North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures
Help Protect the Vulnerable Wildlands of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests
 

Terrapin Mountain

Terrapin Mountain

Approximate size: 6,648 acres

Old growth acreage: 410 acres

Location: Jackson and Macon counties, NC, 5 miles east of Highlands; Highland Ranger District, Nantahala National Forest

USGS Topographic Maps: Cashiers, Highlands

This rock-sided haystack is one of the most prominent features of the area between the resort towns of Highlands and Cashiers, NC. Precipitous rock faces rising 500 to 800 feet encompass both the south and west sides of Terrapin. Fowler Creek has its origin in the southeast part of this area. Its headwaters gather in a U-shaped amphitheatre of rock cliffs, difficult of access, and isolated and remote in feeling.

The Chattooga Wild and Scenic River flows along the western boundary of this Mountain Treasure through the rugged, remote and biologically important Chattooga Cliffs reach. From the top of Terrapin’s western cliffs, hikers have a direct and unimpeded view of Whiteside Mountain, looking directly across the river valley and the vale of Grimshawes.

Whiteside Mountain. Photo by Ralph Preston

To the north is Little Terrapin, which repeats the cliffs of the main peak. If anything, Little Terrapin is steeper, and demands considerable technical ability from climbers.

To the northwest is Bear Pen Mountain. The rounded top of this high point is clothed in old-growth hardwood forest. If the namesake bear pen ever existed, nature has reclaimed it.

The biological values present in the Terrapin Mountain Treasure equal the scenic and recreational values. Rare plants include numerous bryophytes, like Plagiochila shapii, and vascular plants like granite dome goldenrod. Many rare animals and the high quality water of the Chattooga River are attractions for those inclined to wildlife watching and fishing.

There are no trails in the Terrapin Mountain Treasure. The hiker here needs either local knowledge or well developed map navigation skills. An old logging road approaches the base of Bear Pen Mountain.

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