Western North Carolina is an unbeatable vacation destination: rafting, kayaking, fishing and lake touring–we offer more activities than you will have time for. And the list is long for additional things to do/places to see!
From pizza by the river to outside dining with a view of the mountains, to delicious restaurants in town, there are plenty of options for you to choose from. The Swain County Chamber of Commerce Restaurant Guide gives you a head start in planning your dining selections.
After a vigorous day of kayaking, rafting, hiking, shopping or just enjoying – there is nothing better than a massage and a bit of pampering. And you do not have to go far!
LIFT Massage Therapy a mobile spa that brings massage therapy wherever you are. They bring the necessary tools and a talented massage therapist to your home or place of business. And now, Lift Massage Therapy has joined forces with Smoky Mountain Chiropractic to encourage appropriate lifestyle changes combined with chiropractic care and massage therapy to help clients reach their health goals. 828-736-6960
The Lakeview Lodge Spa where treatments include revitalizing facials incorporating natural ingredients such as pomegranate, wasabi, & red wine, various exfoliating & detoxifying body treatments,and a full menu of stress relieving massages as well as yoga classes. Located at the Lakeview Ressort & Spa. 800-742-6492.
Biking in western North Carolina is very popular. For mountain bikers there are many great places to ride. They include Tsali Recreation Area (located about 12 miles out NC 28) and a number of trails in the Nantahala, Cherokee, & Pisgah National Forests. For road bikers, many of the lightly traveled paved roads that wind through the mountains offer scenic views, as well as a good work out.
In Deep Creek, bicycles are allowed on the Deep Creek and Indian Creek trails only. There are no loops to ride; these trails are out and back only. Deep Creek area trail map (pdf) Deep Creek Trail may be ridden from the parking lot to the fourth bridge (at the Loop Trail); this is about 1.7 miles each way (1 mile beyond the junction with Indian Creek Trail). Indian Creek Trail may be ridden from Deep Creek Trail to the intersection with the Deep low Gap Trail; this is about 2.9 miles each way.
Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians
Through exhibits and videos you’ll learn about fly fishing legends, the evolution of rods and reels, basic knots, fly-tying, types of gear, types of gamefish, regional fishing waters, and the history of fly fishing in the Southeast. Admission is Free. Open 9 am – 6 pm, Mon-Sat.
Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts
Located in Franklin, NC, this 1,500 seat state-of-the-art facility presents the finest in performing arts to the surrounding towns. Performances will include passion plays, musical productions, professional drama troupes, dance and choral festivals, recitals, and various genres including country, bluegrass, gospel, pop, contemporary Christian and more.
Nantahala River Gem Mine
Gemstone material comes from both the local area, and from mines all over the world. Some gems you may find include rubies, emeralds, sapphires, garnets, topaz, amethyst, rose quartz and many more! Years ago the streams in the Cowee Valley near Franklin were actively mined for rubies and other gemstones. The mines in Cowee Valley are located just off NC 28 about five miles north of Franklin. The mines located there are a combination of “native” (use dirt only from the stream) and “enriched” (bring in dirt from elsewhere). “Enriched” mines almost guarantee a find of a range of gems. Before heading to the mines stop by the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum to learn more about the gems you will find.
Almond Boat & RV Park
Located on Fontana Lake in the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina, Almond Boat and RV Park invites you to “Come relax and enjoy the Smokies!” We offer pontoon rentals, boat rentals, cabin rentals, RV park rentals, boat storage, bait, fishing and hunting licenses. Located ten miles outside of Bryson City, NC on a paved road with easy access for motorcyclists and RVs.
Smoky Mountain Country Club
Nestled in one of North Carolina’s most dramatic mountain valleys, surrounded by 5,000 foot peaks is Smoky Mountain Country Club, a golf and vacation destination convenient to the recreation and sights of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From valley floors to mountaintops, we provide a unique golfing experience at our 18-hole course. Practice facilities include a driving range, putting green and chipping area. Free rental clubs. Open to the public.
Guided trips in the Nantahala National Forest overlooking Fontana Lake & the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Reservations preferred. Open weekends April-May and September-October. Memorial Day-Labor Day full time. Guided horseback riding trips are also available in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park also offers guided trail rides. Some of the local outfitters are: Deep Creek Riding Stables 828-488-8504, Fontana Village Riding Stables 828-498-2211, Nantahala Village riding stables 828-488-9649, Pisgah Forest Riding Stables 828-883-8258
Bryson City Outdoors
Rent a paddleboard in downtown Bryson City on the river or nearby on Fontana Lake! Our paddleboards are very beginner friendly and our knowledgeable staff can help anyone stand up on a paddleboard. Guided tours also available. Great fun for the whole family, call today to book your trip!
