Content Produced in Partnership with Jackson County Tourism
Tucked in between Western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains is where you’ll find Jackson County, North Carolina. Home to the delightful towns of Sylva, Dillsboro, Cashiers and Cherokee, Jackson County's small-town charm is met with big opportunity to explore the great outdoors. With 185 named summits and approximately 250 named rivers and creeks, the area is known for its fast-flowing water and stunning vistas. From the dozens of hiking trails and waterfalls to the beautiful rivers and farm-fresh dining, this is the perfect place to slow down and soak up all that Mother Nature has to offer. Whether you’re a true nature lover, outdoorsy traveler, or simply seeking some quality time breathing in the crisp mountain air, here’s our go-to guide for reconnecting with nature in Jackson County!
Get out and Hike
Prepare to lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails while in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Intense treks and leisurely, family-friendly walks are among the many options available in Jackson County. Whiteside Mountain, one of the county's most recognizable peaks, boasts the highest vertical cliffs in the eastern United States. Take the 2-mile loop trail to experience the panoramic views of Whiteside's 4,930-foot crest. If you want to take on a true outdoor challenge, Pinnacle Park Trail is a strenuous 7-mile round-trip trek which ascends more than 3,000 feet. Be sure to bring your camera along with you to capture the park's many waterfalls, streams, and incredible 360 degree views of Sylva and Scotts Creek Valley. For a shorter, yet scenic trail you may want to opt for Waterrock Knob. This 1.2-mile roundtrip hike brings you to the top of the 6,292-foot summit, with great views along the way. Whatever trail it is that you choose, brace yourself for the wildlife, waterfalls and stunning vantage points of Jackson County.
Wander the Waterfalls
If it's beautiful waterfalls that you're looking for, Jackson County is the place to be. While some can be easily spotted, others take a bit more effort to reach. No matter which way you choose to go, the views are always worth the hike. Whitewater Falls, one of the highest waterfalls east of the Rocky Mountains at 411 feet, is a must-see among locals and visitors. Head out on the newly-paved path which leads to an upper overlook of the falls. From here you can take the 154 steps needed to descend onto the lower viewing deck, well-worth the spectacular view! While other waterfalls in the area may not be as quite as tall or as large, they sure are beautiful to look at. Silver Run Falls is one of these photogenic spots that makes a great day-trip, offering a large, sandy pool and stunning views from every angle. Another go-to waterfall in the area, the most well-known of Panthertown Valley, is the 18-foot Schoolhouse falls. Whether you want to spend the day relaxing to the soothing sounds of the falls or just make a quick drive-by, Jackson County's dozens of waterfalls are worth a visit.
Nestled into these Western North Carolina mountains is a thriving culinary scene. With an abundance of locally sourced cuisine, award-winning restaurants and top-rated chefs, there's something special about eating local in Jackson County. Among the area's many farm-fresh options is Forager's Canteen, a 'farm to fork' restaurant offering Southern food with a twist. You’ll always know where your ingredients are coming from at this cozy spot, with sustainably-raised, locally sourced, farm-to-table ingredients. This includes cheese and mushrooms from Asheville, beef from local farms and so much more. Lulu's on Main is another one of the county's star eateries, known as Southern Living's "Favorite Restaurant in the Region". The edgy and retro main-street spot is known for its eclectic fare, martini bar and welcoming Sylva spirit. Rated as one of the top BBQ joints in not only North Carolina, but the nation, Haywood Smokehouse is another notable must-try restaurant. It's a longtime favorite among locals and visitors, for good reason. No matter what you're craving, seeking out these local gems and having a taste of the unique, farm-fresh food of the area is an ideal way to get in touch with the spirit of Jackson County.
Ride Along the Blue Ridge Parkway
Over 70 miles of this stunning 470-mile linear parkway can be found hugging Jackson County's northwest border. This stunning road which was designed specifically for leisure travel is the perfect place to take in the sights and sounds of the Western North Carolina Mountains. Photographers, mountain lovers and everyone in between will fall in love with the unmatched views of the surrounding landscapes found along the Blue Ridge Parkway. With plenty of overlooks worth stopping for, the very best of them begin at Richland Balsam Overlook (Mile 431.4). At 6,047 feet above sea level, this is the absolute highest point along the Parkway. From here you can make your way to Mile 427.6: Bear Pen Gap, which offers a 2.5-mile hike to the scenic Wet Camp Gap—ideal for berry-picking and camping. Next up is Mile 443.1: Balsam Gap, a mountain pass between two of the highest ranges in the Appalachian Mountains that you won't want to miss. Waterrock Knob Parking Overlook (Mile 451.2) offers a four-state view with an incredible panorama of the Great Smoky Mountains. The top of the knob is followed by Soco Gap (Mile 455.7), a mountain pass between the Plott Balsam Range, in the south, and Balsam Mountain, in the north, leading to the beautiful Soco Falls. Whether you're in Jackson County for a short visit or a long stay, there's never a bad time to soak up the splendour of this scenic parkway.
Cast a Line
With 250 named rivers and creeks and more Mountain Heritage Trout waters than anywhere else in North Carolina, Jackson County is a fisherman's paradise. As the home of the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail®, which maps out fifteen prime spots to catch rainbow, brook and brown trout, you will keep busy all day long in the area's crystal-clear streams. The Tuckasegee River is the very heart of the Fly Fishing Trail, offering 50 flowing miles of water to fish along. Nicknamed by locals as "The Tuck", it's an extremely accessible river with lots of fish to catch. While the area's major trout population keeps Jackson County recognized as North Carolina's Trout Capital, you can also find some of the largest small and largemouth bass in the state here. From the secluded mountain streams to the wide-open rivers and lakes of the area, there are approximately 92,800 fish stocked in Jackson County's waters each and every year. To top it all off — the area's mountain lakes and pristine surroundings offer stunning scenery while casting a line. With this as your fishing backdrop, there's truly no better place to unplug and reel in the catch of the day, or week.
Relax on the Rivers and Lakes
While the Tuckasegee River, which flows along almost the entire length of Jackson County, is famed for its fly-fishing—the beautiful mountain lakes along the east and west forks of the river are ideal for recreation. A smaller yet well-loved gem found in the area is Balsam Lake. In the heart of the Roy Taylor National Forest, this public-access lake is a tiny jewel offering picnic areas, fishing piers and lakeside trails. Whether you're looking to go rafting, boating or just have yourself a day of relaxation on the water, Jackson County has something for everyone.
Just 3 hours from Atlanta, Georgia, and only one hour from Asheville, North Carolina—nearly 500 square miles of Appalachian tradition and unspoiled natural beauty await you. April is a wonderful time to visit and reconnect while enjoying milder temperatures, taking in the vibrant colors of spring. Whether you’re looking to explore the great outdoors, experience local cuisine, or simply relax in a secluded cabin, Jackson County has it all. With a wide variety of accommodation options available, you're sure to find the right fit which matches your style and budget. Get your planning started by creating an itinerary or grabbing a visitor's guide to craft your perfect Jackson County getaway.