Explore Sylva: Here you’re as likely to enjoy a local craft brew as a pop-up concert in the park. Dinner at Guadalupe is a must. This converted 1920’s drugstore features a menu that is as diverse as anything you’ll find in larger locales, with entrees influenced by the Caribbean, Spain, the Middle East, and our American South. Portion sizes are more than ample for sharing, and you’ll want to do just that so you can taste it all.
Take a Deep Breath: You’re already feeling less stressed after your drive. Now take that one step further with a forest therapy walk with Dr. Mark Ellison in Pinnacle Park. Leave your preconceived notions of hiking behind and be prepared to slow down and forest-bathe. The Japanese call this form of therapy Shinrin-Yoku—essentially immersing yourself in the calming energy of the forest. Dr. Ellison guides participants through a series of mindfulness exercises that are guaranteed to leave you feeling more rested than when you arrived. hikingresearch.wordpress.com/guided-forest-therapy-walks/
Hit the Water: The Tuckasegee River winds its way through Jackson County from Cullowhee to Bryson City, but you’re encouraged to pick it up in Dillsboro on an easy river-rafting trip with the Dillsboro River Company. Their tagline of “mom-approved whitewater rafting” gives you an idea of how extreme this adventure is. Expert guides are available to groups who want them, but it is just as easy and enjoyable to grab an inflatable or two-man kayak and head downstream. Pack a cooler if you’d like, but Dillsboro River Company has everything else you’ll need. northcarolinarafting.com/
Still want more? Head back toward Cashiers and find your way to Silver Run Falls, where there is ample roadside parking at the trailhead. Follow the well-worn path to the falls to experience literal forest bathing. Families convene here to take in the cool mountain waters or just picnic adjacent to the roaring falls. Instagram-worthy opportunities abound. ncwaterfalls.com/silver1.htm
Fly-Fishing Dreams Realized: Jackson County is home to the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail with more than a dozen stops providing opportunities to catch brook, brown, and rainbow trout. Locations range in size from open water to small streams. Feel free to bring in your own gear, but if you are just testing the waters, book a guide with Brookings Anglers. They’ll provide everything from waders to hand-tied flies, plus plenty of expert knowledge and lots of patience. While guys like Rhett and Ben might not guarantee you’ll land a big rainbow, they promise you will have fun and probably come away addicted to making that perfect cast. brookingsonline.com
Where To Stay: Jackson County stretches all the way from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park down to the South Carolina border. Given that there is so much to see and do, staying in the town of Cashiers is an easy choice. There is a wide variety of places to choose from to fit all budgets, but the Laurelwood Inn is perfect for just about everybody. Situated just off the main intersection of Hwy 64 and Hwy 107, the inn is close to everything while still being tucked into the forest’s glade. Even better, take the short stroll through the back of the property to arrive at Whiteside Brewing Company, where the kids can burn off some energy running around while the grownups enjoy a flight of craft brews. laurelwoodinncashiers.com
Planning a longer getaway?
There is almost no place better in Jackson County than Bear Lake Reserve in nearby Tuckasegee. A long afternoon at the Lake Club after a challenging round of golf is worth the drive alone, and yet there is so much else here to explore.