Stories from the Smokies

If it’s hot where you are this summer, take a trip to Bryson City, where high elevations mean refreshing mountain breezes and plenty of opportunities to cool down. With the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in our backyard, check out these ways to beat the heat!

Tubing – Experience the Smokies with a refreshing float down the waterways of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Both Deep Creek and the Oconoluftee River offer tube rentals. Deep Creek tube rental companies stay open through September as long as weather forecast is warm, and Oconoluftee tube rental companies close after Labor Day weekend.

Swimming Hole at Deep Creek – Is tubing not your thing? Or you’d rather take a swim instead? Deep Creek also has a swimming hole. The water is cold, but oh so exhilarating. At the end of the rapids section, there’s a wide, deep swimming hole that provides a relaxing break.

Swimming at Fontana Lake – The Finger Lakes Day Use Area of Fontana Lake has a swimming area which also serves as a kayak and paddleboard put-in. You’ll find a small park with picnic tables, public restrooms and a swimming area. To get there, travel west on U.S. 74 to 28 north. Look for the entrance on the left after about a mile. You’ll need to pass it and make a U-turn to get there.

Rafting The Tuckasegee and Nantahala Rivers have several options for guided and non-guided whitewater rafting and kayaking. On the Tuckasegee with its Class I and II rapids, trips provide great outdoor entertainment for the entire family (including kids as young as 4 or weighing at least 40 pounds). On the Nantahala, children as young as 7 years old (or weighing at least 60 pounds) can raft, and rapids are rated Class I and II with one Class III at the end of the run. (Aug 29, 2019: the Nantahala River Gorge is temporarily closed to water sports due to debris in the river from landslides. US 19/74 is completely open to through traffic, restaurants and other outdoor activities.)

Rent a pontoon boat (or bring your own) for a leisurely trip on scenic Fontana Lake. Swim, float, or just boat along this placid lake with over 240 miles of shoreline with lots of privacy. More than 90 percent of the land around the Lake is owned by either the National Park Service or the US Forest Service.

Here in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina we paddleboard and kayak the Tuckasegee River in downtown Bryson City, and the placid water of Fontana Lake. A favorite spot – the finger lake area – is easy to access and there are no boats around to send wakes your way.

Clingmans Dome – Watch the sunset and then observe the ethereal stars as they light up the night sky. High elevation summer nights can be cool, and at this elevation – 6,643 to be exact – you will likely need a jacket.

High elevation Hike – Cool off in the high elevations of the Smoky Mountains. Many hiking trails and waterfall hikes originate along the Cherokee to Asheville section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. These trails are pet friendly too. Consider Waterrock Knob, Devil’s Courthouse, Black Balsam Knob, Graveyard Fields (hike to Second Falls for a swimming hole) or Looking Glass Rock Overlook (hike the short, relatively easy trail to the nearby Skinny Dip Falls, that ends in deep crystal-clear pools).

Even these lower elevation hikes are often covered by a canopy of trees and follow a creek: Noland Creek Trail and the Deep Creek Trail are within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (not pet friendly) and just outside of Bryson City. Also consider a hike to Wesser Fire Tower via Tellico Gap. On your way back through downtown Bryson City, stop for a cold brew at Mountain Layers, Nantahala Brewing, or Bryson City Outdoors Craft Beer Department. All of these locations are pet friendly

Cool nights of relaxation. Daytime summer temps in the Smokies can reach into the high 80’s, but our evenings and early mornings are cool and brisk. Perfect for sitting outside with a good book, a craft beer or glass of wine, or join family and friends around a fire (yes it can be cool enough for a fire). Find a cabin rental and enjoy nature’s cool down from your own private deck.

Oh and one more thing. Don’t forget to bring a jacket. Cooling off in the Smokies can be a bit chilly!

With all the area’s watersports, keep in mind that you swim at your own risk as no lifeguards are on duty. 

Photos of boating, paddleboard, kayak and high elevation hike courtesy Carolina Bound Adventures.