As chillier weather moves in, the crowds move out and lodging prices decrease with the temperatures in the Western North Carolina mountain towns of Jackson County. Many might think that winter is for hibernation, but in the towns of Sylva, Dillsboro, Cherokee and Cashiers, it is an undiscovered season with limitless offerings perfect for a seasonal getaway. Jackson County’s countless indoor and outdoor activities, scenic winter hikes and overlooks, cozy accommodation options and the chance of a mountain snow day make it an unforgettable escape for an off-season getaway.
Jackson County is best known for its wealth of natural wonders and unrivaled beauty. Avid hikers or those looking for a leisurely stroll will find the perfect fit on one of Jackson County’s many trails. Nestled amongst the Nantahala National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the county’s unique location provides visitors with endless views of the surrounding areas natural beauty. When the trees become bare, those views extend as far as the eye can see, providing scenes of snow-capped mountains and sweeping winterscapes. As the temperatures drop, the area’s waterfalls start to ice over and don large, sparkling icicles transforming the scene into a picture-perfect winter wonderland. Hikers should be sure to check out nearby waterfalls including the popular Bridal Veil Falls, Looking Glass Falls, and Moore Cove Falls. Tom Branch Falls is best seen during the winter months when foliage isn’t blocking the falls.
Snowy adventures await at Sapphire Valley where guests can ski, board or snowtube. Sapphire Valley is one of the most convenient locations to many of the Southeast’s largest cities that provides an opportunity to hit the slopes. Starting in mid-December, the resort’s state-of-the-art snow machines start churning out snow to create a blanket of fresh powder for all to enjoy. The affordable rates, on-site instructors, moderate slopes, lighter crowds and convenient location make Sapphire Valley an ideal destination for families or beginners to enjoy some snowy adventures. Before your visit, check the webcam to make sure the slopes are white. Those who prefer a tube will enjoy the 700-foot, multi-lane tubing run with steep walls on both sides to allow for more control at Frozen Falls Tube Park.
Although getting in water during the winter might sound crazy, it is actually a prime time for fly fishing in the N.C. mountains. Jackson County is home to the WNC Fly Fishing Trail®, the country’s first and only fly fishing trail, and is the North Carolina Trout Capital®. Since the cooler temperatures allow fish to feed all day long and the state starts its supplemental stockings in the fall, the fish are plentiful and biting during the cooler months, allowing for more tight lines and bent rods in the winter months.
To get in the festive spirit, visitors can enjoy a variety of seasonal offerings surrounding the county. Perhaps one of the most popular in the area is the opportunity to choose and cut a Christmas tree straight from a tree farm. There are several choose and cut tree farms in the area and many get into the holiday spirit by providing on-site carriage rides, elf villages and even appearances from Santa himself. Keep the holiday spirit bright by attending festive events such as Lights and Luminaries, the Sylva Christmas Parade, the 44th Annual Cashiers Christmas Parade, Cherokee’s Lights & Legends Christmas event, or the Mountain Artisans Hard Candy Christmas.
The area also offers an elevated shopping experience with one-of-a-kind pieces, mountain goods and handmade artisan arts and crafts, perfect for purchasing those one-of-a-kind holiday gifts. Some stores even specialize in holiday decorations and crafts.
Jackson County is also the perfect place for a relaxing and cozy mountain escape. The area is home to several world-class luxury spas, allowing for relaxation and rejuvenation in the mountains. Each spa is a full-service retreat, with everything from massages to facials and body scrubs, that is perfect for a pampering treat.
Warm up from the inside out with a taste of the local eats and brews that are prevalent throughout the county. After a long day of winter activities, guests can choose to relax in a cozy cabin, quaint bed and breakfast, or comfortable hotel next to a roaring fire. Lower lodging rates and deals are available during the off-season, ensuring that this visit won’t break the bank.
Top photo: Sapphire, NC snowfall by Cody Hager