Highlands Nature Sanctuary
Free to the public
Open April – October, Saturday and Sunday, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Sorry, pets are not permitted – please visit nearby Fort Hill.
The Incomparable Rocky Fork Gorge. The Highlands Nature Sanctuary is the Arc of Appalachia’s oldest and largest preserve. The heart of the 2,200-acre preserve is the breathtakingly beautiful Rocky Fork Gorge, a 100-foot high steep-walled canyon renowned for its stunning rock formations, ancient white cedars, spectacular wildflower displays, grottos, springs, and stone arches.
The Appalachian Forest Museum. Open free to the public on weekends from April through October, the Appalachian Forest Museum features large artistic murals depicting the world significance of our backyard forests for those of us living anywhere in the Eastern third of the United States. The Museum strives to raise our appreciation for America’s Great Eastern Forest and the many ways our “home-sweet-biome” influences and inspires our lives.
Scenic Hiking Trails. The Appalachian Forest Museum serves as the trailhead for three beautiful loop trails, also open on weekends from April through October. Two of the trails wind into the Rocky Fork Gorge, offering splendid views of the geological scenery of the region, and a third trail leads into a towering old-growth beech forest.
Sanctuary’s Overnight Lodges. Visitors to the Sanctuary can enjoy staying in a number of historic cabins and older homes that have been fully renovated into modern nature retreats, ranging from secluded 2-person suites perched on the bluff of the gorge that offer dizzying views, to five-bedroom historic lodges that handsomely accommodate small groups and educational gatherings .
Once 7 Caves. Sixty acres of the 2200 acre Highlands Nature Sanctuary was once home to the 20th century nature park known as 7 Caves. Opening in 1930, 7 Caves was a beloved family destination and children’s nature-theme park for generations, reaching the peak of its popularity in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The Sanctuary purchased the 7 Caves land and buildings from its owners when they retired their business in 2005. The old 7 Caves trails, with their beautiful rock work still serve visitors today, and the old 7 Caves gift shop is now the Appalachian Forest Museum.