After our fun at Dry Falls and Bridal Veil Falls we headed on up to Whiteside Mountain near Highlands, NC. The hike to the summit of Whiteside Mountain is a moderate 2.5 mile loop. After an initial steep start we reached the point where the loop splits to the left and the right. The left is less of an incline, but will take longer to get to the top. We chose to take the right which is steeper and includes some steps as well. I find the older I get the steep inclines and steps are actually harder on the ole knees coming down (just another reason to go right). The first small opening along the path is a beautiful tease of what is to come.
Although it was quite tempting, this is not a safe overlook and is very narrow. We just took our peek safely through the laurel bushes and continued on. As we continued there were several vantage points to safely gawk and take pictures. We had experienced some rain earlier. Luckily, it didn’t rain on us while on the trail, but the views were very cloudy. Sometimes the clouds blocked our view while other times they made everything look even more spectacular.
The guard wire and posts appear to be newer and safer than what we had read on previous sites about rickety rusty guard rails. However, we always cautiously tested them and I wouldn’t advise leaning or putting your weight on them. They are more of a warning rather than to actually stop you from falling over. We did also see a couple of overlooks where even these new ones were damaged and whole posts uprooted and laid over.
As the trail meanders the ridge of the mountain there are several overlooks with different views. We loved the dome shaped mountains with striations which reminded us of Stone Mountain where we have hiked before.
While at the top we learned we were at the eastern continental divide which was pretty interesting. However, I believe Jon and I like to read all of the signs and information much more than the kids do!
As we left the final overlook we proceeded on the loop heading down the easier grade. In most places it was not a steep incline. There were some very narrow sections that could use some serious widening as well as very wide sections that were once part of an old roadbed. It was very muddy in many places and in some places it looked almost like a small stream we walked in. But even with all of the previous rain it wasn’t too wet or muddy to be unpleasant.
If you ever get the chance, check it out. It is well worth the visit. The parking lot is in good shape. There is a permanent style outhouse rather than a port-a-john, but it does not have running water and the smell was almost unbearable. There is no water fountain to be found so be sure to bring a full water bottle.