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Stories from the Smokies

Cruising the Smokies by automobile is a great experience and arguably the most popular way to see the sights. Of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s 13 million recreational visitors in 2022, most toured by vehicle. Yet there are other ways to view the Smokies – from high above, to roads, rivers and trails, to a world hiding beneath the surface of a stream. Each will give you an entirely different perspective of the Smokies.   

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From the Air

Riding a zipline through the forest lets you experience the natural world from a squirrel’s perspective high in the forest’s canopy. Or from a hawk’s perspective soaring high over the mountains. Two outfitters in the Nantahala Gorge offer half-day zipline excursions, including one just for kids age 4 to 12. And for a truly unique experience, join Nantahala Outdoor Center’s “Moonlight Zippers” for a nighttime zip line ride through the treetops.

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From the Train

An excursion on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad rides the same rails that mountain settlers rode in the late 19th century, powered by a historic steam locomotive. The 4-1/2 hour excursion makes a 44 mile round trip into the Nantahala Gorge crossing the historic Fontana Lake trestle. Other trips travel alongside the Tuckasegee river, through a tunnel, and by ’The Fugitive’ train wreck for a layover in Dillsboro before returning to Bryson City.

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From the River

Whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River could be called ‘mother nature’s joy ride’, a thrilling dash over eight miles of fast water. Trips can be fully guided in a 7-person raft or on your own a 1 or 2-person duckie. Rides last about 3.5 hours and offer mild to moderate whitewater action, with a big finish at Nantahala Falls.

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From the Lake

Those fortunate enough to go boating on Fontana Lake gain a unique perspective of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The view is unobstructed from the lake level to the top of towering Clingmans Dome, the Park’s highest peak. Boat rentals and tours are available on the lake. Outfitters offer kayak and paddleboard rentals, marinas have pontoon boat rentals and there are guides with full lake packages.

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From a Rented UTV

Touring Western North Carolina’s mountain roads by automobile can seem a little humdrum compared to a rented Side by Side, UTV or Slingshot. Rentals as well as guided tours are available in Bryson City.

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From a Bike

Biking is a great way to explore Swain county’s mountain landscape both on uncrowded country roads and on mountain trails created for off-road mountain biking. While some trails are for biking enthusiasts, others like the Deep Creek trails, are suitable for everyone. Both mountain and street bikes are available to rent

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From a Saddle

Following a mountain trail on horseback is a special experience. Two riding stables offer guided trips for both beginner and experienced riders. And for horse owners, the GSMNP has more than 500 miles of trails open to horses. Horse boarding is available near the national park trailheads.

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From a Snorkel Mask

Mountain streams are beautiful, but what’s going on beneath the water’s surface? Bryson City’s Island Park is one of the sites on the recently-formed Blue Ridge Snorkel Trail where you can get a up-close view of creatures that normally live out their lives unnoticed.

So on your next trip to the Western North Carolina, we recommend getting out of your car and finding a new way to experience the Great Smoky Mountains. You’ll gain a whole new perspective of the Smokies and a new collection of memories sure to bring a smile to your face!

Bryson City - Swain County
Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 509
Bryson City, NC 28713

Karen Proctor
Executive Director


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