Apple Harvest Adventures in the Smokies

Nothing says fall like flame-colored leaves, a light snap in the air, and apples! And there is no place in the NC Great Smoky Mountains that celebrates apples better than Apple Harvest Festival 2022 in the beautiful, historic town of Waynesville, NC. This year’s festivities take place on October 15, 2022 and promise to remind you why fall is your favorite of all the seasons.

apple orchard in the smokies

Sponsored by the Haywood Chamber of Commerce, Apple Harvest Festival is celebrating its 35th year. Each year, downtown Waynesville is transformed into an enormous street festival with almost 200 vendors bringing you mountain arts and crafts and food concessions. Enjoy live music and clogging performances – the traditional Appalachian folk dance where performers create a rhythmic percussion with only their heels and toes. It’s a true mountain one-of-a-kind experience to behold!

Of course, apples are the star of the show. Local apple growers set up on the street to offer you a vast variety of mountain-grown apples. The obvious choices are Red, Delicious, Golden Delicious, Stayman, and Rome Beauties, but this is your chance to also sample over forty varieties including Gala, Gold, Mutzu, Empire, and Fuji.

That’s just the beginning of the apple goodness. Fresh-pressed apple cider, apple cakes, apple pies, and other apple goodies, like fritters and turnovers, are available throughout the festival, so come hungry.

shops in downtown Waynesville NC

The quaint shops in the main street area are open throughout the festival, so browse the stores and pick up some memorable items in between treats. Take a step back in time at the Mast General Store, where you can pick up the Necco Wafers, Jawbreakers, Bit-O-Honey, and Black Licorice Laces of your youth. Be sure to check out the toy section with Tiddly Winks and Jumbo Jacks! You’ll think you’re a kid again.

But make sure you save room for some hand-dipped caramel apples – a specialty of the Apple Harvest Festival.

The festival runs from 10 am to 5 pm, and there is no admission fee. For parking options, visit here. With about 10,000 visitors to the annual festival, get there early and plan to spend the day.

If you can’t travel to Waynesville for the October 15 Apple Harvest Festival, you can still experience the quintessential fall experience of apple picking at Barber Orchard Fruitstands Inc. or Winchester Creek Farm in Waynesville or Darnell Farms in Bryson City.

Five Fave Hikes for Fall Colors in the NC Smokies

The brilliant fall foliage of the NC Smoky Mountains rivals the changing leaf colors anywhere in the country. But, because of our steep elevations and lower rolling foothills, the leaf-looking season here lasts longer than most. Beginning in mid-September and continuing through early November, the NC Smokies offer you plenty of weeks to plan your visit. We think the best way to experience nature’s best show is by hiking through the kaleidoscope of flaming colors. Here are five of our favorite fall hikes.

Fall Color in Clay County North Carolina

Appalachian Trail

Considered the Granddaddy of US Trails, the Appalachian Trail runs approximately 2,200 miles between Georgia and Maine. But visitors to Franklin, NC in Macon County, NC can experience some of the most beautiful parts of this iconic trail less 10 miles away.

Once on the trail, take a 4-mile roundtrip hike to the Wayah Bald Lookout Tower, a restored fire watch tower built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Decommissioned in the 1940s after wind and rain damage, this 3-story stone tower rises 53 feet in the air and continues to offer visitors unparalleled 360-degree views of a different kind of fire – the vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows carpeting the numerous surrounding mountains in autumn.

Andrews Bald Hike

If you’re planning a leaf-peeping trip in the near future, consider a hike to Andrews Bald near Bryson City, NC. The 1.8-mile trail begins at the Clingmans Dome parking lot and descends to Andrews Bald, a grassy area named for the cattle herder who brought livestock up there in the 1840s. The final section of the trail ascends through a forest of trees that generally peak in mid- to late-September. Look for Dogwoods, Maples, Sourwood, and Sumac as they turn to a bright, flamboyant red.

Large poplar tree at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forests, named for one of this nation’s most prominent nature poets, features 3800 square miles encompassing one of the largest contiguous growths of hardwood trees in the country. An easy 2-mile roundtrip, figure-eight trail leads you past the majestic Yellow Poplars (also known as Tulip Poplars), reaching an astounding 100 feet high and 20 feet around. You’ll also see White Oak, Beech, Red Oak and Basswood trees as they transition from their lush summer green to their blazing autumn colors.

Deep Creek Waterfall Hike

Just outside of Bryson City, NC, is the Deep Creek Waterfall hiking area. With several trail options of varying lengths from .25 miles to 5 miles to visit nearby waterfalls, hikers can choose the one that best suits them. Leaf peepers can spot American Beech and Birch trees flaunting their bright yellow and gold leaves along the way, as well as the orange and crimson leaves of the Sumac, Scarlet Oak, Hickory, and Mountain Maple trees.

Hikers in Deep Creek Falls
Deep Creek Photo Courtesy of Swain County TDA / Chamber of Commerce.

Oconaluftee River Trail

If you’re planning your visit for the early part of November, check out the Oconaluftee River Trail in Cherokee, NC. Combine your leaf-peeping with learning the fascinating history of the Eastern Band of Cherokee People. As you hike along this 3-mile roundtrip path, you’ll be treated to every vibrant fall hue in the surrounding foliage. The hike itself is considered easy enough for a stroller, but you can also opt to bike it. Along the way, you’ll be treated to views of the beautiful Oconaluftee River, wildflowers, diverse animal life, and lush mountain scenery as it prepares for the upcoming winter months. The colorful Asters along the riverbank are proof that Mother Nature is putting on her best show.

Revel in the stunning seasonal colors as you follow the interpretive signs along the trail, teaching you about the history, culture and spiritual beliefs of the Cherokee. Each unique sign is written in English and Cherokee and is illustrated with designs created by Cherokee artists. Along the trail, you’ll be witnessing the same stunning fall foliage the indigenous people did a hundred years ago.

Explore the Smokies on Horseback at Smokemont Riding Stables

Of all the ways to explore the NC Great Smoky Mountains, few are as exciting as on horseback.

