Our Top 10 List
We’d like to share with you some of our favorite things to see and do here in our little corner of the mountains. Our area offers a little bit of everything and something for everyone. Head out to the woods, get out on the water, climb a mountain or duck under a waterfall. Head to the lake and rent a boat, paddle-board or kayak, or jump on a raft and tackle some of the country’s finest whitewater. Or grab your tackle box and hook a record-setting bass. Hit the galleries and antique shops for that one-of-a-kind treasure.
Put on your dancin’ shoes and head on over the John C. Campbell Folk School for a night of bluegrass and clogging.
You can do it all, or you can just do nothing…
(In no particular order)
1. Pull On Your Boots And Head to the Woods
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir
So many miles…so little time. Maybe you’ll never hike the entire Appalachian Trail (the “AT”), but you can hike a good portion of it right here in our little corner of the mountains. The AT crosses 14 states on its journey up the East Coast, but it begins nearby in Georgia. One of our favorite hikes is the AT Approach Trail. The trail is 15-miles roundtrip and makes for a challenging day hike, complete with mountaintop vistas and views of stunning Amicalola Falls. You’ll hike from the crest of the falls to Springer Mountain, the southern end of the Appalachian Trail which has served as the starting point for countless bucket-list adventures. From there, it’s entirely up to you if you want to pull out your compass and keep heading north for another 2000+ miles!
If you’d like to hike the AT but are looking for something a little kinder to your feet, we’re happy to help you find the AT hike that’s just right for you. We have lots of hiking books, trail reports and maps, and personal experience to share – just give us a holler!
2. The John C. Campbell Folk School
“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.” – Francis of Assisi
The John C. Campbell Folk School, locally known as simply “The Folk School”, is located in nearby Brasstown. The school was founded to nurture and preserve the folk arts of the Appalachian Mountains and is listed on the National Register of Historic places. Founded in 1925, the Folk School’s motto is “I sing behind the plow”.
In addition to the many week-long and weekend classes offered in traditional and contemporary arts and crafts, including blacksmithing, ceramics, weaving. music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography, storytelling and writing, the school also hosts many free concerts with some of the best bluegrass and country music in the region as well as community dances and clogging performances. You can spend a delightful day on the campus, wandering among the many workshops and buildings, observing classes in everything from jewelry-making to fly-tying. Take a stroll in the herb and vegetable gardens and walk the trail down along Brasstown Creek. Learn all about the history of old-time Appalachian crafts and culture in the museum. The gift shop has a large selection of some of the finest mountain arts and crafts to be found anywhere in the region. And when you get hungry, you can enjoy a home-cooked meal in the dining room.
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. – Virginia Woolf
Acclaimed by critics and guests alike, The Copper Door features dry-aged steaks, fresh seafood and a well-chosen selection of quality wines. This local gem earned Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence in 2011 and 2012 and was voted one of America’s Top Ten Steakhouses in 2016. The Copper Door offers guests a warm, inviting dining room, a romantic patio with a courtyard, and a full bar. Sit by the fireplace with a glass of great wine and read on to see what others have said about their experience with Chef Dennis’ culinary talents at The Copper Door.
