- 43 miles (69 km)
- 1.5 hours
Embedded in the Nanatahala National Forest are 43 miles that make up the Nantahala Scenic Byway. This byway is named for Nantahala Gorge, and passes through 20 miles of it.
As a world-class white water rafting spot, Nantahala Gorge attracts visitors year-round. Canoeing and Kayaking enthusiasts find the Nantahala River a perfect place for an intense ride.Towards the southern end of the gorge, visitors can enjoy calmer waters.
Sprinkled with resorts and small communities, there is something for everyone along the Nantahala Scenic Byway. Travelers canexplore the gorge itself and areas of interest that may include the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, Fontana Lake, and the Cherokee Indian Reservation. The Nantahala Scenic Byway holds a myriad of possibilities for visitors to North Carolina's western tip.
Points of Interest
Points of Interest Along The Way
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (NC)
The national park, in the states of North Carolina and Tennessee, encompasses 800 square miles of which 95 percent are forested. World renowned for the diversity of its plant and animal resources, the beauty of its ancient mountains, the quality of its remnants of American pioneer culture, and the depth and integrity of the wilderness sanctuary within its boundaries, it is one of the largest protected areas in the east.
From Bryson City continue on US 19 northeast until Cherokee. Turn left onto the park road.
Nantahala National Forest (NC)
This beautiful forest lies in the mountains and valleys ofwestern North Carolina between Waynesville and Murphy. Elevationsin the Nantahala National Forest range from a low of 1,200 feet along the Tusquitee River below the Appalachian Dam in Cherokee County to a high of 5,800 feet at Lone Bald in Jackson County. The Cheoah, Highlands, Tusquitee, and Wayah Ranger Districts form the Nantahala National Forest. Their headquarters are in several mountain communities, situated along the western recesses of the Appalachian Mountains. The Wayah District is located in Franklin,North Carolina.
With the exception of Highlands, the other three districts have taken their names from the Cherokee Indian language. Cheoah is theCherokee word for otter, Tusquitee is Cherokee for where the water dogs laughed, and Wayah is Cherokee for wolf. Even the term Nantahala is a Cherokee Indian word meaning land of the noonday sun, a fitting name for the deep valleys and gorges where the sun only penetrates to the valley floor when directly overhead at noon. With over half a million acres, the Nantahala is the largest of the four national forests in North Carolina.
The byway passes through the Nantahala National Forest.