This North Carolina Region Is Full of Stunning Fall Foliage, Waterfalls, and Charming Luxury Hotels
Asheville may lay claim to the most-visited spot in western North Carolina — especially in the autumn season when fall foliage is ripe for peeping — but the Highlands-Cashiers plateau is more than worthy of an extended trip. In fact, if you don't visit, you'll miss out on some of the state's most awe-inducing views and home-style comfort.
Think of both Highlands and Cashiers as the Aspen of the Carolinas; the area is filled with activities for the outdoor enthusiast as well as the art collector, wine aficionado, and traveler simply looking to unplug (note: your phone service may dip in and out depending on your exact location). The region is also known for its abundance of waterfalls. While there are around 250 waterfalls in western North Carolina alone, some of the most impressive — and easily accessible — are in the immediate vicinity of both Highlands and Cashiers. Both towns sit on the plateau, but they each offer their own unique features and experiences; luckily it's a quick trip between the two towns. A winding 10 miles will get you from one to the other.
The reasons to visit this part of North Carolina are almost as plentiful as there are places to stay. Whether you want to bask in true luxury, with all amenities at your fingertips, or experience an overnight stay with a more rustic feel (flannel blankets are a must), there is a perfect place to lay your head after a long day of hiking, shopping, or simply experiencing the beauty of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Here's where to book — and hurry, this season will be busier than ever — in the Highlands-Cashiers plateau of North Carolina this fall.
For the Luxury Traveler: Old Edwards Inn & Spa
If you're looking for European elegance meets center-of-town convenience and the softest sheets you've ever slept on (yes, you can purchase them if you refuse to go back to your old set upon departure), Old Edwards Inn is undoubtedly worth every penny. While similar properties may feel stuffy upon entering the lobby, the concierge staff on the Highlands' Main Street property is the opposite; warm smiles, genuine greetings, and a glass of Champagne immediately put you at ease and remove any lingering travel stress. Feeling peckish upon arrival? They'll offer you one of the complimentary Dove chocolate ice cream bars, available around the clock in the main building or by dialing the front desk.
For the Couple's Getaway: Half Mile Farm
The sister property of Old Edwards Inn, Half Mile Farm is removed from the hustle of Main Street — but don't let its location or the term "country inn" fool you. Half Mile Farm's hospitality standards are high; guests are privy to a heated mineral pool and jacuzzi, private lake, spa services, and, of course, farm-fresh meals every day. The property's 14 acres of forest, fields, and mountain streams are the quintessential backdrop for romantic, relaxing getaways.
For the Girls' Trip: Skyline Lodge
After decades of renovations, Skyline Lodge is open to guests — and everything about it, from the fairy light-adorned courtyard to the colorful decor details, makes it the best gathering place for both small and large groups of friends in Highlands. With 40 guest rooms, Skyline Lodge exemplifies a Southern boutique hotel; travelers who have stayed in Atlanta's Hotel Clermont may feel some similarities, as Carrie Dessertine of Mey & Co. had a hand in the design of both locations. While not as upscale as the aforementioned Highlands hotels, Skyline Lodge doesn't leave guests wanting; heated tile floors in the bathroom, high-speed Wi-Fi, and private balconies are just three of the amenities you'll find upon checking into your room.
For the Solo Traveler: Highlander Mountain House
For many travelers, a solo vacation is akin to a trip to the doctor; it's a cure-all for woes and worries. Sleeping alone in a comfortable bed, sipping a glass of wine while relaxing in an Adirondack chair, and enjoying a cup of coffee while tearing through your book club's monthly pick is a recipe for happiness and balanced mental health. There is no better place to do this than Highlander Mountain House, a boutique hotel in Highlands that opened at the end of 2019. The owners of HMH perfected a blend of North Carolina comfort and English countryside style — you'll find touches of a rustic hunting lodge paired with Sally Mann originals.
For the Family Reunion: High Hampton
High Hampton, the recently renovated lodge just two miles from the center of Cashiers and near the Nantahala National Forest, is everything a family-friendly resort should be. Welcoming, but luxurious. Spacious, but cozy. A plethora of activities — swimming, boating, croquet, golf — but a main dining room where the family can meet for breakfast and reconvene for dinner. The team behind Blackberry Farm renovated High Hampton in 2020, opening it to the public in the summer of 2021, but they took care to maintain the property's storied past. Old ledgers detailing former guests from the mid-20th century line the walls of the main inn; air conditioning and heating were added to ensure a pleasant year-round experience.