brother and sister hiking with their puppy in jackson county

“Un”leash in Jackson County

Everyone knows that a dog is man’s best friend, so why should they have to miss out on a fun outdoor getaway? According to the American Pet Products Association, more than a third of pet owners travel with their pets. With countless hiking trails perfect for stretching those two, or four, legs, plenty of creeks to splash around in and multiple pet-friendly restaurants and accommodations, pet owners should look no further than the western North Carolina mountains of Jackson County. With a wide variety of pet-friendly adventures, we are the perfect setting for exploring with your pooch.

You and your dog will love exploring Jackson County’s 45-mile portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway. For an unforgettable view, take the Richland Balsam Nature Trail to the overlook, which leads to the highest point on the Parkway. Although the path is steep with a total elevation gain of 700 feet, the hike is short at only 1.5 miles and is not overly strenuous. Be sure to bring some water for you and your pup to enjoy while taking in the stunning view below.

Waterrock Knob Trail is another excellent stop on the Parkway for people and pets to ruff it up the mountain. Though it is a steep hike, the stunning panoramic views will be what really takes your breath away. On clear days, enjoy a view of up to 50 miles to the Smokies. At 1.2 miles round trip, this hike is just rigorous enough to get your pups the right amount of exercise. suggests that your dog is on a leash that is no longer than 6 feet for these hikes.

Panthertown Valley is a picturesque outdoor playground for humans and dogs alike. Home to more than 30 miles of scenic trails, over a dozen waterfalls and spectacular views, Panthertown is known as the “Yosemite of the East,” and once you visit, you’ll see why! Schoolhouse Falls is one of the most well-known waterfalls inside Panthertown Valley. Though not the tallest waterfall at 18 feet, it isn’t lacking in beauty. Enjoy a moderate hike to the falls on the Little Green Mountain trail. To cool down, climb behind the falls for a unique and refreshing experience – just be mindful of slippery rocks.

One of the oldest mountains in the world, Whiteside Mountain (4,930 feet in elevation), is a moderate two-mile loop that takes you to the highest vertical cliffs in the Eastern United States, making the peaks some of the most recognizable in the county. Whiteside Mountain towers over the valley below and is lined with incredible views along the way to its crest, creating the picture-perfect backdrop to capture stunning photographs. The Whiteside trail is clearly marked and easy to follow. Remember to bring a few dollars for parking.

In Sylva, stop by the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, which has a dedicated Pet Porch, complete with free pet treats, a water bowl and area information. On the other side of the historic courthouse is the Dog Park, a fenced in corner of Mark Watson Park where your pets can run leash free.

If your pup is partial to water, consider a visit to Lake Glenville. With 26-miles of shoreline, seven islands and three gorgeous waterfalls, Lake Glenville is an ideal place to sit back and relax or enjoy an active day on the water. Head over to Signal Ridge Marina or Lakeshore Marina to enjoy a day of boating, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding with your dog in tow. Lake Glenville also features a hiking trail that leads to High Falls, the perfect way to cool down after a day of adventure.

After all of your exploring, you are sure to work up an appetite. Don’t worry – there are plenty of dog-friendly restaurants located throughout Jackson County!

City Lights Café has a large dog-friendly outdoor patio for pups to relax on while owners enjoy locally-sourced, organic dishes. The café hosts Yappy Hours with well-behaved pets on the patio on the fourth Tuesday of each month from 6-8 p.m. Enjoy drink specials while your pup enjoys doggie treats and plays with other dogs.

Other pet-friendly dining options in the Sylva/Dillsboro area include Boot’s Steakhouse, Creekside Oyster House & Grill, Foragers Canteen, Guadalupe Café, Haywood Smokehouse, South of Philly, Soul Infusion and Speedy’s Pizza. You will find homemade doggie treats at Sylva’s White Moon Café and “pup cones” at Cullowhee’s Campus Scoops Ice Cream shop.

In the southern end of the county on the Cashiers plateau, stop by Cornucopia, Adair Brothers Smokehouse, Randevu, On the Side BBQ, Slab Town Pizza, Chili Loco, Zookeeper Bistro, and Mica’s Restaurant, all of which have pet-friendly seating options.

After you are both full of delicious food, head to a local craft brewery to end your day. Whiteside Brewing Co., which recently opened as the first brewery in Cashiers, has a large covered outdoor pavilion and porch that are dog friendly, as well as an adjoining lawn to roam. There is also an extensive dining menu that makes Whiteside a one-stop shop for your food and beverage needs.

Innovation Brewing offers nearly three dozen hand-crafted ales on tap and has a large outdoor seating area featuring a covered patio and a beer garden-style set up with long picnic tables. Sylva’s Innovation Brewing is home to Cosmic Carryout’s famous burgers and Pie Times’ woodfired pizzas. Dillsboro’s more expansive Innovation Station has plenty of room for you and your pooch to sit by the river or on the outdoor covered deck and enjoy a brew.

To wind down your day, check in to a pet-friendly accommodation in Jackson County. Our website has an entire page dedicated to helping pet owners find a place to stay, so you will find more than enough options that will paw-fectly fit you and your pet’s needs.

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