Chattooga River Loop Trail
Bull Pen Road Trailhead
Park and start at what locals call the “Iron Bridge.” The trailhead for
the “Loop” starts on the left side of the bridge and runs along the
river for just under one mile. You can break up this two-mile loop
by stopping along the shores of the river for a picnic, swimming or
trying your luck at fishing. A picnic table can be found midway through
the hike if you would rather wait to have lunch there. See page 13,
Chattooga River Trail for directions.
This is a great place to take your family. Kids can run around and play
in the water or the woods. The area is great for kids learning how to
fish due to the ample room around Cliffside Lake for you to spread
out. Take along your fishing pole and swimsuit. This is four miles west
of Highlands on Hwy 64.
This is a very convenient picnic area if traveling along this section
of the “Mountain Waters Scenic Byway.” Plan on stopping here for
a quick picnic with the family before heading up to Highlands from
Franklin or vise versa. This is four and a half miles west of Highlands
on Hwy 64.
Highlands Botanical Garden
828-526-0188 • 930 Horse Cove Road • Highlands, NC
Learn about the flora of the region while having your picnic lunch
among the gardens or by the lake. Nearly 500 species of mosses, ferns,
wildflowers, shrubs and trees flourish in natural forest, wetlands and
old-growth plant communities connected by trails and boardwalks.
Highlands Recreation Park
828-526-3556 • 600 North 4th Street • Highlands, NC
This is a local favorite for picnicking. Allow some time to enjoy the
playground equipment and take a dip in the heated mineral pool,
open year round.
Grab a bottle of wine, bread and some cheese and head along Main
Street walking or driving East out of Highlands. Across from the Highlands
Nature Center, this is a great place to hike 0.6 mile up, kick off your shoes
and enjoy a beautiful view of Highlands at sunset. A local favorite!
Local Picnic Areas
An important and fascinating part of North Carolina history is its
gem mining. The Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina are the
oldest in the world and have provided the area with more types of
gemstones than are found anywhere else in the United States.
More than fifty pounds of sapphires were mined from the area in the
1800s, and that is how the town of Sapphire got its name. In fact,
North Carolina is the only state where all four of the hardest stones in
the United States are found: diamond, emerald, ruby, and sapphire.
Gold from North Carolina was used to mint the first gold coins, and
the largest emerald, weighing over 1,600 carats, was found here as well.
Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine
828-349-2941 • 41 Cherokee Mine Road • Franklin, NCcherokeerubymine.com
The mine is not “salted” or “enriched” and contains only native North
Carolina gemstones, including rubies, sapphires, garnets, moonstones,
rhodolite, rutile and sillimanite. These gems occur naturally in the
Cowee Valley and are not as plentiful as in “salted” mines, but are
much more valuable and many are “facet quality.”
Cowee Mountain Ruby Mine
828-369-5271 • 6771 Sylva Road • Franklin, NCcoweemtnrubymine.com
Located four miles north of Franklin at the foot of CoweeMountain just
off Highway 441, Cowee Mountain Ruby Mine is open daily from 9 am
until 6 pm, March - November.
Two covered flumes allow you
to mine rain or shine.
Gold City Gem
828-369-3905 • 9410 Sylva
Road • Franklin, NCgoldcityamusement.com
Home of the 1061-carat
sapphire found at Gold City,
and enriched gemstones
buckets. Gold panning also
available. New and improved
large covered flume for gem
mining rain or shine. New
inside heated flume for cold