With the third annual Outdoor Economy Conference, in Cherokee April 4-7, 2022. It’s time to start planning that perfect trip to the NC Mountains. Our area is full of adventure around every corner where authentic Appalachia comes to life void of city crowds. From the authentic culture of the Cherokee to the charming downtowns of Sylva and Dillsboro, make sure to make the most out of your trip to the region.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – one of America’s Favorite National Parks, the Great Smokies can easily be accessed only a short drive from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. The Great Smokies are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the temperate world, making fall one of the best times to enjoy the orange hues of the changing leaves – perfect for a scenic drive.
For those who have time to take on the trail, the Park has over 850 miles of trails to explore. Favorites close to Cherokee include the Mingus Creek/Deeplow Gap Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail for leisurely relaxing strolls through nature. Those with extra time looking to kick it up a notch, check out the famed Mount LeConte/Alum Cave Trail, Clingmans Dome, or Andrews Bald Trail.
The Blue Ridge Parkway – America’s favorite motoring route is a favorite during the fall. The Blue Ridge Parkway winds 469 miles from Virginia to Cherokee, with some of the most scenic spots between Cherokee and Balsam Gap near Sylva. Make sure to Check out the Waterrock Knob Overlook for stunning panoramic vistas or stretch your legs on a short but steep 1.2-mile hike.
Fire Mountain Trails – Mountain biking enthusiasts’ PSA: Don’t leave your bike at home! Fire Mountain Trails are less than a five-minute drive from Harrah’s Cherokee and offer heart-pumping flow, rock gardens, high berms, and 20+ switchbacks with over 13 miles of trail to explore.
Soco Falls – located near Soco Gap on U.S. Highway 19, Soco Falls is one of the few double cascades in the region. Standing over 120-feet tall, this hidden gem does require a bit of a steep trek down with ropes provided; however, we always recommend wearing a pair of sturdy hiking shoes or boots.
Mingo Falls – Mingo Falls is a near-vertical cascade towering over 150-feet. Located in Big Cove, accessing the falls requires 158 steps to the viewing platform. Once there, you’ll have the perfect vantage point to enjoy this iconic waterfall.
Museum of the Cherokee Indian – Learn the 11,000-year-old history of the Cherokee told vividly and authentically at this interactive museum. Located just minutes from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, this museum offers a cultural and historical tour, including interactive video, intriguing displays, and sensory experiences.
Oconaluftee Indian Village – Take a step back into the 1760s at the immersive Oconaluftee Indian Village. Traverse winding paths flanked with traditional Cherokee history, including blowgun demonstrations, canoe making, storytelling, basket weaving, and much more. Find it here.
Mountain Farm Museum/Oconaluftee Visitor Center – Located at the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, get a first-hand look at the life of early Appalachian settlers at the Mountain Farm Museum. This 19th-century museum accurately simulates period-correct farm life, including blacksmithing demonstrations, barns, housing structures, and barnyard animals.
Judaculla Rock – this one requires a bit of a drive but is well worth it. Located in Tuckasegee, Judaculla Rock is a soapstone rock full of ancient Native American petroglyphs said to be thousands of years old. The carvings tell the story of Tsukalu or Judaculla legend of the Cherokee. Here you’ll experience the sounds of nature as you learn the ancient history of this iconic Native American landmark. Make sure to check out the nearby towns of Dillsboro and Sylva while you’re out this way.
Jackson County Ale Trail – With seven breweries in Jackson County, Sylva & Dillsboro offer a thriving brewery scene just a short drive from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. These two neighboring towns have five breweries with over 100 locally crafted beverages on tap; there’s something for every craft beer drinker to enjoy, from seasonal favorites to iconic mainstays. Check out our Jackson County Ale Trail here.
Wine & Cocktail Lounges – Not into beer? No worries, we’ve got something for you too! Downtown Sylva has two cocktail lounges, The Cut and The Paper Mill, as well as the Wine Bar and Cellar all located within walking distance on Sylva’s Main Street.
From farm-to-table tropical fusion at Guadalupe Café to one of the ‘Top BBQ Restaurants in the Country’ at Haywood Smokehouse, Jackson County’s culinary scene offers big flavors in our small towns. Many locally sourced restaurants such as Foragers Canteen, City Lights Café, and Lulu’s on Main pride themselves on serving up the freshest local ingredients. Check out our complete dining list here.
Extend Your Stay
It’s tough to fit in every activity in just one week while here in Jackson County. We invite all our fellow Outdoor Economy Conference attendees to extend their trip through the weekend to enjoy even more of our mountain towns. Check out all our lodging options here as well as our ‘Trip Planner’ for itineraries, maps, events, and more.