Every year, in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Mother Nature puts on a magical show. As the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, the fall colors that cover the mountains arrive. One by one, the reds, yellows, oranges, and gold leaves take their place high atop the Appalachian Mountains. This is your invitation to join us for our favorite season of the year.
A typical day starts out with a low fog hanging on as the sun begins to rise over the eastern ridges. The crisp morning air and dew on the ground begin to usher in the changing of the guard, so to speak. The tops of the mountains are the first to change, then the colors make their way into the valleys below.
Franklin and Nantahala, North Carolina are two very distinct communities that are tucked away in the southwest corner of the state. A hidden gem, quite literally, as Franklin’s moniker for decades was the “Gem Capital of the World”. The mountains that surround Franklin and Nantahala are some of the oldest mountains in the world. They were rich in deposits of precious gems and minerals, and between gem mining and farming, the two communities were born.
Main Street in Franklin in the fall is picture perfect. People walking the sidewalks, catching up with old friends, the ringing of the front door bell as shops open for the day. In the distance, not too far off from town, the Southern Nantahala Mountains meet up with the Appalachian and the Great Smoky Mountains as they rise up out of the valleys below.
Nantahala, the Cherokee word for “Land of the Noon Day Sun” is an outdoor adventure seeker’s paradise. Nantahala Lake’s pristine waters are perfect for all types of watersports, boating, fishing, and jet skiing to name a few. Beyond the lake, lies the Nantahala River. Whether you are looking to test your kayaking skills on the rapids or set up for some world-class fly fishing, the Nantahala River Gorge will not disappoint you.
Getting to Franklin from Nantahala, you drive along the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway. When you reach Wayah Gap, you can drive the Forest Service road to Wayah Bald. At nearly a mile high, Wayah Bald is a leaf lovers bounty, as you walk the paved path to an incredible 360-degree view. On a clear day, four states are visible from the tower. Wayah Bald is also where the Appalachian Trail intersects with the Bartram Trail and sees hundreds of thru-hikers each year.
Continuing on the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway, east of Franklin, is a stretch of highway that runs through the Cullasaja River Gorge. The road twists and turns its way up into some of the most scenic mountain views, waterfalls, and quiet riverside pull offs, made even more magical by the colors of fall. As you make your way past the 200’ high Cullasaja Falls, the swimming hole Bust Your Butt Falls, and the main attraction, Dry Falls, a 60’ waterfall that you can walk under.
While we don’t expect you to spend all of your time out exploring the mountain trails, scenic roads, and natural wonders, we wouldn’t blame you if you do. Franklin and Nantahala are your gateway to adventure and places you can get away from big crowds in cramped cities. Fresh air, magical fall colors, and the mountains of Western North Carolina.
We’ve only just begun to tell you our story and we invite you to get to know your mountainside in nature’s paradise, Franklin and Nantahala, North Carolina.