Heads Up: New Parking Fee at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A new “Park It Forward”  program has been implemented for visitors wishing to park within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP). As of March 1, 2023, parking tags are being sold for $5 per day, $15 per week, or $40 per year per car.

Passes are for sale online at Recreation.gov or Smokiesinformation.org for either shipment or printing. They can also be purchased at the Automated Fee Machines (AFM) in the park’s parking lots, or at various businesses in nearby communities.

Parking tags are not location specific and are valid for only one vehicle with a matching license plate number. Your daily and weekly parking pass must be placed on the lower passenger-side dashboard and your annual tag must be displayed on the lower passenger-side windshield.

There are multiple ways to get your parking pass, including at physical locations and online.

Are There Any Parking Fee Exemptions?

Yes! Visitors enjoying a scenic drive through the park or those parking for fewer than 15 minutes do not need a parking pass.

Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and descendants of the original mountain homesteaders receive special consideration that includes no parking fees under certain circumstances. For more information on these special permits, please click Special Use Permit system.

Visitors with handicap plates or placards also are exempt from parking fees.

Front-country campers do not need a tag to park at their campsite unless they exceed the number of permitted vehicles at their site.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park participates in the National Parks Service’s fee-free days. Visitors do not need to display a parking tag on fee free days.

School groups visiting the park for educational or scientific purposes and permitted researchers while engaged in their permitted research activities may apply for a fee-waived parking permit by contacting grsm_fee_program@nps.gov.

Visitors with the America is Beautiful program’s Access Pass and Senior Pass receive a 50% discount on parking.

The Benefits

Most importantly, the monies raised through this new parking fee will remain in this 88-year-old park. The GSMNP Service is focusing on 2 priorities. The first is the maintenance of this national treasure. Management is increasing habitat rehabilitation for its denizens, protecting water quality, and increasing its educational programs.

The Park Service is responsible for the maintenance of 850 miles of trails and 384 miles of roadway in this 500,000-acre wilderness. In addition, they operate 27 different wastewater systems within the park and provide custodial services, trash removal, and emergency response.

Emergency response and law enforcement is an equally high priority. Park Rangers are the first responders to emergencies, provide traditional guidance service, and ensure compliance of park rules. They will also be the ones enforcing the new parking fees, but initially that means more education than citations while visitors are adjusting to the new Park It Forward policy.

Over the last 10 years, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park has seen a 57% increase in visitors. It’s expected that these parking rates will underwrite the cost to meet the growing needs of its visitors.

Increases to Other Park Fees

In addition to new parking fees, other park rates are being raised nominally. These include backcountry sites, campgrounds, picnic pavilions, daily-use cabins, groups camps, and horse camps. The fee for thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail has also been raised. The increases vary by location, amenities, and size, so please click here for the specifics on each.

Farm to Fork in the Smokies

The Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina are known for their outdoor adventures; vibrant arts and crafts; and exceptional food scene. What makes for this outstanding food and drink landscape is readily available and locally grown and sourced food products.

John C Campbell Folk School students
Learn organic growing techniques at John C. Campbell Folk School.


The Fork-to-Table movement, also known as Farm-to-Table, means that the food is obtained directly from the source without going through a store or distributor. The producers tend to grow food that is sustainable, organic, and environmentally friendly. Here are some of our favorite Farm-to-Fork producers in the NC Great Smoky Mountains.

honey dripping from a stick

Wehrloom Honey and Meadery

See what all the buzz is about at Wehrloom Honey and Meadery in Robbinsville. The Wehrs Family has mastered the delicate balance of producing all-natural, delicious honey and mead while benefiting the environment and providing a happy home to their bees.

The Wherloom beehives house about 300 colonies of bees to derive the purest honey. Their bees forage on land that is 2/3 national forest, deep in the Great Smoky Mountains. Their honey and mead take on the clean, fragrant flavors from the wild nectar sources of the wilderness.

Of utmost importance to Wehrloom Honey is the wellbeing of their bees. They strive to keep the bees living as close as possible to their natural state. Visitors can take a tour of the farm and observe the bees as they produce their delicious creation.

You can purchase honey and other products like candles, tea, and skincare merchandise at their farm store or through their website at Wehrloom Honey and Meadery. We highly recommend you plan a special trip to their Robbinsville Meadery or their new taproom in Asheville! All of their mead (a fermented beverage that is a cross between beer and wine) is made with their locally produced “Appalachian Mountain” honey and is gluten free.

They also supply local watering holes like Nantahala Brewing Company in Nantahala, Parson’s Pub in Murphy, Fontana Village in Fontana, and Currahee Brewing in Franklin.

Read more about Wehrloom Honey and Meadery here.

trout in a stream

Sunburst Trout Farm

Sunburst Trout Farm in Waynesville is a model of sustainability for fish farms everywhere. Their trout is grown exclusively in the pristine waters of the Shining Rock wilderness in the Pisgah National Forest. They use no hormones or antibiotics in raising their fish, and they don’t feed them animal byproducts. They also use a certified lab to test for pesticides, mercury, or PCBs (man-made organic chemicals.) What this means is that you are consuming trout that is completely natural and healthy for you.

The farm is also very conscientious about protecting the environment. To that end, their day-to-day operational protocols include 100% utilization of the product and composting.

Over 3 generations and 70 years, Sunburst Trout Farm has remained a family business that prides itself on supplying the freshest possible trout to you, the consumer. They harvest their fish up to 3 times a week and cut to order to ensure the highest quality of their product. Many of our favorite local restaurants serve Sunburst Trout products. Try their trout at Cornucopia in Cashiers, Frogs Leap Public House in Waynesville, and Old Edwards Inn in Highlands. You can also order directly from the company’s website.

apple orchard in the smokies

KT’s Orchard and Apiary

KT’s Orchard and Apiary in Canton is another shining example of a successful Farm-to-Fork business in the Smokies. They are a woman- and family-owned orchard growing apples, peaches, nectarines, pears, plums, black raspberries, and blackberries. They also have a full line of artisanal products that include dried fruits, juice, vinegar, jams, and preserves. In addition, they produce their own honey and specialty products like beeswax and salves.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has certified them as a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) enterprise. To achieve this rating, KT’s Orchard and Apiary uses voluntary audits to verify that their fruits and vegetables are “produced, packed, handled, and stored to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards.”

