By Mary Ashton Mills

Dust off those hiking boots, grab your portable hammock and don’t forget the picnic! Highlands offers endless opportunities for outdoor recreation and the cool mountain temperature provides a nice reprieve from Augusta’s thick, hot August air.  Stop at Mountain Fresh Grocery for gourmet food, home-style breakfast food, picnic fare and more.  Just a stone’s throw from there, walk over to the Highland Hiker to grab information on trails in the area, pick up the latest hiking gear or book a guided fishing trip.  Next stop: Whiteside Mountain.

Whiteside Mountain is over 400 million years old and more than 4,900 feet high.  Considered by locals to be a landmark between Cashiers and Highlands, Whiteside Mountain is easily accessible off of Highway 64. The well-marked two-mile loop trail is family friendly and the views at the top are well worth the hike. Panoramic vistas of the Eastern Continental Divide really put things into perspective up here. If you are lucky you might spy a peregrine falcon soaring around.  Honesty is the best policy at Whiteside Mountain with a payment box requesting a $2 parking fee as admission to the mountain.

Next, take a dip in cool water at Cashiers Sliding Rock, located about nine miles from Highlands. Take Horse Cove Road about 4.5 miles to Whiteside Cove Road. Stay on Whiteside Cove Road a few miles until you see signs.  Ice-cold water temperatures will be refreshing after breaking a sweat on Whiteside Mountain.  What is a mountain trip without a visit to a waterfall? Bridal Veil Falls and Dry Falls are both great options for getting really close to the action, either by car or foot.  Feel like splurging? The Old Edwards Inn is the most luxurious place to rest your head, but book your stay well in advance and plan to shell out the big bucks. Enjoy blocks of art galleries, unique shops and restaurants in downtown Highlands.

Distance: 3 hours 39 minutes 157 miles

Budget: Offering a variety of free outdoor activities like waterfalls, hiking, climbing and fishing, this trip can be affordable.  Campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, hotels and rental homes offer options for all budgets.

What to See: Whiteside Mountain, Sliding Rock, Bridal Veil Falls, Dry Falls, Highland Hiker, Mountain Fresh Grocery, The Bascom Center For Visual Arts..   

If you go: Catch Friday Night Live, a family friendly free music event, every Friday night in the newly renovated town square. 

Mary Ashton Mills is an Augusta freelance writer and mother of two.

This article appears in the August 2017 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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