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 the area’s most iconic landscapes.
If you want the view of the mountains without the hike, take the scenic drive to Wayah Bald. Sitting at nearly 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, the 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 River 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 nearly 30 miles of undeveloped 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.
If dry land adventure is your focus, grab your mountain bike and head to the Tsali Recreation Area for miles of singletrack trails with views of Fontana Lake while surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest. Younger and less experienced riders will enjoy the Little Tennessee River Greenway, a 5-mile paved path that winds along the Little Tennessee River in the heart of downtown Franklin.
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. Get to know your mountain side in Nature’s Paradise!