“Well, while we didn’t exactly find gold . . . we did find extraordinarily delightful copper in this remote mountain town of Hayesville, NC. We found The Copper Door. No matter the metal, it was a gem of a find. I was on business with a group from LA, NY, SF, Miami, DC, Minneapolis, and Atlanta. We all agreed it was as good as any restaurant in those cities. The Copper Door offers a unique array of delicious appetizers from roasted beets to crayfish, snails, and puff pastries. The tenderloin dishes with various twists, including crabmeat, lobster, scallops, and more, were artfully delivered and as brilliant to the palate as any gemstone is to the eye. The wine list was a wonderful blend of the new and the old world wines. The service was impeccable. A diamond in the rough. A pearl hidden in Hayesville. The Copper Door is a wonderful experience on every level. There is, indeed, gold in them hills. Take the time to venture through this delightful door.” (from a satiated diner, July2017)
MSN.com – Get Lost: 20 Must-Visit U.S. Restaurants in the Middle of Nowhere
Only in Your State – These 20 Restaurants In North Carolina Will Make Your Mouth Explode
Huffington Post – OpenTable Names Top 100 Restaurants For Service
Only in Your State – 25 Restaurants You Have To Visit In North Carolina Before You Die
4. Whitewater Rafting
“I gave my heart to the mountains the minute I stood beside this river with its spray in my face and watched
it thunder into foam… its roar shook both the earth and me.” – Wallace Stegner
Adrenaline rushes, your heart pounds and as you look up, the last thing you see is wave after wave of foaming, roaring water rushing at your boat – this is the ultimate whitewater rafting experience. Western North Carolina is home to some of the most pristine rivers and most thrilling rapids anywhere in the country. Rafting any rapids is sure to get your heart pumping but are you brave enough to face the Class 3 rapids of the Ocoee River? If not, the Nantahala River offers rafting and float trips perfect for all ages and experience levels, including first time rafters and families. Whether you choose a fully-guided trip, rent a raft, or brave the river in a rented Ducky, you’re sure to have an adventure that will stay with you long after you dry out. And if we can do it, you can too! That’s Jorge up at the front of the raft (with sunglasses) and Linda’s in the back with the guide.
5. Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
“I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.” – Joyce Kilmer
We all learned the poem as kids, but here’s your chance to walk among the giant trees of the virgin forest that Joyce Kilmer immortalized in his famous poem “Trees”. The 3,800+ acre forest is one of the largest contiguous tracts of old growth forest in the Eastern United States and is home to some specimens over 400 years old. Kids of all ages will love hiking the easy two-mile, figure-eight trail and gazing upon the huge trees, some of which are more than 20 feet in circumference and stand more than 100 feet tall. And while you’re in that corner of the mountains, add an exhilarating drive on the nearby Cherohala Skyway. This unique roadway, with its heart-stopping curves and turns and climbs over mile-high mountains with mile-high vistas, brilliant seasonal foliage, the magnificent splendor of the Cherokee National Forest and the Tellico River with views that rival – or surpass – any from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“…But only God can make a tree.”
6. Elk Viewing In The Cataloochee Valley
“If you lived through only one of those winters the way this elk has, you would write books about it.
You would become a shaman. You would be forever changed.” – Craig Childs, author
Pack a picnic and head to the Cataloochee Valley in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to enjoy a day in one of the prettiest valleys in the region, home to a large herd of elk. Elk once roamed the southern Appalachian Mountains but were eliminated from the region by over-hunting and loss of habitat. Elk were re-introduced in 2001 and the herd has now grown to over 200 animals. The best time to watch elk is in the early morning right at sunrise or in the evening at twilight. And while you’re in the valley, be sure to explore the collection of historic buildings dating back to the turn of the last century, including the Caldwell homestead, a picturesque church and the old schoolhouse. Plan to spend the day in the valley and explore some of the miles of quiet hiking trails that wind through the park.
Did you know? The elk’s breeding season, known as the rut, begins mid-September. During the rut, male elk make bugling calls to challenge other bulls and attract cows. Dominant bulls use the fields to gather and breed with harems of up to 20 cows. Bull elk actively defend their territory by charging and sparring with competitors using their antlers to intimidate and spar with other males. Don’t get too close– a bull may be threatened by your approach and come charging!
