Smoky Mountain Day Trips

Plan Smoky Mountain Day Trips to Suit Your Individual Needs

The Smoky Mountains are laced with highways and country roads leading you to great places.  No matter where you're staying, no matter what you want to see or do, Smoky Mountain day trips are easy to plan since everything is just a short country drive away. The mountains are dotted with quaint mountain towns, remote villages, outdoor activities, and indoor events ready to make your Smoky Mountain day trips unforgettable and entertaining.

Are you passing through in search of fun, history, and adventure? The Smoky Mountains provide a world of discovery for day trips or if you're looking to stay a long while. You're sure to feel welcome in the Smoky Mountains. So take a journey with us and find out why people return again and again.

Learn more about local mountain towns you don’t want to miss:

Cherokee, North Carolina

The Cherokee Indians have lived here for thousands of years, so there's no better place to start our journey than the Qualla Boundary, the Cherokee Indiana Reservation.

Cherokee is at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, two extraordinary scenic road trips full of history and beauty.

The Reservation is lined with shops, restaurants, a fantastic casino, and loads of attractions for the kids. But what really attracts visitors is Native American culture.

The famous Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual is home to the country's most unique selection of authentic handmade Native American arts and crafts.

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian uses state-of-the-art technology to tell the ancient story of the Cherokee.

The Oconaluftee Indian Village is an authentic replica of an 18th-century Cherokee village, and "Unto These Hills" is the nation's longest-running outdoor drama.

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Whittier, North Carolina

Continue your fun-filled family adventure through the Smokies with a visit to Whittier, located on the Tuckasegee River.  Enjoy golfing, canoeing, rafting and kayaking on the river and a variety of lodging options.

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Bryson City, North Carolina

Bryson City, the next stop on our trip, is considered the Smokies' basecamp for adventure.  Bryson City has plenty of craft shops, hotels, restaurants, historic B&Bs and the best access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Bryson City is also home to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which offers scenic excursions and a variety of other railroading events throughout the year.

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Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, Bryson City, NC
Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

Nantahala, North Carolina

A trip through our backyard would not be complete without enjoying the thrill of a whitewater adventure in the Nantahala River Gorge, the most popular area in the Great Smoky Mountains for whitewater rafting, canoeing and kayaking.  If it's your first time rafting, you should try a guided trip offered by area whitewater outfitters.

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Fontana Dam, North Carolina

In the extreme western corner of North Carolina is Fontana, home to 480-foot-high Fontana Dam and Fontana Lake.  Fontana Dam is the highest dam in the Eastern United States, and fourth highest in the country.  At Fontana Lake you'll enjoy boating, fishing and other recreational opportunities, along 240 miles of shoreline.  Fontana is also home to Tsali Recreation Area with 39 miles of equestrian and mountain biking trails.  Hikers may use the trails at any time, but horses and mountain bikes are kept separated by alternating trail use.

While you are in Fontana Dam, NC, stay at the Fontana Village Resort.  Fontana Village Resort offers accommodations to suit every taste: cabins, lodge rooms, and campground.  Fill your days with horseback riding, water sports, boating, disc golf, hiking, splashing in the pool and lazy river, restaurants and much more outdoor fun!  Fontana Village Resort is the perfect Smokies getaway for your family, friends, group and business retreats.

Additional Resources:

 Fontana Lake, North Carolina

Fontana Village Resort, Fontana Dam, North Carolina
Fontana Village Resort Lodge

Andrews & Robbinsville, North Carolina

Traveling southwest will bring you to the crossroads community of Andrews, then to the small, unassuming mountain village of Robbinsville, one of the quaintest towns in the Smokies.  From here, you're just a few miles away from some of the oldest trees in America at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.  Before you leave the area, be sure to take a scenic drive on the beautiful Cherohala Skyway or splash around Lake Santeetlah.

Additional Resources:

Hawkesdene House, Andrews, North Carolina
Hawkesdene House is a luxury vacation retreat located in the
mountains of Andrews, North Carolina.

Murphy & Brasstown, North Carolina

A little further southwest is as far west as you go in Western North Carolina.

Brasstown is home to the John C. Campbell Folk School.  Founded in 1925, the school offers more than 750 classes year-round.  Watch artists, craftsmen and eager students study traditional mountain folk art, music and dance.

