The official elevation of Highlands, NC is 4,118 feet, making it one of the highest incorporated municipalities east of the Mississippi River The annual rainfall averages 100 inches due to the geographic lifting effect of storms coming from the lower elevations. This rainfall, coupled with abundant sunshine, creates a lush and verdant micro-climate popular with botanists.
The area has a subtropical highland climate with much cooler weather than the rest of the Southeast US. This cooling is caused by its altitude. Straddling the Eastern Continental Divide the area’s elevation contributes to its relatively cool summers and abundant rainfall, averaging 87.57 inches (2,224 mm) per year. Average annual snowfall is only 13 inches (33 cm), largely due to the fact that Highlands is further south and east in the Appalachian Mountains. Areas of similar elevation on the northwest side of Appalachian region, such as Banner Elk, are not as protected from periodic blasts of Arctic air and receive more substantial snowfall. Regardless, the Highlands area is one of the very rare locations at this latitude that has an average high of 78 ° in July, far lower than the rest of the South.