10 Must Dos in the NC Mountains This Summer

As summer temps warm up, consider cooling off in the North Carolina Mountains of Jackson County. Centrally located between America’s favorite national park sites and the region’s best attractions, our charming mountain towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro, and Sylva are your home base for regional adventure. Here are 10 must dos we recommend adding to your  Jackson County itinerary:


1) Cruise Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is known as America’s Favorite Motor Route for a reason. Located near Sylva, the Parkway offers the easiest access to stunning mountain views from the comfort of your car. Make sure to check out our favorite overlooks along it: Waterrock Knob, Wolly Back, Thunderstruck Ridge, Plott Balsam Overlook, Balsam Gap, Richland Balsam, Devils Courthouse, and Cowee Mountain Overlook. Something to note: the temperatures at these spots can sometimes be 10 degrees cooler than elsewhere. Something to appreciate in the summer!


2) Sight Seeing in the Smokies

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers free, easy-to-access activities. Start at the Oconaluftee Visitors Center in Cherokee to see the elk heard that frequently graze the fields (best viewed in early morning or evening). Next, stretch your legs along the Oconaluftee River Trail while learning the history of early Appalachian Settlers along the way at the adjacent Mountain Farm Museum. Continue through the park to Mingus Mill, an 18th-century turbine mill, or head to the highest point in the park at Clingmans Dome.


3) Explore Waterfalls

Jackson County is home to the most miraculous waterfalls in the region. Mingo Falls in Cherokee, and Silver Run, Whitewater, Dry, and Bridal Veil Falls in the Cashiers area are the easiest ones to access. Before you explore, make sure to review our Safety Page for tips and information to access our waterfalls carefully.


4) Discover the Heritage of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Learn the history of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians through interactive experiences at the Oconaluftee Indian Village and the Museum of the Cherokee People, or by watching the Unto These Hills Drama theater production. Near Cullowhee, witness the largest Petroglyph in the state at Judaculla Rock, said to be thousands of years old with Native American markings covering its surface.


5) Save on Regional Attractions

Biltmore Estate

Jackson County is the more affordable home base for adventures all throughout the NC mountain region. Sylva, for instance, is just 45 minutes from Asheville’s Biltmore estate, and the lodging prices here are far less likely to break the bank. Tip: Book your Biltmore Estate ticket at least 7 days in advance and save $10. Also, Dillsboro is only 20 minutes from the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which traverses through scenic river gorges and vast mountain landscapes.


6) Shopping

Our towns are great for shopping local. Stop in Dillsboro and neighboring Sylva for locally made crafts, antiques, boutiques, and more, and head to Cashiers for an upscale experience of home furnishings, décor, and more.


7) Adventure for Every Level

Every level of adventure exists in Jackson County! Whether you’re a hiking expert or just prefer to get outside and see nature’s beauty, you can find a multitude of trails in Jackson County ranging from easy to advanced. Low-impact and wheelchair-accessible trails such as the Tuckasegee River Greenway and Oconaluftee River Trail are great options for beginner levels, while hikes atop Pinnacle Park and Yellow Mountain provide a challenge for seasoned hikers. For those looking to take their adventure to the water, rafting along ‘mom-approved rapids’ in the Tuckasegee River is a fun activity for the whole family. You can also rent your own raft or book guided adventures. Other popular excursions include horseback riding in the Smokies and mountain biking.


8) Take on the Ale Trail

The most relaxing trail in the county is our Ale Trail because there’s no hiking required. Made up of seven breweries and offering over 120 locally crafted beverages on tap.


9) Angle the First and Only Fly Fishing Trail in the Country

With over 92,000 fish stocked annually, the WNC Fly Fishing Trail® is the best place to reel in Brook, Brown, and Rainbow Trout. Our outfitters and guides will help you reel in the catch of the day – no personal gear or prior skills necessary.

10) Eat at these Award-Winning Restaurants

No day of exploring is complete without a top-notch meal. Local favorites include Guadalupe Café, Lulu’s on Main, Canyon Kitchen, the Orchard, Library Kitchen and Bar, and Ilda. If you’re a fan of BBQ, grab a table at Haywood Smokehouse, one of the “Top BBQ Restaurants” according to Yelp, or try Cashiers Valley Smokehouse for delicious pulled pork, brisket, and more. Check out our full list of restaurants here.


Must Book Vacation


Don’t wait another minute and book your summer vacation to Jackson County! Our lodging options include vacation rentals, cabins, boutique inns, and more, perfect for every lifestyle and budget. Download our 2022 Visitors Guide for even more inspiration and start planning your trip using our Trip Planner.

Header Image Courtesy of @TrevorOnTheTrail

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