Nantahala National Forest covers over 530,000 acres of land located in the southwestern area of North Carolina. The forest is managed by three ranger districts covering six counties. Established in 1920, Nantahala National Forest offers visitors opportunities for camping, fishing, white-water rafting, and over 600 miles of hiking trails. Featuring everything from stunning scenic drives to thrilling white-water rapids, there truly is something for everyone at Nantahala National Forest.
Cable Cove Nature Trail #58 is an easy one-mile loop trail that offers excellent opportunities for bird-watching and spotting wildflowers. There is even a small waterfall near the end of the hike.
Length: 1 mile
Cheoah Trail #407 begins near the U.S. Forest District Office. Historical markers on the trail offer visitors information about the Civilian Conservation Camp that once occupied the area. The trail winds through the forest, allowing glimpses of Santeetlah Lake through the trees.
Length: 2.5 miles
This short and easy trail is perfect for those who want to enjoy the scenery without a rugged hike. The path starts at a paved parking area and leads visitors to Hooper Bald. At an elevation of 5,500 feet, the Bald is one of the highest points in the county.
Length: 0.5 miles
Belding Trail #52 leads hikers from the suspension bridge that spans the Cheoah River to Yellow Hammer Gap. This is a lightly used trail often used by fishermen looking for the perfect spot along the banks of one of the many small streams flowing through the area. Some of the creek crossings along this path are wet crossings that may require hikers to wade through the waters.
Length: 12 miles
This trail takes hikers on an in-and-out path to the summit of Huckleberry Knob. The trail gains an elevation of 350 feet over the course of the hike. The knob has an elevation of 5,560 feet, and the view from the top of the wildflower-covered summit is stunning.
Length: 2.2 miles
The Spirit Ridge Trail is an ADA-accessible trail that offers easy parking and an overlook deck that allows visitors views of the forest from 3,700 feet.
Length: 0.3 miles
With several lakes, streams, rivers, and ponds, Nantahala National Forest offers several fishing options. Visitors interested in fishing should check out the Nantahala River Gorge. The Nantahala River is known for its excellent trout fishing.
Geocaching is allowed in Nantahala National Forest. Visitors wishing to leave a cache must first obtain permission from the local ranger district office to ensure that the cache is not left in a protected or environmentally delicate area. When hunting for a cache, remember that it will not be buried, so you will not need to dig or remove any vegetation.
For those looking to spot some interesting feathered friends, Whiteside Mountain is home to the peregrine falcon. Brought to the area in 1985, the endangered bird has found the cliffs of Whiteside Mountain to be a perfect nesting ground. Visitors can also spot smaller birds like the yellow-bellied sapsucker and the common raven.
Nantahala National Forest is open 24 hours a day, offering excellent opportunities for laying back and watching the stars float by overhead. One of the most active astronomy clubs in the nation is in nearby Asheville. The Asheville Astronomy Club offers free public stargazing gatherings at the local University of North Carolina campus in Asheville.
Address: National Forest Road, Bryson City, Nantahala, NC 28713
Fee: Entry fee $0
Offering stunning views and thrilling white-water rafting across three ranger districts, Nantahala National Forest is the perfect stop on your RV road trip through North Carolina. Whether you prefer to spend your time shopping and exploring historic estates or tackling a steep hike to take in the views atop a local mountain, you’re sure to find something to fuel your wandering soul in The Nantahala.