Your Great Escape to the Outdoors: Water and Wilderness
An elevated experience in the mountains of Western North Carolina, this outdoor adventure will take you from one end of Jackson County to the other with plenty of thrills and opportunities to enjoy nature along the way.
Choose your starting point at either the end of the county and take in hikes, lakes, waterfalls and great food no matter your route.
Travel Tip: To make the most out of your trip, be sure to factor in ample travel time to traverse our winding mountain roads. The north-south trip from one end of the county to the other along US Highway 107 takes approximately one hour without stops.
“Play on” in 494 square miles packed with unspoiled natural resources, including the Great Smoky Mountains, crystal-clear lakes, tumbling rivers, and a trail of cascading waterfalls. The distinct Western North Carolina mountain communities that comprise Jackson County – Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro, Sylva, Balsam, Cullowhee, Glenville and Sapphire – are coming into their own as an outdoor lover’s ideal destination with hiking, rock climbing, rafting, fly fishing, waterfall excursions, and water sports. Here’s our take on a great escape!
In Cashiers and Sapphire…
Visit Wonderful Waterfalls
Directions to 19 different waterfalls are mapped out in Jackson County’s Visitors Guide and online. In Cashiers, three waterfalls are within easy reach, including the breathtakingly beautiful Silver Run Falls, and Whitewater Falls, which has an elevation of 411 feet, making it one of the highest waterfalls east of the Rockies.
Panthertown Valley is fittingly known as “Yosemite of the East” for its sweeping canyons, lofty peaks and diversity of flora and fauna. The 6,295-acre backcountry recreation area offers stunning nature, waterfall and riverside hikes and seemingly endless scenic vistas.
At 390 million years old, Whiteside Mountain is among the oldest mountains in the world. Hike the 2-mile loop – an easy trek for all levels of hikers and families that winds along the rim of the mountain’s cliffs for spectacular views of the sprawling wilderness below. The trail is well-maintained with protective fencing along the outer edge for safety. You’ll also cross the Eastern Continental Divide, so you can check that off your bucket list!
Refuel Any Time of the Day
Fuel your adventures at any of the area’s favorite restaurants and brewery as you continue north to Lake Glenville. In Cashiers Crossroads, you’ll find a variety of casual, low-key options. If you’re looking for a cold beer to cool down, head to Whiteside Brewing Co. and sip on one of the plateau’s best craft beers. Choose Slabtown Pizza for artisan, hand-made pizzas. Zookeeper Bistro is a lunch or brunch favorite, or visit Buck’s Coffee Café for a caffeinated kick. Cornucopia has the best patio in town, and for craft beer and pub fare, stop in at The Ugly Dog Public House. For more dining options in the area, click here.
Lounge on the Lake
With 26 miles of shoreline, seven islands and three gorgeous waterfalls, pristine Lake Glenville is a getaway in and of itself. Rent a pontoon boat from Signal Ridge Marina or boats, kayaks or Sea-Doos from Lakeshore Marina & Sea-Doo Rental, and spend time relaxing, fishing or waterskiing on the largest lake in Jackson County. To see all the area’s recreational and rental services, click here.
Lakeside Stays and Mountain Resorts
From mountain resorts to lakefront vacation rentals and cozy cabins, take your pick of places to stay in Cashiers and Sapphire. A full listing of lodging in Jackson County can be found here.
In Sylva, Dillsboro and Cullowhee…
Continuing to the north along Highway 107 will lead you to the towns of Cullowhee, Sylva and Dillsboro and multiple ways to explore the beautiful Tuckasegee River.
Rush the River Rapids
Action-packed whitewater rafting options range from scenic Class I to heart-pumping Class IV rapids. From the thrill of the Tuckasegee and Chattooga Rivers, to a dip in the crystal-clear waters of the Oconaluftee River or the perfect beginners’ course on the Nantahala River, you simply can’t go wrong with a day on the rapids.
A number of local companies rent rafts, canoes, kayaks and tubes from May 1st – September 30th, including Smoky Mountain River Adventures or Tuckaseegee Outfitters. Choose from a solo or guided trip with a seasoned rafting expert. Click here to see all the rafting companies in Jackson County.
If wading the waters is more your style, head to the West Fork of the Tuckasegee River in Sylva, a prime destination for fly fishing. The river is the crown jewel of the WNC Fly Fishing Trail, which offers 15 access points to rivers and streams.
Hike High Elevation
On land, hardcore hikers are drawn to the challenging terrain of Pinnacle Park in Sylva, with a 7-mile round trip trek that ascends more than 3,000ft in elevation. If you can make it to the top, you’ll encounter sweeping views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
For a more leisurely stroll, the Tuckasegee River Greenway in Sylva offers a one-mile there-and-back trail that starts crossing a large footbridge and winds around a scenic stretch of the Tuckasegee River.
Bring an Elevated Appetite
On Sylva’s Main Street, Guadalupe Café or Lulu’s on Main serve up inventive Modern American and International cuisine, while City Lights Café and The Well House offer traditional salads and sandwiches. No matter where you dine, restaurants source local, quality ingredients, like North Carolina seafood and seasonal produce. Check out all of Jackson County’s restaurants here.
Sip some suds in Sylva’s booming downtown craft beer scene. Innovation Brewing’s name is true to its beers, featuring both traditional brews and a number of seasonal and experimental beers. Newly-opened Balsam Falls Brewing Co.’s plans include 16-20 beers on tap with six staple beers, along with a rotating selection of different styles for all beer drinkers. The husband and wife team make distinct brews by using fruits, herbs and vegetables in their brewing processes, focusing on seasonal recipes with local ingredients.
Rooms with a View
On river banks or mountaintops, stay in cozy bed and breakfasts, rugged campsites or affordable hotels in Sylva or Dillsboro. In all cases, superior mountain, river or lake views come at no extra charge. Explore all of Jackson County’s lodging options here.