Lace up your boots and get ready because this year we’re celebrating the diversity of trails across North Carolina, the Great Trails State. From biking to hiking to riding, rafting, and crafting, Jackson County has the most unique trails in the state. We’ve done the early legwork for you and compiled a list to get you started off on the right foot.
No matter if you’re looking for short, family-friendly walks or long, sweat-breaking treks, each trail in Jackson County is special in its own way. Take in the fresh air and explore trails that pay off at every turn with stunning wildlife, waterfalls, and outstanding mountain views.
One of our favorites? Waterrock Knob Trail where even the parking lot has expansive views across the Plott Balsam Mountains all the way to the Smokies. But the real reward is the 360-degree views as far as the eye can see up the short and steep trail. At 6,292 feet, Waterrock Knob is one of the 20 highest peaks in the Eastern US. The 1.2-mile out-and-back trail gains 412 feet in elevation and, while always spectacular, the peak is particularly awe-inspiring at sunrise and sunset. See our top hikes here.
Get to pedaling on any of Jackson County’s various trails for biking enthusiasts. In case you didn’t know, Jackson County is a big cycling destination and is home to Motion Makers, a local bike shop that plans and hosts several group rides during the year. With 185 named peaks and strenuous leg-burning routes, you’re bound to find the biking challenge you’ve been looking for.
No matter your mode of transportation, getting out on the Greenway is a must! This one-mile trail starts off by crossing a large footbridge then winds around a beautiful stretch of the Tuckasegee River. With gentle elevation and lots of shade, this trail is an ideal path to wander from sunup to sun down. And kids will love the bike park en route, so be sure to check it out!
Looking to get into the saddle? Jackson County is home to several stables that offer riding and riding trails for all ages and skill levels. At Arrowmont Stables, beginners can get comfortable on horseback while more experienced riders can venture out for six-mile excursions. Smokemont Riding Stable is located at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and provides year-round guided tours within the Park. Looking for something unique? The Whitewater Equestrian Center will take you through one of only two temperate rainforests in North America.
Adrenaline lovers rejoice! Jackson County’s three whitewater rivers offer Class I to Class IV rapids. Take on the Tuckasegee (or “The Tuck” as locals call it), the perfect river for families and first-timers, as it winds through scenic mountain valleys and quaint communities. Enjoy a wilder ride down the Chattooga or take a dip in the Oconaluftee. A few whitewater companies we recommend include Tuckaseegee Outfitters, Smoky Mountain River Adventures (check out their inflatable kayaks!), and Dillsboro River Company just outside of Dillsboro, Sylva, and Bryson City. No matter your decision, a day on the rapids is a day to remember.
Cast a line in the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail®, which includes 15 prime spots to catch brown, rainbow, and brook trout. With 92,800 fish stocked in its waters every year, it’s no wonder Jackson County is recognized as the North Carolina Trout Capital®. Whether you’re looking for wide-open rivers or secluded mountain streams, the Fly Fishing Trail is your best bet.
We want everyone to experience the beauty of North Carolina, so we’re proud to offer dozens of accessible attractions, parks, and museums in Jackson County. The Tuckasegee River Greenway, only minutes from downtown Sylva, is one of the best ways to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature without strenuous effort.
You don’t have to be an expert hiker to experience the beauty of Whitewater Falls, famously known as one of the highest waterfalls east of the Rockies. The trail up to the first viewing platform is paved, wheelchair accessible, and located less than a quarter of a mile from the falls. The parking area offers fully accessible parking spaces and ADA-compliant restrooms.
Nestled into the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Oconaluftee Visitors Center, River Trail & Mountain Farm Museum provide accessibility for all visitors. For more wheelchair accessible activities, click here.
Jump on Jackson County’s craft ale trail for the hoppiest adventure. Whether you enjoy sipping a smooth golden ale, a refreshing IPA, or a dark and robust porter, Jackson County’s breweries have you covered.
In fact, did you know North Carolina boasts more craft breweries and brewpubs than any other state in the southeast? Sylva’s Historic Main Street has over 120 different brews on tap and great restaurants, antique shops, and more along the way.
Get your own Ale Trail Field Guide for all the stops and our top 10 brews on tap to help plan your brew journey.
Feeling artsy? Learn about the rich artistic heritage and see contemporary creations of the Southeastern Appalachian Mountains on the Bridge Ridge Craft Trail. Showcasing local Appalachian folk artisans, as well as contemporary and indigenous arts and crafts, this trail is a fun way to take in an exhibit, purchase one-of-a-kind pieces, or join a hands-on workshop.