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Plan Your Smokies Getaway

3-Day Vacation Itinerary

3-Day Trip to Bryson City and the North Carolina Smokies

Whether you’re planning a long holiday weekend or a mini-vacation, this 3-day vacation itinerary includes many of the area’s favorite activities and eateries.

Rail excursion by Fontana Lake

Day 1

Mid-morning thru mid-afternoon

See the Smokies by train! The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers round-trip scenic journeys through the mountains with a variety of seating options and meals. Make a day of it by adding one of their packages, which include lunch and either zip lining, rafting, or a jeep tour. (Of course you can book these separately from the train ride.)


Mid-April thru November, enjoy dining at The Fryemont Inn, where you will enjoy local trout dishes as well as casual fare in their Fireside Bar.

Day 2


Waterfalls – Today’s plans begin with a drive and short hike to Soco Falls, a double waterfall just outside Cherokee. From there it is a short drive to pick up the Parkway at Soco Gap (Milepost 455.7). Head west toward Cherokee enjoying several nice overlooks.

A the end of the Parkway, head south into Cherokee for lunch and a visit to 120-foot-tall Mingo Falls. There are a number of lunch spots close-by in Cherokee.


Book a 1-hour horseback ride at Smokemont Riding Stables (make reservation) just 10 minutes inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After your ride head further north on US 441 to Newfound Gap, the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee. For a fun photo op, put one foot in Tennessee and one in North Carolina at the state line.

April thru November, you can continue on to Clingmans Dome observation tower for a 360-degree view of the Park. There is a visitor center there with restrooms.

Drive back toward Cherokee, stopping to visit Mingus Mill, the Visitor Center and the outdoor structures at the Mountain Farm Museum. If you arrive in the late afternoon, you are likely to spot elk in the fields at mountain farm.


Pasqualino’s Italian Restaurant is a great spot for a fresh, traditional Italian meal, or other American fare in a relaxed setting.

Day 3


Take the The Road to Nowhere,” a short drive into the National Park just outside town. Enjoy the views along the drive and explore the spooky tunnel at the end. Walk through if you dare and take a short loop hike on the other side.

Explore downtown Bryson City, an easily strollable town with local bookstores, galleries with working artisans, family friendly museums, breweries, boutiques and a surprising variety of restaurants.


Enjoy a piled high deli sandwich at High Test Deli and Sweet Shop, or an open-faced bagel and signature bowls at La Dolce Vita Cafe.

Afternoon – Option 1

Just 5 minutes from town, you will find the Deep Creek Recreation Area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – known for waterfalls, trails, swimming, tubing, and fly fishing. The Waterfall Loop Trail is 2.5 miles of easy hiking, with 2 miles on an old logging road.

Afternoon – Option 2

The Tuckasegee River flows right through downtown Bryson City and has some of the best fishing in the Southeast. Its delayed harvest waters feature trout, smallmouth and other bass, steelhead and more. You can wade, but for professional advice and a boat, it’s best to hire a guide.


Our two breweries offer cold craft brews made on premises and food onsite or order-in. Bryson City Brewing  has an outdoor bar and fire-pit under the stars. Mountain Layers Brewing’s rooftop bar has beautiful views of the mountains and The Rice Wagon food truck is always on site as a dining option. 

Bryson City is just one hour west of Asheville; two hours from Knoxville and Greenville/Spartanburg; and three hours from Atlanta, Charlotte and Chattanooga.

Bryson City - Swain County
Chamber of Commerce

P.O. Box 509
Bryson City, NC 28713

Karen Proctor
Executive Director


Visitor Guide pages

Order a free Visitor Guide featuring Bryson City and the North Carolina Smokies