3 Must-Visit North Carolina Mountain Towns
These mountain towns offer budget-friendly family fun
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Tourists go tubing on Deep Creek in Bryson City.
PHOTO BY SIMPLY AWESOME TRIPS/AMY RAGSDALE
Bryson City’s proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Nantahala Outdoor Center makes it an excellent base camp from which to explore all kinds of activities in the area. Downtown Bryson City features quaint shops, breweries and restaurants, and the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad train depot. Within a 20-minute driving radius you can canoe on Fontana Lake, raft the Nantahala River, mountain bike at Tsali Recreation Area and explore trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Where to Stay
Aloft in the Smokies offers four condominiums located above McClanahan’s Collectibles, a popular downtown store. Park your car and walk to shops, restaurants like the Nantahala Brewing Company and the train depot.
Where to Play
The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad departs from downtown Bryson City and offers scenic train excursions through the North Carolina mountains, along the Nantahala and Tuckasegee rivers, across valleys and through tunnels. Check the railway’s website for special events throughout the year, including the Freedom Train in July.
Construction on The Road to Nowhere began in the 1940s to replace a road that flooded when Fontana Lake was formed by the damming of the Little Tennessee River. Funding ran out before its completion, but not before a two-lane tunnel was constructed through a hillside. The road ends at the mouth of the tunnel and Lakeshore Trail continues on the other side. Walk through the tunnel and continue on the trail as long as you’d like before turning back.
Located roughly 14 miles southwest from downtown Bryson City, the Nantahala Outdoor Center offers guided rafting trips on level II/III rapids. Children must be 7 years or older and weigh at least 60 pounds. For a less adventurous outing, rent kayaks or a stand-up paddleboard to enjoy on Fontana Lake. A two-hour rental includes gear and transportation to and from the lake.
Where to Eat
Downtown Bryson City offers a variety of dining options and two breweries on Everett Street. Be sure to try the French toast or biscuits and gravy for breakfast at Everett Street Diner.
The High Test Deli and Sweet Shop, also known as The Filling Station Deli, offers a variety of sandwiches, including paninis, subs and frozen ice cream sandwiches. Pack a lunch to enjoy on a hike.
You can’t go wrong at Anthony’s on Depot Street. Enjoy a pizza or Italian entrée on the restaurant’s outdoor patio.
With its old-time decor, Soda Pop’s Ice Cream Parlor serves up handmade shakes, fountain floats, sundaes and banana splits. You will leave happy with sticky, smiling faces.