Anyone who has ever had the chance to visit our incredible mountain towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro and Sylva can see that there is something special that stands out about us. Whether it is the countless number of towering waterfalls that can be easily accessed, the rivers filled with trout and other fish that are there for the catching, the tasty food and craft beer, or the welcoming locals who are just waiting to tell you about the next best spot in town to discover… there are many reasons that people return here time and time again. This one-of-a-kind destination is home to many attractions and hidden gems that can ONLY be found here.
From the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the oldest mountain in the world, and one of two museums’ in the world that is dedicated to the beloved house cat, here is what visitors will be able to find only in Jackson County.
- The Yosemite of the East. Panthertown Valley’s treasured backcountry features 30 miles of trails perfect for traversing by foot, or bicycle. These trails are filled with a variety of wildlife, rare plant species and a diverse range of geologic formations. 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. Here, explorers will encounter over a dozen cascading waterfalls, trout streams, sheer granite cliffs and panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Panthertown’s network of trails are marked, but visitors are highly advised to bring a map and compass or hire a guide to lead you around from one of the local outfitters.
- More Mountain Heritage Trout waters than anywhere else in the state. With 92,800 fish stocked annually, the waters in Jackson County are what angler’s dreams are made of! Recognized as the North Carolina Trout Capital®, and home to the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail®, there are plenty of options throughout the area where the chance of catching your dinner is pretty The fly fishing trail highlights 15 prime spots to catch brown, rainbow and brook trout in the crystal-clear streams of the Great Smoky Mountains. If you want to be sure to find the best spots, book a guide trip with one of our premier anglers Brookings Anglers, AB’s Fly Fishing, Dreamcatcher Guides, Blue Chip Fly Fishing, Fontana Guides and the 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 at 6,410 feet. Across the expanse of mountains, you’ll see (and smell!) Fraser firs, colorful yellow wildflowers in spring, and the ripple of mountain peaks in the Pisgah National Forest. Once you reach the top, the view that awaits will take your breath away more than the hike to get you there.
- 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.
Tip: bring a few dollar bills for parking.
- The smallest U.S. Post Office: Grimshawes. The original building, which was in operation from 1903-1953, still stands with an American flag awaiting visitors in the doorway. Now, visitors can stop by the small post office on Whiteside Cove Road for a fun, historic photo opt.
- Judaculla Rock. Located in the mountains, the Judaculla Rock is said to have been a sacred site for the Cherokee Indians before the colonization of North America and is deeply associated with the Judaculla legend of the Cherokee people. They believed Judaculla, an ancient giant-like creature, landed on the rock while jumping from one mountain to another, and thus the rock bears his seven-fingered hand print. This sacred soapstone boulder is etched with petroglyphs and symbols that date back to 2000 B.C. Visitors are welcome to venture around and explore the mysterious hieroglyphics that depict the myth and history about the rock itself.
- The Shadow of the Bear. Visit in the fall to catch a glimpse of this one-of-a-kind natural phenomenon– the Shadow of the Bear. This attraction is for a limited time only and can be seen for just 30 minutes at 5:30 p.m. mid-October through early November on clear days. It begins with a small dark shadow at the bottom of the valley and grows until it ultimately evolves into the bear walking along the colorful treetops of the mountainous landscape below. This unique experience is not one to forget, so make sure to bring your camera to capture the picturesque view as the sun sets behind the Whiteside Mountain. Tip: arrive early to avoid the crowds.
In addition to its superior outdoor recreation options, Jackson County’s dining scene features locally-sourced ingredients and microbreweries around every corner and 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.