There’s the busy side of the Smokies, through outlet-mall-and-pancake-house-populated Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.
Then there’s the quiet side of the Smokies through Townsend, with easy access to Tremont and scenic Cades Cove.
But what about the North Carolina side of the Smokies? A short drive into North Carolina on Interstate 40 are Waynesville and Maggie Valley, their spectacular mountain vistas and all the activities they offer, too! Here’s a quick look at some of the possibilities you’ll find there.
1. Cataloochee Valley and its elk. Elk were reintroduced to Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2001. Twenty years later, hundreds of them roam freely in the valley. Visitors spot them most readily at dawn and dusk. Much like Cades Cove on our side of the mountains, Cataloochee also offers historic sites and preserved buildings to explore.
2. Local arts. Waynesville is home to lots of maker shops and galleries, but it also offers outdoor public art exhibits to explore. Take a self-guided tour of the installations and learn about the artwork and artists along the way.
3. Beyond the local arts and crafts you’ll find there, downtown Waynesville includes breweries and cafes, antique shops and furniture stores, artisan bakeries, local jams and jellies, Christmas decor, chocolate candies (!) and much more.
4. Just a few miles away is Lake Junaluska, a serene community surrounding a picturesque lake. Take a stroll around it on the walking trail or get out on the water in a canoe, kayak or paddleboard.
5. Cut your own Christmas tree in Maggie Valley at one of the tree farms in the area. Boyd Mountain Tree Farm also offers cabins and cottages for rent in a peaceful and painterly setting.
6. Whether you prefer upscale lodging at a Waynesville resort, a rustic cabin in the woods, or an RV park or campground, you’ll find it on the eastern border of the Smokies. Go for an afternoon or stay for a week; there’s plenty to see and do!