As spring begins here in the mountains, the landscape transforms from a dull brown speckled with evergreen trees into a lush and vibrant mixture of colors, scents, and sounds that dazzle the senses any time you step outside.
To best experience the wonders of nature one must venture out of town and into the wild. For those with a busy schedule or no desire to travel deep into the back country, Cliffside Recreational Area acts as the perfect in-between. It allows for easy access to the outdoors, offers gorgeous scenery, and many other opportunities to enjoy nature.
Located in the Nantahala National Forest just a short distance from Highlands off of 106, Cliffside is perfect for a day or afternoon trip. With camping offered close by at Vanhook Glade Campground, overnight or extended stays are also possible. At the heart of the recreational area lies Cliffside Lake. This small lake is hatchery supported and stocked with trout. It’s open for fishing year-round with the exception of March, as that is the time of year it is stocked with fish. As with most locations, a valid North Carolina fishing license is required while fishing at the lake. Access to fishing can be found at a variety of spots including a fishing dock, and all are made easily accessible by a loop trail that runs the entire circumference of the lake.
Along the trail there are also areas for picnicking complete with tables, grills, and a wonderful view of the lake. There is also a roped-off swimming area on the lake shore for anyone that wants to cool off on a warm day.
In addition to the lake access, there are several trails available for exploration of the area. There are hikes to waterfalls, ridge line trails, and access to the Vanhook Glade Campground for anyone making the stay overnight. The trails vary in length but none are much longer than two miles. Given that the trails are relatively short, they are passable by most despite some moderate inclines on a few of the trails. During all seasons, with the exception of winter, a parking fee of $4 is required. There are also picnic shelters available for reservation available for a fee.
With a variety of ways to experience the wonders of the outdoors, the Cliffside Recreation Area is a must for anyone that enjoys a woodland sabbatical. With its ease of access and many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, there is no reason to miss the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful outdoor recreational area.