At the Smokemont Riding Stable, you can choose your ride from 10 different adventures featuring beautiful trails, waterfalls, and/or historic landmarks. Rest assured, the health and happiness of the horses are of utmost concern to the owners, switching out horses for rest periods between rides and pasture time. Here are some of our favorite rides.

horses at Smokemont Riding Stables

The Waterfall Ride

This 2.5-hour ride travels along mountain streams until you reach the Chasteen Creek Waterfall click here to see the video. You will be given about 15 minutes to dismount and explore the waterfall before completing your journey back to the stables. They offer morning, noon, and afternoon start times to fit conveniently into your vacation schedule. ($100 per rider)

The Oconaluftee River Trail

Explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park like the Cherokee People. This 3-mile-long roundtrip adventure follows the Oconaluftee River, passing through a landmark tunnel and over a rushing creek. You’ll ride by the Mountain Farm Museum, featuring log houses, an authentic barn, smokehouse, spring house, a working blacksmith shop, and a living display of early farm life. Watch the creek-crossing video here. ($40/hr. per rider)

 Newfound Gap

Newfound Gap rises to the astounding elevation of 5,046 feet (almost a mile high) and offers incomparable long-range views. Riders will climb over 3,000 feet through Cove Hardwood, Pine-Oak, and Northern Hardwood forests. Of course, this means you’ll be experiencing temperatures about 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding lowlands, so dress accordingly. Layering is highly recommended. Visitors can even stand at the very spot where Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1940.

Four-Hour Rides

If horseback riding through the beautiful Smoky Mountains is something you can’t get enough of, you can book a 4-hour ride along a wooded mountain trail alongside 2 cascading waterfalls and miles of Creekside nature. ($160 per rider)

Wagon Rides

The horse-drawn wagon travels down the Old Turnpike Road, alongside the Oconaluftee River. Along the way, travelers will pass fields that host many species of wildlife, and guides will narrate historical information along the way. Departure times are hourly from 10:45 to 3:45, so scheduling a wagon ride is effortless. ($20 per rider)

Insider Tip: Some riders are limited by their age (under 5 years old) or their weight (over 240 pounds), but the wagon ride has no limits, and the pioneering fun is non-stop!)

Fall Adventures with Nantahala Outdoor Center

Experience the seasonal change from lush summer greenery to spectacular fall foliage. Each year, the Smokies become a canvas of vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows over a backdrop of forested mountains. The temperature is perfect – warm enough for just a light jacket but cool enough to enjoy outdoor activities comfortably. And you will find no better hosts for your fall getaway than the folks at Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), the pioneers of outdoor adventures in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Novices and experts alike will find the level of experience appropriate to their skill level in hiking, white-water rafting, kayaking, treetop adventure nets, zip lining, and mountain biking. The experts at Nantahala Outdoor Center will make sure you get the vacation experiences of a lifetime.

Mountain Biker on the Flint Ridge Trail in Bryson City
Photo Courtesy Swain County TDA / Chamber of Commerce.

Outdoor Adventures at the NOC

River Rafting

The Nantahala River Rafting: Fully Guided Tour out of Bryson City is a fun family excursion down the iconic Nantahala River. Professional guides ensure the comfort and safety of the rafters, who must be at least 7 years old and weigh at least 60 pounds. The whole trip is 3 hours.

Or, try the Nantahala Adventure Pass with Raft or Duck Rentals. “Duckies” are inflatable kayaks that allow paddlers to guide themselves at their own pace. This tour is designed for the more experienced rafter and kayaker, but if you’re looking to enjoy the scenery and wildlife along the river banks, the course is rated easy to moderate.

Hiking

The NC Great Smoky Mountains are renowned for their hiking trails and the Nantahala Outdoor Center is a stopover on the famous Appalachian Trail. The “AT” is a popular trail for thru hikers looking to take on the challenge of hiking from Georgia all the way to Maine, but its also a great spot for section hikes offering diverse natural flora and fauna, naturally growing herbs, and wildlife. NOC offers lodging, gear, and food for hikers along this section of the AT.

Mountain Biking

Conveniently located on NOC’s 500-acre main campus in Bryson City, NC, the new Flint Ridge Guided Mountain Biking technical trail features a rolling single track and breathtaking views of the Nantahala Gorge. Designed for bikers 10+ years old, the 4.5-mile trail is moderately difficult and takes 3 to 4 hours to complete.

The world-famous Tsali trail system attracts mountain bikers of all skill levels to the NC Great Smoky Mountains for some extreme sport biking. The Nantahala Outdoor Center offers a Tsali Guided Mountain Biking adventure with experienced guides, top-of-the-line equipment, and even a trail-side snack. Tsali is appropriate for 10+-aged riders and takes between 3 and 4 hours.

Woman zip lining at NOC in Smoky Mountains
Get a birds eye view of the mountains at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

Take to the Air with Ziplining and Treetop Adventure Nets

Sail through the air with NOC’s Mountaintop Zip Line Tour. With almost 2 miles of ziplines running from treetop to treetop, race your friends on dueling courses 40 feet up!

Kids aged 3+ can have their own exciting experience with the Treetop Adventure Nets. This fully-netted aerial playground invites participants to navigate their way through tunnels and slides in this ship-themed wonderland.

Package Deals

Want to raft the rapids in the morning and zipline the afternoon away, check out NOC’s Package Deals to combine two or more excursions for a whole day of fun!

Nantahala Lake

Relaxing Riverside

The Nantahala Outdoor Center is a village unto itself, giving you few reasons to leave the 500-acre campus. Retail stores and riverside restaurants offer everything you need for a relaxing day in the sun before, during, and after your outdoor adventuring. You can even spend the night at NOC in a cozy mountain cabin, motel, or the hostel-style Basecamp.

Insider Tip: Eat at the River’s End Restaurant and order the Sherpa Rice, the world-famous original recipe of whole-grain brown rice, lentils, and barley topped with seasonal veggies and soy-ginger sauce. Add your choices of protein and additional toppings for a hearty meal that will get you through your full day of outdoor adventures.

The American Museum of the House Cat

While researching your Smokies vacation, you may come across a place so intriguing you’ll have no choice but to visit. You have just stumbled upon The American Museum of the House Cat. This museum, located in Sylva, NC., is the purrfect place to to pay homage to our feline friends.

Housed in an old antiques mall, the museum is festooned with giant metal feline sculptures and murals of the ordinary house cat. You can’t miss it from the road, and you definitely don’t want to! Especially if you are a true cat lover and aficionado.

cat laying on its back.

What To Expect at The Museum

Curated by Harold Simms, the well-respected founder of Catman2 rescue in Sylva, NC, The American Museum of the House Cat is only one of 2 museums in the United States dedicated to the domesticated feline. Originating with Simms’ personal collection of cat art and items, the museum is now open to the public with all proceeds going to cat rescue.

When you first enter, you’re almost overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of feline objects, estimated to be over 10,000 in number. Of course, there are the obligatory cat figurines, stuffed toy cats, and every possible signage featuring a cat. But once you acclimate and begin to really study the displays and curio cases, incredible things start to pop out at you.

