From hiking and biking to fishing and camping, there’s so much to do in and around the mountain towns of Jackson County during the summertime, it is hard to beat as the perfect summer getaway. Along with endless adventures, the area is home to an excellent al fresco dining scene with places for picnics, patios and more to enjoy a meal in the great outdoors and take in the area’s beautiful natural surroundings.
Pack a picnic
Waterrock Knob, one of the area’s top spots for a picnic with a view, provides panoramic vistas from 6,292 feet up in the Western North Carolina mountains. The 1.2-mile roundtrip hike to the summit is accompanied by many vantage points that offer nearly 360-degree postcard-worthy views. Pack a picnic and enjoy your meal as you soak in the mountainscapes that surround you.
For those who want to soak up some rays, head to Lake Glenville, one of the highest-elevation lakes east of the Rocky Mountains. Along the lake’s 26-mile shoreline, a sandy beach welcomes you to spread out your picnic blanket and settle in for a leisurely lunch. Make a day of it by bringing your swim gear and take a dip in the cool waters of the mountain lake.
The Village Green, a 13.2-acre park located in Cashiers, invites you to bring your picnic basket and enjoy a meal at one of the park’s picnic shelters. Charcoal grills are available for those who want to refuel with a hot meal. Afterward, take a stroll amidst the gardens and check out the park’s various sculptures.
Bridge Park provides a wonderful gathering spot for you to share a picnic with loved ones after a day of exploring the quaint downtown of Sylva. After you eat, walk across the Scotts Creek Bridge to Poteet Park, where you can play basketball, horseshoes, or volleyball. There’s also a playground for the young ones in your group.
Located in Cullowhee, East LaPorte Park is the perfect spot for a day out in the sunshine. Choose from the covered picnic shelter or one of the picnic tables around the park to share a meal with friends and family. The park also offers grills for those who want to cook out.
Relax on the patio
Nothing beats enjoying a meal out on the patio during the summer months, and Jackson County has plenty of restaurants that offer that experience. At Cornucopia, known as Cashiers favorite porch, you’ll enjoy lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch created using some of the area’s fresh, seasonal ingredients. Try the Sunburst Farms smoked trout dip, the Cornucopia burger or trout piccata to try some of the restaurant’s most popular dishes.
At The Orchard in Cashiers, enjoy a delicious meal on the patio of the 100-year-old refurbished farmhouse, where you can sample assorted local cheeses and cured meats on the Southern Pickin’s Charcuterie before moving on to the Dark Cove garden risotto featuring Dark Cove Farms goat cheese.
With its farm-to-table menu, Canyon Kitchen offers fine dining in a relaxed setting that has been voted most romantic restaurant in N.C. by Food & Wine. Relax with drinks and light hors d’oeuvres at the garden bar as you take in the stunning view that surrounds the restaurant. Or, take a walk around the restaurants garden and get a sneak peek of what awaits on the menu.
In downtown Dillsboro, Foragers Canteen features sustainably-raised, locally-sourced ingredients. Located in an old train depot, Foragers is the perfect place to grab a high-quality bite in a low-key environment on the restaurant’s streamside patio.
Stock up at the farmers markets
When planning your picnic, be sure to include fresh, local fruits and vegetables coupled with locally made salsas, jams and seasonings. Find just what you want at the Cashiers Farmers Market, including local beef, fresh baked goods, and even wine. With so much available, you won’t leave empty-handed. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day, the market is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
A separate farmer’s market is held in Cashiers on Wednesdays from 3-6 p.m. at the Village Green Commons from May to September. In Cullowhee, stop by their farmer’s markets on Tuesdays from 4-7 p.m. from April to October at 563 North Country Club Drive.
Lastly, Sylva hosts their farmer’s market in Bridge Park from April to October on Wednesdays from 3:30-6:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Raise a glass to fun
One of the best spots for enjoying Jackson County’s al fresco dining is along the Jackson County Ale Trail. At Innovation Brewing in Sylva, head to the large covered porch alongside Scott’s Creek where you can sip on one of 12 mainstay ales, sample a rotating sour or IPA, or try a seasonal flavor.
Located in a former train depot in downtown Dillsboro, grab a seat on Innovation Station’s covered patio and choose from 25 in-house beers, three local ciders, and a selection of seasonal flavors.
At Balsam Falls Brewing Co. in Sylva, cool off with a rotating selection of IPAs, pale ales and sours, or choose from one of the six beers always found on tap. While relaxing with your chosen beverage, relax to the sounds of live music or compete with friends at trivia on select nights.
Gather your friends and settle in for a cold one at Whiteside Brewing Co. in Cashiers. With plenty of room for all your best buds, the large covered pavilion is the perfect spot to try one of the brewery’s six regular brews and a bite from their robust menu .
Also, keep an eye out for Nantahala Brewing, which opens later this summer. It will be an exciting new addition to the Jackson County Ale Trail.
After a long day of exploring all that Jackson County has to offer, head back and rest your head in one of our many comfortable and affordable accommodations, from a cozy mountain cabin to a familiar brand-name hotel. To plan your visit, order your free Visitor Guide today.