As people begin to travel again — albeit closer to home and likely via car versus plane — they’re looking for nearby destinations that offer plenty of opportunities to safely explore away from crowds. And that’s where the great outdoors come into play. As we head into fall, weather lends itself perfectly to outdoor activities, and one of the South’s most beautiful outdoor adventure destinations is Jackson County, NC, which includes the towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro and Sylva.

If you’re looking to get in one last trip before hunkering down for winter, put a visit to this stunning Southern region on your calendar. With 494 square miles of wide-open spaces and more named summits than anywhere else in the state, Jackson County is the perfect travel destination — now more than ever. Here’s your itinerary to enjoy all of the outdoor activities Jackson County has to offer!

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How to Spend a Weekend in Jackson County, NC

HIKING

Throughout Jackson County, hikers of all skill levels will find a variety of trails to enjoy. Take a leisurely stroll to take in the views, or tackle an exercise challenge that will get the blood pumping. Here, you will find miles of hiking trails geared to fit all skill levels. With wildlife, waterfalls, and outstanding views, the trails of Jackson County will reward you at every turn.

Jackson county — stunning hiking shot

Explore countless miles of hiking trails that yield views like this. Image: Nick Breedlove

Hiking in Jackson County

Pick a trail, any trail. Options run the gamut — from easy half-mile hikes to longer, more challenging ones. Image: Nick Breedlove

waterfall in Jackson County

Whitewater Falls is one of several waterfalls you’ll find in Jackson County. Image: Stacy Redmon

FLY FISHING

Fly fishing is notoriously a solo or distanced activity. In fact, those fishing are required to remain approximately 75 feet apart in order to cast. What you may not know, though, is Jackson County is home to the country’s first and only fly fishing trail, the WNC Fly Fishing Trail®, and the area is known for its miles of clear, clean and fully stocked waters (92,800 fish stocked annually!).

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Whether you’re a seasoned fly fisherman or you’re new to the sport, all can agree that the tranquility of fly fishing is what draws many to the sport. And because the area is home to many great fly fishing spots, there are plenty of local outfitters that can get you equipped to start casting. If you prefer to fish for largemouth bass, check out the lakes in and around Jackson County instead.

Fly fishing in Jackson County

Catch some fresh trout on the Tuckasegee River (aka “The Tuck”). Image: Jackson County TDA

Fly Fishing in Jackson County

Fly fishing on the Tuck offers a serene experience in the great outdoors. Image: Jackson County TDA

FOREST MEDITATION

If you’re searching for a mental break, consider Shinrin-Yoku, the ancient Japanese art of forest meditation. Designed to help you reap the relaxing health benefits of being outdoors while also becoming self-aware, the practice nurtures sensory awareness and a deeper connection with the natural environment. Offered by Dr. Mark Ellison through Pinnacle Forest Therapy, participants can enjoy a three-hour walk as they learn breathing techniques that nurture a feeling of being at one with nature.

Stunning view in Jackson County

This view is meditation-worthy, don’t you think? Image: Nick Breedlove

GET OUT ON THE WATER

Lakes, rivers, waterfalls … Jackson County has them all. Before the season changes and temps drop for good, enjoy a water adventure as you kayak or raft the more than 50 miles of the Tuckasegee River. Or paddleboard, rent a boat or simply explore the 26 miles of shoreline along Lake Glenville. There are more than two dozen waterfalls in the area ranging from cascading falls to gentle flows, all of which make for one-of-a-kind photo opportunities and unique ways to cool down.

Rafting in Jackson County

Take to the water for an energizing ride before the temps change for the season. Image: Jackson County TDA

waterfall in Jackson County

Silver Run Falls is one of many natural waterfalls in the area. In addition to a beautiful sight, the small swimming hole offers a nice place to cool off. Image: Jackson County TDA

The small towns of Jackson County offer a convenient location and an affordable escape. Book a stay at any of the area’s hotels or cabins, and get out and explore this one-of-a-kind part of the country!

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Find more great Southern escapes in our travel section, and then start planning your next getaway!