Smoky Mtn. Campground/Deep Creek Store & Tubes
Located on West Deep Creek just outside the national park. Campground has been in operation since 1957. We offer 25 full hookup sites, 12 on the creek and all sites have 30 amp electrical service. Hot showers for our campers and pay showers for the general public. Campground store and tube rental. Campers receive a discount on tube rental. Pets are accepted after a conversation with the owners. WIFI available. Open from April 1 to October 31. Call Bob or Sue Miller at 828-488-3302
is the highest concrete dam east of the Rockies, and has created a beautiful Mountain Lake. From April- November, the tram ride to a guided tour costs $2 per person; $1 ages 3-12. Tours are available free of charge 7 days a week, and the visitor center is open 9am-7pm. The Appalachian Trail crosses the dam and enters the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Fontana dam is located at the southwest corner of the GSMNP and NC @Lake Fontana. For more information call Fontana Dam Visitor Center at (828) 498-2234.
Cherokee Indian Reservation
in Cherokee, NC is a great place to spend a day. You can learn about the history, myths and legends of the Cherokee people at The Museum of the Cherokee Indian. There is also “Unto These Hills” -an outdoor drama which features tribal dancers, and Oconaluftee Visitor Center-a complete working farm from pioneer times. Be sure to save time to look through the area shops.
in western North Carolina can be a lot of fun. Years ago the streams in the Cowee Valley near Franklin were actively mined for rubies and other gemstones. The mines in Cowee Valley are located just off NC 28 about five miles north of Franklin. The mines located there are a combination of “native” (use dirt only from the stream) and “enriched” (bring in dirt from elsewhere). “Enriched” mines almost guarantee a find of a range of gems. Before heading to the mines stop by the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum to learn more about the gems you will find.
Blue Ridge Parkway
A popular auto route through the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are facilities for camping, picnicking, fishing, and horseback riding, as well as numerous trails and quiet walkways. The parkway is also friendly to bicyclists on both trails and the road. For more information call The Blue Ridge Parkway Info-line, (828)298-0398.
Road to Nowhere
Located right outside Bryson City, (take Everett Street north out of town, at about 10 miles you will see a sign welcoming you to the “road to nowhere”) the road was established in 1940s to provide access to home sites and graveyards that where made inaccessible by Lake Fontana. However, the road was never completed. There is a long tunnel which people are welcome to walk through, and on the other side hiking trails.
One of the best ways to see the mountains is to head out on a hike. The area around the Nantahala River offers many great options. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway offers over 800 miles of maintained trails. The Pisgah, Nantahala, Cherokee, and Chattahoochee National Forests have thousands of trails to choose from. In addition access to the Appalachian Trail- the 2000+ mile trail that stretches from Maine to Georgia and goes through fourteen states- is available through out the area and makes for good day or over night hikes.
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
is a 3,800 acre forest set aside in 1936 as a memorial to Joyce Kilmer, a poet best know for the poem “Trees“. There is a very well maintained “main” loop and an additional 60+ miles of hiking trails in Joyce Kilmer and the adjoining 14,000-acre Slickrock Wilderness area. The forest contains trees over 300 years old, 100 feet high, and 15 feet in circumference. To get to Joyce Kilmer take US129 from Robinsville, Follow the signs to Joyce Kilmer.
Great Smoky Mountain Railway
is one of the most popular attractions in the Smokies! Riding in the converted cars you’ll pass over trestles, along whitewater rivers, and through tunnels. The season is daily June-October. Weekends and some weekdays in March, April, May, November, and December. Adult fares start at $22, and children 12 & under: $10. Don’t forget your camera! For more information call (800)872-4681, or (828)586-8811
is a 150-ft natural water slide. This smooth rock incline in the middle of Looking Glass Creek has been around for a long time and on a normal day 11,000 gallons of water per minute pass over the rock landing into a six foot deep pool at the bottom. Visitors just have to wade out into the creek, sit down and slide down to the pool. Then walk up and do it again. Sliding rock is located on US 276 in the Pisgah National Forest and is marked by signs.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park
has an amazing diversity of plant and animal life. It contains one of the largest remaining virgin forests in Eastern America. It is the most popular park in the National Park Service system, and doesn’t charge an entry fee. Camping, fishing, hiking trails, horseback riding, and bicycling are just a few ideas for a great day of adventure. There are also beautiful waterfalls to check out while visiting the park. For more information call Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Gatlinburg,TN (423)436-1200.
is better known as the Tennessee Gateway to the Smokies. Here you can hike, picnic, swim, fish, bicycle, go for scenic drives, and golf. Live comedy and a variety of productions full of music and laughter are available. Shopping ranges from arts and crafts, galleries, specialty foods and shops, and even a Hard Rock Café. Pigeon Forge is full of go-carts, miniature golf, and fabulous designer name brand outlet malls. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are within minutes of each other. For more information call (800)-568-4748.