Of course their U-Pick option means you are getting the freshest fruits and berries available when you pick them off the trees and bushes yourself!

You can also enjoy their products at the Swag in Waynesville, the Smoky Park Supper Club in Asheville, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co Taproom and Restaurant in Mills River. And the students and staff in the Haywood County School System are fortunate to have KT’s Orchard and Apiary as a direct provider for their school meals.

Ferncrest winery in the nc smoky mountains

FernCrest Winery

Jan and Kurt Olson, owners of Ferncrest Winery, planted their own small vineyard in 2010. They focused on three varietals they knew would thrive in the Smoky-Mountain climate: Chardonel, Vidal Blanc and Cynthiana. They planted their grapes on a steep slope in the Snowbird Mountains in Cherokee County. By 2013, their wines were winning awards.

Kurt’s fascination with ferns led to the naming of the winery and all of its wines. They like to say that, like ferns, their winery harnesses the power of the sun.

All of Ferncrest’s wines are made exclusively using grapes from their own vineyard, as well as the fruit from their local partners in North Georgia and North Carolina. They are members of the NC GreenTravel Initiative, which promotes environmentally sustainable tourism. They are also endorsed by “Got to Be NC,” an initiative from the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that “puts local ingredients and products on store shelves, dining tables and restaurant menus throughout the community.”

They also offer a delightful menu with cheeses from local cheese producers, Yellow Branch Creamery, and local jam producers, Ma’am’s Hot Jam.

Visit their tasting room in Andrews to see why going local makes for some of the best food and wines available.

Explorer’s Guide to Scaly Mountain

Deep in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains lies a hidden gem that is slowly but surely being discovered by nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Scaly Mountain in the Highlands of Western North Carolina has it all, and it is quickly becoming a national vacation destination. Here are the can’t-miss experiences waiting there for you.

Scaly Mountain in the Smoky Mountains of NC

High-flying Adventures

Highlands Aerial Park

This family adventure park is perched 3,400 feet in the air atop High Holly Mountain. Being an ecologically inspired attraction, it naturally focuses on the surrounding lush forest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Expect to find creeks, waterfalls, peaks, knolls, and deep gorges from your aerial view.

But this is no laid-back nature tour! They will have you flying through the air on one (or all) of 8 ziplines, soaring 250 feet off the ground over the course of 1,550 feet. The Full Mountain Zipline Tour takes about 1 ½ to 2 hours to complete, but you can opt for other packages with fewer ziplines. Those who may not love heights will be comforted by the knowledgeable guides who help you along the way.

For a full day of adventure, you can add on various other experiences, like the Giant Mountain Swing, a Duo Tree Climb, or a slow-paced, guide-driven Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV) tour. Explore more natural beauty along the Free Hidden Falls Nature Trail to High Holly Creek, featuring a suspended bridge, observation platform, and a hidden waterfall.

people crossing a cable bridge at highland aerial park in scale mountain nc

More heart-stopping adventure is a just short distance away at Highlands Outpost, formerly the Scaly Mountain Outdoor Center. Grab a tube and fly down the mountain, rent skates to glide across the outdoor ice rink, or don a pair of skis and swish your way down the slopes. No worries, beginners, you can practice for as long as you’d like on the bunny hill!

But the real highlight of Highlands Outpost is The Screamer, the longest mountain coaster in North Carolina. The 3,800-foot outdoor course takes you careening down the mountain, powered only by gravity. Riders are challenged by 360-degree turns, all while soaking in the beautiful scenery of the Great Smoky Mountains. But be warned, the name “The Screamer” is well deserved!

the screamer alpine coaster at highlands outpost in scaly mountain nc


Getting Back to Nature

But for many, adventure comes in the form of exploring these beautiful mountains on foot or mountain bike. For you, we have 2 recommendations that will both challenge and inspire you.

Scaly Mountain Trail

Explore a 3.7-mile, out-and-back trail that takes about 2 ¼ hours to complete. It is a moderately challenging trek, but hikers are rewarded with outstanding views from the summit. In addition to hiking, this trail is ideal for birding and rock climbing for those with experience.

Insider Tip: Some of the Scaly Mountain Trail includes hiking in a creek bed, so be prepared with waterproof shoes.

Middle Creek Falls Loop

This is a great choice for hikers looking for a truly natural experience. While only 1.1 miles long, this loop trail isn’t as pristine as some other trails. It tends to be uneven and rocky, and bushes and brambles encroach upon the trail frequently. The slope can be steep and slippery, and sometimes the marked path is difficult to follow.

However, because of this, chances are good you’ll have this path all to yourself as you interact with the wild. At the end, you’ll be treated to a breathtaking waterfall and wading pool, a perfect place to reflect upon how the most difficult challenges often lead to the greatest reward.

People sitting by the fire looking out at the mountain views at Fire Mountain Inns, Cabins, and Treehouses in Scaly Mountain.


Cool Digs and Good Eats

A trip to someplace as cool as Scaly Mountain deserves an equally cool place to rest and replenish. The Fire Mountain Inns, Cabins, and Treehouses answers that call brilliantly and then some! Book a room at the inn, your own luxurious private cabin, or – our fave – an intimate treehouse at the highest point of Fire Mountain, over 4,000 feet up. While it boasts a 3-star rating, Fire Mountain maintains the feel of a chic mountain resort totally in balance with nature.

Relax at the Air Spa or lounge on a viewing deck levitating out over infinity pools with cascading waterfalls and fire features. You have several options for dining, including the ultra-modern Fire and Water restaurant or the more relaxed, industrial-influenced Kitchen Café. They produce their own produce onsite and bake their breads in their own kitchens, and they rely on nearby neighbors for their dairy and meat products.


Featured Image: “Scaly Mountain” by Dreaming in the deep south is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Plan A Romantic Date In The Smokies

Many places can be considered romantic destinations, but few of them compare to the adventure and allure of the NC Great Smoky Mountains. Outdoor hot tubs, couple’s massages, candlelit dinners, and sweets for your sweet all add up to one very romantic getaway.

Couple looking at Cullasaja Falls' upper section in the NC Smoky Mountains


Take Your Love To New Heights

Start your day with an exhilarating hike to the Wesser Bald Fire Tower near Franklin. It’s a moderate, 2.8-mile, out-and-back hike along the iconic Appalachian Trail. The trek takes you through an especially scenic and beautiful hardwood forest on your way to the historic metal fire tower with incredible 360-degree views. They added a wooden platform around the lookout, creating one of the most romantic spots imaginable for a picnic. In fact, this spot is the perfect place for a memorable proposal!

