Looking for Quirky or Unique? You’ll Find it in Jackson County, N.C.

Jackson County, North Carolina’s mountain towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro and Sylva are charming, yet distinct, with each offering unique – and sometimes a bit quirky – attractions and experiences. Look closely and you’ll discover superlatives such as “tallest,” “only” or “highest” in connection with our one-of-a-kind places to visit. Here are a few of our special sites in Jackson County.

The “Yosemite of the East”

Panthertown Valley’s treasured backcountry features 30 miles of trails, perfect for traversing by foot, bike or even horse. With trailheads near Cashiers and Sapphire, its trails are sprinkled with a variety of wildlife, rare plant species and a diverse range of geologic formations. It’s easy to understand why Panthertown is designated by The Wilderness Society as one of N.C.’s Mountain Treasures. Here, explorers will encounter more than a dozen cascading waterfalls, pristine trout streams, sheer granite cliffs and panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Panthertown is managed by the U.S. Forest Service with funding and volunteers provided by Friends of Panthertown. Its network of trails are marked, but visitors are highly advised to bring a map and compass or hire a guide from one of the local outfitters.

The Most Mountain Heritage Trout Waters in N.C.

With thousands of fish stocked annually, Jackson County’s waters 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®, our area offers plenty of options to reel one in. 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. Book a guide trip with one of our premier anglers to find the best spots!

The Highest Point on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Of the 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP), more than 70 miles run through Jackson County, including its highest peak. Located at mile 431.4, the Richland Balsam Overlook is situated 6,053 feet above sea level. Lace up your hiking shoes and climb through a spruce fir forest along the 1.5-mile Richland Balsam Trail to reach the peak at 6,410 feet. Once you reach the top, prepare for the breathtaking view.

One of the Oldest Mountains on Earth

Close to Cashiers sits Whiteside Mountain, 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 its south-facing side. The two-mile Whiteside Mountain Trail  welcomes all levels of hikers to encounter sheer vertical cliffs and scenic views to the east, south and west. During the spring and summer, hikers should keep an eye out for rare and endangered peregrine falcons which are known to occasionally soar above the cliffs or nest on one of the many rock’s outcrops. Tip: Bring $3 cash for parking. 

Smallest U.S. Post Office

Once upon a time, the tiny wooden building known as Grimshawes Post Office served the area, in operation for 75 years, from 1878 to 1953. Named after a former postmaster, this quaint piece of Americana is located on Whiteside Cove Road near Cashiers, welcoming visitors with a U.S. flag. Grab a photo at this quirky roadside attraction!

Ancient Petroglyph 

Resting in an idyllic pasture in Cullowhee, Judaculla Rock is a sacred site for the Cherokee Indians before the colonization of North America. Deeply associated with the Judaculla legend of the Cherokee people, the soapstone boulder is etched with petroglyphs and symbols that date back to 2000 B.C. The Cherokee people believed Judaculla (derrived from the hunting god Tsukalu), 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. There is no fee to visit this exciting piece of history.

The Shadow of the Bear

Visit during specific weeks in the winter or fall to catch a glimpse of this one-of-a-kind natural phenomenon – the Shadow of the Bear. Twice a year during dusk, the shadow of a bear emerges from hibernation at the base of Whiteside Mountain near Cashiers. It begins with a small, dark shadow at the bottom of the valley and grows until it ultimately evolves into what looks like a bear walking along the colorful treetops of the mountainous landscape. This unique experience happens only from mid-October through early November and again from mid-February to early March. The best place to view the scene is Rhodes Big View Overlook off U.S. Hwy. 64. Tip: Arrive early to avoid the crowds.

The Cat Museum 

It began with one man’s collection of a single picture. During the next three decades, it grew to include thousands of objects and become one of the most unique collections paying tribute to our feline friends. Located in Sylva, the American Museum of the House Cat is one of only two such museums in the U.S. See Dr. Harold Sims’ collection of items, ranging from an Egyptian cat mummy, feline-inspired art, glass, advertising mementos, toys, clocks and much more. Bonus: Your ticket helps support the care of cats in a no-kill shelter. 

Where Movies Were Made 

A few years ago, downtown Sylva served as the backdrop for the award-winning movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” But it wasn’t the first time Jackson County played the role of another setting for a Hollywood blockbuster. When Harrison Ford took on the character of Dr. Richard Kimble in 1993’s “The Fugitive,” he could be seen on the set in Sylva and Dillsboro. An artifact from that film – the train the crashed, allowing Dr. Kimble to escape – still remains and can be seen aboard another train, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s Tuckasegee River Excursion.

Plan Your Trip! 

In addition to these unique sites and attractions, Jackson County offers unmatched outdoor adventures, restaurants that feature locally-sourced ingredients, and accommodations to suite any type of traveler and budget, including hotels, quaint cabins and cottages, vacation rentals and luxe mountain resorts. Starting planning your trip to Jackson County today!

Feature photo of Whiteside Mountain courtesy of Max Veasey

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