Content Produced in Partnership with Jackson County Tourism
Home to more mountaintops than anywhere else in the state, we feel fairly confident that if you were to look up the word "adventure" in a dictionary, you would find a map of Jackson County beside it. Nestled in between the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountain ranges, this region is bursting with waterfalls, hiking trails and streams. A natural magnet for outdoor enthusiasts, the real charm is found in its mountain towns. Technically eight communities in all, Sylva, Cashiers, Cherokee and Dillsboro serve as the main anchors of Jackson County, and each have their own appeal. While you can certainly visit all of the towns (and we highly recommend doing so), here's a handy guide for navigating Jackson County based on your travel style.
Your Blue Ridge Escape in Sylva
As the official county seat of Jackson County, Sylva has a historic downtown, the most photographed courthouse in the entire state and a booming dining and brew scene. The pinnacle of this town, though, lies in the sheer amount of outdoor activities it offers locals and visitors. Just minutes away from the Blue Ridge Parkway, the area makes up a key section of the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail, the first official fly fishing trail in the United States. The same rivers and streams are also ideal for whitewater rafting and kayaking, making it especially perfect for outdoor adventurers and wayward explorers of all ages.
An Eastern Yosemite in Cashiers
Pronounced Cash-ers, this mountain town in between Glenville and Sapphire is located in the southern portion of Jackson County alongside a section of Nantahala National Forest known as Panthertown Valley. You can find sheer cliff faces, granite domes and countless waterfalls throughout, making Cashiers an under-the-radar wonderland and a lookalike Yosemite. The best part? It's essentially all your own. With a year-round population of about 150 people, this mountain town attracts visitors who wish to trade their hectic daily schedules back home for tennis lessons, afternoons on the lake and quiet hikes in the national forest. Understandably this sounds like a scene straight out of Dirty Dancing, which is one of the reasons why the remake was filmed there just a few years ago.
National Park Gateway in Cherokee
You'll find Cherokee in the westernmost corner of the county. A hiking and fly fishing paradise, Cherokee lies on the cusp of both the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. As the name implies, the town is also home to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. Outside of the national parks, visitors can learn the history of the Cherokee tribe, try their luck at Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort and tee off at Sequoyah National Golf Club. If you're looking for a mountain town with plenty of outdoor recreation and a great night life, this is the place for you.
Rustic Charm in Dillsboro
It'll feel like everyone in Dillsboro is an artist, especially after you visit its historic downtown. Dillsboro borders downtown Sylva and boasts numerous art galleries and pottery shops full of works by local artists, so you should plan to pick up your Jackson County souvenirs here. This small downtown area also prides itself in having one of the top rated barbecue establishments in the United States. Haywood Smokehouse's brisket and ribs, house-made sauces and decadent desserts draw in hundreds of visitors each year, proving again and again it's well worth its accolades. If you like to end your trip on a high note, this is the place where you should close out your time in Jackson County.