Asheville, North Carolina is a fantastic destination for a getaway, and its beauty and charm both speak to that. However, we're not talking about Asheville - we're talking about an area that lies just west of this southern city. Jackson County has been affectionately called the 'Yosemite of the East' for quite a while, and it's about time it gets some attention.
If you don't agree yet, then you just might after seeing all that it has to offer. It's almost hard to believe that this North Carolina county is so full of nature that it could compete with one of the country's most popular national parks, but it's true. Visitors won't find geysers that shoot sky-high or grizzly bears (thankfully?) roaming free, but they will have the chance to explore a vast wilderness that no one even knew was in this quiet East Coast state.
Hiking And Fishing Are Two Main Hobbies... With Gorgeous Scenery To Boot
Most people know this popular hiking ground as Panthertown Valley, but it also goes by the name of Nantahala National Forest. This is also the main nature valley that inspired the name 'Yosemite of the East' and it's easy to see why. Hiking is the absolute best way to see this area of the woodlands, and it's home to a whole slew of diverse geological features and trails.
One of the main attractions is Whiteside Mountain, which is considered to be one of the oldest in the entire world. Reaching the summit of this mountain only requires a two-mile-long hike and, at the top, stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges and valleys below will surround you. That's not the only summit hikers can reach, though, as this area is home to the densest collection of mountains in the entire state, according to iExplore. In terms of stone outcroppings, Panthertown Valley could definitely be mistaken for a miniature Yosemite.
Not only is Nantahala National Forest a haven for mountain lovers but it's also a great spot for recreational fishing. In fact, its lakes are home to more trout than any other in the state (do you notice a trend here?) making it a great destination for sport fishermen. Those who enjoy the sport have their choice of more than 250 waterways which include both creeks and rivers, as well as the Tuskegee River, which is the most popular place for fishing.
iExplore refers to the river as the 'Fly Fishing Captial of North Carolina,' which is a strong testament to its ability to house a plethora of fish species year after year. With a list of tours to choose from and plenty of places to cast off from the shores of each major waterway, there's plenty of room to spread out, as well. For those who don't enjoy the catch of the day and just appreciate the water, the park's hiking trails can easily guide you to the water's edge.
Speaking Of Water, There Are Too Many In Nantahala To Count
Just when you thought this park was no different than any other state park (including Yosemite), we're throwing in a list of waterfalls to visit. Not only are the rivers and creeks swirling around this forest to surprise and delight all who visit it, but there could just be a breathtaking cascade right around the corner of whatever trail hikers might be following. In the southernmost part of the forest, visitors will find a dense collection of waterfalls, each more unique than the last. The areas to look for, specifically, are between Cashiers and Nantahala, which is where hikers will likely run into Whitewater Falls. This is the second-largest waterfall in the eastern half of the country, giving it a pretty honorary reputation.
Getting to the viewing overlook for this waterfall is fairly easy and requires a short hike but, as always around any body of water, the steps leading to it can be slick. Another waterfall, Schoolhouse Falls, is located not far from this one so it's easy to see both in one hiking day trip.
This does require a longer hike, though, but fear not - iExplore offers another suggestion in the form of Silver Run Falls, which is an easy-to-reach waterfall that's still just as impressive with its cascade. It's located just off State Highway 107, which makes it just as easy to find as it is to hike to.
Takeaways From Pathertown Valley
While it's not Yosemite - no park can really be Yosemite - it's still a wildly impressive display of nature for those who are fans of the Great Outdoors. This region is a must-visit for anyone on the East Coast and even for those who aren't, it's certainly worth the road trip.