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Chasing Shadows: "Shadow of the Bear" in Highlands, NC

Updated: Apr 8

The upcoming full solar eclipse is a rare event of epic proportions, as the moon aligns perfectly with the sun, casting a shadow that traverses the Earth below. But there is another phenomenon, albeit on a local and smaller scale, that is no less a showcase of the intricate dance between light and landscape appearing each year: the "Shadow of the Bear" in Highlands, NC.

Now is the time to make vacation plans to experience this local spectacle that you will only find here in the western North Carolina mountains during the autumnal equinox.

Our mountain home, High Ridge Haven, is located between Cashiers and Highlands perched on a ridge with a front row seat to Whiteside Mountain (Book Direct: High Ridge Haven). Our 10.5 acre property provides privacy along with convenient access to the towns of Cashiers (4 mi.) and Highlands (10 mi.).

Photo from a deck overlooking Whiteside Mountain.
Front row seat to Whiteside Mountain.

Nestled within the picturesque town of Cashiers, the "Shadow of the Bear" is an extraordinary event that occurs each year for just 30 minutes on sunny days at 5:30 p.m. mid-October through early November. As the sun sets, its rays cast a distinct shadow resembling the silhouette of a bear, stretching across the valley floor. This natural spectacle has become a cherished tradition in the region, drawing photographers, nature enthusiasts, and curious onlookers to witness its fleeting magic.

But what exactly causes this fascinating display? The phenomenon occurs due to the orientation of Whiteside Mountain, which runs in a roughly east-west direction at an elevation of 4,930 feet. At this time in the fall, the sun sets in alignment with the mountain's ridgeline, creating the perfect conditions for the bear-shaped shadow to emerge.

Where to view the "Shadow of the Bear?" The best viewing spot for the shadow is right off Highway 64 in a place called Rhodes Big View Overlook. However, this is a busy winding road with traffic. You will want to use care crossing the road to take that perfect photo. Be sure to plan ahead since there is limited areas to park.

Can't make it this fall? The Shadow of the Bear also occurs in late winter from mid-February through early March. This time of year it is less crowded.

As we eagerly anticipate the upcoming full solar eclipse, let us also take a moment to appreciate the wonders closer to home, such as the enchanting "Shadow of the Bear." Whether we're gazing up at the heavens or admiring the beauty at our doorstep, these celestial events remind us of the extraordinary world we inhabit—a world where shadows dance, bears roam, and wonders never cease.

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