We’re all looking forward to a relaxing getaway, and there’s no better place than the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina. Out here, enjoy things at your own pace – we’re on ‘eastern mountain time’. The days are getting longer allowing for plenty of activities before the sun sets.
Our towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro, and Sylva (about an hour west of downtown Asheville and the Biltmore Estate) have trails for all skill levels – ranging from less strenuous to more adventurous. We’ve also got accessible trails and waterfalls for people with mixed mobility needs. Enjoy the mountains at your own pace as you reset and recharge in one of the most beautiful places in the country.
Silver Run Falls (pictured below) requires a short 5-minute waterfall hike along a gravel path. Located just a short drive from Cashiers’ crossroads, Silver Run Falls has a gentle 40-foot cascade with a family-friendly swimming hole underneath that is perfect for taking a refreshing swim in. Continue on Highway 107 South to see another regional gem, Whitewater Falls. Visiting the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi requires a quarter-mile trek from the car (although the sign reads a half-mile) along a gentle grade to access the upper viewing platform. Those looking to get a closer view will want to head down the 164 steps to the lower platform, but the views are stunning from the top. Looking to enjoy a picnic? Whitewater Falls has a large picnic area complete with covered benches and restrooms on-site. Don’t forget to bring $3 for parking, a small price to pay for a truly incredible view!
In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, check out Mingus Mill and the Mingus Creek/Deeplow Gap hiking trail. This Mill has been grinding corn for over 150 years, and there’s usually a historian on-site to talk about the history and operation of the Mill. Hikers will enjoy the Mingus Creek/Deeplow Gap trail that runs parallel with the creek and powers the mill. The trailhead is located at the end of the Mingus Mill parking lot. The hike itself is mostly flat, and the tree canopy keeps it shaded and cool, even in the summer.
For some trails that require a bit more of a climb (but are not considered “extreme”), check out Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers. This two-mile loop trail ascends what is known to be one of the oldest mountains in the world and offers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and extends as far as neighboring South Carolina. Keep your eyes peeled for Peregrine Falcons who call this mountain home and build nests on the rocky outcrops during spring and summer. Make sure to bring along $3 for parking and a camera for snapping those insta-worthy photos of the gorgeous views at the top. This is a great morning or evening hike that won’t leave you exhausted. Pack a picnic and enjoy lunch with a view!
Some favorite hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway include Waterrock Knob (part of the Mountains to Sea Trail), Richland Balsam, and Black Balsam Knob (part of the Art Loeb Trail.) Visit during the week to experience fewer crowds and enjoy having the trails all to yourself!
Sylva’s downtown is home to five antique stores, three bookstores, our Ale Trail that is chock-full of locally crafted goodness, locally sourced non-chain dining, and much more. The best thing about our restaurants is they’re one-of-a-kind, award-winning, and can’t be found anywhere else in the country. Downtown Sylva is easily walkable along Main and Mill Streets. Learn about local history by following the Sylva Heritage Walk. The interactive tour starts at the Chamber and Visitor Center, where you’ll get a free printed guide to make the most out of the experience. Images line Main Street, affixed to each building, and showcase what the building used to look like.
Enjoying nature is easy and requires no hiking gear at the Tuckasegee River Greenway (pictured below) – you can even wear sandals on this stroll. This two-mile round trip paved path is kept cool by a large overhead tree canopy and a refreshing breeze that comes off of the Tuckasegee River, which parallels the paved trail. Trail-goers will enjoy a minimal 16 feet in elevation gain, as well as the flowing river sounds of the ‘Tuck’ and nature along your walk. Tip: Make sure the kids bring their bikes along! The Greenway is also home to the Kids Bike Park, a favorite biking trail for kids of all ages.
Dillsboro is an artisan village that you won’t want to miss. Take a stroll along these historic downtown streets and discover several local pottery shops, delicious eateries, and antique stores. End your day with a locally crafted beer at Innovation Station and enjoy the gentle babble of Scotts Creek as you sip a brew with a creek-side view.
