National and State Parks
Nature trails, parks and scenic roadways abound in Western North Carolina. Walk the Appalachian Trail; explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Nantahala National Forest, or Pisgah National Forest; or drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, Cherohala Skyway, or Mountain Waters Scenic Byway. There is fun for everyone in Western NC.
The Appalachian Trail is a 2,160-mile foot trail along the ridge crests and across the major valleys of the Appalachian Mountains from Katahdin in the central Maine wilderness to Springer Mountain in a designated wilderness area in north Georgia.
Approximately 46 miles of the 469 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway run through Haywood County. The parkway follows the Appalachain Mountain Chain and provides seemingly endless views of the area.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a senic roadway, which travels 469 miles to connect the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. With elevations ranging from 650 feet to over 6000 feet be prepared for rapidly changing weather. You should allow 2-3 days to travel from the beginning to the end with frequent stops, so that you will be able to enjoy some of the wonders of the Parkway.
A large section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is contained in the northern part of Haywood County, principally the Catallochee Valley. Today, the remaining buildings provide a look back at life before the park opened in 1943. Cataloochee Valley is one of the best kept secrets in the North Carolina mountains. It is very secluded and peaceful. If you are planning to go there, four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended. It's well worth the trip. There are no hotels, motels, restaurants in there, so you may want to pack a picnic and take your own beverages. You will see a 95 year old home, an old church, and an old one-room school house. Now, let's go visit!
The planning stage of the Cherohala Skyway began in 1958 and, after 30 plus years of construction and 100 million dollars, opened October 12, 1996. This paved two-lane road climbs to elevations over 5300 feet and extends over 50 miles. In April 1997, the state of North Carolina declared it a Scenic Byway and it later became one of only twenty highways deserving the distinction of "National Scenic Byway".
Rising 6,643 feet above the Great Smoky Mountains, Clingmans Dome is the highest point along the Appalachian Trail and provides a 360? view of the surrounding mountians. From it's 54 foot observation tower the average viewing distance is about 22 miles, but on a clear pollution free day, views can amplify as far as 100 miles into 7 states.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, established in 1934, covers 520,408 acres of land with heights ranging from 840 feet at Abrams Creek to 6,643 feet at Clingmans Dome. Although not advertised as highly as the Tennessee side, the North Carolina side offers many great hiking and horseback riding trails at Deep Creek, Round Bottom, Smokemont and at the end of The Road To Nowhere.
The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is a tribute to a hero whose poem "Trees" inspired millions. Joyce Kilmer, who was killed in action in France in W.W.I, has a living memorial in his memory, the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.
Beginning in Highlands, this approximately 61 miles of nationally-recognized byway winds through southern Appalachian hardwood forests, by numerous waterfalls and lakes and through two river gorges.
Nantahala is an Indian name meaning "Land of the Noonday Sun." This name is most appropriate as the sun only reaches the floor of the deep gorges and valleys when directly overhead at midday.
Welcome to the official web site of the National Forests in North Carolina, including the Nantahala, Pisgah, Croatan and Uwharrie National Forests.
The Pisgah National Forest consists of over half a million acres of forest surrounding Mt. Pisgah. The beginnings of the Pisgah National Forest occurred when George Vanderbilt, the grandson of railroad baron, Cornelius Vanderbilt, assembled property around his growing estate at the confluence of the Swannanoa and French Broad Rivers in western North Carolina.
Check out some of the more asccessible Smoky Mountain waterfalls.