Fascinating Exhibits

There is a weirdly wonderful paper mâché mashup of an octopus with a kitty head, a tiny cat orchestra performing in a mini concert hall – complete with a band director and photographer, a kitty carousel, cat masks, kitty beer steins, and cat clocks galore.

Oddities That Will Surprise You

There are also some exhibits that you probably won’t ever see anywhere else. Unbelievably, there is the Medieval petrified cat on display and a 300-30 B.C. Egyptian cat mummy encased in glass.

Feline Art

From cartoon posters to kitty portraits, there is no shortage of interesting feline art. There is much excitement surrounding the arrival of a large metal sculpture known as Scooby Doo, one of the 3 Purr Pods artist Paige Tashner created for Burning Man 2019 to help people find peace in the midst of chaos. In fact, that could also be the motto of the museum itself. Peace, love, and cats.

More Can’t-Miss Museums

The NC Great Smoky Mountains have quite a few fascinating and sometimes quirky museums you don’t want to miss. The Museum of the Cherokee Indian uses artifacts, artwork, and computer animation to tell the story of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum, housed in an old jail, features 8 rooms of gems and minerals from all over the world. And The Scottish Tartans Museum & Heritage Center was established to be a source of “reliable information” on traditional Highlands dress and heritage.

Find a comprehensive list of must-see museums in the NC Great Smoky Mountains here.

Visitors Guide to Gorges State Park in Sapphire, NC

Explore 7,500-acres of natural beauty at the Gorges State Park in Sapphire, NC. Here you’ll find rushing rivers, sheer rock faces, plummeting waterfalls, deep gorges, and rare species of flora and fauna.

Rainbow Falls in Gorges State ParkTrails & Waterfalls

Gorges is known for the multitude of beautiful waterfalls located throughout the park. Turtleback Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Bearwallow Falls are among our favorites. You’ll find 13 hiking trails, some short and some long, covering 56 miles. Add to that 17 miles of mountain biking and equestrian trails you can explore.

Bearwallow Falls

Hikers looking for a challenge will enjoy the Bearwallow Falls Trail. The gravel trail isn’t long at just .4 miles, but the hiking is strenuous. At the end, you are rewarded with a spectacular view from the Upper Bearwallow Falls observation deck overlooking a long cascade on Bearwallow Creek.

Lime Kiln Trail

For a more moderate hike, the .6-mile Lime Kiln Trail is a good choice. The loop trail leads you down to the abandoned lime kilns used by early settlers In the late 1800s and early 1900s to burn the marble they mined along Bearwallow Creek and metamorphosed into quicklime, which they used for whitewash, fertilizer, plaster, and mortar. The kilns are quite interesting and well worth the hike just to see them.

Visitor Center Connector Trail

If you’re looking for an easy hike suitable for children and seniors, try the Visitor Center Connector Trail. The trailhead is at the Visitor’s Center and follows a .50-mile roundtrip path that leads to the Bearwallow Valley observation deck where you can see much of the park and Jocassee Lake on the South Carolina border on a clear day.

Auger Hole Trail

Mountain biking and horseback riding are permitted from the Frozen Creek access area on the Auger Hole Trail, but riders cannot go past Turkey Pen Gap near the western boundary of the park. There is a nice picnic area at the trailhead.

Insider Tip: Horses must have proof of a negative Coggins test before they are allowed in the park.

Visit Gorges State Park Trails for a complete list of trails.

Fishing

Cast your line and enjoy the solitude of this state park. The water is teeming with Smallmouth Bass, Redeye Bass, Brown Trout, and Rainbow Trout. You have your choice of hiking your gear to the Bearwallow Creek and Toxaway River that flow through the middle of the park, or there is boat access to Lake Jocassee at Devil’s Fork State Park in South Carolina.

The rivers and streams in the park are designated Wild Trout Waters, meaning the regulations of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission apply. You will find them at NC Regulations and Licenses.

Native Plants

This park has many rare species of plants and animals. Because of this, 275 acres were placed on the NC Registry of Natural Heritage Areas. One of the most stunning features is the colonies of endangered Lady Slipper Orchids growing wild throughout the park. (It is illegal to pick them or dig them up.) With over 80” of rainfall annually, Gorges State Park is a temperate rainforest biome and it’s home to some plants found only in the tropics!

Gorges State Park NC

Camping

The camping in the Gorges State Park is considered “primitive camping,” meaning you’re deep in the woods with very few amenities. To find out which campsites offer some amenities, like pit toilets, bathhouses, electric hookup, and access to water, visit Gorges State Park Campground Details.

The site will let you see which campsites have fees and are wheelchair accessible. As with all backpack camping, you must carry out anything you carry in, although there are recycling stations in the area.

One very important note is that the gates to the park are locked at night, so you need to make sure you are not locked in if your just day-hiking or locked out and unable to get back to your campsite if you’ve left the park.

Picnicking

For a quiet, peaceful picnic amongst the trees, Gorges State Park offers some beautiful spots. There are two well-maintained, covered picnic shelters, but only one of them can be reserved while the other is first come first serve. Again, carry out what you carry in.

gorges state park visitor center

Visitor Center and Educational Programs

The Gorges State Park Visitor Center is a center for learning and having new experiences. Here you’ll find a large exhibit hall with museum-quality displays, a 40-person classroom, restrooms, 2 large picnic shelters, park offices, and a large, covered wraparound porch with “gorge”ous views of the park.

Take advantage of their programs out in the park to learn about local wildlife, flora, and natural features of the park. Most of the programs are free, because education is a big part of maintaining the park’s natural beauty.

Some of the topics may include a “Walk in the Woods” guided tour that teaches you how to identify tree species, “Salamanders of Gorges,” or “Nature Journaling” that gives you practice with intentional curiosity. For more information about programming, call the park office at 828-966-9099.

Gorges State Park from North Carolina State Parks on Vimeo.

Directions

Gorges State Park is located in Sapphire, NC in Transylvania County. The park is approximately 45 miles southwest of Asheville. Follow Hwy 64west out of Brevard until you reach Sapphire, turn left on Hwy 281south, the park entrance is .7 miles on your left. The Visitor Center is located .5 miles inside the park on Grassy Ridge Road.

From Asheville, reach the park from I-26, taking exit 40 onto NC 280 and traveling west toward Brevard. Turn west on US 64 and travel toward Sapphire. To reach the Frozen Creek Access (east side of the park), turn left onto Frozen Creek Road, which is approximately two miles past NC 178. The east entrance is three miles on the right. To reach the Grassy Ridge Access (west side of the park), turn south on NC 281 in Sapphire; the western park entrance is .7 miles on the left.

