Highlands 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 will begin regular summer hours on May 20th.

Tuesday–Saturday      10:00am–5:00pm

Sunday                        12:00pm–4:00pm

Closed Mondays

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.

Daily Programs 2017 (beginning May 20th)

Mondays Garden Tour 10:30am free
Enjoy a walk through the Botanical Gardens with our knowledgeable staff, viewing beautiful native plant life in diverse habitats.
Tuesdays Animal Feeding 11:30am free
View our live animal ambassadors at their most active— feeding time!
Wednesdays Inquiry Investigations 2:00pm $1 per participant
Try your hand at scientific inquiry with a ~30 minute hands-on program aimed at youth ages 7+ (younger ages are welcome with supervision).
Thursdays Exploration Hike 3:00pm free
Visit forests, streams, and other spots across our campus, experiencing unique habitats and honing your observation skills.
Fridays Animal Feeding 11:30am free
View our live animal ambassadors at their most active— feeding time!
Saturdays Creature Feature 11:30am & 2:30pm free
Experience one or more of our live animal ambassadors up close while learning about their fascinating adaptations.

 2017 Special Events

 July 25  Going Batty

8:00 – 9:30 p.m. | 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 8  Myths and Mysteries of the Night Sky

9:00 – 10:30 p.m. | 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 23  GO: Get Outside!

11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. | 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 26  Halloween Enchanted Forest

6:00-7:30 p.m. | All Ages | Cost: $1.00/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.


What to do if you find an orphaned animal

school outreach 


summer camps

biodiversity in the southern Appalachians

nature notes

species lists:  mammals     |     amphibians     |     reptiles     |     birds