SalamanderHighlands Nature Center was founded as the museum of the Highlands Biological Station in 1927, and was originally housed as an annex to the Hudson Library. Its present home, the Clark Foreman Museum building, was constructed between 1939 and 1941 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) using native granite from the local quarry and wormy chestnut salvaged from the Nantahala National Forest. Following a renovation in 2001, the Nature Center now offers exhibits and year-round educational programming focusing on the biodiversity of the southern Appalachian region. Programming includes pre-K-12 outreach, special events and daily activities during the summer that are open to the general public, as well as summer nature camps for ages 4 to 14. Younger campers explore the outdoors and learn about plants and animals through a variety of activities and games. Older campers conduct scientific research, develop team-building skills, and observe nature on adventure field trips into the Nantahala National Forest.    


Highlands Nature Center is a member of NC Grassroots Science Museums Collaborative.


current hours of operation:

Beginning September 8th: Tuesday through Saturday, 11am-5pm

Starting Thanksgiving Day, the Nature Center will be closed for the season except for special events (see below).

Botanical Garden Trails are open every day until sunset.

address and phone number:

930 Horse Cove Road / PO Box 580, Highlands, NC 28741

(828) 526-2623




Below you will find the schedule for our daily programming and special events.  For information about school outreach programming and special events, please visit the link below in the “links” section.


school outreach 


summer camps

summer programs

programs for adults

biodiversity in the southern Appalachians

nature notes

species lists:  mammals     |     amphibians     |     reptiles     |     birds




2015 Schedule of Special Events

All special events take place at the Highlands Nature Center and Botanical Garden, 930 Horse Cove Road.  Advanced registration (828.526.2623) is required for some events due to limited space.  Educators can receive science CEU or criteria II NC EE credit.  Call for details.

May 29  Salamander Meander

9:00 – 10:00pm Ages 7 – Adult Cost: $5

Join herpetologists on a night search to observe some of the area’s salamanders in the wild. Registration is required. Don’t forget to bring your flashlight!

June 4  Owl Prowl

7:30pm – ? All Ages Cost: Free

In collaboration with the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society.  Come for a presentation by the Carolina Raptor Center (CRC) featuring live owls. Afterwards, join members of Audubon to look for owls in nearby areas. Contributions to CRC are appreciated.

July 10  Nature by Night

9:00 – 10:00pm Ages 6 – Adult Cost: $3

Learn about adaptations of nocturnal animals through games, activities, and observations in the Botanical Garden. Bring a flashlight! Advanced registration is required.

Oct. 30  Halloween “Enchanted Forest” Trick or Treat

6:30 – 7:30pm All Ages Cost: $1

Give your child an excuse to test out their Halloween costume the night before Halloween! Encounter friendly forest creatures (portrayed by students from WCU and the UNCIE program) along the trails in the Botanical Garden and learn interesting nature facts about each one. This event is fun and educational for all ages. More information here.

Dec. 5 Welcome Winter


Come join us at the Highlands Nature Center for an Open House event. We will be welcoming winter with hot drinks, snacks, and fun activities for the family. More information here.

Dec. 19 Bear Essentials

11:30am – 3:30pm All Ages

Learn all about our native black bears and how to safely coexist with them! Join us for a presentation by the B.E.A.R. (Bear Education And Resources) Taskforce on bears in the backyard, plus bear facts, natural history, and bear-themed crafts! More information here.