Could drinking wine at On The Verandah in Highlands NC
On The Verandah in Highlands NC

The Way To His Heart is Though His Stomach

For a special dinner, look no farther than On The Verandah in Highlands, NC. Delight your sweetheart with a bottle of sparkling Veuve Clicquot to toast your love. Then order both the Spicy Thai Coconut Shrimp in Coconut Curry with Basmati Rice and the Filet Mignon Au Poivre with Three-Pepper Brandy Cream and share to create your own couple’s version of surf and turf.

Believe it or not, we also consider eating barbeque an exceptionally romantic experience. There’s just something about licking all of that sweet and spicy goodness from your fingers and the corners of your mouth. Fat Buddies Ribs and BBQ has locations in both Franklin and Waynesville, and a NC barbeque sauce that you’ll be talking about for years to come. Don’t miss the BBQ Beef Platter for tender, wood-smoked deliciousness.

After dinner, feed your craving for something sweet at Jack the Dipper in Waynesville, Sylva, and Franklin. They are best known for their warm waffle cones made to order and their hand-dipped ice cream. For a quintessential romantic moment, order a milkshake with 2 straws!

woman getting massaged

Pamper Yourself

After an almost-3-hour hike and all those stairs at the Wesser Bald Fire Tower, you’ll be ready for a massage! Book a romantic couple’s massage at the Mandara Spa at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort. They offer 60-, 75-, and 90-minute sessions. Then head to Myst Bar, a vibrant, sprawling circular bar in the middle of Harrah’s, for a handcrafted cocktail for 2.

Or, relax and breathe at the Waynesville Salt Room. Book your Halotherapy (salt therapy) in a micro-environment that mimics the Polish salt caves. Expect to feel energized and refreshed after your visit. Please note that you cannot book an appointment for 2 online; they ask that couples call the front desk directly.

For a most memorable experience, Shoji Spa in Asheville offers traditional Japanese bathing and soaking in outdoor salt tubs. You and your honey will find a peaceful retreat in your own private setting overlooking the lush forest that defines the NC Great Smoky Mountains.


Smoky Mountain Arts and Eats Itinerary

Beyond the stunning views of the Smoky Mountains, you’ll find western North Carolina has an incredible cultural arts scene. Combine that with delicious farm-to-fork dining options and you’ve got yourself the makings for a perfect extended weekend vacation. Need some inspiration on what to do? Here’s a three-day itinerary to help guide you during your trip to the Smokies.

Museum of Cherokee Indian group photo
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian.

Day 1 – Cherokee

You’ll want to start your trip in the heart of Native American arts and food. Head over to the Oconaluftee Indian Village to watch skilled artisans making traditional arts and wares. Then explore the neighboring Museum of the Cherokee Indian to see original artifacts. The museum store has some fantastic collectibles crafted by modern-day Cherokee.

Grab lunch at Native Brews Tap and Grill. The owner is a granddaughter of one of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians’ last recorded medicine men. Order the Warrior Burger topped with a fried green tomato with a side of Sasquatch Fries, and wash it down with a cold Flaming Arrow IPA.

native brews tap and grill in cherokee
Native Brews Tap and Grill

After lunch, visit Traditional Hands Native American Jewelry & Art Gallery for high-quality sterling silver jewelry, crafts, and carvings. 

Then, after an afternoon pick-me-up of espresso and hand-dipped chocolate at Heavenly Fudge Depot, head over to the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, showcasing traditional arts and crafts of over 250 members. Don’t miss its Permanent Collections Gallery!

For dinner, do as the locals do and eat at Paul’s Family Restaurant. You must try the Indian Tacos, made with “fry bread (bread dough rolled and deep fried), or a traditional Native American protein, like a buffalo ribeye or pheasant breast.

Joe Waldroup Woodworks in Hayesville

Day 2 – Brasstown and Hayesville

Today, you’ll embark upon Blue Ridge Craft Trails, an initiative of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. You can design your own itinerary to visit area artists and their studios on this website, but we have a few favorites of our own.

The first itinerary is the Far West Mountains: Brasstown and John C. Campbell Folk School. The trail begins at the folk school, where the public is invited into the school’s Craft Shop for examples of the best of mountain crafts.

Then head to the Silva Gallery featuring fiber and clay pieces and Pine Needles and Things, showcasing intricate pine-needle basketry. For a fun, interactive experience, build your own “face mug” at Smoke in the Mountains.

For some of the tastiest and most interesting eating in the area, look no further than Carlotta’s in neighboring Hayesville for lunch. Order an authentic New Orleans po-boy; it’s divine!

amazing assortment of sandwiches from Carlotta's in Hayesville nc
Carlotta’s in Hayesville, NC

Hayesville has its own talented artist community that can be followed by following the Blue Ridge Craft Trails itinerary for Far West Mountains: Hayesville. Joe Waldroup Wood Turning and Sculpting is the place to find beautiful, intricate wooden bowls – perfect for a unique, hand-crafted souvenir.

The highlight of this day will be spending an hour or so at Goldhagen Art Glass Studio. This is where David Goldenhagen, a masterful glassblower, showcases his gorgeous sculptural and functional pieces for purchase.

Dinner is an easy choice with The Copper Door offering fine dining in a warm atmosphere, right down to a cozy fireplace. Pair an aged steak or fresh seafood with a selection from the carefully cultivated wine list.

WNC Pottery Festival in Sylva, NC
WNC Pottery Festival in Sylva, NC. Photo courtesy of Nick Breedlove, Jackson County TDA

Day 3 – Cashiers, Cullowhee, Dillsboro, and Sylva

On your final day, we recommend the Blue Ridge Craft Trails itinerary for Far West: Discover craft and more in the mountain towns of Jackson County. Because Jackson County is composed of several small towns very close together, this trail permits you to visit many quaint towns together.

Fuel up for your day with a hearty breakfast from City Lights Cafe in Sylva. Start with a Giddy Up medium-roast (bottomless!) drip coffee. Then dig into the Arriba Breakfast Burrito made with eggs, black beans, salsa, and guacamole. If you miss breakfast, they are also open for lunch!