Almost any where you go you are bound to see a few. One of the best waterfall routes to take is US 64 from Franklin heading towards Highlands. Along the way you will come across Dry Falls, a 120-foot waterfall that has a paved trail that allows you to walk behind the cascading water and not get wet. There is also Cullasaja falls, Bridal Vail falls, and many more along the way. Whitewater Falls is located on NC 1149 nine miles south of Sapphire. This falls drops 411 feet in a series of cascades and is the highest waterfall east of the Rockies. When heading out to see these waterfalls save time to explore Highlands and Cashiers, these small towns offer many fine shops and restaurants.
The Tennessee scenic “skyway” was completed in late 1996. The entrance to the Skyway is just before Joyce Kilmer at Tellico Gap and travels though the Nantahala and Cherokee National to Tellico Plains. The road is 43 miles of panoramic views between Tellico Gap and Tellico Plains. Along the way there are several places to stop and hike or just enjoy the view.
City Lights Bookstore
is the place to go to find a good book to read while you enjoy some relaxing down time during your visit. City Lights Bookstore, located in the small town of Sylva, offers literature of the Southern Appalachian region with the world, and the world of good books with our community.
The Fun Factory
Fun for kids of all ages, the Fun Factory is the place for games, mini golf, bowling, go-carts, laser tag, big screen TVs, party rooms, great restaurants and more. Plus, there’s even an area with fun just for the little kids. There’s something for everyone to enjoy. 828-349-5556.
The Phoenix Movie Theatre
After a great day on the river, nothing beats a rainy day like a movie. Located in Cherokee, this state-of-the-art theatre is the answer for your movie/popcorn craving. 828-497-7384.
Whether shopping for antiques, artisan work or cute clothing, satisfying your craving for an ice cream cone and delicious deli sandwich or enjoying a stroll through a picture-book country town, both Bryson City and Dillsboro are great way to spend a day.
The Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap
with 318 curves in 11 miles, the Tail of the Dragon is America’s number one motorcycle and sports car road.
FOR THE FOUR-LEGGED VACATIONER:
Rippling Water Kennel
Located in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina, Rippling Water Kennel is the culmination of many years of planning, dreaming and hard work. For more than 25 years we have dedicated ourselves to selectively breeding and showing our dogs.
Pet Friendly Hiking and Walking around Bryson City
Oconaluftee River Trail
The Oconaluftee River Trail is one of two walking paths in the National Park on which visitors can walk dogs and bicycle. The other is the Gatlinburg trail. Pets and bicycles are prohibited on all other park trails. The trail travels 1.5 miles one-way from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center to the outskirts of the city of Cherokee, NC. It is relatively flat, but does have a few small hills. The trail runs through the forest alongside the Oconaluftee River and offers beautiful views of the river.
Old 288 River Park
Old 288 River Park is about two miles from downtown Bryson City on Old Highway 288 (Bryson Walk).
Island Park is in downtown Bryson City. Take Everett Street to Bryson Street. Cross the bridge over to the park at the end of Bryson Street. Recreation Park There is a walking trail in the Recreation Park on West Deep Creek road just outside of downtown Bryson City. Take Everett Street to Depot Street.Then take West Deep Creek Road to the park.
Nantahala National Forest
Trails in the National Forest are pet friendly. One paved trail is the Nantahala River Bike Trail TR368. A nice flat trail that begins at the rafting launch site (Off Hwy 74, south of the NOC, turn left on Wayah Road). Park at the launch site and take the bridge across the river. The trail follows the river for about 1.5 miles.
WHAT IF IT RAINS?
Don’t let the rain slow you down when you come to visit us! There are so many great things to do in western North Carolina, all a short drive from the Nantahala Gorge. For starters: go rafting! It does not matter if it is raining or not, you are planning on getting wet so the rain will not take away from your whitewater trip. We provide splash jackets and complimentary wet suits for rainy days on the river. In addition, any of the things-to-do that are marked with our rain cloud indicate great rainy day activities.
We hope these suggestions help you plan your trip to our area. Please give us a call if you need assistance planning your trip. 1-800-224-7238.