man hiking through fog in jackson county

Calling all Adrenaline Junkies to Jackson County

With temperatures that will soon warm up as spring nears, there’s no better time to plan a getaway that will get your adrenaline and heart pumping while you “Play On” in Jackson County. Amidst the Western North Carolina mountains, Jackson County is filled with opportunities for heart-pumping adventure. Check out this year’s most extreme races and adventures and begin your training for these epic challenges today!

Assault on Blackrock

Taking place on March 23, from 8 to 11 a.m. starting at Pinnacle Park in Sylva, the eighth annual Assault on Blackrock features a seven-mile mountain extreme trail race through the spruce forests of the Plott Balsam Mountains. On a path composed of challenging gravel and dirt roads, you’ll run, walk and crawl along the route that includes 2,770 feet of elevation gain, ending with a final steep assent to the top. Registration is $25.

Valley of the Lilies


Starting on the campus of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee on April 6 at 8 a.m., the Valley of the Lilies Half Marathon & 5K routes showcase the blossoming beauty of spring in the WNC mountains. The 13.1-mile half marathon includes a grueling elevation gain of approximately 1,080 feet, providing an additional challenge for participants. Registration for the half marathon begins at $40 Registration for the 5K begins at $20.

Racers should plan to grab lunch after the race to refuel and stick around for that afternoon’s Sylva Brew Hop! In honor of NC Beer Month, City Lights Café, Balsam Falls Brewing, Innovation Brewing, Mad Batter Food & Film, and The Cut Cocktail Lounge will host the Sylva Brew Hop. Ticketholders can visit each of the five participating establishments once for a taste of two local or regional beers. Runners on the Valley of the Lilies Race will receive $10 off their Sylva Brew Hop ticket if purchased before Feb. 28.

Whitewater Adventures


Home to Class I through IV rapids, Jackson County welcomes paddlers and rafters of all levels to experience some exhilarating water adventures. However, the more experienced paddlers flock to Jackson County to experience the West Fork Tuckasegee River recreational releases. When the Lake Glenville Dam releases whitewater into the west fork of the river, it creates challenging rapids over a 5.5-mile stretch for enthusiasts to enjoy.

Release dates for 2019 are April 20-21, June 8, July 13, July 27, Aug. 10 and Aug. 24. Access to the High Falls trail is directly across from the Lake Glenville sandy swim beach.

For those who prefer a more serene day on the river, Jackson County offers plenty of rivers gentle enough for small children.

Great Balsam Bike Relay


Dust off those pedals and mark your calendar for the return of the annual Great Balsam Bike Relay on Aug. 10. This unique adventure combines road and mountain biking as teams of four follow a path comprised of dirt trails, gravel and asphalt. The route is kept secret until you check in the day before the event. Each rider competes in two segments, one at a time, for a total of eight riding segments. It’s a bike relay unlike many others you’ll find in the Southeast.

Tour de Cashiers Bike Race and 5K


Get ready to sightsee in Jackson County from a different perspective during the Tour de Cashiers! On Sept. 7, starting in Cashiers, cyclists from around the country will set out on one of three race routes: a 25-miler, a 62-miler and a 100-miler. For those on the century route, expect total elevation gains of up to 10,500 feet, while those on the metric (62-mile) route will experience total elevation gains of 7,000 feet. Those who prefer to compete with their feet can do so in the 5K, which starts shortly after the cyclists head out.

Start training today and put these on your calendar. When visiting Jackson County for one of these extreme adventures, why not make a weekend out of it? You’ll find plenty of accommodations, ranging from comfy bed-and-breakfasts to modern hotel rooms to cozy cabins. Order a free Visitor Guide today, and start planning your trip.

Share on Social Media