January 25th is National Plan for Vacation Day, and we all deserve a getaway this year. In 2021, Americans wasted almost a third of their PTO, and it’s no surprise that feelings of burnout are at an all-time high. Take a safe and relaxing retreat to the NC Mountains of Jackson County, where you can reconnect with nature at your own pace. Located about an hour west of downtown Asheville, our mountain towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro, and Sylva are your oasis from the crowded cities. Trade your traffic for trees and take a relaxing road trip to your mountain escape.
Springtime in the Mountains
As we currently enjoy the crisp, clean, and cool air of our secret season, the warmer months are right around the corner. Spring is less than 60 days away, bringing new opportunities for adventure as the frost recedes and the green lushness makes its way up the mountainside. Enjoy warmer temperatures and longer days to explore the best of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Wildflowers, Waterfalls, & Wellness
Jackson County is home to one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the temperate world. In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are over 1,500 flowering plants, some of which can only be found here. Take a wildflower hike solo or schedule one with Bigelow’s Botanical Excursions. Adam Bigelow is a horticulture expert and will teach you everything about southern Appalachian flora and fauna as he leads you through this eco-tourism experience.
Some of the most magnificent waterfalls in the country can be found in Jackson County. For those looking to work for the stunning views, make sure to check out the ‘Yosemite of the East’ in Panthertown Valley. Panthertown is home to over a dozen waterfalls, including Schoolhouse, Granny Burrell, Greenland Creek, and Frolic Town Falls. Due to the vast trail system, we always recommend purchasing a map before exploring, whether online or at the Highland Hiker in Cashiers. High Falls is another excellent option for a waterfall hike. Located in Glenville, the stunning 150-foot falls can be found at the end of a 2-mile round-trip trek. For a less strenuous stroll, visit Silver Run Falls, Dry Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls in the Cashiers area. Whitewater Falls is also easy to access. Its 411-foot cascade is one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Rockies and can be found at the end of a simple stroll along a paved path.
We all could use some ‘me time’ this year, and a great way to do that is by exploring our abundant wellness offerings. Jackson County has several relaxing mountain spas that will help you unwind. Book a spa day for a loved one (or yourself!) and let the worries of the world melt away. Reconnecting with nature is essential for decompressing the stresses of the past two years. Booking a Forest Therapy experience with Dr. Mark Ellison will help you realign with nature and fully experience your surroundings. You’ll be brought into the heart of Sylva’s Pinnacle Park and guided through deep meditative and breathing practices. Each hike ends with a cup of herbal tea made from local ingredients that will help you find your center. Simply enjoying a stroll in the woods can be enough to enjoy the healing powers of nature. Check out the Tuckasegee River Greenway, the Oconaluftee River Trail, and the Mingus Creek Trail for a relaxing way to get your steps in.
Cool off this Summer
It’s no secret that summertime is a favorite for visiting the mountains. Due to the higher elevations, the mountains typically remain 10 degrees cooler than in the ‘low country.’ Make sure to plan these outdoor activities if you visit during the summer.
Bucket List Hikes
Jackson County is home to some of the best hiking trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Make sure to add these favorites to your hiking list:
Located in Cashiers, Whiteside Mountain is one of the oldest mountains in the world at 360 -490 million years old. Not only will you experience sweeping views, but this trail is also an excellent option for families with a convenient two-mile loop traversing the ridgeline.
Sylva’s Pinnacle Park is a must. Ascending over 3,000 feet, this seven-mile round-trip trek is not for the faint of heart. Those brave enough to tackle it will be rewarded atop the Pinnacle with long-range views of Sylva and the Plott Balsam Mountains.
Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes include Waterrock Knob, Richland Balsam, Black Balsam, and Bear Pen Gap. During the summer months, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a great way to enjoy cooler temps and long-range mountain views of several National Forests along “America’s Favorite Drive.”
On the Water
Highlighting 15 Prime spots to reel in Rainbow, Brook, and Brown Trout, the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail® is an experience you won’t want to miss. Our Outfitters & Guides will ‘hook you up’ with the gear and expertise you need to reel in the catch of the day whether you’re a beginner or seasoned angler.
Whitewater rafting & kayaking in Jackson County is great family fun! Our rafting outfitters & guides typically open for the season around Memorial Day weekend. With our rapids ranging from class I to IV, you can enjoy a peaceful float trip without worrying about going overboard. If you prefer a day on the lake, we’ve got several to choose from.
After a day full of adventure, there’s one more trail you won’t want to miss – the Jackson County Ale Trail. Made up of seven breweries throughout the county, you’ll find over 120 locally brewed craft beverages to choose from. Make sure to check in to four participating breweries when you visit and take home a FREE Ale Trail glass. Learn more here.
The Best Time to Visit
With the warmer months being a popular time to experience the NC Mountains, booking your trip on a weekday is a great way to avoid the crowds. Weekday trips to our small towns allow for shorter wait times at your favorite restaurants, the trails all to yourself, and more. Learn about weekday visits here.
Festivals & Events
Assault on Blackrock – March 19, 2022
Sylva’s Brew Hop – Week of April 9, 2022
Fire Mountain Inferno (Mountain Biking) – April 23 – 24, 2022
Greening Up the Mountains – April 23, 2022
Concerts on the Creek – Every Friday, Memorial Day – Labor Day
Groovin’ on the Green – Every Friday, Memorial Day – Labor Day
Fourth of July Celebrations – Sylva, Cashiers, Glenville, and Sapphire
Front Street Arts & Crafts Show – July 16, 2022
Plan Your Trip
The perfect family vacation is closer than you think. Four out of five Americans believe that “vacations are important for their overall health and well-being.” After the past couple of years, many of us have recognized that truth in our lives. When you’re ready to travel, let our mountain towns help you enjoy a relaxing and safe vacation experience with the best lodging rates in the region and plenty of free family-friendly activities to choose from. Check out our vacation rentals, hotels, and cabin rentals to find the perfect stay for your budget & lifestyle. Download our free travel guide and use our Trip Planner for more inspiration.
Header Image Courtesy of @carolinaphotoart