Level of difficulty: Strenuous, with 2,000-plus-foot elevation gain
Driving distance/directions from downtown Highlands, NC: 4.9 miles. Follow Hwy. 64 East to Buck Creek Road on left, proceed 2.2 miles on Buck Creek to trailhead on right.
Parking: Adequate, across the road from trailhead
Hiking distance: 9.6 miles round trip
Description: This longish hike up Cole Mountain, Shortoff Mountain, around Goat Knob and up Yellow Mountain is worth the trip for the view to be had from the old fire tower at the summit. Trail is well-marked and maintained, but it will test the mettle of the weekend walker.
Footnote: Bring adequate water. Nice collection of wildflowers along the trail, in season.
Hike descriptions adapted from the Highland Hiker’s Guide to Day Hikes.