Jackson County, NC. (August 9, 2016) – More than half the world lives in urban environments, and fall is a perfect time to escape the daily grind. Located just a short drive from many major southern cities is Jackson County, North Carolina, a place where mountaintops replace skyscrapers, and hiking trails and rushing rivers are preferred modes of transportation. The Western North Carolina mountain towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro, Sylva, Balsam, Cullowhee, Glenville and Sapphire are blanketed in fall color, enjoying cooler temperatures and offering a number of outdoor activities during the fall season.
Here are some of the best ways for guests to experience the beauty of fall in Jackson County:
Experience a Fall Phenomenon:
Jackson County is the only place in the country where you can see the fall phenomena known as the “ Shadow of the Bear.” From mid-October to mid-November, when the sun sets behind Whiteside Mountain, its shadow casts the perfect image of a black bear over the mountain’s colorful landscape. Visitors can enjoy the shadow from a premium viewing spot at Rhodes Big View Overlook off Highway 64 between 5:30-6 p.m. Blue Ridge Parkway’s Scenic Overlooks: Jackson County makes up a significant stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, where lines of cars snake along the winding mountain roads for a scenic autumn drive. On the way up Richland Balsam, visitors to the area can pull off at the highest point of the parkway, the Richland Balsam overlook, and travel the 1.5-mile loop by foot to the summit. Those who make the trek are rewarded with an unbeatable vantage point of the vibrant fall colors in the distance.
Historic Mountain Trails:
Explore the trails on Whiteside Mountain, which is estimated to be one of the oldest mountains in the world, between 390 to 460-million-years-old. A two-mile loop trail crosses the Eastern Continental Divide, and rolling terrain traverses both the abundant hardwoods on the north side of the mountain with the knobby shrubs on the exposed south side. The trail teeters on the ridgeline of Whiteside, showcasing stunning views of the red and gold tones of the Appalachian Mountains along the way.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
The most visited national park in the country has an entrance in Jackson County in Cherokee, NC. Through the Oconaluftee Visitor Center is a gateway to 520,000-acres and more than 850 miles of trails for hiking. As one of the only national parks with a free entrance, this makes for a budget-friendly fall activity. Families can take an easy hike along the Oconaluftee River on the 1.5 mile Oconaluftee River trail to the town of Cherokee, or drive the winding Newfound Gap Road under a tunnel of changing leaves.
Panthertown Valley, another natural treasure in Jackson County, is known as the “ Yosemite of the East” with more than 30 miles of backcountry trails and 12 waterfalls. Hikers can wind through deep gorges and sprawling valleys with 360-degree views overlooking a myriad of reds, golds and oranges below. Experienced campers can backpack in and camp along Pathertown’s many trails. www.panthertown.org
Cast a Line:
During this time of year, more fish are stocked in the local rivers and streams than anywhere else in the state. These are easily accessible, and the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail features 15 spots that are home to Mountain Heritage Trout waters. Jackson County is on its way to becoming the trout capital of North Carolina. One of the more popular spots on the trail is the Tuckasegee River, where fly fisherman can try for the “ Tuckasegee Slam”—the locals’ name for catching all three species of brook, brown and rainbow trout. www.flyfishingtrail.com
Cascading waters are framed by the glow of autumn leaves as the season changes and new beauty emerges. A favorite activity among fall visitors, Jackson County has an abundance of waterfalls including Whitewater Falls, which is the second-highest cascade east of the Rocky Mountains at 411 feet. Silver Run Falls, accessible, easy to access one from Cashiers
Lounge on the Lake:
Not all of Jackson County’s waterways are low in elevation – Lake Glenville is one of the highest lakes east of the Rockies, sitting at 3,500 feet above sea level. Rent kayaks, canoes or pontoon boats and cruise around the lake’s 26 miles of shoreline in fall’s cool temperatures. Many private home rentals are available on the shores of the lake, and provide a peaceful fall retreat. www.MountainLoversNC.com/stay
Fall Foliage Report
“From 1,841 feet at Whittier on the Tuckasegee River up to 6,411 feet at Richland Balsam, Jackson County’s 494 square miles feature more mountainsides displaying fall color than anywhere else in North Carolina,” says Dan Patillo, a former WCU biology professor and botanical consultant who is the go-to guy for Jackson County’s fall foliage report. “ By the end of September, the highest elevations along the Blue Ridge Parkway begin to display colors from the bright red-fruited Mountain ash, dazzling yellows of the birches, orange to yellow hues of the Serviceberry and brilliant red of the blueberries. As the season progresses for the next month, the color display droops down the slopes into the valleys.”
Throughout Jackson County, visitors from across the southeast can find a variety of scenic and convenient highways that lead to fall color.