Bryson City’s Shops and Galleries
Bryson City is a charming small town with beautiful street scape planters lining the streets and bridges. We highly recommend a leisurely stroll through town, taking time to visit the shops, studios and galleries. See artisans weave baskets and wander past shops selling artisanal items, specialty clothing, art, delectable treats, quilts and many other treasures that are unique to this area.
The Historic Courthouse and Town Square
Bryson City’s iconic old courthouse towers over the town square and the adjacent block of early 20th century buildings. The historic courthouse houses the Bryson City and National Park visitor center on the basement floor, and the Swain County Heritage Museum upstairs.
Scenic Railroad Excursions
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad operates scenic rail excursions through the beautiful countryside of Western North Carolina. Departing from the historic Bryson City Depot, trips go into the Nantahala River Gorge or to nearby Dillsboro. Options include first class cars with a private attendant as well as open-air gondolas! Visit their website for information about special themed excursions.
Deep Creek Waterfalls, Hiking, Fishing
Just a quarter mile from the Folkestone Inn, the Deep Creek area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers hiking and nature trails, mountain trout streams with waterfalls and incomparable pristine beauty.
Stand-up Paddleboarding is available on Fontana Lake and on the Tuckasegee River in downtown Bryson City. Rentals are available at Bryson City Outdoors.
Boating for recreation and fishing on two mountain lakes in Swain County, two beautiful mountain lakes — the 26 mile-long Fontana and the smaller Cheoah — provide exceptional boating for recreation and fishing.
Road Cycling and Off-road Mountain Biking – In the Western North Carolina Mountains, the word "flat" is seldom used to describe our landscape. So, needless to say, biking these hills can be a challenge for road bikers and off-road bikers alike. Tsali Recreation Area Trail System, 15 miles west of Bryson City. Pronounced "SAH-lee" and named after the 19th century Cherokee Indian martyr, the 42-mile network of multi-use trails is consistently rated one of the top ten riding destinations in the United States. Tsali Cycles in town is a great place to rent bikes or get trail advice.
Yoga - Tsali Yoga is an all levels yoga studio, with gentle and intermediate classes. $8/class.
Elevate Your Golf Game at two 18-hole mountain courses – Smoky Mountain Country Club and Sequoyah National. The spectacular landscape of the Great Smoky Mountains has been luring vacationers for generations. And now, it’s attracting golfers who enjoy the unique challenges that a true mountain golf course can deliver.
Fishing is big in Swain County. So big, in fact, that it has its own website – GreatSmokiesFishing.com. This comprehensive guide to fishing in the NC Smokies features a map and descriptions of twenty-six fishing destinations — mountain trout streams, creeks, rivers and two large lakes. These waters offer more than 17 sporting species from trout to bass to Muskie. A 2.2-mile stretch of Delayed Harvest Waters runs through downtown Bryson City.
Scenic Drives – Enjoy the Newfound Gap Road through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; take the side trip to the Clingmans Dome Tower (April -Nov) for a "top of the Smokies" view. Explore the Blue Ridge Parkway as well as the Cherohala Skyway for incomparable mountain views.
Motorcycling – The Deals Gap Dragon, with 318 curves in 11 miles, is America’s number one motorcycle and sports car road. Also known as “US 129,” the road is bordered by the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest, with no intersecting roads or driveways to hamper your travel. It is considered “the destination” for thousands of motorcycle and sports car fans throughout the spring, summer, and fall.
The Cherokee Indian Reservation is just short drive from Bryson City near the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Native American cultural attractions include a museum, an 16th century Indian village and the outdoor drama, "Unto These Hills."
The Nantahala River is one of the most popular whitewater rafting rivers in the Southeast luring more than 200,000 paddlers to its waters every year. A perfect combination of exciting whitewater and placid pools, the Nantahala is a great introduction to the sport of whitewater paddling.
In the mood for something more sedate? Try the Tuckasegee River. With its Class I and II rapids, Tuckasegee rafting trips provide great outdoor entertainment for the entire family.
For experienced paddlers, the Cheoah River offers a nine-mile stretch of Class IV - V rapids between Santeetlah and Calderwood lakes west of Bryson City. Dropping 150-feet per mile, the Cheoah is three times as steep as the Gauley – and equally challenging. Unfortunately, the Cheoah is a controlled-release river with a very limited number of release dates. Check with an outfitter for times.
The Ocoee has been rated one of the ten best whitewater rivers in the country by Canoe Magazine. A number of local outfitters take trips down the Ocoee, about 1-1/2 hours southwest of Bryson City. It has been chosen as the site of national whitewater championships on several occasions as well as home of the 1996 Olympic Whitewater competition. Fully guided due to the challenging water.More about whitewater