Anglers fly-fish in the Tuckasegee River. (Photo courtesy of VisitNC.com)
By Jennifer McKee
Even though the world hasn’t stopped social distancing and wearing masks, you can still get away for a responsible spring vacation—especially if you’re headed to the idyllic surroundings of Jackson County, North Carolina. Get out into the fresh air and reconnect with Mother Nature and feel the stressors of life just melt away.
If out on the water is where you want to be, Jackson County has you covered. A haven for fishermen and women, it’s not only North Carolina’s Trout Capital but is home to the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail, the only fishing trail of its kind in the country. Download the WNC Fly Fishing Trail Map to discover 15 prime fishing spots; if you’re new to the sport, you’ll find everything you need at one of Jackson County’s many outfitters, and a guide to boot.
Fishing, however, only scratches the surface of outdoor activities available here. Grab a paddle and kayak or raft down the more than 50 miles of the Tuckasegee River, or paddleboard or rent a boat and explore the 26 miles of shoreline along Lake Glenville. You’ll feel like you’ve found your own private paradise on smaller lakes such as Tanasee Creek Lake, Cedar Cliff Lake (a great place for swimming) and the East Fork Lakes.
There are also plenty of recreational opportunities for those who want to plant their feet firmly on land. Jackson County has 185 named summits, endless trails, dozens of waterfalls and one of the oldest mountains in the world. The latter, Whiteside Mountain, is a landmark along the Eastern Continental Divide, and rises to an elevation of 4,930 feet. Its cliffs appear to have sheets of ice draped across them and are a stunning sight.
The mountain is estimated to be about 390-460 million years old. Skilled hikers will find a two-mile trail loop that climbs above the sheer 750-foot-high cliffs and provides dramatic views of the east, south and west. Beware, it’s rated “more difficult” because of its steepness.
Those looking for a less challenging route will also get expansive views on the Black Balsam Trail. In just one mile—out and back—you break out of the tree cover and trek across the North Carolina balds. This also sets you directly in line with the Blue Ridge Parkway (it’s milepost 420) and further exploration.
A great description of Jackson County’s impressive hikes can be found here.
After all that exploring, you’re bound to be ravenous. Here’s a great trail to end with: the Jackson County Ale Trail, home to six craft breweries with 120-plus locally brewed beers, with spacious outdoor patios to enjoy them on. Perhaps you want to pack a blanket and get your lunch to go? Visit one of the local farmers markets or order restaurant takeout—a diverse array of cuisine types can be found here.
Interested in forest therapy? You can find that here too, on a wellness walk that encourages sensory awareness, naturally slowing you down to reconnect with the world around you. Check out Jackson County’s wellness offerings.