The Cashiers region of North Carolina has been a place for family retreats for generations, and the history and character of the area are matched by its magnificent natural beauty. Whether you want to be in the water, on a trail, or just relaxing on a patio with an ice cold drink, the Blue Ridge Mountains are the place to be.
There are over fifty well-maintained trails in the region of North Carolina in which Bear Lake Reserve sits, including 675 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park alone. The Appalachian Trail – running 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine – passes just North of the county and draws millions of hikers annually. Various guide services are available for both day hikes and overnight pack trips, and Bear Lake Reserve has commissioned a thorough Trail Guide (PDF) of the nearby and very popular Panthertown Valley trails.
Some of the best hiking in and around Jackson County is found along the Blue Ridge Parkway as it gently meanders the county’s eastern edge. Within a 30-mile stretch, you can hike Water Rock Knob (6,292 feet), Richland Balsam (6,410 feet), and the imposing Devil’s Courthouse (5,723 feet). Additionally, a trail at Wet Camp Gap offers a short, easy hike to a mile-high meadow with awesome views of the Pisgah National Forest. The Mountains-To-Sea Trail can also be accessed at Wet Camp Gap. While not as high as its brethren, Devil’s Courthouse is memorable for spectacular rock outcroppings at its peak. The park service has a paved trail of 0.8 miles (roundtrip) leading to a summit that provides a view of four states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee.
Visit the Jackson Co. Chamber to read up on some of our favorite waterfall day trips, with directions for Cashiers Area/Southern Jackson County.
Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
One of the centerpiece attractions of Jackson County is the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. Since 1988, it has provided visitors with scenic excursions out of its depot in historic downtown Dillsboro. The railroad has a variety of options, including half-day and full-day trips, raft and rail excursions, gourmet dinner excursions, and mystery theater trains. Click here for complete information on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.
Cyclists find a wide array of challenges in and around Jackson County, including single-track trails, back roads, and trails in the Nantahala National Forest. The Nantahala Outdoor Center’s Tsali Trail System is one of the nation’s finest, while Panthertown Wilderness Area and the Roy A. Taylor ATV Trail System also offer riding opportunities. The Blue Ridge Parkway is an off-season favorite for road bikers, but isn’t recommended in the summer and fall because of heavy motor traffic.
Jackson County offers a wide range of fishing opportunities. The Tuckasegee River, Jackson County’s largest body of water, was called “Western North Carolina’s best trout stream for fly anglers,” by the Charlotte Observer, and scores of smaller streams offer many more opportunities. Fishing is also available on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and on any of Jackson County’s several mountain lakes. Fishermen have good success in search of rainbow, brown, and native brook trout, bass, bream, walleye, and crappie. Keep in mind that regulations can differ. For example, one may fish Cherokee Indian Reservation waters without a state of North Carolina license, but a Cherokee Tribal permit is required. Fishing is allowed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with either a Tennessee or North Carolina license. Go to for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission website, which offers trout fishing regulations, licensing information, Jackson County stream stocking information, directions to handicapped-accessible fishing locations in Jackson County, and more.
Dream Catcher Guides
Austin Neary is a Professional Angler who offers half and full day guided trips on Bear Creek Lake. Join him on a guided excursion to learn about fishing the waters of Bear Creek Lake! Visit his website at www.anearyfishing.com to learn more about this service or to book a trip.
In addition to our own private Nicklaus Design® 9-hole golf course, Jackson County offers a superb selection of classic mountain golf courses that are both challenging and scenic. These courses host thousands of golfers each year. From Cashiers’ world-renowned courses in the south to the picturesque Smoky Mountain Country Club in the county’s north end, the area is replete with one-of-a-kind mountain golf in a variety of awe-inspiring settings. Jackson County boasts six premier public access courses, while the nearby Waynesville Country Club features 27 holes framed by blue-green mountains.
Area stables offer gentle horses, beautiful scenery, well-maintained trails, and knowledgeable staff. Year-round riding is available.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Our winters are generally mild, but snow is not unusual, particularly in the higher elevations around Cashiers, Sapphire Valley, and Balsam. At the Sapphire Valley Ski Area, snowmaking machines help maintain prime skiing conditions from mid-December through February. The ski area offers four slopes, a vertical drop of 425 feet, a chair lift, and a surface lift. Locations in northern Jackson County are within reasonable driving distance of Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley. The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed during any kind of winter weather, and is popular with cross-country skiers during those times.
Swimming, sailing, water skiing, boating, tubing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and canoeing are all available in Jackson County. There are four whitewater rivers – the Tuckasegee, Chattooga, Oconaluftee and the nearby Nantahala – with difficulty ranging from Class I to Class VI. Commercial companies rent rafts, canoes, kayaks, and tubes. Canoes and boat rentals are available on Lake Glenville, near Cashiers. There are also several smaller, more remote lakes in the county, all of which have boat access.