In Cashiers, visit Mountain Mist Gallery showcasing paintings and fine photography from regional artists. The exceptional Wofford Sculpture Studio, located in a 2000-square-foot barn, hosts a gallery, a mold shop, and examples of past creations.

In nearby Cullowhee, visit the Fine Art Museum at Western Carolina University, featuring 4 galleries brimming with 2000 modern and contemporary works of art. For an in-depth exploration of an authentic blacksmith’s forge in action, look no further than Rogers Metals Studios.

Just around the corner in Dillsboro, spend an hour or two at Dogwood Crafters, displaying old-time Appalachian craft traditions, and at Tunnel Mountain Crafts “where a kaleidoscope of arts and crafts collide.”

In Sylva, visit Gallery 1 to personally meet the local talent while perusing the gallery. Barkwood Studio is also a unique place to see artist Gayle Woody’s ceramic tiles, printmaking, and bookmaking.

Meal at Lula's on Main in Sylva NC
Lula’s on Main in Sylva, NC. Photo courtesy Jackson County TDA


After a long day of exploring, relax with an outstanding meal at Lulu’s on Main. Mick’s Meatloaf Patty Melt with caramelized onions, 1000-island dressing, and Swiss cheese on rye is a local legend. Vegetarians will love the Chipwich, with marinated tofu or tempeh, sauteed peppers and onions, house-made kimchi, and Szechuan sauce.

IMPORTANT – Some galleries and workshops are only open by appointment, so be sure to contact them in advance.

Wellness and Mindfulness Retreats in the Smokies

The mountains of Western North Carolina have long been a destination for those looking to improve their health and wellness. Ever since the days when Tuberculosis was ravaging the nation, the fresh mountain air was seen as a way to help heal and rejuvenate the body. Today, the Smoky Mountains still call to those looking to reconnect with the natural world and take time out for themselves. Enhance your physical and mental well being with these top wellness experiences around the mountains.

person doing yoga in the smokies

Get Bendy on a Mountain

For an immersive experience, the Hinton Center in Hayesville, NC is a retreat where guests can “retreat, reflect, and renew.” In addition to yoga classes, they specialize in massage therapy, a memory garden for refection, and a meditative labyrinth. They also offer unparalleled views of Lake Chatuge, excellent on-site dining options, and accommodations ranging from  cabins to RV sites.

Studio 58 in Murphy, NC is known for their kind and caring yoga teachers who are willing to go at your pace. They also specialize in therapeutic massage and acupuncture.

We also love Sylva Yoga for its small and personal size. The owner has been teaching yoga since 2000 and is trained in Lyengar Yoga, Anusara Yoga, and Subtle Yoga.

Sunrise Yoga Studio, on the square in historic downtown Hayesville, NC, provides a soothing and relaxing yoga experience. Their certified teachers are well-versed in a variety of yoga practices and styles and welcoming to all.


Feel the Ahhhhs

shoji spa in ashevilleHarrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort’s Mandara Spa specializes in curated restorative journeys. Discover a range of relaxing and rejuvenating treatments from Fire-and-Ice Massages, bathing rituals, signature facials, and sound-wave therapy.

The Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands is a luxury resort offering a world-class spa. They feature “wellness, rejuvenation and natural beauty enhancement using the finest natural ingredients, sourced from around the world and our own gardens.” Find unparalleled relaxation in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Therapeutic Massage & Wellness Spa in Waynesville prides itself for its services that extend beyond basic massages. They are experts at relieving short-term aches and pains (sometimes crucial during a very active and strenuous adventure vacation.) They also provide healing services in body detoxification, Myofascial mobility, lymphatic drainage, craniosacral therapy, cupping techniques, and Reiki Energy Healing. They also have full-service skincare.

Don’t miss the unique experience of Waynesville Salt Room, a state-of-the-art facility. They deliver the highest quality of Halotherapy (salt therapy) to enhance your relaxation and improve skin conditions and breathing ailments.

If you don’t have a lot of time to fit it all into your vacation, consider a quick chair massage from Mountain Spirit Wellness in Waynesville, NC. They also offer deep-tissue massage and private yoga and Pilates classes if time is not an issue.

For a unique take on massage, try Carole Lilly Massage in Sylva. They offer Myofascial Release Therapy that utilizes gentle, sustained pressure to relieve chronic pain and immobility as well as other approaches. They also charge a flat rate for a treatment and not by the hour, so your massage therapist can take the time needed to get you feeling better.

Also offering a spa, yoga classes, and a seasonal outdoor pool, Lakeview at Fontana Soaking Cabana Resort in Bryson City is the ideal place to just soak your pains and troubles away in a treetop cabana soaking tub.

In Hot Springs, N.C. you can soak in natural hot mineral waters discovered long ago by the Cherokee. These springs provide soothing relief, especially for thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail. The A.T. passes directly through the town center.

At Shoji Spa in Asheville, you can also enjoy traditional Japanese bathing and soaking in completely private outdoor salt tubs that overlook the forest surrounding the Blue Ridge Parkway. Massages and spa showers are also featured.

hiker on ledge in the nc smoky mountains

Communing with Nature

Of course, spending time in the natural world is a wonderful and effective way to rest your body, mind, and soul. The Great Smoky Mountains of NC offer the best nature has to offer with hiking trails, mountain biking, water activities, rafting, and exploring.

With hundreds of hiking trails to explore, visitors can choose to spend time on the paths with many fellow travelers or find exclusive spots to be alone with nature. The less-visited  Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest features an extraordinary hike through colossal Yellow Poplars, towering at 100 feet tall and 20 feet around. Over 100 other species of trees, including old-growth hardwood varieties, populate this forest, enhancing your perspective of the important things in life.

We also love the treks to some of the highest peaks in the area with views for miles, including Clingman’s Dome, Waterrock Knob, and Black Balsam Knob. For a comprehensive guide to the best hiking in the NC Great Smoky Mountains, click here.

For an inclusive guide to outdoor adventures in hiking, mountain biking, rafting, and tubing, visit  Nantahala Outdoor Adventure Center to plan your vacation today.

healthy dining options in the smokies

Healthful and Flavorful Dining

Because the eateries of the NC Great Smoky Mountains focus so much on artisanal, farm-to-table, and healthful meal options, visitors are sure to find the dining options perfect for them.

