Get to Know Your Mountain Side – Franklin & Nantahala, North Carolina

Located in the southern Appalachian Mountains, in the foothills of The Great Smoky Mountains, lie the communities of Franklin and Nantahala where you will find an area rich in outdoor adventure opportunities as well as fantastic local shopping, dining, and museums. 

Franklin and Nantahala are home to some of the oldest mountains in world. Tucked away in those mountains are two very popular hiking trails: The Appalachian Trail and the Bartram Trail. Each year starting in late winter, thousands of brave hikers make their way from the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail in Springer Mountain, GA to travel the nearly 2,200 miles to Mount Katahdin, ME. Franklin, NC sits at mile 110 of the Appalachian Trail and was the first Certified AT Community by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. If you want to get out and see the mountains but don’t want to hike, a scenic drive up to Wayah Bald will put you at nearly one-mile-high elevation with a paved path that leads you to a breathtaking view in all directions. 

Photography tip: If you’re looking to photograph a stunning mountain sunrise, set your alarm clock and head to Wayah Bald well before sunrise. Summer and Fall reward the early birds with magical colors.

If you’re a fan of Mother Nature’s “Rock Music”, travel the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway and visit the many waterfalls of the Cullasaja and Nantahala River Gorges. Be sure to stop at Cullasaja Falls, Dry Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls and if you’re looking for a swimming hole to cool off in the summer, Bust Your Butt Falls sits right alongside the road for easy access.

Local Tip: Make sure you stop at Dry Falls and walk the stairs down to the 65’ tall waterfall. Dry Falls gets its name due to the fact that in normal flow, you can stand almost directly behind the falls and not get (very) wet.

What was once known as the “Gem Capitol of the World”, Franklin and Nantahala are still home to active gem mines where you can still sit down with a bucket of dirt and sift for precious gems and minerals that are still abundant to this day. Generations of families come each year to share in the experience of Gem Mining. 

If you’re looking for exciting adventures look no further than the Nantahala River Gorge where you can test your skill on the whitewater kayaking or hop in a raft from one of the many rafting guide companies. Cast a line in the Little Tennessee and Cullasaja Rivers in Franklin or wade into the Nantahala River for some world-class fly-fishing. If your more of a still water lover, Nantahala Lake is the perfect place to canoe, kayak, or boat. There are two National Forest access points. Don’t have a boat, no problem, head over to Lake’s End Marina and rent one of their many different types of water craft! Still needing to up the excitement? Head out on a zip lining canopy tour in Nantahala or Scaly Mountain. 

Kayakers tip: the Nantahala River has scheduled dam releases each year that transform the Nantahala River into Class IV and V rapids. Check the release schedule here.

Get to know your mountain side in Franklin and Nantahala, North Carolina, Your Gateway to Adventure!

Places to Go, Things to See: