Jackson County’s location in the Southern Appalachians and Nantahala National Forest is home to towering waterfalls and terrain ranging from sea-level rivers to high elevation mountaintops. Jackson County’s 494 miles of Western North Carolina is a haven of unspoiled natural beauty, located within a day’s drive from some of the South’s most bustling metro areas.
From the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the oldest mountain in the world, here’s what visitors will find only in Jackson County.
- The Yosemite of the East. Panthertown Valley is treasured backcountry and features 30 miles of trails. Hike, mountain bike or backpack among this biologically diverse habitats for wildlife and rare plant species, such as the mountain doghobble and tropical fern gametophytes. Because of its outstanding geologic formations, forests, streams and native plant life, Panthertown is designated as a Blue Ridge National Heritage Area natural heritage site and by The Wilderness Society as one of North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures. Outdoor enthusiasts encounter 11 cascading waterfalls, trout streams, sheer granite cliffs and panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Panthertown’s network of trails are unmarked; therefore, visitors are advised to bring a map and compass.
- More Mountain Heritage Trout waters than anywhere else in the state. Jackson County has three that are popular for fly fishing. Book a guide trip with one of Jackson County’s premier anglers Brookings Anglers, AB’s Fly Fishing, Dreamcatcher Guides, Blue Chip Fly Fishing, Fontana Guides and Tuckaseegee Fly Shop.
- The highest point of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Of the 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, more than 70 miles run through Jackson County, including the Richland Balsam overlook. At 6,053, it is the highest peak on the parkway. Lace up hiking shoes and hike the 1.5-mile Richland Balsam Trail to the highest peak accessible by hiking trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll climb 700 vertical feet through a spruce fir forest to the peak, 6,410 feet. Across the expanse of mountains, you’ll see Fraser firs, colorful yellow wildflowers in spring, and the ripple of mountain peaks in the Pisgah National Forest.
- One of the oldest mountains in the world. Whiteside Mountain is considered by some geologists to be the oldest mountain in the world, estimated at 390 to 460 million years old. Known as the “Jewel of the Appalachians,” the mountain’s name is inspired by the bald, rocky, white-streaked quartz and feldspar on the south-facing rock. All levels of hikers can hike the 2-mile Whiteside Mountain Trail, encountering sheer vertical cliffs and scenic views to the east, south and west. During the spring and summer, hikers should keep an eye out for the endangered peregrine falcons which are known to occasionally soar above, or nest on one of the many rock’s outcrops.
- The smallest U.S. Post Office. Grimshawes operated from 1903-1953. Now, visitors can stop by the post office on Whiteside Cove Road.
In addition to its superior outdoor recreation options, Jackson County’s dining scene features locally-sourced ingredients and microbreweries for any palate. Any of Jackson County’s eight towns are home to hotels, quaint cabins and cottages, vacation rentals and mountain resorts. Plan a trip to Jackson County, North Carolina by visiting www.DiscoverJacksonNC.com.