Sassy Sunflowers Bakery & Café in Cherokee, NC is locally known for its delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches. The “Veggie on Wheatberry Bread’ is fresh and you won’t miss the meat!

Gracious Plates on Main in Franklin is another spot for perfect, fresh and delectable meals. They pride themselves on providing high-quality food, grown and raised by local farmers and vendors, to deliver a true farm-to-fork experience.

One of our favorite all-time restaurants is Lulu’s on Main in Sylva. While they offer options to please everyone, such as their Mick’s Meatloaf Patty Melt, they also cater to those who are more health conscious. You won’t feel like you’re eating healthfully with their Mediterranean Pita with provolone, kalamata olives, pepperoncini, and lemon-oil mozzarella or their herb-crusted spring mix with grilled gulf shrimp with creole remoulade mushrooms and goat cheese.

Experience all the best that feeds your best body, health, and mind in the NC Great Smoky Mountains. Plan your vacation today!

John C. Campbell Folk School Offers Folk Craft Immersion

Imagine yourself immersed in an art school experience that specializes in the study of more than 50 forms of historic folk craft. Picture a place with expert instructors who teach in a small-classroom setting with joy and encouragement. Now visualize a school where you can spend either a full week or just a weekend engaged in learning a skill that has always fascinated you. You have just found the iconic John C. Campbell Folk School in Western North Carolina.

John C Campbell Folk School sign

Located in the Historic District of beautiful Brasstown, NC, the folk school’s grounds span 270 peaceful and remote acres. Students find inspiration exploring the winding paths, scenic pastures, and Little Brasstown Creek nestled against a backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains.

The founders of the John C. Campbell Folk School were inspired by the 19th century Danish folk school model, which gave farmers a means for personal and social transformation. Those roots gave rise to this celebration of Appalachian culture and all of its various forms of art. Today, the school is dedicated to sharing this heritage and teaching these specialized crafts to the world.

John C Campbell Folk School student

Your widely varied choice of studies showcases the expansive artistic works of the mountain people of Western North Carolina. The school offers over 800 classes year-round in subjects that include weaving, pottery, writing, music, dance, woodworking, jewelry-making, photography, dance, cooking, and woodworking. Learn the original crafts from local experts, including artists in residence. In 2023, these revolving artists bring their artistry in basketry, beading, thread art, needlework, storytelling, and quilting to the school.

The learning atmosphere encourages your creativity and joy without judgment or competition. Small classes promote the spirit of support and encouragement. So, whether you are a beginner trying a new skill or an artist looking to hone your craft, you have a welcoming place here.

John C Campbell Folk School students

Students are invited to stay on campus in one of many options for student housing. Choose from rooms in a charming 1930’s building, like Hill House, contemporary housing, like Energy-Star-certified Field House, and dormitories – all air conditioned and in walking distance to your studios. Wholesome and delicious meals and linens are included in your housing fee.

Local residents of Cherokee, Clay, Macon, Swain, and Graham Counties in NC; Fannin, Towns, and Union Counties in GA, and Polk County in TN qualify for a 25% discount off tuition. All teachers and young adults receive a 25% discount to support their learning.

John C Campbell Folk School dancing

You don’t have to attend classes at the school to experience their impressive arts. The Craft Shop, a founding member of the prestigious Southern Highland Craft Guild, is open to visitors 7 days a week. The store sells high-quality, handcrafted goods representing over 300 local and regional artists. Make sure you leave enough time to learn about the school’s intriguing past in the History Center, where you can also peruse the works of legendary and contemporary artists.

They say to fully understand and appreciate the area you’re visiting; you need to engage in the people’s cultural identity. The John C. Campbell Folk School is the ideal place to immerse yourself in the history and lore of the NC Great Smoky Mountains. You will come away with a deep appreciation for the remarkable heritage, skill, and proud uniqueness of these talented mountain folk.

Exploring the Highest Peaks in the Smokies

The NC Great Smoky Mountains boast some of the highest peaks on the eastern seaboard. Some of them provide long-range views, including across several states. Others have distinct features that make for an exceptional and unique visit. Here are some of our favorite highest peaks in the area and what you can expect to find.

clingmans dome
By Dsdugan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41178439

Clingman’s Dome

Clingmans Dome is one of the most iconic mountain peaks in the Smokies. Sitting at an elevation of 6,643 feet, it is the highest point in the entire Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On a clear day, visitors to the observation tower can see 7 states.

Located in Swain County, less than 10 miles from historic Bryson City and only 7 miles west of Newfound Gap, Clingmans Dome holds another honor. It is also the highest point on the 2,144-mile Appalachian Trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine.

There is a clean and convenient Park Visitor Center with restrooms at the Clingmans Dome parking area. From the lot, visitors can hike the steep, half-mile trail to the observation tower. The path is too steep to be wheelchair accessible, and neither bikes nor pets are permitted on it.

At the summit stands the spectacular 54-foot-high observation deck that seems to be dangling out into open space. From this vantage point, sightseers are treated to 360-degree views across 100 miles of forests, rivers, and other nearby mountains.

The road to Clingmans Dome is closed from December 1 to April 1, and, as of 2023, there is a $5/day fee if you are parked in the lot for more than 15 minutes. The temperature is considerably cooler at the summit, so bring a jacket even in the summer months.

Andrews Bald

Another spectacular view can be found at Andrews Bald. The trailhead is conveniently located in the Clingmans Dome parking area, and many hikers explore both vantage points on the same day.

The 1.8-mile Forney Ridge Trail descends to Andrews Bald, a high-elevation grassy knob named for a cattle herder who brought his livestock there to feed in the 1840s. With no trees to hinder your view, you can enjoy the expansive view from a beautiful meadow of wildflowers.

A sweeping view from Newfound Gap Road
Photo Courtesy Swain County TDA / Chamber of Commerce.

Black Balsam Knob

Rising to a majestic elevation of 6,214 feet, Black Balsam Knob easily makes our list of the highest peaks with the most stunning views. Black Balsam Knob in Haywood County near Waynesville can be accessed at milepost 420.2 on the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway.

Its knob is the second highest mountain in the Great Balsam Mountains. Like Andrews Bald, Black Balsam Knob is a treeless grassy bald with multiple hiking trails offering dramatic vistas.

