Gateway to the Smokies, Bryson City, North Carolina, is surrounded by mountains. To the north, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its 900-mile network of trails flank the town. In the east rise the Plott Balsams, which reach elevations above 6,000 ft. To the south is another impressive range known as the Cowee Mountains, and beyond that the Nantahala National Forest, home to two the best-kept secrets in long-distance trail hiking—the Bartram Trail and the Benton Mackaye Trail.

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The town itself—described by locals as “uncrowded, unspoiled, unhurried, and uncommon”— is just down the road from the Nantahala River, and some of the world’s best paddlers call Bryson City home. It’s also a top craft beer town, and mountain bikers use Bryson City as a basecamp for exploring nearby Tsali Recreation Area, which contains over 40 miles of trails, and other epic singletrack in Nantahala National Forest.

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