After months of being cooped up, many of us are ready to safely get out and explore again. With 494-square miles of awe-inspiring vistas, wide open spaces, multi-level trails and more, you’ll enjoy a plethora of natural socially distant activities in the NC Mountains. To give you a head start, we’ve compiled the best way to spend a weekend in the mountains – from hiking the oldest mountain in the world to enjoying award-winning craft beverages along the Jackson County Ale Trail. Forty-eight hours is the perfect amount of time to explore the very best places in Jackson County’s mountain towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro and Sylva.
Check into your home base and get ready to enjoy a relaxing afternoon. Our lodging partners have implemented industry best practices to ensure the safety of you and your family. They are conducting employee wellness checks, using EPA-approved disinfectants and have installed hand sanitizer units throughout the property for your peace of mind. Make sure to mask up to adhere to North Carolina’s Mask Mandate when you’re indoors or in an environment where social distancing is not possible.
Get crafty in Dillsboro by exploring this charming artisan village. You’ll discover handcrafted pottery, blown glass, and local artwork of all kinds in each store. Some favorites include Dogwood Crafters, a coalition of more than 100 local artisans that sells their Appalachian hand-made crafts, Riverwood Shops, and Tunnel Mountain Crafts. For gifts to take home, check out The Corn Crib on Front Street. Since 1983, The Corn Crib has been selling handmade one-of-a-kind gifts, wreaths, and arrangements. If antiquing is more your style, head over to the Front Porch General Store next door where you’ll find a little bit of everything!
In Sylva, you’ll find three bookstores (one of which is a rare bookstore), five antique stores, and enough cafés to keep you going all day. Sylva serves as the central hub for the Jackson County Ale Trail with four craft breweries within a walkable distance. With more than 120-brews on tap, you’ll be sure to find something you like, as well as a family and pet-friendly atmosphere with great vibes. If drinking-in isn’t your thing, grab a to-go growler or the six pack of your choice from one of the many can’t miss breweries on the trail.
“Wine-down” at Sylva’s newly opened Wine Bar and Cellar. It’s a rarity in a small town to be able to find any bottle you’re looking for with the expert advice of a Sommelier on staff. This cozy and rustic location offers expertly paired glasses with delicious Charcuterie plates and tapas.
Get Active Around Sylva
The best way to start the day is with some takeout breakfast from one of our independent non-chain restaurants. The newest addition to Sylva’s culinary scene is The Table. This made-from-scratch eatery offers specials such as the Southwestern Wamelette, Vegan Grits Bowl, or their famous Carrot Cake Waffles. City Lights Café is a Sylva staple, “loving our community” with locally-sourced organic cuisine, serving only the best and freshest to its customers. They’ve unveiled contactless ordering and payment to put your safety first and foremost. If you’re looking for anything from cold brew to Americanos to the perfect latte, try The Farmhouse Mercantile and Coffee Bar or White Moon.
Most people coming to the mountains are looking to slow down and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Do just that with a guided forest meditation (also known as Shinrin Yoku) offered by Dr. Mark Ellison. Relax, unwind and restore your spirit with a forest therapy hike in Pinnacle Park, minutes from downtown.
If you’re looking to take on a trail challenge, head up Sylva’s Pinnacle Park West Fork Trail for a more extreme adventure. Ascending almost 3,000 feet over a 3.5-mile climb, Pinnacle Park offers sweeping views of the surrounding Plot Balsam Mountains. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it at the top. This hike usually takes about two-hours to get up to the top, with plenty of time for breaks and photo-ops, and the descent takes about an hour and a half. It’s best to start early in the morning before it gets too warm out.
If you want the view without the work, check out the Blue Ridge Parkway. Known as “America’s most celebrated motor route,” the BRP runs nearly 70 miles through Jackson County. For fewer crowds and “off the beaten path” trails, check out Bear Trap Gap, Richland Balsam, and the Roy Taylor Forest Overlook.
Make a splash by spending a day on the water. The Tuckasegee River runs the length of the county and is known for its gentle but enjoyable adventures. Paddle the Tuck’s “mom-approved rapids” by renting a raft, tube, duckie, or kayak from one of our river outfitters. They’ll launch you off and bring you back, so you won’t need to load your car. If you’re looking to try a new “angle,” try your hand at fly fishing in the NC Trout Capital®. Our local outfitters and guides have all the gear you need to reel in the big one. Just show up – no equipment or experience needed.
Find your waterfall adventure
If you’re staying near Cashiers, enjoy the best that the Cashiers-Highlands plateau has to offer. Start your day with some brunch from a favorite local eatery. Randevu or Zookeeper Bistro are great places to grab a bite before your day begins. If you want a coffee along with a light bite, you will not want to miss Buck’s Coffee Café.
Panthertown Valley’s 30+ miles of multi-use trails offer ample space to spread out and enjoy the mountains. Make sure to purchase a map in advance, at the Highland Hiker or online as it can be challenging to navigate the trails without it. With over 6,295 acres, a map is necessary to keep you on the right path! With a dozen waterfalls to explore, the “Yosemite of the East” will exceed your expectations. Don’t miss Greenland Creek Falls, Schoolhouse Falls, or Granny Burrell Falls, as these are some of the most picturesque falls in the Valley.
Get Some Rest
At the end of an adventure-filled day, you’ll sleep so good. Rest assured knowing that your clean and comfortable room is waiting for you. We have everything from cozy cabins, amazing Airbnb stays, boutique hotels and more. Needing more inspiration? Request our FREE Visitor Guide to learn about all things Jackson County. We can’t wait to share your next 48 hours of fun with you soon!
Photo Courtesy of @kararenee33 Instagram