Jackson County is right in the middle of everything there is to do in North Carolina. Located in the NC mountains with easy access to all kinds of adventures, it’s the perfect homebase to start your trip. And it’s just a few hours from many major cities in the Southeast, which means countless waterfalls, hikes, and activities for the family are within reach.
Jackson County experiences a range of beautiful weather seasons. The summer months are extremely pleasant with temperatures in the high 50s and low 80s. Winters are mild with lows in the 20s and highs in the 50s, and we can generally expect one to two large snowfalls per year starting as early as the end of October.
Jackson County consists of the charming mountain towns of:
For more info on the towns of Jackson County, click here.
From hiking trails and horseback riding to lakes, waterfalls, local dining, and more, there are plenty of activities in Jackson County for the whole family to enjoy. Check out our family-friendly itinerary to start planning your trip today!
Visit the Maps page of our website for countywide maps and visit our Trails page to find topographic maps of most of our trails.
Jackson County is full of adventures and attractions for every kind of lifestyle. Check out this list of some of our top attractions in NC and find a full list on our website under Attractions. For those who prefer the outdoors, check out the Outdoors section of our site for more ideas.
Top 10 Attractions in and around Jackson County
The nearest airport is Asheville Regional Airport (airport code AVL) located roughly one hour from Jackson County. Find directions here.
Jackson County is beautiful and vibrant year-round. For the best accommodation rates, we recommend visiting during our “secret season” from January–March. Crowds thin out and this time of year allows for winter festivities, miles of mountain views, and unmatched experiences.
Download our free Visitor Guide here for information on attractions, accommodations, dining, shopping, and more.
Jackson County is home to many breathtaking species of wildflowers and other blooms. Check out this list of native flowers and when to search them out. For more information, click here for a great resource on how to find out when wildflowers are blooming in our area!
Top Wildflower Species in Jackson County (And When to Look for Them):
- Carolina Rhododendron
Blooms: Between late April and June
- Flame Azalea
Blooms: Between May and June
- Mountain Laurel
Blooms: Between late May and June
There is no better place to enjoy the western North Carolina mountains than Jackson County. Our visitors and residents enjoy unspoiled landscapes, lofty mountains, and picturesque, friendly towns that provide the perfect setting for enjoying a little R&R. We want everyone to experience the beauty of North Carolina, so here’s your guide to accessible attractions, parks, and museums in Jackson County.
Biltmore® is located about 50 minutes from Jackson County. Book at least a week in advance to save money on admission! Click here for directions.
We’ve developed some great trip ideas to help take the guesswork out of a perfect weekend trip to the NC mountains. Check out our top recommendations here!
Rates on accommodations in Jackson County drop substantially during the week, and you’ll avoid traffic and crowds by planning a midweek visit. Find the best rates Monday–Thursday. For a list of our accommodations, click here.
Jackson County offers a multitude of pet-friendly accommodation options. To find a pet-friendly option that works best for you and your pets, see the full list here.
Food & Drink
The Jackson County Ale Trail has over 120 unique brews spanning three towns and six breweries. Check out the Ale Trail for more information.
Our mountain towns provide thriving culinary scenes with unique non-chain restaurants you won’t find anywhere else. Many of these restaurants source locally from area farms for the freshest ingredients. For more information about our dining offerings, click here.
Hiking & Trails
With 185 named summits (more than anywhere else in the state), you’ll find a multitude of trails here in Jackson County. You can enjoy short, family-friendly walks or more strenuous treks—there’s something for everyone! With wildlife, waterfalls, and outstanding vantage points, our trails pay off at every turn. Check out more info here.
If you’re looking for top hiking trails in NC, you’ve come to the right place! Check out our list of the six best hiking trails for all ages and see a full list of trails here.
6 Best Hiking Trails in Jackson County:
The highest peak in Jackson County is Richland Balsam. Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 431, this peak is also the highest peak on the Parkway, standing at 6,053 feet above sea level. If you take the 1.4-mile loop trail, you will summit the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway at 6,410 feet. See a list of Jackson County’s highest peaks here.
The Shadow of the Bear is a stunning, naturally occurring phenomenon that occurs for just 30 minutes on sunny days at 5:30 p.m. in mid-October through early November and again in mid-February through early March. Viewing the Shadow of the Bear is definitely one of the best things to do in the North Carolina mountains. Find more information here.
Comprised of more than 6,295 acres of protected public land in the Nantahala National Forest, Panthertown lies on the eastern continental divide in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and is a Natural Heritage Site. This area offers miles of hiking trails, multiple campsites, and some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the area. A map is highly recommended before venturing into Panthertown. Get more information on this unique area here.
Jackson County’s elevation makes it a wonderful place to catch the natural beauty of a sunset. Check out our top six picks below!
Best Places to Catch a Jackson County Sunset:
- Cowee Mountain Overlook
- Jackson County Courthouse
- Waterrock Knob
- Richland Balsam Overlook
- Whiteside Mountain
- Lake Glenville
For more information on each of our top picks, click here.
Sylva is just 20 minutes away from the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hugging the county’s northwest border, Jackson County hosts notable areas such as Richland Balsam Overlook, the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Waterrock Knob with amazing views and a great picnic spot. For more information about the parkway in Jackson County, click here.
The most visited national park in the country is just 25 minutes from downtown Sylva and is free to visit. Since Jackson County is the less crowded side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, spend more time exploring and less time in traffic. For directions, click here.
There’s no shortage of awe-inspiring waterfalls to chase in Jackson County. Looking for the best waterfall hikes in NC? Check out this list of top four waterfall hikes in the NC mountains. For a full list of our 26 favorite spots, click here.
Top 4 Waterfall Hikes in the NC Mountains:
Jackson County is North Carolina’s Trout Capital® and is home to the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail®, which boasts 15 prime fishing spots that anglers can navigate to catch brook, brown, and rainbow trout. Jackson County also hosts a great lake fishing scene where large and small mouth bass are commonly caught. Check out our list of best fishing lakes in Jackson County below. For more information about fishing in Jackson County, click here.
Best Fishing Lakes in Jackson County
Rafting season in Jackson County opens in early May and lasts through August. For more information about our rafting experiences, click here.
There are eight annual recreational releases turning the waters of the Tuckasegee into class IV rapids. To see the upcoming schedule of West Fork Tuckasegee River releases, click here.
Skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing are all available at Sapphire Valley. These family-friendly slopes offer a state-of-the-art quad lift, a leaning center slope, and a multiple lane 500-foot tubing setup.
Jackson County is home to some of America’s most beautiful golf courses. For a list of our golf courses, click here.
There are a number of beautiful venues in Jackson County to hold your special day. See a list of the 12 best places to get married in NC below, and check out our full wedding planning guide here.
12 Best Places to Get Married in Jackson County:
The western North Carolina mountains are known for some of the most scenic motorcycle routes in the world. Whether you’re cruising America’s most celebrated motor route—the Blue Ridge Parkway—or just exploring quiet back roads, our charming mountain towns make the perfect base camps for your motorcycling adventures. Click here to view our motorcycling guide.