Top 5 Ways to Help Protect Jackson County, N.C.’s Natural Beauty

Jackson County, N.C. is known and loved for its unparalleled beauty — from the mountain valleys and peaks to glistening lakes and rivers and breathtaking vistas in-between. Protecting our natural resources is key to keeping our mountains enjoyable for future generations. Whether you’re here for a day, a weekend or a season, you can play a role in preserving and sustaining our natural areas. Here’s how:

1 – Know and Practice the Principles of Leave No Trace®

A set of ethics promoting conservation of the outdoors, Leave No Trace® (LNT) began decades ago in response to ecological damage caused by wilderness recreation. Finalized in 1999 and embraced by an array of organizations, the seven principles to follow include:

  • Plan ahead and prepare.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Minimize campfire impacts.
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Be considerate of other visitors.
2 – Plan To Visit Midweek

Want to avoid the crowds, a budget efficiently and lessen the impact on our outdoor spaces? Then plan to travel between Sunday and Thursday! Hotels, inns and cabins even offer special rates for stays during the week. And if your travel plans include visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway or other highly-popular attractions, you will be less likely to sit in traffic – another preservation plus. Find tips and an itinerary for midweek travel here!

3 – Consider “Shoulder Season” Travel

A term for the less crowded travel months, “shoulder season” in Jackson County, N.C. refers to winter, early spring and late summer. Outdoor beauty is still ample – if a bit different – during these times, and you’ll likely have an easier time finding a parking space, getting a table at a restaurant and making a lodging reservation. Bonus: Visiting during “shoulder season” is less impactful on the natural environment. Similar to midweek travel, you may even discover related accommodation specials.

4 – Participate in a Clean-Up Effort

Each spring, Western Carolina University hosts the Tuck River Cleanup. The one-day event brings together about 460 volunteers who ensure 15 miles of the Tuckasegee River and its banks are clean, from Cullowhee to Whittier, N.C. Volunteers may raft or walk, and trash bags and transportation is provided. In 2024 the volunteers removed 3,360 pounds of garbage from the river.

Other clean-up efforts are organized by Friends of Panthertown, which focuses on the trails within its 6,000 acres, and Trout Unlimited.

5 – Support Outdoor NC

Jackson County is a proud partner of the Outdoor NC Alliance and we’re thrilled to share our commitment to stewardship of our shared outdoor spaces with you. Outdoor NC is a movement that is committed to promoting stewardship throughout North Carolina, inspiring everyone to not only experience the outdoors, but embrace and protect it as well. It provides a wide variety of resources which educate outdoor adventurers on how they can recreate responsibly, respectfully and safely. As an Outdoor NC Alliance partner, we actively encourage everyone to join our collective movement to protect our beloved, shared outdoor spaces! Join the movement and take the pledge in our blog.

Whatever level of involvement you choose, encourage you to share our goals of being considerate, inclusive, respectful and staying safe in our great outdoors. Embrace responsible recreation and leave things better than you found them.

Whether it’s hiking some of the highest mountains on the East Coast, fly fishing along the WNC Fly Fishing Trail®, birdwatching or enjoying a picnic on the Parkway, there is something for everyone in this beautiful corner of North Carolina. So, plan your trip and remember to minimize your impact on the natural environment!


Photo Credits: @johnnychillroom,@alexisbutlerphotography, @highhamptonnc,@western_carolina 

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