Content Produced in Partnership with Visit NC Smokies
Just a short drive west of Asheville, you’ll find Haywood County, an idyllic destination in Western North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains. Home to the five mountain towns of Waynesville, Maggie Valley, Lake Junaluska, Canton and Clyde, there’s loads of opportunity for every type of traveler, whether you’re a nature-lover looking to soak up the majestic rolling mountains, a thrill seeker craving some adventure, or an art enthusiast looking for a quick getaway surrounded by some friendly folk. Filled with tradition and a rich Southern heritage, there’s something extra special about these small towns, each one offering its own personality and charm. Here is where you’ll find a true Appalachian experience that is all its own.
1. Waynesville, Where The Mountains Meet Main Street
While it is the largest town in Western North Carolina, Waynesville has an unmatched small-town charm. The walkable downtown district has a unique, urban vibe—packed with locally-owned stores, galleries and boutiques that you just can’t find anywhere else. Stop by the very local Sunburst Market and grab yourself a craft soda by Waynesville Soda Jerks. Go shopping at the family-owned Hazelwood Soap Company. Try some coffee at the cozy Panacea Coffee House, a brick walled coffee roastery inside of an old warehouse. Enjoy a movie at The Strand, a vintage movie theater in the heart of downtown. When you get hungry, be sure to stop by Willie Brooks BBQ for savory local BBQ or pop over to their sister restaurant, The Garrett House in Maggie Valley, for a delicious dessert. With eclectic cuisine, kind locals and so much to do, Waynesville is truly the perfect place to have some fun while still remaining in close proximity to hiking trails, waterfalls and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
2. Maggie Valley, A Nostalgic Mountain Town
Known as the “Elk Capital of North Carolina,” Maggie Valley is a small mountain town with loads of personality. Tucked inside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it is undoubtedly one of North Carolina’s most popular mountain destinations. With its famous elk population and plenty of opportunity for adventure for shoppers, sight-seers, and thrill-seekers, it’s ideal for outdoor enthusiasts and city dwellers looking for a change of scenery. Outside, you can shred down the mountain at Cataloochee Ski Area, go for a tasting at Elevated Mountain Distilling Company and hike to picturesque waterfalls. No matter what plan you have in store, start your day by eating like a local at Joey’s Pancake House. The laid-back nature of this Haywood County town makes it easy to keep coming back for more.
3. Lake Junaluska, A Vibrant Lakeside Retreat
If you’re looking for a peaceful retreat in Haywood County, Lake Junaluska is the spot for you. The town’s 200-acre lake is surrounded by 1,200 acres of rolling hills and stunning valleys. Thanks to views like these, it has become a favorite relaxing getaway for families and friends to come together. There’s nothing like recharging in the mountains, and Lake Junaluska has an especially calming effect. Take a walk along the lake’s iconic Rose Walk to admire many varieties of roses; wander the Lake Junaluska Walking Trail for unparalleled views of the mountain; or trace the Labyrinth at the local chapel for some quiet meditation. You can also schedule a guided boat tour on the lake during the summer or rent a paddle board, kayak or canoe to explore at your own leisure. For accommodations, choose from a large selection of lakefront homes and properties for rent, or relax in a beautiful hotel or inn. No matter your preference, you’ll find a perfect weekend or week-long escape here.
4. Canton, A Happening Creekside Getaway
On the eastern side of Haywood County, you’ll find Canton, North Carolina—a friendly little town situated along the Pigeon River. Known for its storied history and adorable Main Street, it feels like a step back in time. Take a stroll downtown to window shop for an always-eclectic mix of vintage housewares and antiques before sitting down for dinner at Southern Porch. Originally constructed in 1876, this beautiful family-owned restaurant was once the Imperial Hotel. If history buffs need more of a reason to visit, the county’s oldest church, established in 1801, can also be found in Canton. Even with all of its rich history, the area still brings in modern attractions like BearWaters Brewing Company, an award-winning craft brewery. In warmer months locals and visitors can be found tubing and kayaking down the river. The town may be small, but there is plenty to do in Canton!
5. Clyde, An Unexpected Appalachian Adventure
Just west of Canton is Clyde, another one of Haywood County’s historic mountain towns and home to quite a few of the area’s most interesting historic sites. Visit the local 9/11 Memorial or stop by The Shook Museum and take a tour of the Shook-Smathers House. Also named the “oldest frame house west of the Blue Ridge,” this preserved 200-year-old landmark is a sight to see. Buffalo Creek—a 65-acre farm with roaming buffalo, farm animals, train-cabooses-turned-cozy-accommodations, and stunning mountain peaks—is another mainstay attraction around town. Nature-lovers will go crazy for the opportunity to sip on fresh coffee from Smoky Mountain Roasters while sitting on the Bison Viewing Deck. Before you go, be sure to venture out to the ever-beautiful Max Patch, a 4,600 foot mountain bald with acres of incredible, panoramic views near the North Carolina and Tennessee border. Quiet, charming and full of history, Clyde is a great place to stop by and soak up the local mountain culture.