From Atlanta, GA, reach the park from I-85, taking South Carolina exit 1 onto SC 11 and traveling north toward Walhalla, SC. Turn north on SC 130, which becomes NC 281 at the North Carolina state line. Continue north on NC 281. The Grassy Ridge Access (west side of the park) is approximately seven miles north of the state line on the right. To reach the Frozen Creek Access (east side of the park), turn east on NC 64 in Sapphire. Travel toward Brevard approximately eight miles and turn right on Frozen Creek Road. The east entrance is three miles on the right.

From Charlotte, reach the park by traveling west on NC 74 to I-26. Turn west on I-26, traveling toward Hendersonville. Take exit 49B to NC 64 and travel west through Brevard toward Sapphire. To reach the Frozen Creek Access (east side of the park), turn left onto Frozen Creek Road, which is approximately two miles past NC 178. The east entrance is three miles on the right. To reach the Grassy Ridge Access (west side of the park), turn south on NC 281 in Sapphire; the western park entrance is .7 miles on the left.

From Greenville, SC, reach the park by traveling on US 276 north to SC 11. Take SC 11 south toward Walhalla, SC, and turn north on SC 130, which becomes NC 281 at the North Carolina state line. Continue north on NC 281. The Grassy Ridge Access (west side of the park) is approximately seven miles north of the state line on the right. To reach the Frozen Creek Access (east side of the park), turn east on NC 64 in Sapphire. Travel toward Brevard approximately eight miles and turn right on Frozen Creek Road. The east entrance is three miles on the right.

gorgest state park welcome sign

Safety First

Gorges State Park is in a remote with few other people around. Be sure to follow directions on any posted signs as well as these additional precautions.

– View waterfalls from below. Rocks and cliffs are jagged and slippery from the vegetation growing around them. Don’t climb next to waterfalls, or wade at the top where a swift current may not be visible.

– The park terrain is steep and rugged in some places. Casual hiking in the more secluded areas of the park is not recommended. Hike with a buddy if possible.

– Nearby Lake Toxaway breeched its dam in 1916 and the water rushed down the gorges, leaving 15- to 20-foot piles of debris everywhere. You’ll see them around the park, but please do not attempt to climb them.

– Be aware you may bump into wildlife like Black bears and coyotes. Stay alert and don’t leave food around your campsite.

 

Photos Credits:

Rainbow Falls by Jim Liestman

Scenic View, Visitor Center and Welcome Sign by WashuOtaku

Wehrloom Honey and Meadery

honey dripping from a stick

Deep in the Great Smoky Mountains, almost to the Tennessee border, Wehrloom Honey and Meadery invites you to experience the story of their bees and to sample their honey, honey and beeswax products, and, of course, that magical, golden elixir – mead.

In 2012, Aron Wehr gave his wife Jessica 2 honeybee hives as a Christmas gift, and those hives soon turned into hundreds. The Wehrs, including daughters Anna and Abby, began selling their honey at festivals and farmer’s markets, and, in 2015, they opened their first brick-and-mortar store in Robbinsville, NC – Wehrloom Honey and Meadery.

Take a Bee-hind the Scenes Tour

At the farm’s observatory, you can watch the bees (from behind glass) hard at work making the honey and gain a better understanding of how crucial pollinators are to the environment. Of utmost importance to the Wehrs is the wellbeing of their bees, and they strive to keep the bees living as close to their normal state as possible. The Wehrloom beehives, housing about 300 colonies of bees, are located on land that is comprised of 2/3 national forest, so the purest of honey is derived from the wild nectar sources that surround them. This makes for some very happy bees!

Guided tours are offered for $10, but you can also tour by yourself for only $5.00. Reservations must be made for the guided tours by calling (828) 231-3833. Be sure to ask about their bee-keeping classes, too!

Buy Gifts For Your Honey

Then stroll over to the wonderfully smelling store for some truly unique gifts. Their raw, lightly filtered honey comes straight from the hives to make many unusual flavors, like Vanilla Bean Infused Honey, Sourwood Honey, Hot Pepper Induced Honey, and Chocolate Lovers Honey – oh my!

Wehrloom also offers natural skin care products, such as Oats and Honey Soap, Hive Essence Moisturizing Balm, and Lavender Lip Balm. Pick up some Jasmine Rose Honey Infused Tea or Green Tea with Lemon and Ginseng or beeswax candles like the Flower Candle shaped with petals and the ADORABLE Square Bee Candle designed to look like a little honeybee in honeycomb. Bring some of these home to your pet sitter, and they will probably offer to watch Nugget for free next time you go out of town!

Catch a Buzz

You watched the bees work, learned how valuable they are to the environment, picked up souvenirs, and now all that’s left to do is to celebrate the bee culture with a glass of mead from their onsite Meadery! Mead is an alcoholic drink of fermented honey and water, sometimes referred to as ‘honey wine.” Step up to the counter and order a glass straight from the tap.

Some favorites include the Black”bear”ry Mead with Lavender, Hibiscus, and Vanilla or the refreshing Strawberry Lemonade. You also don’t want to miss the Everybody Loves a Ginger Mead with Ginger, Green Tea, Lemon, and Lime. But why choose when you can order a flight and sample a variety of these fermented honey elixirs?

A New Hive

Wehrloom Honey and Meadery recently opened a new Meadery at 32 Banks Street on the hip South Slope in Asheville, NC. Move over “Beer City” and make room for mead! And the best mead at that, brought to you directly from the Nantahala National Forest in Graham County, NC.

For more to see and do, where to eat, and where to stay in Robbinsville and nearby Fontana, visit The Explorer’s Guide to Robbinsville and Fontana, NC.

Explorer’s Guide to Hayesville and Brasstown

Hayesville sunset

In the westernmost regions of the North Carolina Smokies, Hayesville and Brasstown in Clay County offer visitors stunning mountain vistas, pristine lakes, glorious hiking and biking trails, rave-worthy dining, and the nicest folks in the nation. Seriously, Hayesville placed #4 in Reader Digest’s Friendliest places to live in America!

Lake Chatuge is a paradise for swimming, boating, fishing, and camping, and the Blue Ridge Craft Trails feature many talented local artists along it path. Visit the oldest folk school in the nation to try your hand at Appalachian traditions of crafts and music and plan to spend some time at the  Cherokee Cultural Center to witness the history of this area’s indigenous people.

