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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.

Cliffside Lake

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.

Cullasaja Gorge

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.

Sunset Rock

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

Gem Mining

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, NC

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, NC

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, NC

Home of the 1061-carat

sapphire found at Gold City,

featured in

People Weekly


Disney Adventures



& Gem

Magazines. Native

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


Gem Mines