Serving as the gateway to both the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Cherokee offers a variety of activities for visitors, from history to golf to gaming. If you’re visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, check out the Cherokee side of the Park as opposed to Gatlinburg – you’ll spend more time exploring and less time stuck in traffic.
History buffs will enjoy learning about the Cherokee culture, while golfers can hit the links at Sequoyah National Golf Club which is one of the most technical golf courses in Western North Carolina. Gamers can try their luck at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. Cherokee sponsors the springtime Rainbows and Ramps Festival, which allows visitors, especially children, to catch trout in the Oconaluftee River and sample ramps, a traditional Appalachian delicacy.
Cherokee is located about an hour from Asheville and just a hop over from Bryson City; it’s only twenty minutes from Downtown Sylva.
More to Explore
Cherokee offers a wide variety of cultural experiences, art galleries, and outdoor adventures. See more ideas below:
- Oconaluftee Indian Village – Experience this guided tour through authentic Cherokee dwellings, sacred ritual sites, and more as you are transported to the 1760s and learn about the Cherokee Nation. You’ll also learn cultural dances and watch craftspeople at work as they sculpt pottery and weave baskets.
- Museum of the Cherokee Indian – Get inspired by the culture and heritage of the Cherokee people at this interactive museum, which tells the story of more than 11,000 years of Cherokee history.
- Oconaluftee River Trail – Find rich history and fun for the whole family at this 1.5-mile trail along the scenic Oconaluftee River. Located at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Visitors Center, you can also check out Mountain Farm Museum and over 40 species of wildflowers.
- Unto These Hills Outdoor Drama – Since its debut on July 1, 1950, “Unto These Hills” has entertained over six million people, telling the Cherokees’ rich story from 1780 to the twenty-first century. The show portrays the unique story of the Cherokee from a historical perspective. The play traces the Cherokee people through the ages, from the zenith of their power through the heartbreak of the Trail of Tears. It ends in the present day, where the Cherokee people continue to rewrite their place in the world.
- Mingo Falls – A photographer’s dream, this cascade is a multitude of waterfalls pouring from smaller ledges—making for spectacular wide shots and closeups alike. While the name sounds like it may stem from Cherokee origin, the 150-foot high, near-vertical cascade actually was named by loggers from West Virginia, who were reminded of the Mingo Falls in their home state. The Cherokees, however, had long dubbed it Big Bear Falls, despite its being fed by Mingo Creek. To avoid the abundant crowds at this popular sightseeing destination, try heading out early in the morning.
- Soco Falls – A short drive from Cherokee is this magnificent and rare double waterfall, featuring a 120-foot cascade and stunning views during any season.
- Horseback Riding – Located at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Smokemont Riding Stables which offers a safe, fun, family friendly horseback riding experience. Our natural riding trails feature beautiful, wooded scenery, native flora and fauna, and mountain streams and waterfalls. Experience the best of the Smokies year-round with guided tours from Smokemont.
- Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual Inc. – Learn about the traditional arts and crafts of the EBCI at the oldest Native American Cooperative, founded in 1946.
- Great Smoky Mountain National Park straddles the North Carolina and Tennessee border and encompasses endless outdoor activities from horseback riding to hiking to fly fishing. The Park is the most visited in the United States, is free, and open year-round however some roads may close due to icy conditions. The Visitor Center for Cherokee is located right at the entrance to the GSMNP on Tsali Blvd.
Ready to plan your trip to Cherokee?
Take a look at our Trip Ideas to get inspiration for your next mountain getaway. Or check out some FAQs to get all your Jackson County questions answered.