We arrived back home last night after a wonderful trip to the mountains of Highlands, NC! The trip could not have come at a better time. Two other trips were cancelled for us this year, so we were excited to have this trip actually happen! I shared a few things we did on Instagram and I had questions about whether or not Highlands is family friendly and I would absolutely say yes! Our trips to the mountains are always full of adventure with hikes, outdoor activities and trying some of the local restaurants. This was the first year that our son, who turned 5 this past summer, could finally participate in zip lining and do longer, more intense hikes so we made sure to fill our schedule with all of the fun things. I mostly pack our suitcases with sneakers and comfy clothing for everyone as we do lots of walking.
We arrived on Saturday, walked around downtown, had lunch outside and then checked into our little mountain cottage later that afternoon. We decided renting our own place would be ideal for us with a kitchen where we could cook and enjoy the quiet, peacefulness of the mountains. We were so happy with our 3 bedroom cottage, it was perfect for our little family. If you are traveling to Highlands, NC, I would suggest looking up renting a home there, especially if you plan on staying longer than 3-4 nights. It was very accommodating and located only about 5 minutes from downtown Highlands. Book early though, places fill up quick especially during this time of year!
The town of Highlands felt really safe. They are requiring face masks to be worn inside and outside while walking around downtown. We ventured to Wild Thyme for lunch on Saturday and sat outside. This was actually the first restaurant we have dined at since March and also the only restaurant we actually ate at the whole time we were there. We picked up food to go from different restaurants the rest of the time there. Although downtown was bustling with tourists, we knew it was a pretty Saturday and a busy time of year. After lunch, we made our way to Dry Falls about 10 minutes outside of Highlands downtown. It had the prettiest waterfall that you could actually walk behind!
Sunday, I had made reservations for zip lining at Highlands Aerial Park which I highly recommend. We had an afternoon reservation, so we made a stop at Scaly Mountain Outdoors Center for tubing on the way! This was kid friendly and we were the only ones there! Brace yourself, the tube goes much faster than you think! During the winter months they offer ice skating as well. Next, we made our way to zip lining! It was so convenient that they were only about 10 minutes from each other. This was our son’s first zip lining experience and he absolutely loved it! They have a special obstacle course built for young kids called the Brave Indian. Highly recommend trying this out if you are in the area!
Monday was all about hiking! We started out at Whiteside Mountain which was absolutely beautiful! I recommend getting an early start because by late morning it gets pretty busy. The views here of the mountains and the clouds were unbelievable! Our 5 year old did so well on every single hike we went on! We rested back at the cottage for a few hours and left for Black Balsam Knob to see the sunset and get family pictures. This was a 2 hour drive from Highlands and although quite the drive, it is definitely something to see! We had a wonderful local photographer capture the most beautiful pictures for us! I will share more on that in a different blog post. I will say, leaving while it’s dark and foggy was not ideal driving back to Highlands. There’s not a lot of service out there and we could barely see 2 feet in front of us driving down the mountain but it was totally worth it.
Tuesday was our final day and knew we wanted to get one more hike in. We checked out Secret Falls which was also kid friendly and another hike I definitely recommend. My husband said this was the most intense hike out of all of them. Towards the bottom of the hike, near the waterfall there’s a lot of steps to climb over. The waterfall at the end of the hike was one of the prettiest views I have ever seen. After our hike, we decided to drive another 1.5 hours to Wildwater Canopy Tours to check out another zip line that was kid friendly. Our son could not stop talking about zip lining so we wanted to get another one in before leaving.
All in all we had a wonderful trip! The weather was absolutely beautiful, the leaves were changing colors, the mountain views were spectacular and we ate some really yummy food. Our favorites were Wild Thyme, Blue Bike Cafe for breakfast, Sandwich Deli (their milkshakes were so good!) and Highlands Smokehouse. The Ugly Dog Pub was always busy every time as passed but never made it in. The Bridge at Mill Creek was another one we had wanted to try but didn’t get a chance to. We did cook 2 nights at our cottage because we had a fully stocked kitchen.
Here are a few comfy things I brought along that were really easy to hike in! I would suggest bringing really old shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. I had actually purchased a new pair of shoes to wear on the hikes but they were all so muddy and wet that I wore my old shoes.
I hope this post was helpful if you are considering taking a trip to Highlands. There are also really great hotels in the area like Old Edwards Inn, which we have stayed at years ago. It is very kid friendly with lots of easy hikes and views to take in with the whole family. We can’t wait to get back there again someday!