A Guide to the 9 Highest Peaks in Jackson County (and How to Hike them All)

A Guide to the 9 Highest Peaks in Jackson County (and How to Hike them All)

In western North Carolina’s Jackson County, the Blue Ridge Mountains tumble into the Smokies in a series of soaring peaks. Featuring both the Great Balsam and Plott Balsam mountains—two of the loftiest ranges in the entire Appalachian chain—Jackson County is a peak-laden paradise for summit seekers, loaded with southern ‘sixers’ (summits over 6,000-feet in elevation). Here’s a list of the mountain-adorned county’s loftiest summits—and how to tackle them.

How to Have an Awesome Microbrew Tour in Jackson County

How to Have an Awesome Microbrew Tour in Jackson County

Loaded with more microbreweries than any other southeastern state, North Carolina is rightfully recognized as one of the country’s booming bastions of craft beer. While Asheville’s heavily concentrated collection of microbreweries may have made the town North Carolina’s capital of craft beer, one of the state’s most singular beer trails is just west of the city, in mountain-rippled, stream-laced Jackson County.

Can’t Miss Stops Along the Highest Section of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Can’t Miss Stops Along the Highest Section of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Meandering 469-miles through Virginia and North Carolina, from the Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway snakes though some the East Coast’s most stunning scenery. For the last 40-miles—the loftiest stretch of the wilderness-shrouded thoroughfare—the parkway coils around the high peaks of Jackson County in western North Carolina, showcasing everything from wildflower-flecked Appalachian balds to dense evergreen forests to soaring, cloud-swirled summits. The options along the iconic roadway are abundant, but here are a handful of highlights along the parkway’s highest stretch.

An Insider’s Guide to Panthertown Valley: The Yosemite of the East

An Insider’s Guide to Panthertown Valley: The Yosemite of the East

Although big cats no longer prowl the 6,295-acre swath of the Nantahala National Forest dubbed Panthertown Valley, it’s still easy to imagine the namesake predators roaming the sylvan trails. One of the most stunning and ruggedly wild tracts of the massive national forest is Panthertown Valley—a place that has been referred to as the Yosemite of the East and one that is home to an unimaginably varied backcountry loaded with craggy granite cliffs, plunging ravines, soaring 4,000-foot peaks, and waterfalls spilling into private plunge pools. The recreation area is open to hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, fishing, and horseback riding—and despite increase popularity in recent years, Panthertown’s rugged trails are still steeped in solitude.

Hiking Yellow Mountain: The Toughest Hike in Western Carolina?

Hiking Yellow Mountain: The Toughest Hike in Western Carolina?

In a corner of the state inundated with undulating mountain chains and punctuated with soaring summits that include a generous number of 6,000-foot peaks, Yellow Mountain is far from western North Carolina’s loftiest summit at 5,127 feet in elevation. However, scaling this pinnacle of the Cowee Mountain chain involves one of the most punishing—and thoroughly rewarding—ascents in the southern Appalachians.

The Best Spots for Camping Under the Stars: Backpacking Your Way through Jackson County

The Best Spots for Camping Under the Stars: Backpacking Your Way through Jackson County

Jackson County, North Carolina, features a varied landscape is a veritable buffet for backpackers. Nestled at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, overlaid by the Plott Balsam and Great Balsam mountains, and loaded with strings of soaring 6,000-foot peaks (sixers) amid a massive expanses of forest—the trip options are almost endless. Jackson County’s diversity of trails provides something for backpacking enthusiasts of all stripes, from gear gurus to altitude-immune peak-seekers to cautious car campers striking out into the backcountry for the very first time. So load up the pack, seek out the starry-skied campsites of Jackson County, and spend some time exploring western North Carolina’s wildest spaces.

Done in a Day: Exploring the Southern Smokies from Sylva

Done in a Day: Exploring the Southern Smokies from Sylva

Just 20 miles from the southern edge of the Smokies, the western North Carolina town of Sylva provides a strategic launch point for exploring one of the country’s most beloved natural wonders—the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The national park, spread between North Carolina and Tennessee, is the most visited in the country, boasting 16 peaks above 6,000-feet and 850 miles of trails. Even better, the park is best accessed from Sylva courtesy of a lofty stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the iconic motorway linking the Smokies with Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park.