the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail. It is recommended to check with local authorities or trail management for the most up-to-date information on amenities.

Nearby Services

1. Highlands Inn – A cozy lodging option near the trail with comfortable rooms and scenic views.
2. The Ugly Dog Public House – A popular eatery offering a diverse menu of delicious food and drinks.
3. Mountain Fresh Grocery – A convenient grocery store providing a wide range of fresh produce and essential supplies.
4. Highlands-Cashiers Hospital – A well-equipped medical facility offering emergency services and healthcare support.
5. The Park on Main Hotel – A luxurious hotel with elegant rooms and excellent amenities.
6. Wolfgang’s Restaurant & Wine Bistro – A fine dining establishment known for its gourmet cuisine and extensive wine selection.
7. Highlands Police Department – The local law enforcement agency providing emergency assistance and maintaining public safety.
8. The Bascom: A Center for the Visual Arts – A cultural hub showcasing contemporary art exhibitions and educational programs.
9. Old Edwards Inn and Spa – A high-end resort offering upscale accommodations, spa services, and fine dining options.
10. Highlands Fire Department – A dedicated team of firefighters and first responders ensuring community safety and emergency response.

Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail Difficulty Notes

The Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail offers a moderate difficulty level, making it suitable for a wide range of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. The trail encompasses diverse terrain, including gentle slopes, rocky sections, and occasional steep ascents. While some parts may require a bit of endurance and agility, the overall trail is well-maintained and accessible for most individuals. With its stunning views of the surrounding mountains, lush forests, and picturesque waterfalls, the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail provides a rewarding and enjoyable hiking experience for both beginners and experienced hikers alike.

Features And Attractions

The Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail offers a variety of scenic views, historical sites, natural landmarks, and more. Here are some notable attractions along the trail:

1. Sunset Rock: This scenic overlook provides breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, especially during sunset.

2. Whiteside Mountain: A popular hiking spot, Whiteside Mountain offers stunning panoramic views from its 700-foot high cliffs.

3. Dry Falls: A unique waterfall where visitors can walk behind the cascading water, offering a thrilling and beautiful experience.

4. Glen Falls: This series of three waterfalls is located in a lush forest setting, providing a picturesque spot for hiking and photography.

5. Highlands Botanical Garden: A beautiful garden featuring a wide variety of native plants, including rare and endangered species.

6. The Bascom: An art center and gallery showcasing contemporary art exhibitions, workshops, and events.

7. Highlands Nature Center: A nature center with interactive exhibits, live animal displays, and educational programs about the local flora and fauna.

8. Highlands Historical Society Museum: A museum dedicated to preserving and showcasing the history and heritage of the Highlands area.

9. The Old Edwards Inn: A historic luxury hotel known for its elegant architecture and charming atmosphere.

10. The Highlands Playhouse: A community theater that hosts a variety of live performances, including plays, musicals, and concerts.

11. The Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival: A renowned music festival that brings together world-class musicians for a series of classical concerts.

12. The Bascom Farmers Market: A weekly farmers market where visitors can find fresh produce, local crafts, and homemade goods.

These are just a few examples of the many attractions and landmarks along the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail. Exploring the trail will provide you with even more opportunities to discover the beauty and history of the area.

Usage Guidelines

1. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
2. Clean up after your pets and dispose of waste properly.
3. Bicycles are allowed on designated sections of the trail only.
4. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the trail.
5. Stay on designated trails and do not venture off into restricted areas.
6. Respect seasonal restrictions, such as closures during hunting seasons.
7. No camping or overnight stays are permitted on the trail.
8. Do not litter and carry out any trash or waste.
9. No hunting or fishing is allowed on the trail.
10. Be mindful of other trail users and yield to pedestrians.
11. Do not disturb or harm wildlife or plant life along the trail.
12. No smoking or open fires are allowed on the trail.
13. Use caution and be aware of potential hazards, such as uneven terrain or wildlife encounters.
14. Follow any additional rules or guidelines posted at trailheads or along the trail.

Seasonal Information

The Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail is a picturesque and popular trail located in the beautiful Highlands Plateau region of North Carolina. This trail offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains, lush forests, and serene waterfalls, making it a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. While the trail is open year-round, there are certain times of the year that are considered the best for visiting.

One of the best times to visit the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail is during the spring season, particularly in April and May. During this time, the trail is adorned with vibrant wildflowers, creating a colorful and enchanting atmosphere. The weather is usually mild and pleasant, making it ideal for hiking, biking, or simply enjoying a leisurely stroll along the trail. Additionally, the waterfalls along the trail are often at their fullest during the spring, offering a breathtaking sight and a soothing soundtrack of cascading water.

Another great time to visit the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail is in the fall, specifically during the months of September and October. The trail is surrounded by a dense forest that transforms into a kaleidoscope of red, orange, and yellow hues during the autumn season. The crisp air and cooler temperatures make hiking or biking on the trail a refreshing and invigorating experience. Fall also brings fewer crowds, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the tranquility and beauty of the trail.

