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Bryson City - View

Colorful creations. Better than a box of crayons, Fall in these mountains offers panoramic colors and luscious views. Stop at every overlook. Feed your soul and drink in this beauty.
Photo Credit : Bryson City/Swain County Chamber of Commerce

Bryson City is one perfect location for a Carolina Road Trip. Beautiful in any season, it’s particularly popular in Summer and Fall. There’s so much to do and enjoy, whether you’re seeking a romantic getaway, or a family vacation to reconnect. Consider boating, swimming, fishing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, and tubing, as well as shopping, golf, horseback riding, zip lines, hiking, biking, tennis, gem mining, shopping, history tours and mountain top experiences. You’ll be as busy as you want to be.

Join us, as we travel to Western North Carolina and take an outdoorsy, mountain-breezy Bryson City Road Trip.

First, you’ve got to find accommodations. There are a number of hotels, resorts, B&Bs, inns, and rustic mountain cabins. One of the best is Fryemont Inn with its massive stone fireplaces, timber beams and chestnut paneled walls – reminiscent of when America was beginning to fall in love with the adventure, majestic beauty and cool breezes of the Western North Carolina Mountains.

Other fine choices include the Hemlock Inn, the Folkestone House and the .Calhoun House Inn and Suites

Accommodations include wide porches with expansive views, gardens and paths, great meals, old-fashioned entertainment, and in many instances, WiFi and Jacuzzis. We encourage making every effort to stay unplugged for these few days. The area is worth your undivided attention.

And don’t forget about those mountain cabins. They come in all shapes and sizes and offer superb retreats to refresh and renew in more rural settings.

Once you’re settled in, you will be tempted to sit and rock on your porch, enjoying a frosty beverage and those endless views. Don’t give into temptation – not yet anyhow – because there’s so much to enjoy here. Save the rocking for later and get going.


Where there are mountains, you’ll find water – waterfalls, rushing trout streams, placid lakes, and slow moving tributaries. If you’re into fishing, find a guide and get some expert advice. And before you leave home, clip a couple of mountain trout recipes. These are some mighty fine eating fish, covered with almonds, pecans, or simply grilled.

One popular attraction is Lake Fontana, 35 miles long and largely unspoiled. Pontoon boats drift through its waters, perhaps stopping to ogle the tallest dam east of the Rockies. And speaking of dams, fans of The Fugitive will want to seek out a view of Cheoah Dam. It’s on a tributary of Lake Fontana and is the site where Harrison Ford made his famous jump to escape the clutches of Tommy Lee Jones.

Water babies will enjoy swimming in Deep Creek, at the end of a popular whitewater tubing route. Attractive beaches can be found on Lake Fontana, and numerous streams invite dipping a toe into chilly waters.

More adventurous souls will want to consider whitewater rafting. The Nantahala River is a very popular whitewater rafting river – one of the most popular in the United States. Let an experienced guide take you through the thrill of navigating rushing waters. You’ll get hooked on the sport after one trip. (If you’ve got little ones, consider the Tuckasegee River, with its tamer currents.)

Kayakers, tubing enthusiasts, and canoeists have their favorite areas, but the Bryson City Chamber will share their wealth of knowledge about what to find and where to find it.

If you’d rather stay dry, go hunting for waterfalls. There are three falls along a walk through the aforementioned Deep Creek Area, and in nearby Cherokee, Mingo Falls and Soco Falls attract lots of visitors.

If you’re driving, hiking or biking, you’ll find that roads and paths often follow old Native American trails, and travel alongside streams and rivers.

Bryson City - Big View

Forever views
There are so many overlooks where the forests give way to the lakes, with more peaks in the distance. Take pictures – they won’t believe these views back home.
Photo Credit : Bryson City/Swain County Chamber of Commerce


No matter what your fitness level, there are walking, hiking and biking trails to be enjoyed, some over level ground and others with more of a vertical challenge. Plan a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with its 80+ trails and pathways, as well as Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, where some of the majestic trees are more than 400 years old


Biking and hiking aficionados enjoy the Tsali Recreational Area. Note that some areas allow pets and others do not (notably the Great Smoky Mountains National Park), but there are many pet friendly areas and the Chamber can help you identify what works for you and your pet.

