The Shadow of the Bear

On clear sunny days for about three weeks each fall, the eagerly anticipated and somewhat mystical Shadow of the Bear emerges slowly from behind Whiteside Mountain in Western North Carolina. Beginning at about 5:30 p.m., a small shadow grows and morphs into various shapes, eventually appearing as a giant bear shadow across the treetops of the valley. The entire event takes about 30 minutes.
This phenomenon attracts visitors and local residents alike, many hoping to capture a good photograph. Finding the ideal conditions for photography can be hit or miss, however. Mountain haze, cloudy conditions and other little tricks of Mother Nature sometimes obscure the shadow, making good photographic results difficult or impossible to achieve.
Even if you don't manage to enjoy a good view of the sometimes elusive bear shadow, the Cashiers and Highlands area is well worth a visit. The mountains are stunning and there are many wonderful attractions and activities, including many of North Carolina's most picturesque waterfalls, several great hiking trails, scenic byways, mountainside golf courses and more.

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A Phenomenon in the Mountains of Western North Carolina

Photo of the Shadow of the Bear - NC Mountains
Photo by Eduardo Moreira; Courtesy of Pineapple Public Relations

When to See the Shadow of the Bear

The bear shadow appears for about three weeks during the fall from mid-October into early November, beginning at about 5:30 p.m. each day. It reappears in the winter, from mid February into early March. However, when the fall foliage creates a colorful canvas is by far the better time for viewing.

Where to See the Shadow of the Bear

The best place to see the bear shadow is Rhodes Big View Overlook, located along Highway 64 between Cashiers and Highlands.

  • From Cashiers - Beginning at the traffic light at the intersection of Highway 64 and NC 107 in Cashiers, travel west on Highway 64 (toward Highlands) for about 4.3 miles. The overlook, which is not marked, will be on the left. If you reach the sign for the entrance to the Whiteside Mountain Trail, you have gone too far.
  • From Highlands - Travel east on Highway 64 for just over 5 miles, shortly past the sign to the Whiteside Mountain Trail and just over the Jackson County line. The overlook will be on the right.
  • Note: Park in the wide pull off area across the road from the overlook and remember to be cautious when parking, crossing the road, viewing, and exiting the area.
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Where to Stay in Cashiers and Highlands, North Carolina

Innisfree Bed and Breakfast By-The-Lake

Whether you are planning a fall getaway to see the Shadow of the Bear or choosing another season for your visit to this delightful area, there are several wonderful lodging options. Here are a few of the standouts:

In Cashiers, North Carolina

  • High Hampton Inn and Country Club - Stay at the historic main lodge or in a cozy cottage room and enjoy breathtaking views, hiking trails, golf, tennis, fly fishing, the spa and an array of other activities. The serene setting, attentive service and time-honored traditions of High Hampton Inn and Country Club make this a very special mountain resort.  
  • Innisfree Inn By-The-Lake - This AAA Four Diamond rated Victorian inn, offers a lakeside romantic setting with old world European flair. Guest rooms and suites are available, many including fireplaces and verandas. The property, which overlooks Lake Glenville, features twelve acres of woods and gardens, plus picturesque mountain views. 

In Highlands, North Carolina

  • Old Edwards Inn and Spa - This meandering mountain resort is situated in the heart of the charming village of Highlands, Luxury accommodations include guest rooms and suites, many with private patios or terraces. Architectural influences are old world European and rooms are furnished with period antiques. Old Edwards Inn and Spa is an AAA Four Diamond property. Old Edwards Inn and Spa - More Information
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