The Smokies rise above the South along the North Carolina-Tennessee border and are a sub-range of the Appalachian Mountains. These beautiful peaks are most well-known as the home of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
This area in North Carolina is great for enjoying the outdoors during all seasons. When the temperatures warm up, check out water activities like rafting or river tubing. As the snow falls, enjoy your free time with a little downhill skiing.
The Great Smoky Mountains get their name from the natural fog that hangs over the peaks and creates large plumes in the distance. They’re an awesome place to plan adventurous hikes thanks to the dense forests. You might even catch a glimpse of a black bear!
Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains
- Cherokee Indian Museum: Located in Cherokee, North Carolina, the Cherokee Indian Museum displays a fascinating collection of original artifacts used by this tribe many years ago. A 20-foot, hand-carved statue of Sequoyah, inventor of the Cherokee alphabet, greets visitors to the museum, and inside you will learn all about the history of the Cherokee Native Americans through audio and visual presentations and displays.
- Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts: While in North Carolina visiting the Smoky Mountains, stop by the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts to catch a live show. This theater seats 1,500 people, so there’s plenty of space for both visitors and locals to see a performance. You can hear country, gospel and folk music, see a choral festival or watch a dance performance. It’s a great place to spend an evening after a delicious meal tasting the local fare.
- Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum: For those who love looking at sparkly things or may be interested in the history of the area, a trip to the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum is a must. Located in a historic 1850s jail in the center of the town of Franklin, the museum features eight rooms filled with minerals from North Carolina, fossils, Indian artifacts, fluorescing minerals and a collection of minerals and specimens from around the globe.
Outdoor Activities in the Smoky Mountains
- Gem Mining: If you’re intrigued by the idea of hunting for buried treasure, gem mining is for you. The Nantahala River Gem Mine gives you the chance to search for a variety of gemstones like rubies, emeralds, amethyst, citrine, peridot, moonstones, rhodolite, apatite, aquamarine, turquoise, ametrine, Mexican opal, sapphires, garnets, topaz, quartz and smoky quartz, chrysoprase and more. Test your luck and skill to see if you can if you find your own beautifully colored treasure.
- Appalachian Trail: The Appalachian Trail is an iconic feat for any avid hiker or explorer and runs straight through the Smoky Mountains on its way from Georgia to Maine. Visitors to the Smoky Mountains area can enjoy numerous hikes to explore the different parts of the trail in both Tennessee and North Carolina; however, be warned that the paths are quite steep but offer spectacular views of the Southern landscape.
- Darnell Farms Corn Maze: For a unique outdoor adventure, try not to get lost in the Darnell Farms Corn Maze. Located near the Tuckaseigee River in Bryson City, the farm creates different patterns with the corn stalks each year where visitors can try to make their way from one end to the other without getting turned around. Put your orienteering skills to work as you enjoy each other’s company, some fresh air and what’s sure to be a hilarious experience.
- Deep Creek Tubing: When the weather turns warm, the best way to cool down is to get in the water. With deep creek tubing, you can rent your own tube for the day and enjoy floating along the water as you relax under the sun and breathe in the Appalachian air.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Appalachian history and culture was born in these mountains, which can be explored on more than 500,000 acres. On the North Carolina side, there are great trails for hiking as well as horseback riding. There are many adventures to be had here as you enjoy the open spaces and breathe the fresh air. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a delicious meal surrounded by natural beauty. You can also visit the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, which displays exhibits on mountain life in the 1800s. Adjacent to the center is the Mountain Farm Museum, boasting a collection of historic farm buildings you can examine.