best places to live in western north carolina

You know that saying, “We live where you vacation”? That doesn’t even begin to do Western North Carolina justice. The Highlands-Cashiers Plateau is a popular place to vacation, especially in the summer months. But many visit once—or maybe a handful of times—before they decide they want to live here forever. There is something about these five locations that bring the magic and rustic allure of North Carolina to life, making them some of the best places to live in Western North Carolina. Wake up to majestic views every day. You’ll feel like you’re on vacation at first, but breathe in the fresh mountain air because this is where you belong.

There are many reasons why people decide to put down roots in North Carolina and call it home. Here are some of the best places to live in Western North Carolina:

  1. Cashiers
  2. Highlands
  3. Lake Glenville
  4. Lake Toxaway
  5. Sapphire

One of the things we love about living in this part of Western North Carolina is how, years later, we’re still discovering new hiking trails and new places to take in the truly special place we call home. The people are another reason why many of the members of our team moved here. Southern hospitality is truly a thing, and we credit that to people loving where they live.

If you want to live close to nature and feel like it’s constantly surrounding you, then a home for sale in Western North Carolina on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau is right for you. You’ll love taking in priceless views nearly everywhere you go, easy access to hiking trails, how charming the area is, and the sense of Southern hospitality.

Where Should I Live in Western North Carolina?

where should i live in western north carolina

Keep reading if you’re looking for a small town feel in the middle of the North Carolina mountains. We’ve narrowed it down to five locations and we’ll tell you why we think they are the best places to live in Western North Carolina.

All five of these locations are unique and they each have something to offer. It’s important to think about your lifestyle, goals, and to really get to know the place in which you purchase your next home. The great thing about this list is that all five cities can work for all types of buyers. Many choose Western North Carolina because of its second home market, or they want to retire near the mountains, or start a family in this setting. For this reason, these cities truly are some of the best places to live in Western North Carolina.


Cashiers is a true mountain town. It’s located in Jackson County and it’s more spread out than Highlands, but it still has all the necessities you’ll need. Enjoy the beautiful mountain views nearly everywhere you go. Just running to the grocery store can be soothing if you look around you.

Hiking enthusiasts will love discovering all of the trails this part of Western North Carolina has to offer. Many consider Cashiers one of the best places to live in Western North Carolina because the homes offer just the right amount of privacy, mountain views, and access to town.

If Cashiers, or any other location in Western North Carolina sounds like the best fit for you, let us know. Our team of professional real estate agents will be happy to show you around and help you explore the town’s gated luxury communities tucked among forests and mountains. It’s truly a special place to live.


You’ll love Highlands and think it’s one of the best places to live in Western North Carolina if your goal is to pair luxury mountain living with an urban, small downtown vibe. Of course, we think all of these cities and towns are charming. But Highlands looks like it could be the poster child for every beautiful mountain town you see in the movies. Think: brick sidewalks, picturesque storefronts, local art and artists, the mountains as a scenic backdrop in the distance, and everyone seems to know each other here.

Located in Macon County, Highlands is known for many things, including its unique restaurants, local shops and events throughout the year. Like Cashiers, Highlands is a hub for members of the Plateau community to come together and celebrate special times and each other.

There are also a variety of country club homes for sale in Highlands. If this is the type of community you’re looking for and the type of lifestyle you wish to live, contact us today to get started looking for your next forever home in the mountains.

Lake Glenville

Life seems simpler on the lake. Pair that with watching the sunset reflect off a glistening lake with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background, and it’s easy to convince someone to consider living on Lake Glenville.

Take advantage of the lake’s 26 miles of shoreline and enjoy all of the water activities you want. Jet ski around the lake, go boating, kayaking and more. If you have a dog, they will love living here, too! Some say Lake Glenville is one of the best cities to live in Western North Carolina because you have a front row seat to birds and other wildlife that visit and call the lake home.

At 3,494 feet, Lake Glenville has the honor of being the highest lake east of the Mississippi River. It was built in 1940 by the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) and Thorpe Dam. Like many cities constructed in the ‘40s, it was built to power a factory that helped make products for World War II. Now it’s a thriving destination for vacationers and North Carolina residents.