What To Do (Can’t-Miss Fun)

man hiking in the smoky mountainsTrails

Whether you are into hiking, biking, trail running, or just exploring, there are 12 superb trails near Hayesville and Brasstown calling your name. For an easy family adventure, there is no better trail than the Jackrabbit Trail in the Nantahala Forest. This 4.1-mile loop trail takes about 1 ½ hours to complete. It is shared between hikers and mountain bikers, so use caution on the blind corners. A big plus is that they allow dogs, and everything is better with your four-legged best friend. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking with its lake views and wildflowers.

For more of a challenge, try the 6.4-mile Leatherwood Logging Trail to Rim Trail. Considered a moderately difficult trail, the trail follows an old, flat, logging road through meadows, gradually leading up to a ridge with stunning vistas. Depending on the time of year, the mountain creeks along the trail may be swollen, requiring periodic crossings. The trail is also designed for horseback riding, so be prepared to meet some equine beauties along your hike. Leashed dogs are also welcome here.

Ready to test your outdoor skills? The Fires Creek Rim Trail is a 24.9-mile loop that takes about 15 hours to complete. Many hikers camp along the way, enjoying the serenity, waterfalls, wildflowers, fishing, and birding-watching. Dogs are welcome and may even be off leash in some areas.

Child playing by Lake Chatuge near Hayesville NCLake Chatuge

Lake Chatuge is a water lovers paradise, sharing crystalline waters almost equally between North Carolina and Georgia. It has over 130 miles of coastline for swimming and fishing and boasts over 30 types of fish, including both big- and small-mouth bass. With public boat ramps and several marinas that rent watercraft, Lake Chatuge is the ideal vacation spot to rest, relax, and renew. Read about camping and lodging on the lake in the “Where To Stay” section below.

Chunky Gal Stables

We’re not talking about the horses or the riders here! The legend of Chunky Gal is an old Cherokee Indian story about a chief’s daughter who didn’t want to marry the man her father chose for her, so she ran away. The Chunky Girl Mountain, the last place she was seen, was named for her. And Chunky Gal Stables sits in its shadow.

The Peacock Performing Arts Center

Discover “big city entertainment in a quiet mountain town.” Located right on the town square in Hayesville, the Peacock Performing Arts Center offers a wide variety of entertainment, including plays, concerts, and family shows with magicians and jugglers. The venue itself only seats 250 people, so everyone has a seat within 10 rows of the stage. The lighting and sound are superior, but the talent drawn to the theater is the real star.

Joe Waldroup Woodworks in HayesvilleThe Blue Ridge Crafts Trail

The Blue Ridge Crafts Trail runs through Hayesville and Brasstown and features every artistic medium you can imagine. First on the list is the Goldhagen Studio, home to David Goldhagen’s fine art glass. Known for his massive blown-glass platters and sculptural forms, Goldhagen uses bright, vivid colors in a clean, modern style that often features earth elements, like gold, cobalt, and copper.

No trip is complete without a visit to the John C. Campbell Folk School. Many people travel to Brasstown, NC just to attend one-week and weekend classes at the school. Founded in 1925, it is the oldest folk school in the nation! Students and visitors get rare insight into the Appalachian traditions of crafts, music, and dance. A sampling of the fascinating classes offered includes “Clay: Teapots,” “Glass, Jewelry, Stone, Sculpture & Mosaics: Bottles to Art,”  Marbling, Book Arts: Marbling Around the World,” “Mixed Media, Painting, Needlework & Thread Art: Stitched Collage,” and “Music: Dance Musicians’ Week.”

Other worthy stops on the trail in Brasstown are Brasstown Carvers; Pine Needles and Things; and Time To Fuse. In Hayesville, you don’t want to miss a visit to the Cherokee Homestead Exhibit; Clay County Barn Quilt Trail; Joe Waldroup Wood Turning & Sculpting; and the Old Jail Museum. 

Where To Eat

Some of the best French food you will ever eat can be found in Hayesville, NC. Chef Dennis Barber brought his hometown cuisine of New Orleans to the Great Smoky Mountains of NC, where he opened two outstanding eateries.

Carlotta’s French Market

Carlotta’s is a casual and fun restaurant with a walk-up counter for ordering. Whether you’re grabbing a quick Po’boy for lunch or a shaved ice “Snoball” for an afternoon treat, Carlotta’s will satisfy your craving. You must try the cornmeal-crusted Fried Catfish Po’boy dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayo and served on French bread. Or dig into an icy Snoball with your choice of flavors, like Georgia Peach, Cake Batter, Honey Almond, or Granny Smith Apple. If you’re feeling a little daring, you can even mix up to 3 different flavors!

Food from the Copper Door in HayesvilleThe Copper Door

Chef Barber’s second restaurant, The Copper Door, is a fine dining eatery that offers a sumptuous 4-course prix fix dinner. With dishes like Oysters & Pearls; Strawberry, Watermelon & Burrata Salad; Hanger Steak with Rose Harissa and Kasha Salad; and a White Chocolate Bread pudding for dessert,  you’ll feel like you just sat down at a table in the French Quarter. If a 4-course dinner is more than you’re looking for, grab a table in the bar area to enjoy an a la carte menu with options like Oyster Shooters and Crawfish Tortellini.

In addition to an impressive wine list, The Copper Door has an outstanding Whiskey and Bourbon menu with choices like Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon or Booker’s, a small-batch unfiltered Kentucky Bourbon.

Insider’s Tip: The dress code falls between smart casual and formal attire. And they “ask that gentlemen remove their hats indoors out of respect for the ladies present.”

The Crown

Also worthy of mention is The Crown in Brasstown, NC. The risotto is out of this world, and the outdoor seating offers beautiful views.

Where To Stay

Deerfield Inn

Deerfield Inn on the shores of Lake Chatuge offers 20 well-appointed guest rooms with 2 queen beds. Your room has cable TV and HBO, but you won’t want to be inside watching shows because every room has outdoor seating with a magnificent view of the crystalline lake and the Smoky Mountains. A complimentary continental breakfast is served every morning to get you ready for your day of mountain biking, horseback riding, water activities, and browsing at the quaint shops nearby.

Hinton Center
Hinton Center in Hayesville, NC

Hinton Center

Hinton Center in Hayesville, NC offers so much more than lodging. They describe themselves as a “retreat and conference center… where guests can come to retreat, reflect, and renew.” Hinton Center welcomes individuals and groups to stay in their lodge or cabins, and they also have 9 RV sites available in both 30 and 50 AMP. Their guest services include a dining room under the talents of their executive chef; Wi-Fi; an outdoor Labyrinth and memory garden; massage therapists; yoga instructors; and, of course, glorious views of and access to Chatuge Lake.