It is important to note that the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail may have seasonal closures or restrictions in certain areas. During the winter months, some sections of the trail may be closed due to snow or ice, making it unsafe for visitors. It is advisable to check the trail’s official website or contact the local authorities for up-to-date information on closures or any other trail conditions before planning your visit.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Parking: Designated parking spaces close to the trail entrance for easy access.
2. Paved Pathways: Smooth and level paved surfaces throughout the trail for wheelchair users.
3. Accessible Restrooms: Restroom facilities equipped with accessible features such as grab bars and wider doorways.
4. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic spots with accessible tables and seating arrangements.
5. Rest Areas with Benches: Regularly spaced benches along the trail for individuals to rest and take breaks.
6. Accessible Trailhead: An accessible entrance to the trail with ramps or level pathways.
7. Signage with Braille: Trail signs featuring Braille text for visually impaired individuals.
8. Accessible Water Fountains: Water fountains designed to accommodate wheelchair users.
9. Accessible Trail Maps: Trail maps available in accessible formats such as large print or digital versions.
10. Accessible Trail Information: Information boards or brochures with trail details provided in accessible formats.
11. Assistance Animals Allowed: Accommodation for individuals with disabilities who rely on service animals.
12. Accessible Trail Experiences: Opportunities for individuals with disabilities to participate in guided accessible trail experiences.
13. Accessible Trail Events: Inclusive events organized on the trail with accommodations for individuals with disabilities.
14. Accessible Trail Programs: Programs designed to engage individuals with disabilities in trail-related activities.
15. Accessible Trail Maintenance: Regular maintenance to ensure the trail remains accessible for all users.

Safety Information

1. Stay on designated trails: Stick to the marked paths to avoid getting lost or damaging the surrounding environment.
2. Carry a map and compass: Ensure you have the necessary tools to navigate the trail and find your way back if needed.
3. Dress appropriately: Wear sturdy footwear, dress in layers, and bring rain gear to be prepared for changing weather conditions.
4. Stay hydrated: Carry enough water to stay hydrated throughout your hike, especially during warmer months.
5. Use sunscreen and insect repellent: Protect yourself from harmful UV rays and pesky bugs while enjoying the trail.
6. Watch out for wildlife: Respect the natural habitat and keep a safe distance from any wildlife you encounter.
7. Be cautious of steep sections: Take extra care when navigating steep or uneven terrain to prevent accidents or injuries.
8. Carry a first aid kit: Have basic medical supplies on hand in case of minor injuries or emergencies.
9. Inform someone of your plans: Let a friend or family member know your hiking plans, including your expected return time.
10. Stay aware of your surroundings: Pay attention to trail markers, signs, and any potential hazards along the way.
11. Leave no trace: Pack out all trash and leave the trail as you found it, respecting the environment and other hikers.
12. Hike with a buddy: Whenever possible, hike with a companion for added safety and enjoyment.
13. Check weather conditions: Stay updated on weather forecasts and avoid hiking during severe weather conditions.
14. Respect private property: Stay on public trails and respect any private property boundaries to maintain good relations with landowners.
15. Be prepared for emergencies: Carry a fully charged cell phone and know the emergency contact numbers for the area.
16. Follow trail etiquette: Yield to other hikers, keep noise levels down, and be respectful of the trail and its users.
17. Avoid hiking alone at night: For safety reasons, it is best to avoid hiking alone after dark.
18. Stay on the trail during hunting season: If hiking during hunting season, wear bright colors and stay on designated trails to ensure visibility.
19. Be mindful of your physical abilities: Choose trails that match your fitness level and don’t push yourself beyond your limits.
20. Enjoy the trail responsibly: Take time to appreciate the beauty of the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail while being mindful of safety guidelines.

Conservation Notes

The Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail is a significant conservation area that plays a crucial role in preserving the natural environment and biodiversity of the region. The trail is located in the Highlands Plateau region of North Carolina, which is known for its rich ecological diversity and unique plant and animal species. As a result, the conservation status of the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail is of utmost importance to protect and maintain the delicate balance of this ecosystem.

Efforts have been made to ensure the conservation of the trail and its surrounding areas. The trail is managed by local conservation organizations and government agencies that work together to protect the natural resources and wildlife habitats along the trail. These organizations implement various conservation strategies, such as land acquisition, habitat restoration, and invasive species management, to maintain the ecological integrity of the trail.

The Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail is also designated as a protected area, ensuring that it is legally safeguarded from any potential threats or development that could harm the environment. This protected status helps to preserve the trail’s unique features, including its diverse plant communities, pristine water sources, and critical wildlife habitats. By maintaining the conservation status of the Highlands Plateau Greenway Trail, we can continue to enjoy its natural beauty and ecological significance for generations to come.

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