Cozied up to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and overlaid by the peaks of the Plott Balsam and Great Balsam Mountains, Jackson County is home to a considerable cache of outdoor adventures—perhaps more than any other corner of the state.
Peak baggers take note: Jackson County, North Carolina is home to some of the highest mountains in the Eastern United States. But the best part? There are trails and summits for everyone from the most novice of hikers and families with small children to endurance athletes looking to log some serious mileage on the trail. Find your panoramic perspective in Jackson County with our list of the top summit hikes in the region.
On its way from Clingman’s Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey’s Ridge in the Outer Banks, North Carolina’s state trail runs along Jackson County’s northeast border.
For any number of outdoor adventures in Jackson County, the Blue Ridge Parkway is the perfect starting point. While offering awesome beauty through car windows, the scenic highway also provides hiking options both short and long. Whether you choose to mostly drive, pausing at overlooks, or stop for a longer walk, June on the Parkway is not to be missed.
Spring is just around the corner, and warm weather ushers in the perfect time to get outside and tackle a new adventure. In Jackson County, Spring kicks off with competitive races and adventurous feats from trail running and whitewater kayaking, to cycling and hiking over mountains. Here are four ways to find extreme adventure this spring in Jackson County.
In western North Carolina’s Jackson County, the Blue Ridge Mountains tumble into the Smokies in a series of soaring peaks. Featuring both the Great Balsam and Plott Balsam mountains—two of the loftiest ranges in the entire Appalachian chain—Jackson County is a peak-laden paradise for summit seekers, loaded with southern ‘sixers’ (summits over 6,000-feet in elevation). Here’s a list of the mountain-adorned county’s loftiest summits—and how to tackle them.
Meandering 469-miles through Virginia and North Carolina, from the Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway snakes though some the East Coast’s most stunning scenery. For the last 40-miles—the loftiest stretch of the wilderness-shrouded thoroughfare—the parkway coils around the high peaks of Jackson County in western North Carolina, showcasing everything from wildflower-flecked Appalachian balds to dense evergreen forests to soaring, cloud-swirled summits. The options along the iconic roadway are abundant, but here are a handful of highlights along the parkway’s highest stretch.
Although big cats no longer prowl the 6,295-acre swath of the Nantahala National Forest dubbed Panthertown Valley, it’s still easy to imagine the namesake predators roaming the sylvan trails. One of the most stunning and ruggedly wild tracts of the massive national forest is Panthertown Valley—a place that has been referred to as the Yosemite of the East and one that is home to an unimaginably varied backcountry loaded with craggy granite cliffs, plunging ravines, soaring 4,000-foot peaks, and waterfalls spilling into private plunge pools. The recreation area is open to hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, fishing, and horseback riding—and despite increase popularity in recent years, Panthertown’s rugged trails are still steeped in solitude.
In a corner of the state inundated with undulating mountain chains and punctuated with soaring summits that include a generous number of 6,000-foot peaks, Yellow Mountain is far from western North Carolina’s loftiest summit at 5,127 feet in elevation. However, scaling this pinnacle of the Cowee Mountain chain involves one of the most punishing—and thoroughly rewarding—ascents in the southern Appalachians.
Jackson County, North Carolina, features a varied landscape is a veritable buffet for backpackers. Nestled at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, overlaid by the Plott Balsam and Great Balsam mountains, and loaded with strings of soaring 6,000-foot peaks (sixers) amid a massive expanses of forest—the trip options are almost endless. Jackson County’s diversity of trails provides something for backpacking enthusiasts of all stripes, from gear gurus to altitude-immune peak-seekers to cautious car campers striking out into the backcountry for the very first time. So load up the pack, seek out the starry-skied campsites of Jackson County, and spend some time exploring western North Carolina’s wildest spaces.