Nature Center


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 May 23rd: Monday through Saturday, 10am-5pm

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




Weekly Programming (May 25-Aug. 15)







Botanical Garden Tour


All ages

Join us on a guided, themed walk along the Garden trails to learn more about the beautiful native flowers and plants of the southern Appalachians.  More information.


Family Nature Activity


Ages 4+

Activities vary weekly but may include critter searches, discovery walks, nature studies and games, or crafts.  $1 per person.


Storybook Science Program


All ages

Come for a nature lesson based around a children’s storybook, and see and touch an interesting item from the Nature Center!


Zahner Lectures



Sponsored by the HBF.  July 2 – September 3 Weekly evening seminars presented by scientists, historians, artists, and writers on a variety of environmental topics.


Animal Feeding Time


All ages

Come and observe what each of the Nature Center’s animals eat and learn how they feed!


Featured Creature


All ages

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

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. 29  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 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.