Break Away With Your Family to the N.C. Mountains

Spring has returned to the North Carolina mountains, bringing warmer and longer days, vibrant wildflower blooms and one of the best times of year to enjoy the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains! As other families and friends head to the cities and beaches, it’s the perfect opportunity to skip the crowds and trade screen time for outdoor adventures in Jackson County, N.C.!

Load up the family car and enjoy an old-fashioned road trip to our small towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro and Sylva, any of which will be an ideal home base for regional adventure. We’ve put together some options for your Spring Getaway in the Western North Carolina Mountains. From family-friendly eats to outdoor classrooms to a sandy, lakeside beach, Jackson County, N.C. has everything you need to create lasting mountain memories!

Spring Into Outdoor Adventure

Our National Park Areas

Cruise along the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Great Smokies and you’ll discover that some of the most awesome mountain views in the country are closer than you might think! Additionally, these National Parks make wonderful outdoor classrooms for curious young minds. Consider this: In the Great Smoky Mountains alone, more than 1,500 species of flowering plants exist. The most biodiverse of our national parks, the Smokies encompass more than 800 square miles in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, surpassing all other areas of equal size in a temperate climate. More than 19,000 species have been documented in the park, but scientists believe an additional 80,000 to 100,000 species may also call it home.

Wonderful Waterfalls and Lakes 

Family-friendly waterfall hikes are a must! Jackson County is home to dozens of the region’s best waterfalls, some of which are simple strolls from the parking area while others call for a half-day hike. Here are a few favorites:

Whitewater Falls is a short, quarter-mile walk from the parking area. Known as one of the highest waterfalls east of the Rockies, this spectacular cascade is a family favorite because of its natural beauty, easy access and on-site amenities, including restrooms, outdoor green space and picnic benches. Grab a to-go meal from nearby Cashiers or pack a picnic before you head out and explore at your own pace. Parking costs $3, so make sure to visit the kiosk and scan the QR code at the entrance. Bring binoculars for a close-up view!

Silver Run Falls is only a two-minute stroll from its parking area, making it perfect for little explorers. Just five minutes from the Cashiers crossroads on N.C. Hwy. 107, this waterfall is ideal for young families who are ready to make a splash! It features a crystal-clear swimming area near the base. During spring, Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron bloom, creating extra beauty around the waterfall.

Mingo Falls in Cherokee is another excellent option! You’ll be awestruck as you stand on the viewing platform and gaze upward more than 100 feet. Take the stairs and path from the parking area to its base.

Lake Glenville and Bear Creek Lake are two of Jackson County’s beautiful lakes with public access. Want a bit of beach with your mountains? Then head to Lake Glenville’s Pines Recreation Area, which features a swim beach, fishing pier, picnic tables and restrooms. If you prefer to be on the water instead of in it, bring your kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard and head to Bear Lake, where the gorgeous mountain views will surround you on your journey.

Easy Trails and Adventures

There’s a trail for every level of outdoor adventure! Check out these for a day in nature.

Oconaluftee River Trail traverses the crystal-clear riverbanks of the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee. Complete with a full-scale replica of an early Appalachian homestead, you can learn about early life in the Smokies while taking in the sights and sounds of the river. Keep your eyes peeled along this trail for elk, as they are known to rest in the forest on warm spring days!

Mingus Mill is another educational and fun option for families. Located a half-mile from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance, this 19th-century mill was used to create cornmeal for more than 50 years.

Tuckasegee River Greenway is located between Sylva and Cullowhee, just five minutes from downtown. This two-mile, there-and-back trail is a favorite for anyone looking for a cool walk on a warm spring day. Make sure to bring the kids’ bikes along, as the Kids Bike Park is located about a half-mile down the path.

The Village Green is a 13.5-acre park located at the heart of Cashiers. Take in its botanical gardens and Story Walk, written by a local author, and let imaginations run free on its playground.

Spring Dining

After a morning or afternoon of exploring, share what you’ve enjoyed most over a casual meal. On sunny days, nothing beats dining al fresco with a gentle mountain breeze, and several of our restaurants offer the perfect place. Here are a few family-friendly favorites:

Glenville and Cashiers

Cornucopia $ – Affectionately known as “Cashiers’ favorite porch” or “The Corn,” this restaurant has been a school, a post office, a tack shop and a private dwelling. Menu favorites include its Arabian Club sandwich, fried green beans and buttermilk pie.

Happ’s Place $$ – Newer to the dining scene is Happ’s, a reimagined restaurant with plenty of entertainment in Glenville. When the weather is warm, enjoy the fenced-in lawn off its spacious back patio, where kids can enjoy games and live music.

The Orchard Restaurant $$$ – Set in a 100-year-old farmhouse, the Orchard is classic Cashiers. This is your place for that special family dinner. In its 24th year, The Orchard offers delicious American cuisine with a Southern flavor in a casually elegant setting.

Slab Town Pizza $ – What’s not to love about Slab Town? A favorite spot for locals and visitors, “STP” offers delicious pizza, sandwiches, salads and daily specials. Enjoy dining indoors, on the patio or on its adjacent green space, where kids can safely roam near you.

Cullowhee, Dillsboro and Sylva 

Big Nick’s $ – This second-generation Southern barbecue restaurant offers made-fresh menu items. Choose from slow-smoked BBQ pork, delicious beef brisket rubbed in a special blend of spices and smoked for 16 hours or fall-off-the-bone ribs.

City Lights Café $ – A downtown Sylva favorite, City Lights offers breakfast, brunch and lunch as well as delicious coffee and sweet treats. Dine on its enclosed, pet-friendly patio (just make sure your fur baby is leashed!) or inside, where you might discover live music. Add a visit to the upstairs bookstore before or after your meal.

Quirky Birds Treehouse & Front Street Takeout $$ – Tucked away in a cozy spot on Dillsboro’s Front Street, Quirky Birds offers daily specials such as lasagna, a Southwest chicken tender wrap or baked potatoes topped with sloppy joe. In the evenings, it’s usually bustling with live music, a trivia contest or karaoke. Dine indoors or on its deck.

Rodgers Bros $ – Looking for a place to watch sports while the kids eat tasty burger baskets? Check out Rodgers Bros, a new spot in an old favorite place in Cullowhee, close to the WCU campus and just minutes from Sylva. Serving All-American fare, you’ll love the fast-casual food and friendly service.

Book Your Adventure

Jackson County is the perfect place to relax this spring! Just a day’s drive from over half of the US population, your family vacation is even closer than you think. Check out our lodging options ranging from vacation rentals to hotels, resorts and more; you’ll find the perfect stay for your style. Check out our Trip Planner and download our new 2024 Visitors Guide to inspire your spring getaway!


Header Image Courtesy of @oldman1707  

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