You will surely want to drive or hike along a stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is lovely, and truly gives the feeling of being away from everything. Race-car driving wannabes will want to encounter “the Dragon” a portion of Highway 129 which contains 318 curves in 11 miles. Enough said!

Slow down a bit and go horseback riding. There are several stables offering guided tours of varying duration. The equine culture is very strong here, and there are summer residents who bring their faithful steeds with them when they arrive at their summer homes.

Can’t stand a week away from the golf course? Not a problem, with two 18-hole mountain courses which offer amazing views along the way.


Visit the Mountain Farm Museum at the Oconaluftee Visitors Center at the Cherokee entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In Bryson City, the chamber offers a booklet that sends you on a stroll through the historic downtown area of the town. You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time if you have the opportunity to listen to Cherokee Storytelling every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at Island Park, in downtown Cherokee. The entertainment begins at 8pm and it’s free.

At the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Depot, there’s local live music on Saturday nights. It’s called Music in the Mountains and happens during the summer and early fall months.

You’ll find pottery studios and arts and crafts galleries galore. The mountains attract creative folks who draw their inspiration from these hills and their colors. Some artists even provide lessons, if you’d like to try your hand at throwing a pot, or creating a thing of beauty.


The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers scenic rail excursions taking riders from the historic depot in downtown Bryson City through the beautiful countryside of Western North Carolina. There are various train excursions and special event trains, making it a perfect experience. You can even dine in a first class car with a private attendant. Or ride in an open air car.

Feeling lucky? Go gem mining for rubies and sapphires. Amateurs have found some beautiful stones, but they don’t arrive in a polished and cut state, so look carefully.

Need a break after all this exertion? Plan a spa day or schedule a couples’ massage. There are resorts with spa packages, too.


There are restaurants to match every taste and budget here, so look around, read the reviews on Trip Adviser and Urbanspoon, and ask your innkeepers. The Fryemont Inn and Hemlock Inn have good food reviews, so if you’re staying there, don’t hesitate to ask, “What’s cooking?”

The Bryson City Cork & Bean is a coffee house, wine bar and restaurant emphasizing specialty crepes and a good range of gluten-free items. Open until 9pm, it’s just the place for a dessert crepe before retiring.

The Filling Station Deli Sub Shop is a friendly lunch stop with homemade French fries and great sandwiches (with very clever names).

Another lunchtime choice is Frydays with its authentic British pub food. (Try the mushy peas – everyone loves ‘em.) The fish and chips are crispy and you may want to branch out a bit with British Bangers – yum!

The Rivers End Restaurant 828.488.2175, has good food and great views, plus a good selection of ales. It’s a wonderful location for water watching. The Sherpa dishes offer stir fries with rice, lentils and a variety of ingredients. The food is both hearty and healthy – a welcome combination. Vegetarians will be very happy, here.

For more of a fine dining experience, Thirteen Moons 828.488.2826 is an excellent choice at Nantahala Village. They offer steaks and seafood, but also feature many local ingredients and creative twists on old favorites.

Another great option is the Village Bistro, also at Nantahala Village. Be sure to try the lobster bisque when you go.

Bryson City - Train

Choo choo. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad takes you on breathtaking excursions the whole family will enjoy. Those of a certain age will remember when, for many of us, traveling by rail was the only way to go.
Photo Credit : Bryson City/Swain County Chamber of Commerce


What will you do today? Take up a new sport? Tame the river? Wander aimlessly along mountain roads and down rural trails? Clearly, you have choices and good ones. Plan ahead, because others have discovered this mountain version of paradise. Visit and look over their expansive visitors brochure. Call them and get personal (and expert) advice. Ask about new events and live entertainment. Take a sweater and a spare bathing suit, plus good walking shoes. This is a road trip which will introduce you to a wonderful corner of North Carolina that has entertained families for generations. Pick your favorite season to go, and the rest will simply begin to unfold – a remarkable Carolina Road Trip.

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