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Waterfall along the Nantahala Gorge Scenic Byway

Nantahala Gorge Scenic Byway

Roll down the windows and breathe in the clean, fresh air that can only be found high up in the mountains. As the breeze tousles your hair, take in the spectacular views of lush forests, pristine mountain lakes and rivers, deep, verdant gorges, and miles-long views. Stop along the way for some real southern cooking, browse country stores, and strike up a conversation with local folks who love to share their generational stories.

Combine breathtaking views and adventure on the 41-mile Nantahala Byway that runs along US 74 between Bryson City and Marble, NC. You’ll travel through the deep Nantahala Forest until you reach the yawning canyon of the Nantahala Gorge.The indigenous Cherokee People named the Gorge “Nantahala,” which means Land of the Noon-Day Sun. In fact, there are many places within the Gorge that only see direct sunlight for a short time each day. This is certainly one of the most beautiful scenic drives you will travel in your lifetime.

The Byway follows the banks of the Nantahala River, widely known for its outdoor adventure activities. There are numerous places you can pull off to watch as rafters and kayakers tackle the world-class river rapids, hoping to stay upright. Although suitable for family fun, the river is challenging enough that Olympians practice canoeing and kayaking on it.

We love to pack a picnic lunch from High Test Deli and Sweet Shop in Bryson City and eat it at one of the many pull-offs along the Nantahala Gorge Scenic Byway. It’s also very entertaining to grab a bite at the River’s End Restaurant for a front-row seat of the river paddlers or at Big Wesser BBQ & Brew at the Nantahala Outdoor Center for authentic North Carolina BBQ and stories from the river.

You’ll be passing through the idyllic small town of Andrews on the Byway. We highly recommend some refreshment from Ferncrest Winery or Hoppy Trout Brewing while you’re in the area. If you have some time built it, take a detour to nearby Murphy to visit the Cherokee County Historical Museum. You’ll find over 2,000 Cherokee artifacts and 40 drawings and photographs that interpret local Cherokee history and culture.