This week, Mike and I hiked Whiteside Mountain. It is a gorgeous hike along the ridge of a exposed rock face that overlooks parts of North and South Carolina. It is one of my favorite hikes for bringing my visitors, and it is only about 15 minutes from home.
I have only done this hike in the summer and fall before, so I was curious to see the differences that winter would bring. The first difference was a completely unexpected 2 inches of snow that had fallen overnight. At home, a thousand feet lower, we had only had some mixed precipitation, so we were not expecting a snowy trail.
Actually, the snow made the hike even more enjoyable. The weather was pleasant–in the mid forties. And the sun was shining in a crystal clear sky. It reminded me of the snow in Colorado. My shoes made a crunch-squeak with every step in the white stuff.
The first section of the hike is up an old road bed. Originally, you could drive all the way to the top. People have been coming to see this view for a hundred years or more. At the top of the incline, the trail turns right and follows the top of the cliffs that give Whiteside Mountain its distinctive look. The cliffs are home to nesting peregrine falcons, but I did not see any flying today. I wonder if they go south for the winter.
The views from the top of Whiteside Mountain are stunning. From the first view on the left, you can see Cashiers in the valley down below. And the views only get better from there. There are a few informational signs along the trail that tell you a little about how the mountain was formed, some of the places you can see, and one sign even tells a rescue story.
The highest point on the trail is marked by a hand carved elevation on a large bolder. Here you can see for miles out across the rolling mountains and into the flatlands beyond them. I was amazed at how much further I could see in winter. In the summer, humidity greatly decreases the distances you can see.
At the end of the ridge, the trail turns back. We followed the trail back down the mountain. The rest of the trail is mostly stairs, which was a little more challenging in the snow. There were some pretty icicles that still hung on in the shade of the northern side of the mountain. Soon we were back at the car.
Difficulty Level ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Length 2 miles around the loop
How to get there:
From the crossroads in Cashiers take US 64 West for about 4 1/2 miles to Whiteside Mountain Road (there are lots of signs for Whiteside Mountain National Recreational Trail). Turn left onto Whiteside Mountain Road and go about a mile. The entrance to the hike is on the left. There is a large parking area and bathrooms. There is a $2 fee that you can deposit at the fee station.