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Explorer’s Guide to Murphy, NC

downtown murhpy

Buckle up explorers and travelers! You’re heading to one of the most charming and peaceful, yet outrageously adventurous small towns in the NC Great Smoky Mountains – Murphy, NC!

Geographically, Murphy is located in the westernmost county of North Carolina and serves as a gateway to the Smoky Mountains. It also provides easy access to the the outdoor recreation found in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. Ready to explore? Here are some activities to add to your travel itinerary.

Murphy’s Outdoor Adventures: Hikes, Waterfalls, and Mountain Biking

Murphy River Walk

For those who like to stroll at a leisurely pace, there is no better option than the Murphy River Walk, skirting the downtown center of Murphy and meandering alongside the Hiwassee and Valley Rivers (they converge in Murphy.) Discover meadows and wetlands, thick forests and a rock cliff as you walk the trails, breathing in the fresh air in the peaceful surroundings. The trail is a little over 2 miles long if you walk its entirety, but there are several trailheads for you to pick your own distance.

Piney Knob Trails

Spreading across 700-plus acres, the Piney Knob Trail System invites hikers to explore the beauty of the Murphy Watershed. This is a great option for families who have differing skill levels on the trails.

Hanging Dog Recreation Area

Just 5 miles from downtown Murphy is the fantastically fun (if regrettably named) Hanging Dog Recreational Area. But don’t let the name fool you. The hiking trails here will fill you with nothing but joy. You can hike or bike the Ramsey Bluff Mountain Biking System, with 8 miles of moderately difficult trails or enjoy an easier hike on one of the 1-mile trails that lead from some of the best sightseeing spots on Hiwassee Lake.

The Waterfalls Byway

The famous Waterfall Byway begins (or ends, depending on which direction you’re headed) in Murphy, NC. The 98-mile route features 200-plus towering cascades along the beautiful mountain roads of these western-most towns.

Tsali Recreation Area Mountain Biking

The Tsali Recreation Area with its 40 miles of off-road biking at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains is the Mack Daddy of all-terrain riding experiences. Skirting crystal-clear Fontana Lake with 4 loops of hard-packed, single track, Tsali delivers on the thrills and is hailed internationally as a mecca for mountain biking.

Hiwassee Lake

For a true “get-away-from-it-all” experience, spend the day at Hiwassee Lake in Murphy, NC. This 22-mile-long reservoir has over 160 miles of shoreline for fishing, boating, swimming, and just enjoying the lake views. Considered a non-commercial reservoir, because only 7% of it has been developed(!), the lake will help you find absolute peace in nature. For a choice of access points, drive the loop around Hiwassee Lake (a little over 2 ½ hours) until you find what you’re looking for, whether it be boating and swimming with other day trippers or your own quiet slice of heaven. For a panoramic view of this magnificent lake, visit the Hiwassee Dam, one of 3 hydroelectric dams on the Hiwassee River that is operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Next to the dam is a park with lake access, trails, public restrooms, and picnic areas.

Local Culture

Cherokee County Historical Museum

Visitors to the Cherokee County Historical Museum will be fascinated by interactive stories and displays as you uncover the 11,000-year known history of the Cherokee Indians. Settle around the holographic Cherokee storyteller at his fire to hear tales in the original oral tradition. Perhaps you’ll hear the story of Tsali, a Cherokee Indian warrior who killed a US soldier and then, to save his tribe from the Trail of Tears, turned himself in. If you are interested, you can also see the actual rifle used to execute Tsali.

Highlander Gallery

A short, 10-minute jaunt up the road to Brasstown, NC leads to the remarkable Highlander Gallery. Here you will find crafts and artwork that represent Western North Carolina in multiple mediums, each expressing the artist’s unique style while honoring their heritage. They say to bring back a special item from each of your travels to always remember the feelings and experiences of each place. Choose from one or more pieces amongst paintings, photography, wood art, basketry, jewelry, stone sculptures, marquetry (decorative patterns inserted onto a form), pottery, illustrations, and weaving and fabric art for your touchstone back to the NC Great Smoky Mountains.

