Franklin and Nantahala, North Carolina – You’re Year-Round Gateway to Adventure

Located in the southern Appalachian Mountains the communities of Franklin and Nantahala are surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest, the largest of the National Forests in North Carolina. Franklin and Nantahala offer easy access to the Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway and is an area brimming with outdoor adventure opportunities for all ages. Hike to stunning waterfalls, search for secluded paddling spots, and dig deep into the rich history of gem mining all in Western North Carolina.

Franklin and Nantahala are home to some of the oldest mountains in world. Cutting through the middle of the Nantahala Mountains, you’ll find the popular Appalachian and Bartram Trails. Gear up at one of our two local outfitters and hike to Siler and Wesser Bald for 360-degree views of some of the world’s oldest mountains. 

If you want the view of the mountains without the hike, take the scenic drive to Wayah Bald. Sitting at just over one-mile high in elevation, the short walk up the paved path leads you to a captivating view in every direction from one of the most iconic structures in the Nantahala National Forest, Wayah Bald Lookout Tower. On a clear day, you can see the mountains from Tennessee to Georgia. Drive the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway to visit the waterfalls of the Cullasaja and Nantahala Gorges as you wind through hardwood forests. Take a walk under the most popular waterfall in the area, Dry Falls, where you can stand beneath the 60-foot waterfall and in many places, not get wet!  

Experienced paddlers seeking rapids will find the whitewater of the Nantahala and Cullasaja Rivers to test your skills. Boaters looking for a quieter experience can enjoy the pristine waters of Nantahala Lake with its over 40 miles of shoreline, you’re sure to find a quiet spot to enjoy. Cast a line in the world-class fly-fishing waters of the Nantahala River, or seek out a secluded spot along the Little Tennessee or Cullasaja Rivers.

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Those looking for winter adventure can find it here in the mountains and when the conditions are right, strap on their ice climbing gear and scale the cliffs of Winding Stair Gap. We don’t always have snow in the mountains, but when it falls, the landscapes come alive and are absolutely beautiful.

Franklin and Nantahala are towns born from gem mining and agriculture that continue to honor that history every year at the annual Folk Heritage Festival, celebrating Appalachian culture and its influence on the area. With nine active gem mines in the area, you can sit down with a bucket of dirt and sift for precious gems and minerals that are still abundant to this day in the “Gem Capitol of the World.” Over the years, Franklin & Nantahala have transformed from those small rural areas into outdoor adventure meccas, luring explorers of all ages to set out into the mountains and valleys of the Nantahala National Forest.

Enjoy a walk down Main Street in Franklin and follow the Women’s History Trail, the only one of its kind in North Carolina and learn about influential women in publishing, public service, and business at various stops along the way. Stop in at the Scottish Tartans Museum, the only one of its kind in the United States, the Gem & Mineral Museum and the Macon County Historical Museum, all within walking distance of one another. Stop in to the many shops and stores along the way and discover local artisans carrying on the traditions of arts and crafts.

Settle in for the evening at one of Franklin’s two craft breweries where you’ll find local entertainment, friendly atmosphere, and locally crafted beer of course! If you’re looking for dinner and a show, check out the schedule at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, where you’ll enjoy world class entertainment from genres of music including country, bluegrass, gospel, pop, contemporary Christian, and more. With the main focus on family entertainment, the SMCPA is a place to enjoy a good time with all that Franklin has to offer.  

Whether you’re looking for an action-packed experience or you want to disconnect from the hustle of everyday life, the Franklin and Nantahala area is a perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. Franklin and Nantahala, NC truly are you’re gateway to adventure!

Places to Go, Things to See: