Image by Peter Aschoff

Connecting the Heart of Highlands

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"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

― Robert Frost

Preserving History  •. Connecting Community  •  Building Pathways for the Future  

Grunge Wood

Highlands Plateau Greenway

The Highlands Plateau Greenway is a non-profit organization whose mission is to develop a system of walking and hiking trails that protect and connect the natural settings and historic sites of the Highlands, N. C., area. It is intended to be a locally owned and managed trail system for walkers and hikers of existing and planned paths along a continuous, safe, green route, easily identified through signage, maps, and user guides designed to promote the public’s enjoyment and appreciation of the natural and historical environment, as well as quality of life on the Highlands plateau.

Open Book










Bee on a Daisy

Over 10 miles of natural trails and sidewalks are open and free to the public daily from sunrise to sunset. 

Please be considerate of other hikers, joggers, and visitors on the Greenway 

Be respectful and do not remove or disturb any plants or wildflowers along the trails. 

Image by Peter Aschoff

A Brief History of 


Although the Highlands plateau was created 350 million years ago on the crest of the world's oldest mountains, the village of Highlands in Macon County, North Carolina, was founded in 1875 by Samuel Kelsey and C. C. Hutchinson, two developers living in Kansas. They created a health and summer resort at more than 4,000 feet on the highest crest of the western North Carolina plateau in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

Since its founding, the demographic mixture of Highlands has been remarkably unique. Settled by hardy pioneers from across the nation, sober industrious tradesmen from the North, Scotch-Irish laborers and craftsmen from the surrounding mountains and valleys, and wealthy aristocratic planters and professionals from the South, the town has served as a cultural center for well-known artists, musicians, actors, authors, photographers, scholars, and scientists who have thrived in its natural setting.

The result has been a town too cosmopolitan to be provincial, too broadly based to be singular in attitude and perspective, too enamored of its natural surroundings to be totally indifferent to them, and just isolated enough and small enough to be anxious about the benefits and setbacks of growth and development.

    - Randolph P. Shaffner

Man walking in Nature

Getting Around Highlands

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On every trail labeled in purple on this map, there is a stamping station that must be found. This station will be a mailbox painted purple and will be located on the trail. Within the mailbox there will be a stamp that must be placed over the corresponding stamp on the map-side of this passport document. 

When all four stamps have been collected, participants may pick up a special prize located at either the Highlands Town Hall, Highlands Recreation Center,  The Chamber of Commerce, The Library, or The Bascom.


A History of The Highlands Plateau Greenway

The Highlands Plateau Greenway is a non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance, develop, and maintain a system of interconnected walking and hiking trails in and around Highlands, N.C. The birth of the Greenway trail system in Highlands evolved around five goals: recreation, transportation, beautification, watershed improvement, and wildlife habitat enhancement.




Getting on The Greenway


Oak Street is the center hub of The Highlands Plateau Greenway. Centrally located in downtown Highlands with abundant street parking, this is your nexus to any trail on the Greenway. 

Learn More about the trails below:


Happy  Trails: Hikes to Enjoy on The Greenway















Satulah Mountain Trail 

Distance 1.6 miles

Moderate to Difficult Walk

Kelsey  Trail

Distance 0.5 mile 

Easy to Moderate Walk

Big Bear Pen Trail

Distance 0.3 mile 

Moderate Walk

Sunset Rock Trail

Distance 0.6 mile 

Easy walk, driving is strongly discouraged. 


Botanical Garden Trail

Distance 0.1- 0.2 mile 

Easy- Moderate Walk.

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Highlands Rec Park Trail

Distance 1.1 miles 

Moderate Walk


Coker Rhododendron Trail

Distance 0.2 mile 

Moderate Walk. Trail goes to Bowery Road


The Bascom Trail

Distance 0.1 mile 

Easy Walk

2016 Oak Street Gazebo Steps and Ferns.j

Oak Street Sled Run Trail

Distance 0.2 mile 

Easy Walk.

Beyond 2020

Long-range proposals are for a boardwalk connecting Highlands School with the Peggy Crosby Center and Harris Lake, a New Kelsey Trail Loop in the Kelsey Preserve, more trails at the Biological Station, and a trail to Blackrock Mountain and on to Granite City in Whiteside Cove.

Since its incorporation in 2008, the Greenway has doubled from five to ten miles of trails from Sunset Rock to Big Bear Pen, to the Botanical Garden and the Bowery Road, to the Rec Park, Oak Street Lane, and Mirror Lake, and to Oak Street. These trails are intended to fulfill the Greenway's goal of helping pedestrians get around town without having to walk on its streets. Its goal is being fully realized by the large number of residents and visitors who use the trail daily for that purpose and the many volunteers who devote their time and considerable talents to maintaining, improving, extending, and creating the Greenway.

Get Involved


Explore our History & Newsletter Archives

Click on a date marker to find out more 


We have Volunteer work days for you to participate in. 

Volunteer work days are held every 3rd Saturday of each month throughout the year. 

Please sign up before each work trip.

Meet at 9:00 at the Highlands Recreation Park behind the Civic Center building.

Volunteer Sign Up

Thanks for volunteering!

Other Ways to Support

2008 1st set of Rock Steps on the Mill C

Get in Touch

President:                  Jim Ward
Vice President:         Sonya Carpenter

Secretary:                  Phyllis Davis
Treasurer:                 Steve Cathcart
Ex-officio:                  Lester Norris

                                     Kyle Purcel

Trail Supervisor:      Jim Chance

Board Members:

 Jim Chance, Mike KingEric Pierson, Ran ShaffnerKathy Smith

Give Us Your Feedback


Thank you!