Mountain Thrills: 3-Day Outdoor Itinerary
The North Carolina Mountains are synonymous with everything outdoors, from high adventure to just kicking back and enjoying the view. This 3-day trip gives you the option to do both and enjoy the mountains at your own pace.
With so much to see and do in the area, we recommend the following 3-day itinerary. Enjoy all the area has to offer by mixing and matching events to your particular interest. Be sure to check days and hours of operation for each venue.
- Guided Raft Trip with Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) (Wesser)
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Wesser)
- Waterfalls on the Cullasaja River (Franklin)
On your first day, spend the morning rafting down the Nantahala River. Never rafted before? No problem. The Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) offers fully guided tours as well as guide assisted tours for the more experienced rafters. After building up your appetite, satisfy it at Rivers End Restaurant or Slow Joes Café for lunch.
When you’re finished playing on the water, you may want to stretch your legs and hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail which goes right through NOC. Proceed north toward Fontana Village or south toward Wayah Bald, elevation 5,385 feet, for as far as like.
You can hike the afternoon away or let your car take you to waterfall heaven on Highway 64 east of Franklin. The Cullasaja River makes its dramatic descent along Highway 64 and you’ll find easy access to Cullasaja Falls, Dry Falls and Bridal Veil Falls as well as numerous places to dip your feet in the icy water. Return to Franklin and enjoy a sumptuous dinner at the Chef & His Wife, a AAA Three-Diamond rated restaurant.
- Mountain biking in the Tsali Recreation Area
- Fontana Riding Stables (Fontana Village)
- Fontana Dam (Fontana Village)
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Fontana Village)
- Fontana Village Spa (Fontana Village)
Start day two with a brisk mountain ride via horsepower or your own power. Bring your wheels or rent a bike and hit the trail at one of the top rated mountain biking venues in the country, Tsali (pronounced SAH-lee) Recreation Area. Local outfitters such as the Nantahala Outdoor Center or Hazel Creek Outfitter can fix you up with everything you need for a biking adventure, including lunch. If you prefer, Fontana Stables offers guided trail rides by the hour or half day, or you may bring your own horse and ride the horse trails through Tsali.
From the trail, you may spot Fontana Dam. At 480 feet high and 2,365 feet across, it is the highest dam east of the Rocky Mountains. The Appalachian Trail crosses Fontana Dam, so you can hike there or drive there. Either way, it’s worth the trip.
With all that hiking and biking, you’re probably ready for some pampering. A visit to Karing Karrs Day Spa at Fontana Village for a massage, facial or full body treatment will revive the body and the spirit. Finish off with a relaxing dinner at the Mountainview Bistro.
- Fly Fishing with Lowe Guide Service (Waynesville)
- Whitewater kayaking at Nantahala Outdoor Center (Wesser)
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Bryson City
Day three begins with your choice of mountain fly-fishing or whitewater kayaking. Both fishing and kayaking guides are available to help you catch that big fish or shoot the rapids. For lunch, head to Everett Street Diner in Bryson City, and dine in or pick up a take-out meal and picnic in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Spend the afternoon drinking in the scenic beauty of the Smokies as you wind your way for miles over majestic peaks overlooking dramatic valleys.
Later, return to civilization and explore the gift shops in Cherokee and Bryson City. For dinner, try Paul’s Diner in Cherokee and don’t miss the peanut butter pie, or pop into Across the Trax in Bryson City for sandwiches, salads, billiards and live music.
Where to Stay
- Nantahala Outdoor Center, Wesser: Motel rooms, cabins and camping. Some have hot tubs and some are pet friendly.
- Lost Mine Campground, Bryson City: Rent and pop-up campsites. Picnic tables, firewood and ice are available along with hot showers. Some sites have water and electricity.
- Freymont Inn, Bryson City: Motel rooms, cottage suites and a cabin. All rates include breakfast and dinner.
Where to Eat
- Reila’s Garden Restaurant/Paddler’s Pub (NOC) – dinner
- The Chef & His Wife (Franklin) – lunch, dinner
- Across the Trax (Bryson City) – lunch, dinner
added: March 18, 2009
updated: March 24, 2009
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