Cashiers is located between Brevard/Gorges State Park and Highlands. Known as “the crossroads” Cashiers has two hidden gems – The Village Green and Village Ramble. The Village Green is home to over 13 acres of botanical gardens and walking trails in the heart of the Cashiers Crossroads. The Village Ramble is a town greenway that is seeing great improvements and trail maintenance being done to make this an even better experience! These quaint trails guide visitors through charming boutique stores that you won’t want to miss.
Cherokee’s Oconaluftee River Trail is a flat well-maintained nature trail that traverses along the Oconaluftee River’s crystal-clear waters. Keep your eyes peeled for elk who also enjoy a leisurely stroll along this path, as they are known to use the woods for shade on a warm day. Along the way, visitors can also take an interactive step back in time to the 18th century. Sharing the same parking area, the Mountain Farm Museum is entirely free and is a homestead replica of early life in the Appalachian Mountains, complete with barnyard animals, blacksmith demonstrations, and more.
Some of the best views in the mountains can be driven to! With spring in full bloom and the rhododendron, mountain laurel, and many more wildflowers making their annual appearance, now is the perfect time to enjoy a scenic cruise. The Blue Ridge Parkway (pictured below at Waterrock Knob) is known as America’s favorite drive, and 70+ miles run through Jackson County between Pisgah National Forest and the terminus in Cherokee. The high elevation creates awe-inspiring, panoramic views and sunsets. Check out Cowee Mountain Overlook at milepost 430.7, Waterrock Knob at milepost 451.2, and the highest point on the Parkway Richland Balsam at 431.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great road to cruise along while enjoying the surrounding views. The Park’s entrance is in Cherokee and is one of the only free National Parks. All you need is a tank of gas! Make sure to take in the views from the North Carolina/Tennessee State Line at Newfound Gap at milepost 14.7. Fun Fact: you can find a stretch of the Appalachian Trail at the end of the parking lot. The sign reads “Katahdin Maine 1,972 miles!”
Those who prefer two wheels should check out our Motorcycle Routes. These routes encompass hundreds of miles of scenic back roads that traverse Western North Carolina and the surrounding areas.
There’s nothing better than laying in a hammock with a good book or looking up at the tree canopy above and letting your worries float away. All you need is two trees to pitch your hammock and the possibilities are endless along our beautiful trails. Enjoy some solo time and curl up for a nap, or just enjoy being out in nature and relaxing.
Enjoyable rafting doesn’t need to be intense. Our whitewater in Dillsboro is “mom-approved” and offers an excellent way for everyone to paddle without panic. Enjoy the leisurely stretch of the Tuck on a tube, canoe, or duckie and enjoy a relaxing water experience like none other. The Tuckasegee River flows 50 miles through Jackson County, and the stretch from Dillsboro to Whittier is a great stretch for views and an enjoyable day on the water. The season is open now, and our rafting outfitters offer guided tours for every skill level, or you can rent your own watercraft to enjoy some time on the ‘Tuck.’ Trust us – it will leave you wanting to come back again soon.
Jackson County is home to the country’s first and only fly fishing trail- the WNC Fly Fishing Trail® and is proclaimed the NC Trout Capital®. With over 92,000 trout stocked annually, there’s always a fish “tale” to reel in. Fly Fishing is a great way to enjoy a relaxing day on the water, or for some, a fun new activity to learn. Our outfitters & guides will “hook you up” – no gear or skills required…just show up. Our free waterproof fishing map at our Visitor Centers will guide you to the best places to catch trout!
Your laid-back adventure awaits in Jackson County. Enjoy your vacation at your own pace and enjoy the sights and sounds of the pristine NC Mountains. Relax the day away by hanging out in a hammock, or sleep in at your vacation rental, cabin, or hotel. Turn your day trip into a relaxing weekend getaway. Check out our ‘Trip Planner’ for the best way to start planning.
Header Image Courtesy of @looserootz