even frequent hikers have to admit they’ve never seen a bear this big.
The “shadow of the bear” is a well-known phenomenon around Cashiers, a small town in Jackson County, North Carolina. Thanks to a large mountain and low sun angle, the “bear” appears nearly every day the sun is out between mid-February and mid-March.
Though it eventually becomes the beloved bear, the phenomenon starts as just a small dot when the sun is highest in the sky. As the sun gets lower, the shadow of 4,930-foot-tall Whiteside Mountain begins to stretch across the valley below. Thanks to perfectly placed rocks and bumps near the summit, the shadow eventually forms a perfect bear shape, right down to the ears and slightly raised back haunches. It usually appears around 5:30 PM and lasts for roughly 30 minutes before losing its shape.
While you can hike to the summit of Whiteside Mountain, the best viewing point for the shadow of the bear is the Rhodes Big View Overlook, a pull-off off on Highway 64. Jackson County sits in the southern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains, about an hour southwest of Asheville. That makes it easy to pack in a full-day hike past waterfalls or roaring rivers and still make it to the overlook in time to catch the shadow of the bear emerge.
There’s plenty to do near Asheville and the surrounding area if you’re keen on making a trip out of it, including highly rated restaurants, plenty of year-round festivals, and plenty of paddling and cycling.