7. A Day On The Lake
“A little tranquil lake is more significant to my life than any big city in the world.” – Munia Khan
Beautiful Lake Chatuge (pronounced “sha-toog”) spans 7200 acres, stretching 13 miles from Hayesville on the north to Hiawassee, Georgia on the south. From the Cherokee for “land where the waters meet,” Lake Chatuge offers spectacular views of both the Tusquittee Range and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Its picturesque location has earned it the nickname “Jewel of the Mountains” and one of the best ways to enjoy and explore the lake is by boat. The meandering shoreline creates secluded coves and islands that offer hidden fishing holes and quiet swimming spots. Spend a lazy day canoeing or kayaking the lake, or rent a pontoon, powerboat or jet-ski and feel the wind in your hair! About seventy-five percent of the 132 miles of shoreline surrounding Lake Chatuge is protected from development by virtue of its ownership by the Tennessee Valley Authority, U.S. Forest Service, and local townships. Because of this, the lake’s mainly undisturbed beauty makes it ideal for those seeking serenity and seclusion in a natural setting. It’s easy to see why this “Jewel of the Mountains” is truly a hidden gem.
8. Tumbling Waters And Waterfalls
“There’s no better place to find yourself that sitting by a waterfall and listening to its music.” – Ronald Kemler
How many times in your life will you actually get to walk behind a tumbling, roaring waterfall? Now’s your chance! Head on over to Dry Falls (just west of Highlands, about an hour’s drive from the cabin) and experience another of Mother Nature’s awesome spectacles here in the Nantahala Forest. Dry Falls on the Cullasaja River is part of a series of waterfalls on a stretch of the river that eventually ends with Cullasaja Falls. In the deep and narrow Cullasaja Gorge, the river rushes and drops in a series of cascades and waterfalls that make this stretch of road – the Mountains Waters Scenic Byway – one of the most spectacular in the region. But Dry Falls is the highlight. The 75-ft tall waterfall flows over a rocky cliff, allowing you to walk behind the falls and stay dry (hence the name). Climb down the stairs and along the path and experience the full force of the tumbling waters. When it rains, the roar of the falls is deafening, and later, when the sun comes out, you may be lucky enough to see a rainbow.
9. Trout Fishing In Nearby Fires Creek
“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after” – Henry David Thoreau.
“If fishing is religion, fly fishing is high church.” – Tom Brokaw
Do you find your peace standing in a rushing creek or on the shore of a remote stream, quietly casting your line in a game of wits with the elusive trout? A quick 10-minute drive from the cabin is the Fires Creek Wildlife Management Area, home to Leatherwood Falls and Fires Creek. Fires Creek is a hidden jewel for those who enjoy matching their skill with the cunning of the trout. With headwaters that flow from the Tusquittee Bald area of the Tusquittee Mountains, the creek boasts ten miles of pristine trout waters here in the Nantahala National Forest. Fires Creek and its two small tributaries – Little Fires Creek and Long Branch – is a wild, remote stream with short riffles, runs and some deep plunge pools where, with the blessings luck and the fishing-gods, you’ll find rainbows and browns.
10. Small Town Hayesville
“This town of churches and dreams; this town I thought I would lose myself in, with its backward ways and
winding roads leading to nowhere; but, I found myself instead.” – Kellie Elmore
For a taste of real small-town America, plan to spend some time right here in Hayesville. Experience town life as it used to be – no traffic, no crowds, just one stop-and-go light. Voted one of the “Nicest Places in America”, you’ll be given a warm welcome in our local shops and galleries and you’re sure not to leave a stranger. Visit the two local museums: the Centennial Exhibit and the Old Jail Museum, where the kids can experience a lock-up in the old county jail. Grab a pizza for lunch at Angelo’s then stop in the one-of-a-kind boutiques around the Square, including Morning Song Gallery, specializing in original artwork and handmade crafts by local artists and craftsmen. For a step back in time, stop in Tigers Department Store where you’ll find everything from farmers overalls to baby gifts and everything in between. Enjoy an old-fashioned malted next door at Chinquapins and when it’s finally time to head back to the cabin, go by way of Tusquittee Road (aka “the back way”). For picked-this-morning sweet strawberries and fresh corn, stop at SMM Farms right outside of town. As you wind your way out of town, the road approaches the broad open expanse of the beautiful Tusquittee Valley, one of the most unblemished and picturesque country views in all of western North Carolina.
The cabin awaits and the creek is calling your name. . .
Hayesville and Clay County – Good for the soul.
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