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Waynesville Exploration Guide — Top Things to Do

bluegrass at folkmoot in waynesville

Located in the heart of Haywood County, Waynesville is the largest North Carolina town west of Asheville (population approx. 10,000) . Waynesville’s historic downtown and Main Street invites visitors to stroll the brick sidewalks, shop in boutiques and galleries and pull up a chair at a local pub or taproom.

Waynesville offers easy access to outdoor adventures on the Blue Ridge Parkway and in the Cataloochee Valley area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Situated right between Asheville and Cherokee (each is about 25 miles away), the town is a picturesque gateway to your next mountain vacation.

Things to Do in Waynesville

shops in downtown Waynesville NC
Downtown Waynesville

Historic downtown Waynesville has been welcoming guests for more than 200 years, and Main Street is lined with charming historic buildings that house art galleries, antique shops, and specialty boutiques of all kinds. Shop for a unique souvenir made by a local artist, or tak a step back in time as you visit Mast General Store for outdoor gear, nostalgic toys or barrels of candy.

When it’s time to eat, enjoy traditional Southern flavors at Fat Buddies Ribs & BBQ or sample farm-to-table fare at a downtown eatery. Visit a local brewery for a flight of craft beer, or order a tap at one of several area pubs to accompany a delicious artisan burger. And be sure to save room for dessert — Jack the Dipper scoops up old-fashioned ice cream cones, shakes and sundaes for the whole family.

Waynesville is home to Folkmoot USA, which hosts an international folk festival each July, filling venues all around town with music and dancing from Appalachian, Cherokee and worldwide traditions. If you would like to take part in some dancing for yourself, check out the weekly Mountain Street Dance held on summer Friday nights in front of the historic Haywood County Courthouse.

Outdoor Adventures for All Seasons

Whether you want to explore the N.C. Smokies on a hiking trail, on horseback, on a ski slope or by car, Waynesville is never far from your next adventure.

Elk at Cataloochee
Elk at Cataloochee

Exploring Cataloochee Valley

The Cataloochee Valley area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a favorite spot for hiking and for a self-guided tour of several historic buildings. But the most popular attractions here are the elk that graze freely through the valley’s open fields. The elk are most often seen in morning and late afternoon. Bring a camera to take photos, but keep a safe distance — as with any wildlife encounter, respecting the animals’ space is important. From Waynesville, take US Hwy 276 north about 10 miles to Cove Creek Road, which leads to the park entrance.

Blue Ridge Parkway Adventures

Near Waynesville, the Blue Ridge Parkway winds through some of the highest and most breathtaking terrain of all its 469 miles. Scenic travel along “America’s Favorite Drive” is beautiful in all seasons, especially when wildflowers begin to emerge in spring and when fall foliage lights up the mountainsides in autumn.

Favorite stops along the Parkway include:

  • Richland Balsam (milepost 431.4) — the highest point on the Parkway at 6,053 feet; drive north about ⅓ mile to fine the trailhead for a 1.5-mile loop hike through spruce forests
  • Devil’s Courthouse (milepost 422.4)  — a strenuous half-mile trail to a 5,720-foot peak with panoramic views
  • Black Balsam Knob (milepost 420.2) — multiple hiking trails traverse spectacular mountain balds
  • Graveyard Fields (milepost 418.8) — a very popular loop trail featuring two waterfalls
  • Skinny Dip Falls (milepost 417) — a refreshing ¾-mile hike ends at a cool waterfall and swimming hole
  • Cold Mountain (milepost 411.9) — overlook offers a glimpse of the mountain featured in Charles Frazier’s acclaimed novel and film; those up for a strenuous adventure can make the 10.6-mile hike to the Cold Mountain summit from the trailhead at Camp Daniel Boone in Canton (25 min from Waynesville)

Ski & Snow Tubing Adventures

In winter, head to Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley for 18 ski slopes of varying difficulty levels and great views of the surrounding Smoky Mountains. Nearby, Tube World offers snow tubing fun for the whole family!

Create a new holiday tradition with a visit to Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm to choose and cut your very own Fraser fir Christmas tree!

Places to Stay Near Waynesville

Lake Junaluska
Lake Junaluska

From luxury resorts to historic cabins and a working bison ranch, there are variety of accommodations options to complete your next Smoky Mountain getaway.

Enjoy the historic charm of a 100-year-old B&B at the Andon-Reid House, or plan a romantic escape amid the natural beauty of The Swag resort. Book an authentic log cabin, beautifully restored at Boyd Mountain Log Cabins or choose between historic and modern cabins at Country Cabins in nearby Maggie Valley.

Experience a unique retreat at Buffalo Creek Vacations, which features bison, donkeys and llamas alongside its log cabins, plus fishing and a family-friendly playground on the property.

And if it’s simplicity you’re after, book a room at a locally-owned hotel like Oak Park Inn or Hearth & Home Inn, or choose a trusted national brand like Best Western Smoky Mountain Inn.

Learn more about Waynesville, N.C., and begin planning your vacation today.