Huckleberry Knob

Featuring a grassy meadow summit set to a backdrop of birdsongs and wildlife calls, Huckleberry Knob is the highest peak in the Unicoi Mountains. Like the Great Smoky Mountains, the Unicoi are a subset of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Located in Robbinsville, NC in Graham County, the Huckleberry Knob Trail leads from the Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway to the bald via an easy 1.7-mile out-and-back trail. The total hike can be completed in about 50 minutes.

Wayah Bald Tower

Located near Franklin, the Wayah Bald Tower, built in 1927 as a fire lookout, is a unique, historic destination that you won’t want to miss! The decommissioned tower is on the well-traveled Bartram Trail, also serving as a popular photo opportunity on the Appalachian Trail.

Sitting atop the Wayah Bald at 5,342 feet in elevation, the old-stone structure offers some of the most scenic views in the Smoky Mountains. And regardless of where you are staying in the Great Smoky Mountains, the Wayah Bald Tower is within an easy drive. Just 40 minutes from Franklin, an hour and 20 minutes southwest of Bryson City, and an hour and 20 minutes northwest of Highlands, the tower is a convenient day trip offering unparalleled views as your reward.

Insider Tip: The Wayah Bald Tower can be reached with a short walk from the parking lot, making it a perfect destination for all ages and activity levels.

wayah bald tower

Mount Mitchell

Although just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains, Mount Mitchell deserves more than an honorable mention on this list. Located in nearby Yancy County, this towering peak, reaching 6,684 feet above sea level, is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi. From the summit, visitors can take in a 360-degree view of this striking landscape while enjoying the heady scent of the surrounding spruce forest.

Come reach new heights with us in the glorious westernmost part of North Carolina!

Smoky Mountain Winter Adventures

One of our favorite times to visit the NC Great Smoky Mountains is in winter! Explore outdoor sports and adventure in the beautiful snowy landscape, hike the trails without the crowds, and relax by a cozy fire in a resort or secluded cabin. Visitors will find plenty of fun activities all season long – both outdoor and indoor. Here are our top choices for wintertime fun in the mountains.

Soco Falls in Maggie Valley
Soco Falls in Maggie Valley

Winter Hikes in the Smoky Mountains

For the outdoor enthusiasts, the good news is that the winters can be relatively mild and the main roads remain passable most all of the time. That means you can access trailheads and get stunning and unobstructed winter views. Here are some of our favorites.

• Rough Fork Trail begins with a relatively flat, easy 2-mile hike in Cataloochee Valley, home to the famous Smoky Mountain elk herd that has been reintroduced successfully. The historic Woody House, built by early settlers about 150 years ago, sits at the 1-mile mark.

Max Patch offers an elevated beautiful view from every angle along its 2.4-mile loop. Make sure to pack proper attire and have a four-wheel drive vehicle if there has been a snowfall.

Lake Junaluska offers fantastic views with a flatter trail. Choose from a 2.3 or 3.8-mile loop along the lake and enjoy the view from the many benches along the trail. This trail is friendly to strollers, wheelchairs, and scooters.

Whiteside Mountain offers panoramic views along a 2-mile loop in Nantahala Forest National Park near Cashiers.

Frozen Waterfall Adventures

Frozen Waterfall in the mountains
During the coldest months, waterfalls can become frozen works of art.

During the coldest months, waterfalls can become frozen works of art. Hiking through a winter forest is a serene experience. There’s little noise except for the occasional wildlife scurrying about. Even the roar of the waterfalls can fall silently if it’s cold enough to freeze over. Here are our favorite winter cascades.

Rainbow Falls, named for the rainbow you can sometimes spot in the mist, stands at a majestic 150 feet at the end of a 1.5-mile trail. Getting there takes less time, as it is mostly downhill, but you still have to hike your way back out.

Deep Creek Falls, only 3 miles from downtown Bryson City, gives you the option of a 2.7-mile or 5-mile loop that takes you by 3 stunning waterfalls. The area is at a low enough elevation that it sees little snow, so it’s a good option for a winter-wonderland hike.

Soco Falls on the edge of the Cherokee Indian Reservation is a double waterfall that offers many magnificent views and is especially spectacular in the winter months.

Mingo Falls offers a challenging step hike (161 steps to be exact) to view the cascades down 200 ft. along a multitude of boulders.

Insider Tip: Exercise extreme caution when exploring waterfalls, especially in the winter. The rocks are icy so stay at the foot of the falls. Never attempt to climb to the top.

Click here for additional waterfalls to explore this winter.

Skiing and Tubing

For the snowbirds out there, the NC Great Smoky Mountains offer skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and tubing options for the whole family.

Highlands Outpost in Scaly Mountain is a great place to experience multiple winter activities all in one place. They have skiing for all ages, including a bunny slope for beginners, ice-skating, and tubing. Enjoy hot chocolate in the café after a day of fun.

Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley offers 18 slopes for a variety of levels, exceptional views, and fun for the whole family. With elevations of 5,400 feet and the temperature just right, this haven for ski lovers stays open longer than most regional ski resorts.

Sapphire Valley Ski Area boasts a 1,600-foot main run with a vertical drop of 200 feet! Enjoy the state-of-the-art quad-lift, a learning slope, and a tube park with multiple lanes. Those who don’t want to partake will love to sit by the warm fire at the base Fire Pit and Park.

Cross Country skiers looking to create their own adventure may want to check out the 7-mile road leading to Clingman’s Dome. The road is closed to motor vehicles from December 1 to March 31, so if snow conditions are right, this gorgeous spot is perfect for your serene expedition.

Cozy Indoors Retreats

The outdoors can be amazing during the winter months, but for those who want to stay warm and cozy the Great Smoky Mountains offers plenty of indoor options.

Test your Luck

Harrah's Cherokee Hotels & Casinos - playing craps
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, North Carolina’s very first casino, offers 1,200 slot machines, 30 plus gaming tables, restaurants, entertainment and a spa all in one spot.

You can also take the scenic drive from Cherokee over to Murphy, NC to play at the newer Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River, which features 1,200 slot machines, 30-40 gaming tables, and a 300-room hotel.

Arts and Crafts Experiences

Handmade arts are part of the cultural footprint of the Smoky Mountains. Visitors should stop by one of these galleries while exploring the region.

No trip would be complete without a visit to the oldest Native American Co-op in the U.S., the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual Co-op.  Hosting over 350 Cherokee artisan members, the co-op offers high-quality Cherokee art and crafts using many of the traditional methods.

