Photograph by Nick Breedlove
Jackson County’s location in the Southern Appalachians and Nantahala National Forest of North Carolina means it’s home to towering waterfalls and terrain ranging from rivers to mountaintops. Discover a haven of unspoiled natural beauty, perfect for your next road trip as it’s located only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Atlanta. From the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the oldest mountain in the world, here are adventures you can only experience in Jackson County.
Explore the Yosemite of the East
Panthertown Valley is treasured backcountry and features 30 miles of trails. Hike, mountain bike, or backpack among this biologically diverse habitat for wildlife and rare plant species, such as mountain doghobble and tropical fern gametophytes. Because of its outstanding geologic formations, forests, streams, and native plant life, Panthertown is designated as a Blue Ridge National Heritage Area site and as one of North Carolina’s Mountain Treasures by the Wilderness Society. Outdoor enthusiasts encounter 11 cascading waterfalls, trout streams, sheer granite cliffs, and panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Cast a line along the United States’s only fly-fishing trail
Anglers of all skill levels flock to Jackson County to fish the first and only fly-fishing trail in the U.S.—the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail. Made up of more than 70 miles of rivers and streams, the picturesque trail features some of the best trout waters in the crystal-clear streams of the Great Smoky Mountains. The WNC Fly Fishing Trail allows anglers to easily download a map, descriptions, and GPS coordinates for 15 excellent spots for catching brook, brown, and rainbow trout. Book a guide trip with one of Jackson County’s premier anglers: Brookings Anglers, AB’s Fly Fishing, Dreamcatcher Guides, Blue Chip Fly Fishing, Fontana Guides, or the Tuckaseegee Fly Shop.
Look out from the highest point of the Blue Ridge Parkway
Of the 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, more than 70 miles run through Jackson County, including the Richland Balsam overlook. At 6,053 feet, it is the highest point on the parkway. Lace up and hike the 1.5-mile Richland Balsam Trail to the highest peak accessible by hiking trail. Across the expanse of mountains, you’ll see Fraser firs and the colorful ripple of mountain peaks in the Pisgah National Forest.
Hike one of the oldest mountains in the world
Whiteside Mountain is considered by some geologists to be the oldest mountain in the world, estimated at 390 to 460 million years old. Known as the “Jewel of the Appalachians,” the mountain’s name is inspired by the bald, rocky, white-streaked quartz and feldspar on the south-facing rock. All levels of hikers can hike the two-mile Whiteside Mountain Trail, encountering sheer vertical cliffs and scenic views to the east, south, and west.
Take home keepsakes from local artisans
Jackson County’s location in the Western North Carolina mountains makes it a prime spot to find handmade treasures of old-time Appalachian craft traditions. Whether looking for unique gifts, jewelry, pottery, woodworkings, or leather, many regional artisans showcase their craft at local shops and galleries. In Cashiers, you’ll find specialty products, such as handmade fly rods from Brookings Anglers, genuine leather bags from Bee Bags, and laurel wood furniture from Midnight Farms. On the Cherokee Indian Reservation, Qualla Arts and Crafts sells traditional products made by members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Dillsboro is home to craft and pottery-making shops that boast one-of-a-kind pieces you can’t find anywhere else.
Elevate your appetite
Restaurants here make as much of a lasting impression as the towering mountainscapes. The Southern hospitality of Cornucopia in Cashiers begins with its charming front porch. Award-winning chef Adam Hayes is waiting to serve one of his farm-to-table specialties at Canyon Kitchen in Sapphire. One of the most-popular spots in Sylva is Lulu’s on Main. Chef Devin McCardle helms the kitchen, and his French culinary training influences the menu. Guadalupe Café offers Caribbean-inspired fusion. The county’s newest restaurant, the Library, offers both an artistic vibe not only in the food, but in the eclectic décor. Located in a historic library, this restaurant and Chef Johannes Klapdohr’s dishes will have your taste buds begging for more.
Sylva also boasts three breweries within one mile of each other, creating the Jackson County Ale Trail. Innovation Brewing serves up unique flavors and blends of almost three dozen beers. Sneak E. Squirrel offers nine beers on tap and an option to create hop infusions using a French Press. Balsam Falls Brewing is newest to the scene featuring 16 to 20 brews on tap with a focus on seasonal pints based on local ingredients.
Jackson County’s eight towns are home to hotels, quaint cabins and cottages, vacation rentals, and mountain resorts. Plan your next getaway by visiting www.DiscoverJacksonNC.com.