Nestled in the heart of the Western North Carolina mountains, Jackson County is surrounded by winter scenes and natural beauty that serve as the perfect backdrop for any winter retreat. On even the coldest of winter days, visitors can see miles upon miles of layered, scenic mountain ranges and valleys. The area’s stunning landscape coupled with a calendar full of festive winter and holiday events, makes Jackson County the perfect place to reconnect with nature and celebrate the season.
Enjoy the mountains in all their glory this ‘Secret Season.’ When crowds thin out, accommodations are more affordable and you have the trails all to yourself. Enjoy the beauty of snowcapped peaks without getting stranded, as Jackson County is known for its mild and pleasant winter temperatures.
Jackson County abounds with scenic hiking trails that lead to some of the most panoramic winter views in North Carolina. In fact, winter offers some of the best hiking due to fewer crowds on the trails and clear skies that allow hikers to see for miles. With the trees void of their leaves, you may even discover some beautiful overlooks along the way that were previously unrevealed.
Jackson County also offers an abundance of hiking trails for every skill level. For a trail fit for every family member, explore the sights along the Whiteside Mountain Trail. This path makes a great winter hike because it is not too steep and is set at 4,930 feet in elevation, setting the stage for breathtaking views of the Nantahala National Forest below.
Tip: Peregrine falcons soar above you in January to nest on rock ledges, so winter is a great time for quality birdwatching to try to spot one of Jackson County’s most majestic and intriguing birds.
Seeking an icy adventure? On only the coldest of winter days in Jackson County, explorers of all ages are in for a treat when experiencing one of the county’s gorgeous frozen waterfalls. Two of the most beautiful include Soco Falls and Schoolhouse Falls. To reach Soco Falls, take Highway 19 from Cherokee toward Maggie Valley for approximately 10 miles. Watch for small blue sign that says “Soco Falls” at a small pull-off on the right side of the road.
Found in Panthertown Valley, Schoolhouse Falls is a popular waterfall that cascades down into Greenland Creek. Getting there requires following detailed directions and, a map of Panthertown Valley. However, the short two-mile trek is worth the effort.
Keep in mind that hiking to a waterfall, particularly in winter, should be done with caution. Stay on all trails, and do not climb around the waterfalls where there is no marked path.
When you’re ready to warm up a bit, head to one of Jackson County’s cozy cabins, complete with fireplaces, hot tubs, and beautiful views. If you’re lucky, you may even enjoy a light dusting of snow that won’t slow you down. Who doesn’t love a snow-capped mountain top?
Picturesque small-town scenes
Throughout winter, visitors will find plenty of picturesque scenes in Jackson County’s small towns. Take time to stroll through the downtowns of Dillsboro, Sylva and Cashiers to discover and peruse a great selection of local shops and boutiques ideal for unique shopping opportunities. When your taste buds are ready for attention, sample the cuisine at the many locally sourced restaurants exclusive to Jackson County.
Draped in twinkling lights and plenty of holiday décor, the Historic Jackson County Courthouse in Sylva is a not-to-miss stop on your trip. Known as the most photographed courthouse in North Carolina, this architectural gem is the perfect spot for your family holiday photo.
Jackson County receives an average of 9 inches of snow per year, usually with one or two big snows each year helping you enjoy the snow without getting stranded. This makes it the perfect destination for vacationers looking for a true winter wonderland. Most vistas during winter have peaks covered in white which make for exceptional photos.
When hiking or driving in the mountains, keep in mind temperature changes may be unpredictable, so pack accordingly to stay warm.
When booking your winter escape to Jackson County, know that lower lodging rates are typically available in the winter, with weekdays garnering the lowest rates. You’ll also find many winter packages available December through March. To help you plan your perfect holiday getaway, download a free visitor’s guide.
Cover photo of Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers courtesy @spinkasaurusrex on Instagram