It's a short and easy hike to Silver Run Falls, one of Cashiers’ many waterfalls that offers wading pools. Photo by Nick Breedlove, courtesy of Jackson County TDA.

Fall for Falls

Cashiers-Highlands Plateau soothes the soul with waterfalls, boutiques and spa

By Michelle Boudin

Eric O’Bryan knows a thing or two about taking full advantage of Mother Nature. The innovation champion for outdoor products company W. L. Gore & Associates took his wife and two boys for a quick getaway to Cashiers last July. There, the south Charlotte family spent a week hiking and visiting five different waterfalls.

“I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world and test different products for the outdoor space, and these waterfalls in Highlands and Cashiers were right up there with some of the best,” O’Bryan says. “It was spectacular because you’re walking on these trails, and flowers are blooming everywhere. It was incredible.”

The European-style Old Edwards Inn and Spa is also known for its luxurious cottages. Photo courtesy of Old Edwards Inn and Spa.

At 3,500 feet, the Cashiers-Highlands Plateau is a high-altitude, high-end escape just three hours from Ballantyne by car. The charming towns sit atop the Blue Ridge Mountains and are only 10 miles apart featuring fine dining, a world-renowned spa, top-notch shopping and of course, incredible hiking trails.

The area has been known as a wellness destination since the 1880s and continues to draw crowds looking for a mountain-chic destination. It is especially alluring in the fall when the leaves change and add even more reason to gasp at the already stunning mountain views.

“When you step out of your car at the Cashiers Farmers Market or on Main Street in Highlands and take a deep breath, you realize just how much you’ve wanted to escape being cooped up at home or the office,” says Wit Tuttell, director of Visit North Carolina. “Your pulse slows, your spirits rise and you’re ready to be welcomed in places well-seasoned in catering to travelers’ wants and needs. This is an elevated corner of North Carolina in terms of experience as well as altitude.”

Even if you’re not the outdoorsy type, the area is popular for girls’ trips and romantic getaways thanks to the Old Edwards Inn and Spa and the upscale boutique shopping in downtown Highlands. The luxurious European-style resort is a favorite not only for the historic inn and cottages but also for its world-class spa, farm-fresh restaurant and upscale clothing and gift boutique.

Visit NC says while they haven’t done the math, Highlands might rank No. 1 in North Carolina in boutiques per capita. You can shop for everything from cashmere to hiking gear, unique gifts and toys. Once you’ve finished strolling through downtown, grab a seat at Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro, a pet-friendly dinner option specializing in American cuisine with a Cajun/Creole twist.

Just a 15-minute drive from the town of Highlands is Cashiers, home to a trail of cascading waterfalls and some of the best hiking in the state.