Jackrabbit Campground

The Jackrabbit Trails Campground with 92 wooded sites, each with a firepit, picnic table and lantern post. Some sites allow RVs, although there are no RV hookups. Campers have access to hot showers, flush toilets, and drinking water, as well as a lake-side pavilion for picnicking. Campsite reservations are highly recommended, as same-day availability is not guaranteed.

The campground offers a plethora of day-use activities, including boating, swimming, fishing, and picnicking. Boats can be rented from nearby marinas, or you may launch your own craft from the boat ramp about a ½ mile away. There is a clean and safe designated swimming area with a sandy beach and a separate fishing pier onsite. But most importantly, the trailhead for the Jackrabbit Mountain Trail System is located at the campground with a connector trail, so you can avoid the incoming and exiting cars and RVs.

How to Beat the Summer Heat in the Smoky Mountains

Escape excessive summer heat and instead enjoy cool mountain breezes, and the even cooler waters of the Smokies. Here’s how you can beat the heat on your next summer vacation.

Discover the Highest Peaks

layers of mountain peaks in the smokiesFrom the Smoky Mountains to the Blue Ridge, Western North Carolina has the highest mountain peaks east of the Mississippi River. Atop these mountain ridges you’ll notice the temperature drops considerably compared to the lower valleys.

Clingmans Dome – The highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the North Carolina and Tennessee border. At 6,644 feet in elevation, it’s the region’s second highest peak. As you may know, the Smoky Mountains are rich in Cherokee history. In fact, the Cherokee name of Clingmans Dome is Kuwahi or ᎫᏩᎯ, which translates to “mulberry place.”

Black Balsam Knob – Located in Haywood County, this mountain bald can be accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 420. It’s the second highest mountain in the Great Balsam Mountains at an elevation of 6,214 feet.

Mount Mitchell — Towering at 6,684 feet above sea level, this mountain is the tallest point in the region. Here you’ll take in the 360-degree view and breathe in the scent of the spruce forest. Even though it may be summer, pack a jacket for your trip to the summit, as you may find yourself in the middle of a cloud once you get there.

Waterfall Hikes

Revel in the awe-inspiring beauty of a mountain waterfall and feel refreshed from the cooling spray. Check out this guide to area waterfalls, including the popular Cullasaja Falls.

Remember, these natural wonders are best observed from below. While some waterfall areas may have wading areas at the base of the falls, you should always obey posted signs and NEVER attempt to climb a waterfall or enter a stream above the falls. Here are some other waterfalls to check out.

waterfall in the smoky mountainsGlen Falls – A one-mile steep, rough trail brings you to this triple waterfall, each dropping about 60 feet. Located in the Nantahala National Forest.

Rufus Morgan Falls – Located near Franklin, you’ll take a short walk to these near-vertical 65-foot falls near Wayah Bald.

Yellow Creek Falls – Travel U.S. 129 North of Robbinsville. Go two miles past the Yellow Creek Road intersection and the parking area and trailhead/sign will be on the right. Walk 0.33 miles to falls.

Sliding Rock – Sliding Rock is a 60-foot natural waterslide that dumps into an eight-foot deep pool. There are two observation platforms to take in the beautiful view of Sliding Rock, and it is open year-round (weather and water levels permitting). There is a $5 per person fee required at Sliding Rock.

sliding rock in the pisgah national forestDrift Falls – Also known affectionately as “Bust Yer Butt Falls,” Drift Falls is an 80-ft. slide over bedrock into a deep pool and, in the past, was used by visitors as a natural waterslide. It is one of the many waterfalls along the Horsepasture River in western North Carolina, but it is on private property. You can view the Falls from the edge of the pool without trespassing. You should not enter the pool or attempt to slide down it.

Ice Cream & Craft Beverages

Stroll down the sidewalk in charming Franklin, Sylva, and Waynesville and you’ll find a sweet — and chilly — treat from Jack the Dipper. At Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, Johnny Rockets offers their famous milkshakes.

Enjoy a cold pint of craft beer from a local brewery like Hoppy Trout Brewing Company in Andrews or Franklin’s Lazy Hiker Brewing Company. Or cool off with a cocktail or glass of wine at a local distillery, or winery.

Keep cool while you hunt for buried treasure! Plunge your mined ore into a flume of cold mountain water to sift out the gold or gems hidden inside. There are several gem mines to explore while you’re in the area. This is also a perfect rainy day adventure for the family.

Want to make this adventure even cooler? Combine gem mining with a kayaking or rafting adventure. Nantahala River Gem Mine in Bryson City and Primitive Outback in Otto are two local outfitters that offer river trips as well as gem mining in North Carolina. Kayak or go whitewater rafting and then pan for treasure.

Lakes & Rivers in the Smokies

paddler in the smokiesSplash in the refreshing waters of the many lakes and rivers that make up the Blueways trail through the Western North Carolina Smokies. Each of these offer a fun and scenic way to cool off outdoors.

Lake Santeetlah – This lake offers 76 miles of shoreline and is surrounded by the unspoiled beauty of the Nantahala National Forest.

Tuckasegee River – Most days you can enjoy a lazy float down this river on a tube, raft, canoe, or kayak. It’s also a great river for fly fishing.

Fontana Lake – Perfect for smallmouth bass fishing and boating, this lake offers access to some of the most remote areas of the Smoky Mountains National Park.

Little Tennessee River – Along the southwestern border of the the national park, this river is popular with avid fisherman and boaters. There’s also a greenway along the river bank in Franklin.

Watersports

Rafting with NOCNothing beats the heat better than watersports! Luckily, there are plenty of water adventures around every corner here in western North Carolina! Be sure to pack your swimsuit and sunscreen because the Great Smoky Mountains are home to many rivers and rapids of all levels!

Whitewater Rafting – Get your adrenaline pumping with a whitewater rafting adventure that’s sure to be fun for the whole family! The Nantahala River – right here in the Great Smoky Mountains – is one of the country’s most popular whitewater rafting destinations! Rafting centers like Brookside Rafting, the Nantahala Outdoor Center, and Carolina Outfitters offer access to everything you need – including guides – for a fun-filled, safe whitewater rafting adventure.

Kayaking – From the Tuckasegee River to the Cheoah River, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in a more leisurely fashion! Kayaking in the Great Smoky Mountains is fun for all ages and skill levels! Visit Primitive Outback, Smoky Mountain River Adventures, or the Nantahala Outdoor Center for kayak rentals, guided trips, and an unforgettable ride!

Tubing – Experience the pleasure and the thrill of floating down a beautiful river on an inner tube! The Nantahala Outdoor Center can help you enjoy a day of tubing with friends or family, with rentals and shuttles available on the Chattahoochee River!