The Native American Craft Shop in Cherokee offers limited-edition prints from Native American artists, pottery, and other crafts that would be a great addition to any art collection.

The Macon County Art Association’s Uptown Gallery in downtown Franklin features exhibits by local artists and works to promote art in the area. The Uptown Gallery also offers year-round workshops and classes.

Goldhagen Studios in Hayesville is a fascinating place to watch live glass blowing demonstrations by renowned artist David Goldhagen while perusing his work in the gallery.

If you don’t want to miss a thing, travel the Blue Ridge Craft Trails. Information on the craft trails can be found at the Blue Ridge Heritage Area website. It includes filters to help you explore the craft mediums that interest you the most, or you can see all of the craft opportunities in a given region or town. New towns and experiences are being added to the trails system regularly.

Museums and Culture

Tribe members standing outside of The Museum of the Cherokee Indian.
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian.

Learn about regional history and peruse the displays at some of the eclectic museums found in the mountains.

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian takes you on a journey from the early days of Cherokee hunter-gatherers to the Trail of Tears and beyond. The museum offers a fascinating history of the tribe.

The Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley offers a collection of rare American vintage motorcycles, classic cars, and memorabilia.

The Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center offers an artesian gallery featuring over 125 artists and craftsmen. Visitors can also enjoy trying cultural foods from local sources, and both art and cooking classes.

For the cat lovers, the American Museum of the House Cat in Sylva boasts vintage and modern cat art, cat art glass, and an archive of cat memorabilia.

Located in Bryson City, the Top 10 nationally ranked Smoky Mountain Train Museum has train displays for all ages and model train enthusiasts alike.

The Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum, located in the Old Jail, features eight rooms filled with gems and minerals from all over the world – one of the largest collections in the Southeast.

If you’re of Scottish ancestry or just fascinated by the history, the Scottish Tartans Museum not only displays the Scottish Tartans, but it is also a wealth of lore about the Scots’ culture, dress and migration.

Rest Your Head

With all the winter fun that the Great Smoky Mountains offer, visitors can rest and relax at a variety of cozy accommodations.

For non-stop excitement and entertainment options, book a room at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort or Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River. Add a little thrill to your winter getaway!

For peace and luxury, Fontana Mountain Resort, located in the Nantahala Forest, has a variety of accommodations from rooms in the lodge to private cabins. The property has trails and a year-round pool.

The Buckwood Log Lodge offers warm and rustic accommodations in the heart of Highlands, NC.

Cataloochee Ranch Resort offers accommodations for small and larger groups. Amenities include outdoor and indoor entertainment, a 20-foot heated spa, and fireplaces in most lodgings. NOTE: The resort is currently being renovated but is expected to reopen in 2023.

Here are some other places to consider when looking for Smoky Mountain accommodations.

Featured image courtesy of Adam Duff.

Discover the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center

The NC Great Smoky Mountains, known for their unparalleled beauty and outdoor adventure, is also home to the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center. Sitting at an elevation of 4,900 feet at Purchase Knob in Haywood County, this learning center supports scientific research and education in our national parks. What that means to you is that they are working to preserve the land and wildlife that makes this region so special.

Crawdad that is studies at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center.

The center’s goal is to increase the effectiveness and amount of research that will both meet management needs and increase public access to, and understanding of, their scientific endeavors. The Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center works in partnership with the National Park Service and over 30 other research centers, each with unique areas of study.

Because it is a learning center, collaboration with students and student researchers is integral to its work. Staff identifies outside research projects that are synchronistic with their own activities to allow for expanded results at a lower cost to all. It is also an invaluable resource to younger, local students who may be getting their first exposure to land management and stewardship.

Visiting sixth graders can explore the Soil Classroom, studying soil food chains and threats to soil health. Seventh graders learn about the effects of air pollution on plants and lichens in the forest, as well as in the ozone-monitoring garden. Eighth graders become researchers themselves, contributing to actual research projects, including aquatic and terrestrial salamander studies. High school students can even receive credit for their work in Biology, Earth/Environmental Science, AP Biology and AP Earth/Environmental Science.

In addition, teachers of all grade levels are offered seminars in both natural and cultural history. Please check the following website for current training sessions: www.nps.gov/grsm (search “education”).

The research outcomes inform the national park’s land management. Some interesting projects include a collaboration between a graduate student and the center, studying mercury bioaccumulation (mercury levels) in sparrows and salamanders. This information will be used to gauge the impact of mercury on wildlife and how to mitigate it, if necessary.

Another researcher is studying the effect non-indigenous crayfish are having on the local population and whether or not measures need to be taken to manage them. Sometimes the projects determine small management issues, such as when to mow a field to avoid negatively affecting grassland birds.

The critical aspect of the work being done at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center is sharing the information with the scientific community. For instance, the facility keeps an inventory of populations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In just the last 15 years, they have identified 4,749 species never before recorded in the park and 829 species new to science!

The center offers easy access to high-elevation, old-growth forest, grassland meadow and stream ecosystems. It welcomes scientists, students, and volunteers to aid in the research. The facility boasts a small wet lab with an array of monitoring equipment, a 50-person conference room, lodging for 8 to 10 researchers, 5 tent platforms, and internet access.

Visitors to the learning center are welcomed by appointment from mid-March through November, free of charge. Who knows, you may even be the one to discover the next unknown species!

Nearby Neighbors of the NC Smokies

The most fascinating thing about Mountain Folk is that they are all kindred spirits, linked by the heritage of the NC Great Smoky Mountains. Regional and state borders don’t define their Appalachian culture, and there are a few places outside of the westernmost NC area and just over the border that you definitely will want to include in your vacation or staycation itinerary.

Bear Trap Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Bear Trap Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo by Robert Stephens

What To Do

Explore “America’s Favorite Drive” on the Blue Ridge Parkway with the ultimate directory and travel planner from Blue Ridge Parkway. It includes visitor information, points of interest, and lodging information. Make your trip the easiest and most enjoyable with their free mobile app!

Contemporary-art and history buffs won’t want to miss the Appalachian Mural Trail, including works in Canton, Hayesville, Hendersonville, Asheville, and Robbinsville, NC, as well as murals in GA and VA. The historical outdoor masterpieces, telling the stories of the beauty and history of Appalachia, will be an adventure in exploration. Some of the murals are created by individual artists, but many are also the contribution from an entire community. You can even map your own trail based on your favorites.

