Great food, great views, and warm weather go together so well! In the NC Mountains of Jackson County, many of our delicious non-chain restaurants offer numerous takeout options for you to enjoy while soaking up the best of the warm spring mountain air. In our towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro, and Sylva (about an hour west of Asheville), you’ll find the best picnic spots to break out the picnic basket and enjoy quality time with friends and family. Check out ‘8 Great Picnic Spots’ to enjoy in the NC Mountains.
Long revered for its east and west-facing views, Waterrock Knob is among the favorite overlooks for visitors along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Located at Milepost 451.2, the overlook offers several picnic tables on the east and west side, plenty of room to spread out, restrooms conveniently on-site, and a gift shop. Grab takeout from some of our Sylva or Dillsboro eateries and head out on U.S. 74 east to Balsam Gap. Take the Parkway South (towards Cherokee) for roughly 10 miles and enjoy some of the best views in the region.
If you need to stretch your legs, the Waterrock Knob Trail is a great way to burn off some extra calories! This perfect picnic spot has a short but steep 1.5-mile hiking trail to the iconic view that awaits at the top.
Sylva’s Pinnacle Park
For a more extreme option, Pinnacle Park is a must. The famed West Fork Hiking Trail ascends nearly 3,000 feet over a seven-mile round-trip hike. Head out early and pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at the top, a great spot with sweeping views of Sylva and the Plott Balsam Mountains below. If you don’t want to take on the West Fork Trail, there are plenty of places to enjoy a picnic along the way.
The Village Green
Located in Cashiers, The Village Green is an excellent spot to enjoy a warm-weather picnic. This 13.2-acre park has scenic botanical gardens, walking trails, art displays, gazebos, and a large play area for the kids. The Village Green also has several covered picnic benches and restrooms on-site, making it a convenient spot for a good picnic. Its central location places you within a 2-minute drive of some of the best restaurants on the Plateau, including Cornucopia, Cashiers Valley Smokehouse (for delicious BBQ), Slab Town Pizza, and Whiteside Brewing Co., all with an extensive and delicious takeout menu.
Whitewater Falls Picnic Area
Whitewater Falls is known as the highest waterfall east of the Rockies at 411 feet! However, unknown to many is that visitors can take advantage of several covered picnic benches, a large grassy field to play in, and restrooms on-site to enjoy a wonderful picnic experience! Enjoy takeout from one of Cashiers excellent eateries or pack your own meal using locally sourced ingredients from the Cashiers Farmers Market. Afterward, take a short quarter-mile stroll to the viewing platform and enjoy the grandeur of this incredible waterfall for yourself!
Tip: Make sure to bring $3 along, as there’s a small fee for the US Forest Service parking lot.
Oconaluftee Visitor Center/Mountain Farm Museum
Where can you witness elk, a crystal-clear river, an 18th century Mountain Farm Museum, and a shady riverside walking path? Located in Cherokee, the Oconaluftee Visitor Center delivers it all and is an excellent place for a family picnic! The large field is a favorite spot for elk to graze the field on a sunny day, especially in the spring.
The best place to enjoy a picnic is along the Oconaluftee River Trail that meanders throughout the property. Visitors will find benches right next to the river and can enjoy the cool breeze that dances off the Oconaluftee’s scenic watercourse. After enjoying your picnic, check out the historic site at the Mountain Farm Museum. This interactive museum is an authentic look into what early Appalachian life in the Smokies once was, complete with blacksmithing demonstrations and barnyard animals – no entrance fee required.
Cowee Mountain Overlook
The Blue Ridge Parkway is known for endless scenic mountain vistas, with Cowee Mountain Overlook being one of the best! This wonderful place has 180-degree panoramic views of the mountains below. Bring along a folding chair and a picnic blanket, and take in the best show in town – a scenic mountain sunset. Located at Milepost 430.7, the overlook doesn’t have any picnic tables but does have one of the best views to enjoy an evening along the 469 miles of the Parkway.
Sylva’s Bridge Park
Located centrally near some delicious non-chain restaurants, Sylva’s Bridge Park is a convenient and peaceful place to enjoy some tasty takeout. Bridge Park has a large pavilion, several picnic tables, a large grassy area, an on-site parking area, restrooms, all located along Scotts Creek. Grab a bite from local favorites, including Mad Batter Kitchen, City Lights Café, Lulu’s on Main, or Guadalupe Café, all within walking distance. After your picnic, let the family burn off some energy at adjacent Poteet Park right across the river.
Pines Recreation Area
Pull up a cooler with your family favorites, lay out a towel, and enjoy a sandy swim beach in the mountains – without sharks or riptides! The Pines Recreation Area located at Lake Glenville is a family favorite. There are several lakeside picnic benches under the trees’ shade to enjoy, complete with on-site restroom facilities and a fully ADA-accessible property. After lunch, hop in the waters of the iconic Lake Glenville, and enjoy a relaxing swim to cool off on a warm spring day. If you’re hankering for a hike, head across the street to explore a hidden gem, High Falls.
Top it All Off
From Cashiers to Dillsboro, our unique non-chain restaurants are ideal for enjoying local flavors perfect for picnicking. It’s important to remember that calories don’t count outside your zip code, so make sure to pick up a sweet treat to top it all off. Check out our wide variety of local eats for plenty of picnic options, including food trucks, casual eats, breakfast, and for those who want to make their own food, locally-sourced farmer’s markets. Sip on a locally crafted beverage at one of our seven Ale Trail Locations or sip on some wine or a cocktail at one of our Wine/Cocktail Lounges. Jackson County is home to some of the region’s best rates, so find the perfect stay for your getaway. Check out our ‘Trip Planner’ to get started!
Header Image Courtesy of @morethanclay