Fly fishing – If remaining on the banks of the river is more your speed, fly fishing is the activity for you! Jackson County, NC’s Trout Capital, is home to the first fly fishing trail in the United States – the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail! This trail takes you to 15 of the best spots for catching brown trout, rainbow trout, and brook!

 

Explore the Jackrabbit Mountain Trails

Your Trail Quest in the NC Great Smoky Mountains begins with the Jackrabbit Mountain Trail System near Hayesville, NC. Opened in 2011, this system incorporates 14 miles of scenic trails through the southern portion of the lush and tranquil Nantahala National Forest. Although originally created with mountain-biking in mind, the trails are also open to hikers looking to lose themselves in nature.

Lake Chatuge

Winding along beautiful Lake Chatuge in Clay County, the trails feature a main, central loop that can be easily navigated by even the most novice hikers and bikers. However, side trails split off the main loop to offer more challenging experiences, often leading to stunning ridgetop views and sandy beaches.

Open from May 1 to September 30, the Jackrabbit Mountain Trails offers a cool reprieve from the summer heat and crowded sidewalks in an unmatched paradise.

Exploring the Jackrabbit Trails

Go Hiking

Hikers will find an easy, 2.4-mile trek on level ground through well-spaced trees that allow for glimpses of the sparkling and inviting Lake Chatuge. The open forest also means that more sunlight hits the path than on some other, denser tree-covered trails, so make sure your water bottles are full.

Insider Tip: There is a good amount of poison ivy along the trails, so you’ll want to wear something that covers your arms and legs.

Ride Your Bike

With a machine-constructed, single-track looped design, off-road bikers of all levels can work on their skills. And there’s no doubt legit “shredders” were involved in this design; Jackrabbit Mountain Trail actually offers “stacked” or successive loops, allowing more advanced riders to peel off onto side trails that require a higher skill set, like Burrell Cove, and longer stamina, like Central Loop.

Where To Stay

Sleep Under the Stars

The most obvious choice is to overnight at the Jackrabbit Trails Campground with 92 wooded sites, each with a firepit, picnic table and lantern post. Some sites allow RVs, although there are no RV hookups. Campers have access to hot showers, flush toilets, and drinking water, as well as a lake-side pavilion for picnicking. Campsite reservations are highly recommended, as same-day availability is not guaranteed.

The campground offers a plethora of day-use activities, including boating, swimming, fishing, and picnicking. Boats can be rented from nearby marinas, or you may launch your own craft from the boat ramp about .5 miles away. There is a clean and safe designated swimming area with a sandy beach and a separate fishing pier onsite. But most importantly, the trailhead for the Jackrabbit Mountain Trail System is located at the campground with a connector trail, so you can avoid the incoming and exiting cars and RVs.

About 30 minutes away, in Murphy, NC, you will find additional camping choices at Murphy Peace Valley KOA Campgrounds & Cabins on the Valley River, with deluxe cabins, RV sites, cable tv, internet, and tent camping. They also have a swimming pool, playground, pet play area, and game room. Or live in RV luxury on the riverfront at the Valley River RV Resort, featuring a clubhouse with a kitchen, Wi-Fi, grills, fishing, tent camping, outdoor pool, and a game room.

Resorts and Hotels

Also in Murphy is the Harrah’s Valley River Casino and Resort, featuring over 50,000 feet of gaming, a “multi-tainment” center, and luxury accommodations. You should also check out Mountain Country Cabins to find a vacation rental with cozy, romantic cottages for two or a cabin large enough for a family reunion.

Nearby Hayesville, NC offers accommodations for the more indoorsy folks. The Deerfield Inn has 20 spacious rooms with a view of the Smoky Mountains and Lake Chatuge. Each one comes with 2 queen-sized beds, cable TV with HBO, and a continental breakfast. Refrigerators and microwaves are also available for extended stays. The Hinton Center invites you to stay in their lodge or one of their cabins with views of and access to Lake Chatuge. Groups, individuals, and families are all welcome, but reservations are required.

How to Get There

Directions (courtesy of hikewnc.info)

The trailhead is located closest to the town of Hayesville, N.C., not far from either Murphy or Franklin on US Hwy. 64.

From Murphy, NC at US Hwys. 19-74-129:
Follow US Hwy. 64 East for 18.9 miles and turn right on NC Hwy. 175 South.

From Franklin, NC at US Hwy. 441:
Follow US Hwy. 64 West for 28.3 miles and turn left on NC Hwy. 175 South.

Go 0.9 miles and turn right to stay on NC Hwy. 175, crossing a long, one-lane concrete bridge over an arm of the lake. Go 2.5 miles and turn right onto Jack Rabbit Road. Bear left after 250 ft., staying on Jack Rabbit Road. The signed parking area is on the left after about 1/2 mile. The campground is straight ahead at the end of Jack Rabbit Road.

Header image: “Lake Chatuge” by atlnature is licensed under CC BY 2.0 .

Drive the Smoky Mountain Scenic Byway

Every year, thousands of visitors trek to Western North Carolina to enjoy cool summers, take in stunning mountain views, and explore numerous outdoor adventures. One way to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Smokies is by taking a scenic drive along the Smoky Mountain Scenic Byway in Swain County.

Also known as Newfound Gap Road, the 16.5-mile 35-minute route begins where U.S. 441 intersects the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Qualla Boundary of the eastern band of the Cherokee Reservation. It meanders north through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park all the way to the Tennessee border. Overall, the Byway ascends about 3,000 feet up into the Great Smoky Mountains!

Fontana Lake

Traveling through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

When you take a trip on the Smoky Mountain Scenic Byway, you can experience nature, wildlife, and culture that you may have never seen before! No matter what season you visit, you’re sure to pass an abundance of incredible views, recreational opportunities, and even historical and cultural features!

Things to Do and See Along the Route

Starting out on the Byway, you’ll want to make your first stop at the Oconaluftee Visitors Center, where a park ranger on duty can provide you with information about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The visitors center also includes a bookstore and an exhibit dedicated to the Park; next door, the Mountain Farm Museum preserves pioneer buildings built throughout the Park and moved to this site.

Mingus Mill

Mingus Mill is a turbine mill built in 1886 that ground corn into cornmeal wheat for over 50 years! It is located only half a mile from the beginning of the Byway. The mill’s water wheel freezes during winter, becoming a unique ice sculpture!

