Walking Tall

Walking Tall: A new trail showcases champions of the forest
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A few steps is all the walking you need to find the champion trees on the front lawn of the 92-year-old High Hampton Inn in Cashiers. The specimens, honored for their size by the nonprofit American Forests’ National Big Tree Program, include the nation’s largest bald cypress growing above 3,000 feet in elevation, a national champion bottlebrush buckeye, and a world champion 100-foot Fraser fir. And there’s much more to admire: Guests can peruse the inn’s entire collection of leafy giants, spread across the 1,400-acre grounds, along the 2.5-mile Tree Trail of Champions.

Recently, big-tree hunter Gary Williamson identified eight additional champion trees (certified by a combination of height, trunk size, and crown span), bringing the total on the inn’s property to 13. The growing list of blue ribbon entries inspired High Hampton’s general manager, Clifford Meads, to reexamine a decade-old set of notes cataloging the inn’s iconic trees and resurrect an initiative to connect them all by a footpath. The trail is open to both guests and members of the public who dine at the inn.

Meads says he doesn’t have a favorite tree, but is especially fond of the forest’s diversity. “I can walk out on the front lawn and point to a world without taking two steps,” he says. The trees are the legacy of William Stewart Halsted, a famed surgeon and previous owner of the property who imported exotic flora from all corners of the planet. “We think people will appreciate the stewardship of the land that we take very seriously,” says Meads. “The trees are truly a wonder.”         


Tree Trail of Champions

High Hampton Inn

1525 N. Carolina 107, 

Cashiers; (828) 743-2411, highhamptoninn.com                                        

Photograph by Elizabeth Lee