North Carolina Mountain Towns To Escape the Summer Heat

Whiteside Mountain (1 of 1)

With temperatures still reaching the 90s across the country, there’s no better time to head for the hills. In picturesque mountain towns, where the elevation soars and temperatures plunge, you can enjoy a break from intense heat and humidity and a chance to enjoy inspiring settings, explore a wide range of local attractions and embrace the great outdoors. In fact, in-the-know travelers and generations of families have been summering in these much-loved North Carolina mountain towns for years to escape the heat. And for others, these destinations may just be the nation’s best-kept secret. So, if you want some much-needed relief from scorching temperatures, flee to these cool mountain retreats.

Join us for a fast-paced trip to the mountains in this video:

Highlands, North Carolina

Located in western North Carolina on what is known as the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau in the Nantahala National Forest, Highlands has been called “the Aspen of the East.” At an elevation of 4,118 feet, the temperatures, even in the peak of summer, rarely get above the high 70s. One of the top 10 arts communities in the U.S., this charming mountain town has a thriving cultural community with its well-endowed Bascom Arts Center, which offers performing arts and music.

Highlands Performing Arts Center

Highlands Performing Arts Center

Sun setting with views of Whiteside Mountain

Sun setting with views of Whiteside Mountain

Main Street, a top thoroughfare, is home to boutiques, art galleries, jewelry stores and restaurants. There are also a number of high-end antique dealers in town, one of which is Scudder’s Gallery that hosts entertaining live auctions on weekends throughout the summer season. Highlands is also within an hour of some of the best outdoor recreational activities in the country including hiking, whitewater rafting, mountain climbing and biking, golf and trout fishing in the Davidson and the French Broad rivers.

One of the many lakes in on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau

One of the many lakes on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau

Dry Falls

Dry Falls

Sunrise in the mountains

Sunrise in the mountains

For culinary enthusiasts, Highlands offers many Wine Spectator award-winning restaurants from fine dining at Madison’s or Lakeside to more casual, yet upscale options at Cypress, Paoletti’s, Wolfgang’s and Wild Thyme Bistro. Within a short distance, and just down the mountain in neighboring Cashiers, dinner at Canyon Kitchen’s rustic open-air Jenning’s barn offers a memorable evening with spectacular mountain views in one of the few box canyons east of the Mississippi.

Dining room at Madison's

Dining room at Madison’s

Looking out at Main Street from Madison's

Looking out at Main Street from Madison’s

Canyon Kitchen

Canyon Kitchen

Dinner at Canyon Kitchen

Sunset at Canyon Kitchen offers some breathtaking views and delicious meals

Casual outdoor dining at The Wine Garden at Madison's

Casual outdoor dining at the Wine Garden at Old Edwards Inn

Accommodations on the mountain include several inns and bed-and-breakfasts, but for a real treat, book a room at the European-style Old Edwards Inn and Spa. A Relais & Châteaux property, OEI (as it’s known by locals), offers many types of accommodations from rooms in its historic inn to nearby guest cottages and multi-bedroom estates.

The Falls Cottages at Old Edwards Inn

The Falls Cottages at Old Edwards Inn & Spa

One of the Falls Cottages

One of the Falls Cottages (Photo credit – Old Edwards Inn)

One of the pools at Old Edwards Inn

One of the pools at Old Edwards Inn & Spa (Photo credit – Old Edwards Inn)

Two sister properties, Half-Mile Farm, a beautiful country inn located several minutes from town, and 200 Main, a more contemporary option, are two other choices within the OEI group. Guests at any of the locations have access to golf and the facilities at Old Edwards Club, just a short distance from town.

Half Mile Farm

Half-Mile Farm

Grounds at Half-Mile Farm

Grounds at Half-Mile Farm

Half-Mile Farm bedroom

Half-Mile Farm bedroom (Photo credit – Old Edwards Inn)

 

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