Mingus Mill

Webb Overlook

Named for former North Carolina Senator Charles A. Webb, one of the most prominent voices in establishing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Webb Overlook provides a sweeping, beautiful view of the mountains and skies. While you can take in the views from your car, you can also park and walk a short, quiet walkway to stretch your legs. From Webb Overlook, you have a great view of Clingman’s Dome, the rounded mountain that towers above the surrounding landscape. Clingman’s Dome is named for Civil War General Thomas L. Clingman, who was also one of the scientists who measured the mountains in the area to calculate the elevation.

Newfound Gap

At the highest point on the Smoky Mountain Scenic Byway, Newfound Gap is a forest that straddles the North Carolina-Tennessee border. It is also the site where President Franklin D. Roosevelt officially dedicated Smoky Mountain National Park in 1940. The Rockefeller Memorial now sits in Newfound Gap, memorializing the Rockefeller family, who donated $5 million to support the Park’s establishment.

Visiting The Great Smoky Mountains

North Carolina Byways are proper scenic routes, meant to be driven through slowly and enjoyed. They generally are not the shortest way from point A to point B. However, you won’t regret a second of your trip down the Smoky Mountain Scenic Byway. The best time to drive the Byway is, of course, during daylight hours when you can enjoy the scenery. If you plan it right, you might even catch an incredible sunset from one of the overlooks.

Always be sure to pay close attention to the road, as both motorcyclists and cyclists also enjoy the Byway. There is likely to be more plentiful wildlife along the route to watch out for, too.

There are plenty of other scenic byways in the area, plus lots to do and eat in the Great Smoky Mountains. Start planning your trip today!

The Best Golfing in the Great Smoky Mountains

In 1971, astronaut Alan Shepard captured the world’s attention when he golfed on the moon. For your own out-of-this-world experience, you need to go no farther than the Great Smoky Mountains. These mountain communities in NC and GA have become home to some of the best golfing in the country. There are over a hundred places to choose from, but here are the courses you can’t miss.

golfing at Sequoah National

Sequoyah National Golf Club

Owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Sequoyah National Golf Club with its surrounding vistas of the NC Great Smoky Mountains is far and away one of the most beautiful locations in the country to play 18 holes. Designed by the Robert Trent Jones II, whose vision celebrates the cultural and historical legacy of the land before a single stone is moved, this course is meant to live in one’s memory long after being played.

Located in Cherokee County and close to Bryson City, NC, the course itself is a par 72 championship course measuring 6,600 yards of immaculately groomed, bent-grass greens with bluegrass fairways. Open year-round, the Sequoyah National Golf Club also features an impressive practice area with putting greens, a driving range, a chipping area, and Callaway Golf Club fitting by certified PGA Golf Professionals. Shop the full range of men’s and women’s apparel in the golf shop and then enjoy a relaxing drink or lunch on the outdoor deck while you marvel at the magnificent mountain views in every direction. Check out more information at Sequoyah National.

Sky Valley Country Club

Located just over the NC border in Sky Valley, GA, the Sky Valley Country Club is an impeccably maintained course of bent grass on both the greens and fairways. With multiple tee box locations, all skill levels will be challenged on this 18-hole championship golf course.

The semi-private course, open to members, guests, and the general public, offers a complete practice facility with a driving range, putting green, and lessons from PGA Professional Steve Heher. You can also practice your stroke with their Full Swing golf simulator before heading out to the links.

The elevation of the Sky Valley Country Club is approximately 3,500 feet in the Georgia Mountains, meaning that even in the middle of August, you can enjoy the cool mountain air as you tee off. Plan to include lunch at the outstanding rooftop restaurant, The Turn, or keep cool in the onsite open-air pavilion or outdoor park. Sky Valley is also an ideal venue for weddings, corporate events, business meetings, and parties. Visit Sky Valley Country Club for more information.

Mountain Harbor Golf Club

Only 4 miles from the town center of Hayesville in Clay County, NC, the Mountain Harbor Golf Club is open to the public and highly recommended for both the challenging course and stunning scenery. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this course features 6,561 yards of golf from the longest tee with a 70 par. Designed by Willard C. Byrd, ASGSA/®Ben Wright, the 18-hole course gets rave reviews from enthusiasts about its pristine and well-maintained conditions, even in the middle of February!

Of special note, the prices for a round of golf are amongst the most reasonable for this area, especially for the quality of the course and its interesting holes.

Sapphire Mountain Golf Course

Your Great Smoky Mountain golf vacation would not be complete without a visit to the Sapphire Mountain Golf Course in Jackson County, NC. With 6,147 yards of golf from the longest tee, you’re looking at a 70 par. This public 18-hole championship course with a 70 par was designed by Ron Garl and features bent grass on the tees, fairways, and greens. Surrounded by scenic mountain views and lush forests, this course makes it’s impossible to have a bad day on the links. Especially as you transition to the back 9 with its water features and pictorial bunkers. After the round, relax with a cold brew and wood-fired pizza from Sapphire Brewing Company.

Insider Tip: you can play here without an inclusive hotel stay, a rare find in the Highlands, NC area.

Maggie Valley Club and Resort

Maggie Valley in Haywood County, NC, offers some of the most unique vacation experiences in the Great Smoky Mountains and is close to everything. With a myriad of golfing opportunities to choose from, you will want to include the Maggie Valley Club and Resort on your list of golf vacations. It offers an 18-hole golfing experience, which is divided into the “Valley Nine” and the “Mountain Nine.” The “Valley Nine” will get you warmed up before you hit the “Mountain Nine,” with an 800-foot rise in elevation and increased difficulty.

The resort offers a variety of packages that include your stay in a posh condominium and tickets to nearby attractions, including the Biltmore Estate in Asheville and Maggie Valley’s own Cataloochee Ranch for a superb horse-riding adventure.

Challenge Golf Club

The Challenge Golf Club in Graham, NC is an 18-hole, public course spreading across 6,935 yards with a par of 72. It features Bermuda Grass, known for its time-tested use in warmer climates and providing a course that withstands heat, can be mowed low, and is drought resistant, making for the perfect golfing grass. This course was designed by Barry Brantly and consistently has been named in the Top 100 Courses in North Carolina. The Challenge winds along some of the most picturesque views of the Haw River and features vistas normally only seen in golfing calendars. Even seasoned golfers will be challenged by the expert shot-making required to complete this course, but all skill levels of golfers will find it to be playable. The club’s amenities include a clubhouse and swimming pool to cool off after your game.

There is no shortage of golf courses in the Great Smoky Mountains just waiting for you to tee off. Whether you plan to stay at an upscale golf resort or just play for the day, these courses welcome and challenge you to some of the best, most interesting and scenic mountain courses you will find. Alan Shepard would approve!