The Blue Ridge Music Trail across Western NC takes you on a journey of traditional mountain music with trip tools, maps, videos, and more. Meet the new faces honoring traditional mountain music and the icons who have been playing bluegrass and old-time music for decades. Find local concerts, jam sessions, dances, and more at Blue Ridge Music Trails.

Over the state border, the Foxfire Museum in nearby Mountain City, GA offers visitors a trip back through history to an early Appalachian Village with 20 historic log structures and artifacts dating to as far back as the 1820s. There is so much to discover here, including on-site demonstrations of traditional weaving and basketmaking. The museum is open 7 days a week and includes a half-mile walking trail to enjoy.

We can’t get enough of Goats on the Roof in close-by South Tiger, GA! Plan to spend several hours browsing Amish foods and furniture and eating homemade fudge and nitro ice cream. The whole family will get in on the action gem mining and crushing rocks. But the best part is watching the goats actually leaping and frolicking on the skywalks and roofs! The kids can become official Goat Rangers, feeding the goats (adults also welcome.) Then close out the fun by roasting marshmallows around the fire pit.

Explore the 100-acre Hillside Orchard Farms in neighboring Lakemont, GA. They grow apples, blackberries, muscadines, and more. Purchase them fresh or sample them in the farm’s signature jams, jellies, ciders, and more. Or, enjoy the fresh fruits and berries baked into breads, pies, and piping hot fritters. Grab a thrill enjoying the hayrides, a corn maze, gem mining, and a barnyard- and farm-themed playground.

Where To Eat

You have a plethora of restaurants and eateries to choose from in any of these destinations, but we highly recommend grabbing a meal at the Cupboard Cafe in Dillsboro, GA. The proprietor, Charlene Johnson, is everyone’s favorite neighbor, serving up homemade biscuits, fresh foods, and homemade desserts  – all scratch made every day.

Where To Stay

For a luxurious stay, try the  Shoji Spa and Lodge. Featuring Asheville’s only outdoor hot tub, this spa also offers breathtaking views, a cedar sauna, and an invigorating cold shower. They specialize in couples’ massages, so why not add some romance to your time away? Book the charming House of Wind or House of Earth to complete your special getaway.r

If you’re more comfortable bringing all of the amenities of home with you, hook your motorhome up at the River Vista RV Resort in Dillard, GA and prepare for non-stop activities. Enjoy the large community center with two kitchens, a stage, and a double-sided fireplace. After a day of catch-and-release fishing in their pond, head over to the indoor pool and spa. Your view can’t get much more peaceful than the majestic waterfall cascading down the nearby mountain.

The beautiful town of Clayton, GA is home to the friendly, comfortable Mountain Aire Cottages. Choose from 1- or 2-bedroom private cottages or a cozy motel room. Take a short, 12-minute walk down cherry-tree-lined sidewalks to reach downtown Clayton’s shops and restaurants. The area boasts scenic lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and trails. Spend your day enjoying the nearby boating, canoeing, golfing, and rafting.

Once here, we think you’ll be tempted to make it a more permanent arrangement. Ridgetop Associates can help you set up a successful business move with their 30 years of public relations, government affairs, and association management experience.

Or perhaps you’d like to make a more lasting memory of these mountains by getting married here? Look no further than the Sky Valley Country Club in Sky Valley, GA! This perfect mountain venue offers water features, historic landmarks, and quaint bridges – perfect for once-in-a-lifetime wedding photos! The 13,000-foot clubhouse makes for a stunning wedding backdrop with high ceilings, ambient lighting, and farm-to-table menu options.

The Nearby Neighbors of the NC Great Smoky Mountains are a welcome extension to the wonder of this region. Visit them today, even for just a day trip, to see how special they are.


Winter Adventures at Highlands Outpost

Highlands Outpost, formerly the Scaly Mountain Outdoor Center, offers all-day, winter fun for the whole family in Scaly Mountain, NC! Snow tubing, ice skating, and The Screamer are open all season and ready to take you on a snowy escapade you won’t soon forget – and all in one place.

snow tubing in Highlands
Photo by Greg Newington and Courtesy of Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Visit Highlands, NC.

The Screamer

Aptly named, The Screamer will have you careening down Scaly Mountain on the longest mountain coaster in North Carolina. Powered by gravity, the 3800-foot outdoor course thrills riders with 360-degree turns and spectacular views. The ride is surrounded by safety netting, allowing everyone from the youngest to the most mature to experience the excitement comfortably. This is one of the most unique ways to see the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains!

Snow Tubing

Visitors from across the country trek to Western North Carolina to partake in some of the best snow tubing available. Highlands Outpost offers a spectacular 4-lane course that will have you flying by the seat of your pants. Don’t worry, they have a “Magic Carpet” lift to get you and your tube back to the top. The resort also blows its own snow to augment Mother Nature, so a fun time is always waiting for you.

Insider Tip: Snow tubing usually wraps up around March, depending on weather, but that just means that the gem mining and trout fishing are about to reopen for even more mountain adventure.

Ice Skating

Dreams of Rockefeller Center will fill your head as you glide across the spacious ice rink at  Highlands Outpost. Because it’s just one of the many activities available, the ice rink never seems overcrowded, so go ahead and practice that spin. Ice skate rentals are even included in the ticket price!

ice skating at highland outpost

Where To Eat

After a cold day on the mountain, warm up with a hot chocolate or specialty coffee at the onsite Blue Hound Barbeque. Better yet, tuck into a hearty meal to restore your energy before heading back out. Featuring Carolina-style barbeque, this little gem has some of the best BBQ in these parts, and the locals can’t get enough.

You have to try their Brisket Sandwich! Order it ”hound style” and your sandwich will come with slaw, pimento cheese, jalapeños, and onions. Or order a giant baked potato stuffed with your own selection of toppings (yes, one of them is brisket), and you’ll have all the energy you need to tackle the next adventure.


During the winter months, Highlands Outpost is open 6 days a week and usually closed on Tuesdays. But around Christmas and New Year’s, they offer additional hours. Please check out their calendar here so you can plan accordingly.

One note about the calendar, don’t be confused by the color-coded days. The red days do not signify days they are closed. Instead, it means that those days they are open additional hours.