Scaly Mountain is a major peak near Highlands, NC. While its official name is Scaly Mountain, it’s also known as Big Scaly, since there is a peak called “Little Scaly” nearby.
Many of the outstanding peaks along the juncture of the North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia borders are classic plutons. Made up mainly of granite, these huge, whale-backed peaks possess enormous cliff faces that are among the highest in the eastern USA. Sheer granite walls of hundreds of feet up to (and surpassing) 1,000 feet are common. These mountains make for some of the most impressive high country scenery in eastern America.
Unfortunately, very little of this geography ever made it into public hands, and so most of the
territory is privately owned and is open to every form of exploitation one can imagine. It’s pretty much impossible to stand on any of these cliffs and look out and see a horizon empty of houses and subdivisions and roads. Indeed, the most impressive of these peaks seem to be completely covered in housing projects, and some of the mountains are actually totally under private ownership with no access to hiking or climbing allowed for the public.
There are, however, some exceptions to the general rule of private access and exploitation. A climb to the top of Scaly Mountain from the Blue Valley
Back Country Area will afford one a vertical climb of about 2,200 feet over a round trip of 7 miles via a loop that includes a hike on the excellent Bartram Trail. Only at a single road crossing will one encounter a paved road. However, just below the summit of Scaly Mountain, the Bartram Trail moves beside the back yard of a multi-million dollar home, and from the ridge line you are afflicted with the sight of a burgeoning subdivision spreading like a running sore along the northern side of Scaly Mountain, completely ridding one of any idea of solitude.
Scaly Mountain, while not possessed of the sheer cliffs of some of its neighbors, does have a great deal of exposed rock below and around the summit area. There are great views here, especially looking southward into Georgia and at the looming pyramid of Rabun Bald, Georgia’s second highest peak. The loop trail leading to the summit (Hurrah Ridge, West Fork, Bartram Trail) goes through some very nice second growth forests of hardwoods and especially nice white pine, and beside some gorgeous streamside banks.
I can highly recommend a hike to the summit of Scaly Mountain.