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:

The Nature Center is open Monday-Saturday from 10:00-5:00.

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.

2016 Weekly Events Starting May 31st

Animal Feeding Time

11:30am-Noon | Every Tuesday and Friday | All Ages | Cost: Free

Observe what the Nature Center’s animals eat and how.

Storybook Science

2:30-3:00pm | Every Wednesday | All Ages | Cost: Free

Nature lessons based around a children’s storybook.

Exploration Hike

3:00-4:00pm | Every Thursday | All Ages | Cost: Free

Short easy-moderate hikes around Highlands, NC.

Featured Creature

11:30-Noon | Every Saturday | All Ages | Cost: Free

Learn more about one of the Nature Center’s live animals up close.


2016 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.

February 13  Hearts Aflutter Valentine Festivities

11:30am – 3:30pm | All Ages | Cost: Free

Valentine’s Day inspires love and kindness throughout the world.

Celebrate this sentiment by stopping in to Highlands Nature Center for heart-themed activities for all ages. Bring along a digital camera and warm clothes to join in on a Wild Hearts Photo Scavenger Hunt and make a Valentine present for the birds! More information here.

April 2nd  Spring Fever

7:30pm – ? | Adults Only | Cost: $10

Join us for an adult-only evening of hilarity as we delve into the seductive world of animal courtship rituals as they gear up for the spring mating season. In this gameshow-like program, test your knowledge, trivia and acting abilities with your spouse, significant other, or best friend. Registration is required and you must register in pairs. More information here.

April 23  Earth Day Festivities

11:30am – 4:30pm | All Ages | Cost: Free

Join us as we celebrate Earth Day at Highlands Biological Station! The Nature Center will be open and offering eco-friendly activities and programs throughout the day. Celebrate life on the spaceship we call Earth and learn how to conserve its resources! Animal feeding programs will also be held at noon and 2:00pm. More information here.

May 6-7  Wildflower Whimsy

TBD | Adults Only | Cost: $75 for Members

May 27  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 9  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 as we prowl in nearby areas. Contributions to CRC are appreciated.

June 16 Feelin’ Froggy

8:30 – 9:30pm | Ages 6 – Adult | Cost: $3

Learn about the different frogs that call Highlands home. A short presentation will help us learn how to identify them by sight and then we will travel outside to listen for their calls. Advanced registration is required as space is limited. Please bring a flashlight.

June 21  Nocturnal Nature

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

Nocturnal animals have some pretty amazing adaptations to help them survive. Come out to Highlands Biological Station to learn about some of our nocturnal residents as we walk through the Botanical Garden. Advanced registration is required as space is limited. Please bring a flashlight.

Every Thursday from July 7-September 8 Zahner Conservation Lecture Series

6:30 – 7:30pm | Adults Only | Cost: Free

July 16 Flower Faerie Festivities

10:00am – 4:00pm | All Ages | Cost: Free

Join us as we celebrate summer in a faerie nice way! Drop in anytime to participate in building fairy houses, a flower fairy scavenger hunt through our Botanical Garden, and more. Dress as your favorite fairy or gnome and join the costume parade. Let your imagination reconnect you with nature! More information here. 

July 26 Going Batty

8:30 – 9:30pm | Ages 6 – Adult | Cost: $3

Highlands is home to several species of bats. These marvelous mammals are very important in our environment. Join us for a short presentation on bats before we head outside to observe them in their natural habitat. Advanced registration is required as space is limited. Please bring a flashlight.

August 9 Myths and Mysteries of the Night Sky

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

Ancient people looked to the night sky for navigation and explanation. Learn the most common summer constellations and the myths that surround them. Advanced registration is required as space is limited. Please bring a flashlight. Note that this program is weather dependent.

September 24 Take a Child Outside Festivities

11:00am – 5:00pm | All Ages | Cost: Free

Come out to Highlands Biological Station to kick off Take a Child Outside Week. The Nature Center will be open and offering nature-based activities and programs throughout the day. This is the perfect opportunity to get the whole family out and exploring in the wild!

October 2 Highlands on the Half Shell

TBD | Adults Only | Cost:$75 for Members, $100 for non-Members

October 28  Halloween “Enchanted Forest” Trick or Treat

6:00 – 7:30pm | All Ages | Cost: $1/person

Celebrate Halloween the natural way! Guided tours of our Botanical Gardens will lead you trick-or-treating around the trail to meet some native animal characters. Beware the forest in the last half hour as it will turn from enchanted to haunted and the animals will definitely be more “trick” than “treat”. Activities will be available in the nature center as well during this time.


school outreach 


summer camps

biodiversity in the southern Appalachians

nature notes

species lists:  mammals     |     amphibians     |     reptiles     |     birds