Lake Toxaway

Lake Toxaway is a popular community on a private lake. It’s also a second home destination for people throughout the U.S. In addition to impressive scenery and the perks that come with living on a lake, Lake Toxaway has a great country club environment. If that’s the lifestyle you’re looking for, don’t forget to ask a Landmark real estate agent if they can show you around.

We think you’ll fall in love at first visit! Full of active, like-minded people, there is always something to do. Play a round of golf, invite your neighbors to a tennis tournament, play croquet, and train at the fitness facilities. Those things are at the tips of your fingers and you don’t even have to leave the community to take advantage of them.

When you want to explore the area’s beauty, you’ll love knowing that Lake Toxaway is surrounded by over 5,000 acres of forests. The community has easy access to fishing, hiking trails, and many waterfalls. When you need to go into town, Cashiers and Brevard are a short drive away. Does Lake Toxaway sound like one of the best places to live in Western North Carolina?


Sapphire was named for the abundance of sapphires people found in the 1800s. The town was built originally as a gold and gem mining town. It’s said that back then the region was the country’s leading gold producer, until the California Gold Rush of 1849.

Sapphire is near Cashiers, and like Cashiers, it features a variety of quiet gated communities tucked into forests and the foothills of mountains. There is always something to do in Sapphire. The area has many opportunities for hiking, fishing and golf. In the winter months, you can take advantage of the Sapphire Ski Resort. Try the bunny slopes, 1,600-foot vertical run, tubing, winter zip line and snowboarding.

The origin of Sapphire can be traced back to the Toxaway Company. It bought thousands of acres of land throughout Transylvania and Jackson counties to make way for a railroad linking Toxaway to Hendersonville. Like many of us now, the Toxaway Company recognized how attractive and serene the area was, and it began to develop Sapphire into a resort destination. They marketed it as “The Switzerland of the South.”

Lake Glenville vs. Lake Toxaway

lake glenville vs lake toxaway

When it comes to some of the best places to live in Western North Carolina, Lake Toxaway and Lake Glenville are some of the most beloved lake towns in North Carolina. They’re popular second home locations, places for vacation rentals and great towns for anyone interested in living the good life, on a lake.

Both of these locations offer glistening lake views, access to scenic hikes and the peace of mind that you can only find when you live on a lake. The allure of lake life is that things seem to calm down and get even slower, in a part of North Carolina that’s already known for getting back to the simple life and slowing down.

What are the differences between Lake Toxaway and Lake Glenville?

Living on any lake is calming and peaceful. It’s hard not to be fully present. There is always something to do and there is always something to see. However, Lake Glenville and Lake Toxaway each offer homeowners something different. Read on to learn about the differences so you can make an informed decision about where to purchase your next home.

Lake Glenville

Here are a few reasons why Lake Glenville is different from Lake Toxaway:

  •         Lake Glenville is a little more off the beaten path. It’s practically hidden away in the mountains, surrounded by waterfalls and hiking trails. Some say people like it that way. Discover the magic of Lake Glenville and take in how private it feels.
  •         Lake Glenville is a public lake.
  •         Lake Glenville is bigger than Lake Toxaway.
  •         There are a couple of waterfalls on the lake.
  •         Like we’ve mentioned earlier, it’s a popular second home location. Many people also choose to rent out their homes for some of the year to grateful vacationers, since Lake Glenville is a popular vacation destination. If this is something you’re considering, Landmark Vacation Rentals can help manage your home, renters and payments. If you’d like to discuss this in more detail, contact us today or at your convenience.

Lake Toxaway

Here is what differentiates Lake Toxaway from Lake Glenville.

  •         Lake Toxaway is a private lake and a private lake community.
  •         There are 14 miles of shoreline to enjoy and the lake sits at about 3,010 feet in elevation. It’s a very clean lake, as its fed by stream waters from the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests.
  •         If you decide to purchase a home for sale in Lake Toxaway, you’ll be in good company. It’s been a popular destination for decades and has housed the likes of the Fords, Edisons, and Rockefellers.