Blue Ridge Craft Heritage Trail

The Smoky Mountains are home and inspiration to hundreds of artists. Across Western North Carolina, visitors can find handmade crafts at a number of studios and galleries, and now, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Trail Area, connects visitors to these cultural resources through a network of craft trails. The initiative is called the Blue Ridge Craft Trails, a series of curated driving trails throughout the region featuring 200 craft sites. Travelers can use craft trail itineraries for tips to round out their craft-hunting experiences with nearby foods, breweries, wineries, music, outdoor activities, and scenic views. Check out their suggested itinerary for the craft trail through Murphy and the neighboring town of Andrews, NC.

Joe Waldroup Woodworks in Hayesville

Where To Stay in Murphy N.C.

Harrah’s Casino in Cherokee Valley River

Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino features over 50,000 feet of gaming, over 1,000 slot machines, and your favorite table games, like blackjack, craps, and roulette! Enjoy non-stop entertainment at the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center, which includes a bowling alley, arcade, fireside patio, and more. When you get hungry, there are numerous, well-known restaurants to choose from without ever leaving the resort. When the excitement winds down, retire to your luxury room, or perhaps stop by the spa first for the ultimate unwinding!

Murphy Peace Valley Campground

The Murphy Peace Valley Campground KOA is your peaceful retreat in the Heart of the Smoky Mountains, located one mile from Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino. They offer furnished deluxe cabins; shaded, full-hook-up RV sites with cable tv and wi-fi internet; and tent camping. Or stay at their award-winning campground, relaxing by the campfire on the peaceful Valley River. The property features a swimming pool, game room, pet play area, playground, and pavilion to enjoy when you’re not on the river fishing, swimming, or tubing.

The Valley River RV Resort

Murphy also boasts the Valley River RV Resort, a destination that features spacious RV sites, 50-amp service, a clubhouse with a kitchen, a bathhouse, and a laundry facility. Other amenities include wi-fi, cable tv, grills, an outdoor pool, a game room, and a pet washing station. With waterfront sites available, you can wake up in the morning and cast your line just feet away from where you slept!

Mountain Country Cabins

With names like “Moonlight Holler,” “Papa Bears Den,” “Owl’s Roost Hideaway,” and “Almost Heaven,” consider booking a cabin through Mountain Country Cabin Rentals to find a vacation cabin that has everything you’re looking for from a small, romantic getaway to a large-group family reunion!

Ultra Star in Murphy NC

Where to Eat and Drink


With locations in downtown Murphy and nearby Hayesville, Chevelles is a motor sports themed restaurant and bar serving up steaks, seafood, chicken, pasta, salads, & desserts. They also have live music.

River Valley Brewery

One of Murphy’s premier craft beer breweries, River Valley offers brick oven pizza, gyros, philly cheese steak sandwich, burgers,fish ,shrimp, salads, soups, appetizers and a great kids menu.

FernCrest Winery

The FernCrest Winery Tasting Room is open in downtown Andrews just over from Murphy. They have created hand-crafted wines using the best grapes from their vineyard and their vineyard partners. They offer wine tastings and wines by the bottle or by the glass. Be sure to sample some of the local cheeses and jams from the menu, and pick up some cool wine merchandise while you’re there.

Murphy’s Chophouse

Treat yourself to a nice evening on the town with some gourmet cuisine, wines and cocktails. World renowned Chef and Owner, James Reaux provides a fine dining approach and a casual comfortable atmosphere.

HoppyTrout Brewing Company

Hoppy Trout Brewing is a newish microbrewery in nearby Andrews. With beer names like Hop Incident, Wicked Weed, Behold the Reaper, Allagash, and Dr. Smores Stout, it’ll be hard to decide which one to try first! Make a meal out of your visit with appetizers, salads, and a mouth-watering hand-made, brick-oven Sicilian Pizza.

Hoppy Trout