A Mountain in NC Makes a Giant Bear Shadow For Only 2 Weeks in the Fall

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Have you heard of the “Shadow of the Bear”? It’s exactly like it sounds but to see it, you have to be high up on Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers, NC, less than two hours from Greenville. Here’s what you need to know to catch the cool WNC shadow of the bear experience. 

Every fall, a really neat phenomenon called the Shadow of the Bear emerges near Cashiers, North Carolina in the early evening, where Whiteside Mountain forms a shadow in the valley when the sun is at the right point that looks exactly like a bear. 

Looking for more to do in Western North Carolina? Don’t miss our article on WNC’s Secret Season. You’ll find amazing adventures that are budget-friendly.

Shadow of the Bear, Cashiers, NC
Courtesy of Stacy Redmon

I love Cashiers and have hiked and vacationed there with my family. Seeing the Shadow of the Bear has been a bucket list item for a few years. It’s such a unique sight that is not only fun to look at but also enhances the already beautiful landscape of brightly colored leaves during that time of year. 

To see it, you need to head up Highway 64 to a place called Rhodes Big View Overlook. Be sure to get there a little before 5:30 pm when the shadow happens in the valley next to Whiteside Mountain. Weekdays are way better than weekends. And there has to be a fairly clear sky. The full shadow takes about 30 minutes to emerge.

Since it’s a good hour and 45 minutes from Greenville, staying overnight up there wouldn’t be a bad idea. Driving home in the dark through the mountains was a tad scary just because I was watching for deer and bears.

It’s pretty high up there as well – about 4,930 feet – so bring a jacket to stay warm as you catch the bear shadow. This only happens twice a year, from mid-October to early November and also from mid-February to early March. The timing of the fall Shadow of the Bear is splendid because it hits during leaf-peeping time.

Know Before You Go

  • The Shadow of the Bear happens mid-October through early November
  • The shadow won’t come out on cloudy days so only go when it’s sunny.
  • The bear starts to emerge about 5:30 pm in the valley next to Whiteside Mountain and takes 30 minutes to fully come out. Get there early (or later at 6:15pm to see the full shadow) because there are crowds.
  • The best view is from the Rhodes Big View Overlook on Highway 64 in Cashiers. An “overlook” would be generous – it’s more like a glorified shoulder. You need to keep kids close to you since it can be dangerous if cars swing around that curve too fast (photo below).
  • Bring a warm jacket since it’s nearly 5,000 feet above sea level and chilly that time of year.
  • The shadow also emerges in mid-February for a few weeks.
Shadow of the Bear traffic and overview

Have you seen the Shadow of the Bear?

About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

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