Where Should I Go in Western NC?

where should i go in western nc

As we mentioned previously, the Western NC region is large and diverse. When you’re thinking about where you should go in Western NC, it’s best to think about the top places you want to visit to ensure you get to visit them all. Whether you’re visiting North Carolina on vacation, you just moved here and you’re exploring your new digs, or you’ve lived in Western North Carolina for a while and you’re looking for some new places to go, we’ll outline the must-see places and the places you should go to in Western NC so you can make a plan and experience them all.

Here are some places you should check out in Western North Carolina:

  •         WNC Nature Center
  •         Nantahala State Forest
  •         Biltmore House
  •         Gorges State Park
  •         Blue Ridge Parkway
  •         Mountain Hiking and Camping

Some of these places are on or near the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau and some are one or two hours away. We thought it was important to include some highly popular things to do in North Carolina, even if they take a bit of a drive to get there.

These are up to an hour and a half away:

  •         WNC Nature Center
  •         Nantahala State Forest
  •         Biltmore House

WNC Nature Center

Visit the Western North Carolina Nature Center to learn about the Southern Appalachian Mountain region and the plants and animals that call it home. The center is home to 60 species of domestic and wild animals as well as hundreds of types of plants from this region. This is a great place to visit for the kids, and adults will love it, too. It’s always important and interesting to learn about the flora and fauna you may encounter while you’re living in Western North Carolina. The center also aims to help visitors develop an understanding of their role and responsibility for North Carolina’s native wildlife and habitats.

Nantahala State Forest

The Nantahala State Forest is the largest of North Carolina’s four national forests. The forest consists of 531,148 acres and elevations range from 5,800 feet to 1,200 feet. Visitors will enjoy hiking, whitewater rafting, camping and more. If you love hiking, this may be the place for you. There are over 600 miles of trails, making these an excellent option for nature lovers. Another interesting tidbit about the forest is that the word "Nantahala" is Cherokee Indian for "Land of the Noonday Sun." In some parts, the sun touches the floors of the deep gorges only when it’s high overhead at midday.

Biltmore House

Built by George Vanderbilt by 1895, the Biltmore is America’s largest home. Located in Asheville, it’s also one of North Carolina’s most popular tourist attractions. The epitome of Gilded Age home designs, the Biltmore is a whopping 178,926 square feet. Construction started in 1889 and it was quite a spectacle. A woodworking factory and brick kiln were built onsite to facilitate the process. It produced 32,000 bricks a day. A three-mile railroad spur was also built to transfer materials to the building site. About 1,000 workers and 60 stonemasons worked on the main house. Vanderbilt went on extensive overseas trips to buy decor and thousands of furnishings for his newly built home. The opulent tapestries, carpets, prints and linens all dated between the 15th century and the late 19th century.

These are on or near the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau:

  •         Gorges State Park
  •         Blue Ridge Parkway
  •         Mountain Hiking and Camping

Gorges State Park

Gorges State Park is a popular state park near the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau. If you’ve never seen a waterfall, this is where you want to go. The park is set in the middle of plunging waterfalls, river gorges, rock walls and unique wildlife. Don’t forget to stop by the visitor center and check out its museum-quality exhibits. There are picnic grounds and shelters if you want to have a picnic. The scenery is gorgeous and if the weather is nice, why not? Gorges State Park is home to a variety of hiking trails, especially distance hiking and backpack camping. Western North Carolina is also a great place to go for trout fishing, mountain biking and horseback riding, and Gorges State Park is no exception.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is known all over as one of the most scenic places in the country. Thankfully, if you live in Western North Carolina, you don’t have to go far to be able to enjoy it. The Blue Ridge Parkway is the country’s longest linear park. It runs for a grand total of 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina. It also links Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. What’s so fantastic about the Parkway and having such easy access to it is that you can choose to explore it by car, on foot or both. You can explore different sections each time, too, and there’s so much of it that you’ll always be exploring something new. This is one of our favorite things about living in Western North Carolina and we hope you love it as much as we do!

Mountain Hiking and Camping

Mountain hiking and camping are some of the most beloved things to do for people of all ages and backgrounds. It’s the reason why many people visit and move to Western North Carolina. There are many options to go hiking and camping in this blog and any of our Landmark real estate agents will be happy to share their favorite trails and camping spots with you. We’ll help you discover where the locals go. Eventually, you’ll be giving the same advice to your new neighbors.

