Visit the Jackson Co. Chamber to read up on some of our favorite waterfall day trips, with directions in Cashiers Area/Southern Jackson County.
Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
One of the centerpiece attractions of Jackson County is the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Since 1988, it has provided visitors with scenic excursions out of its depot in historic downtown Dillsboro. The railroad has a variety of options, including half-day and full-day trips, raft and rail excursions, gourmet dinner excursions and mystery theater trains. Click here for complete information on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
Jackson County ranges in elevation from 2,000 to 6,000 feet. Hiking trails offer mountain scenery, wildflowers, and wildlife viewing for casual and experienced hikers. There are over fifty well-maintained trails, including 675 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park alone. The Appalachian Trail, running 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine, passes just north of the county. Various guide services are available for both day hikes and overnight pack trips. Click here for more hiking information.
Some of the best hiking in and around Jackson County is found along the Blue Ridge Parkway as it gently meanders the county’s eastern edge. Within a 30-mile stretch you can hike Water Rock Knob (6,292 feet), Richland Balsam (6,410 feet) and the imposing Devil’s Courthouse (5,723 feet).
Additionally, a trail at Wet Camp Gap offers a short, easy hike to a mile-high meadow with awesome views of the Pisgah National Forest. The Mountains-To-Sea Trail can also be accessed at Wet Camp Gap.
While not as high as its brethren, Devil’s Courthouse is memorable for spectacular rock outcroppings at its peak. The park service has a paved trail of 0.8 miles (roundtrip) leading to a summit that provides a view of four states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.
Cyclists find a wide array of challenges in and around Jackson County, including single-track trails, back roads, and trails in the Nantahala National Forest. The Nantahala Outdoor Center’s Tsali Trail System is one of the nations finest, while Panthertown Wilderness Area and the Roy A. Taylor ATV Trail System also offer riding opportunities. The Blue Ridge Parkway is off-season favorite for road bikers, but isn’t recommended in the summer and fall because of heavy motor traffic.
Jackson County offers a wide range of fishing opportunities. The Tuckasegee River, Jackson County’s largest body of water, was called “Western North Carolina’s best trout stream for fly anglers,” by the Charlotte Observer, and scores of smaller streams offer many more opportunities. Fishing is also available on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and on any of Jackson County’s several mountain lakes. Fishermen have good success in search of rainbow, brown and native brook trout, bass, bream, walleye and crappie. Keep in mind that regulations can differ. For example, one may fish Cherokee Indian Reservation waters without a state of North Carolina license, but a Cherokee Tribal permit is required. Fishing is allowed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with either a Tennessee or North Carolina license. Go to for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission website, which offers trout fishing regulations, licensing information, Jackson County stream stocking information, directions to handicapped-accessible fishing locations in Jackson County, and more.
In addition to our own private, 9-hole, Nicklaus Design® golf course, Jackson County offers a superb selection of classic mountain golf courses that are both challenging and scenic. These courses host thousands of golfers each year. From Cashiers’ world-renowned courses in the south to the picturesque Smoky Mountain Country Club in the county’s north end, the area is replete with one-of-a-kind mountain golf in a variety of awe-inspiring settings. Jackson County boasts six premier public access courses, while the nearby Waynesville Country Club features 27 holes framed by blue-green mountains.
Area stables offer gentle horses, beautiful scenery, well-maintained trails and knowledgeable staff. Year-round riding is available.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Our winters are generally mild, but snow is not unusual, particularly in the higher elevations around Cashiers, Sapphire Valley and Balsam. At the Sapphire Valley Ski Area, snow-making machines help maintain prime skiing conditions from mid-December through February. The ski area offers four slopes, a vertical drop of 425 feet, a chair lift, and a surface lift. Locations in northern Jackson County are within reasonable driving distance of Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley. The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed during any kind of winter weather, and is popular with cross-country skiers during those times.
Swimming, sailing, water skiing, boating, tubing, whitewater rafting, kayaking and canoeing are all available in Jackson County. There are four whitewater rivers, the Tuckasegee, Chattooga, Oconaluftee and the near by Nantahala, with difficulty ranging from Class I to Class VI. Commercial companies rent rafts, canoes, kayaks and tubes. Canoes and boat rentals are available on Lake Glenville, near Cashiers. There are also several smaller, more remote lakes in the county, all of which have boat access.