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Our Top 5 Trails to Explore during the NC Year of the Trail

Lace up those hiking boots because in honor of 2023 being the NC Year of the Trail, we’re highlighting our top trails to explore during each season in Jackson County.

WINTER Schoolhouse Falls

            Based in Panthertown Valley, this is one of our most beautiful waterfalls, and it’s definitely something to see when its frozen. While the navigation to it isn’t the easiest, nature’s beautiful display is well worth the effort. Just make sure you grab a map at one of our Visitor Centers before you hit the trail.

**Why it made the list – for the mix of cascades coming down from a glorious 18-feet.

SPRINGPinnacle Park

            This one has some strenuous terrain including a 7-mile trek that ascends for than 3,000 ft, but we wouldn’t include it on this list if the views at the top weren’t worth it. Go in prepared with snacks and water, and discover flowing streams, waterfalls, budding wildflowers and panoramic views along the way.

**Why it made the list – because it became the first Certified Forest Therapy Trail in the state of North Carolina in 2022!

SUMMERRichland Balsam

            Save this one for the summer months, because in that time you’ll smell the pleasant aroma of the spruce trees and experience surprisingly cool temperatures all along the route. With stunning views from Haywood-Jackson Overlook, this trail stretches a total of 6,410 feet and loops 1.5 miles.

**Why it made the list – it holds the selfie-worthy sign marking the highest point along the entire Blue Ridge Parkway, which spans 469 miles.

FALLWhiteside Mountain

            Off Highway 64 near Cashiers, this mountain reaches 4,930 feet and boasts some of the highest rock cliffs in the eastern US. The leaf-peeping from here is truly top notch and draws plenty of spectators each year.

**Why it made the list – it’s from here, and specifically at Rhodes Big View Overlook, that you can catch the Shadow of the Bear – the natural phenomenon when a bear’s shadow appears in the valley below. Bring your camera!

ANYTIMEWaterrock Knob

            We had to add this one because it offers some of the most beautiful panoramic views in Western North Carolina year-round. While it’s steep, it’s also short and certainly doable for everyone in the family. The 1.2-mile roundtrip hike reaches a whopping 6,292-foot summit. With picnic tables placed along the trail, pack a picnic and take in the views at your own pace.

We hope you’ll join us in celebrating the NC Year of the Trail with a trip to Jackson County to discover these trails that make our destination so special. Use our list above as a starting point and check out our others here. Our Trip Planner includes more information and helpful tips for starting your mountain adventure.



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