Additional Information:

John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasstown, North Carolina
John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasstown, North Carolina

Hayesville, North Carolina

Head east for rock hounding or refresh yourself on Lake Chatuge.  The lakeside community of Hayesville, with its Italianate-revival-style courthouse, is a small town that looks much like it did some 70 years ago.  Enjoy horseback riding and shopping for local arts and crafts.  Relax at the Hinton Center, which provides a unique setting for retreats, conferences, workshops, mission opportunities, vacations, individual rest and relaxation, and spiritual renewal.

Additional Information:

Hinton Center located in Hayesville, North Carolina


Franklin, North Carolina

With the possible exception of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Highway 64 near Franklin could be the most scenic route in the South.  Once in Franklin, you'll enjoy the museums, shopping, the kids will enjoy the The Factory, and everyone will love prospecting for precious rubies and sapphires.  Wear work clothes - gem mining can be dirty, but rewarding adventure.

While you're in the area, be sure to visit the Smoky Mountain Host Visitor's Center on Highway 441 South.  The center has books, maps, gifts and other items to make your Smoky Mountain  vacation relaxing and exciting as you wish.

Additional Information:

Fun Factory in the Smokies
The Factory, Franklin, North Carolina

Highlands & Cashiers, North Carolina

These two upscale resort communities feature lush golf courses, fine art and antique galleries, and gourmet restaurants.  Here, in waterfall country, you can see, hear and almost touch cascading waterfalls without leaving your car.  The views are spectacular, and the hospitality is gracious.

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Highlands, North Carolina, Waterfall
Highlands, North Carolina, Waterfall

Cullowhee & Sylva, North Carolina

Nearby, the communities of Sylva and Cullowhee have become the education centers of the North Carolina mountains.  Have lunch in one of Sylva's pleasant cafes and amble along historic Main Street, lined with shops full of treasures.  Stretch your legs and your eyes while climbing the steps of the courthouse... the view is stunning.  

Arrowmont Stable and Cabins will provide a horseback riding adventure for the entire family. Sylva also offers microbrew at Heinzelmannchen Brewery, dining at Lulu's On Main and Evolution Wine Kitchen and wine at Papou's Wine Shop & Wine Bar.

Additional Resources:

Lulu's On Main, Sylva, North Carolina
Nestled in the heart of Main Street in Sylva,
Lulu’s offers a varied and imaginatively prepared menu.

Dillsboro, North Carolina

A short drive from Sylva will bring you to Dillsboro.  This quaint riverside village has a big reputation for its unique gifts, handmade arts and crafts, artist studios and tasty treats.  Stay for the night in a delightful bed and breakfast or historic inn.  There is plenty of whitewater rafting, canoeing, tubing and fishing as well as gem mining, horseback riding and just pretty country roads for great scenic drives.

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Waynesville, North Carolina

Next, head over Balsam Mountain to Waynesville.  This warm mountain town still has brick sidewalks, along with unique shops and galleries, historic landmarks, exciting festivals and events, mountain golf, and some of the area's best accommodations and restaurants.

Waynesville, North Carolina is nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains near the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

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Waynesville, North Carolina
Downtown Waynesville, North Carolina

Maggie Valley, North Carolina

Maggie Valley, situated in North Carolina's stunning Smoky Mountains, is known for its unrivaled location and friendly, small town character. When you visit Maggie Valley, you're sure to discover the meaning of Southern hospitality wherever you go and whatever you do.

Maggie Valley is located near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cherokee, North Carolina in Haywood County. 

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Maggie Valley, North Carolina
Maggie Valley, North Carolina

The Dragon at Deals Gap in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina

The Dragon at Deals Gap in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina

Motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts from around the country come to the Smokies for the great riding climate and the endless ribbon of winding country roads. And a must-ride for any motorcyclist is "The Dragon". Officially known as Hwy 129, The Dragon has 318 curves in just 11 miles. The adventure begins at Deal's Gap near Robbinsville, NC and offers sections like "Little Whip", "The Slide", and "The Gravity Cavity" to name a few. 

Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort offers a motel and camping facilities, plus a restaurant and store, right on the Dragon - everything the Dragon Slayer needs for a great stay.  Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort is located at the south end of the Dragon.

Additional Resources:

FREE Travel Guide

Smoky Mountains of North Carolina Travel Guide

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Smoky Mountain Blueways

NEW! Digital Magazine

This issue of the Smoky Mountains Digital Magazine includes:

  • Must Do
  • Getaway to the Mountains
  • Insider Tips
  • Turn Off Your Stress at Oconaluftee Village
  • and More

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