Here are some hiking trails on or near the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau:

  1.      Looking Glass Rock Trail
  2.      Whiteside Mountain Trail
  3.      Secret Falls Trail
  4.      Yellow Mountain
  5.      Trails in Panthertown Valley
  6.      Trails in Dupont State Forest

Most Beautiful Places in Western North Carolina

most beautiful places in western north carolina

You could say that all of Western North Carolina is equally beautiful and it’s true, it really is,  but the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau area in Western North Carolina truly stands out. Here you can find an abundance of waterfalls, hiking trails and temperate rain forests. The Plateau’s geography and elevation make this possible. It’s one thing to tell you about the striking beauty of the Plateau, but it’s another to experience it.

If you’re still on the fence about where the most beautiful place to live in Western North Carolina is, we urge you to visit and see the Plateau and all its glory for yourself. If you only have a few days, that’s okay! Landmark has vacation rentals throughout the Plateau region and we’re happy to help you find the perfect home away from home. Whether you’re staying for a few days or a week, you’ll get to experience what makes this area so special. If you’ve decided you want to move here after your trip is over, our real estate agents are more than happy to work with you to help you find the perfect mountain dream home!

What is the Best Small Town in North Carolina?

what is the best small town in north carolina

North Carolina is full of some truly charming small towns and it’s impossible to pick just one. All of the towns on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau deserve special recognition because it’s impossible to rank them. They all offer something special.

What sets these five locations apart from other small towns in the state is the Plateau and its way of life. If you want to move to a place where being happy is part of the town’s DNA because of how incredibly charming it is to live there, then look no further. You’re home. The Plateau hosts a variety of events throughout the year designed to foster togetherness and unite the community. These reasons make it a great place to move to, raise a family and retire.

What Cities Are in Western North Carolina?

what cities are in western north carolina

There are a variety of places to live in Western North Carolina. Many of the locations in this article have a small town feel, but there are a few large cities, too, if that’s more your speed.

Western North Carolina is a fantastic place to live, retire, raise a family, and more. Here are some popular cities to live in Western North Carolina:

  •         Asheville
  •         Brevard
  •         Hendersonville
  •         Waynesville


Situated along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville is about two hours away from Cashiers and Highlands. The city sits at an elevation of 2,231 feet and is known as a haven for artists and musicians. There is a ton of art galleries and it’s not uncommon to see musicians starting impromptu performances on sidewalks all over the city. Asheville is also a popular spot for craft beer lovers. 


Located in Transylvania County, Brevard has a small town feel and is about 30 miles away from Asheville. Residents earn a median of $40,000 a year and many own their own homes. Transylvania County was established in 1861 and Brevard was chosen as the county seat because, at the time, it was the most convenient place for residents to meet. The brick courthouse was finished in 1884 and it’s still standing today.


Hendersonville is south of Asheville and it’s the county seat of Henderson County. There are a handful of breweries, wineries and cideries in the area. Go on a tour or check out the Cheers! Trail and the 11 brewery options along the way. Hendersonville is not a small city. It is home to the second-largest downtown in the state, with Asheville being the first.


Waynesville is considered a medium-sized city and it’s about 30 miles from the border of Tennessee. Waynesville is the county seat of Haywood County and home to about 10,000 people. Its downtown is known for art galleries, antique shops and a tree-lined Main Street. The Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts is also in Waynesville.

Discover the Best Places to Live in Western North Carolina with Landmark

 best places to live in western north carolina with landmark realty group

Now that you know more about the best places to live in Western North Carolina, it should be a little easier to make your final decision. If you have any questions about the locations we mentioned or about moving to North Carolina, let us know! Our real estate agents truly love this area and we are passionate about sharing it with others. Many of us were born here or we moved to the Plateau after we visited for a vacation a few times and knew this was where we belonged. We hope you get to experience this feeling, too.

Browse our Western North Carolina homes for sale at your convenience and think about sipping that morning coffee and breathing in the fresh mountain air. Contact us if you see something you like or if you have any questions. We can’t wait to show you what life is like on the Plateau!

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