Tucked away amongst the highest peaks of the Blue Ridge, Southern Nantahala, and Great Smoky Mountains are some of the oldest mountains in the world. When the Fall Season comes knocking, they are true to their task, illuminating the trees with a variety of splendid color, as they have done for thousands of years. So brilliantly so, the colors seem to shine like a beacon signaling travelers with their golden, orange, and red hues as they change to the colors of Fall.
As leaf season begins, you’ll want to first head up to the higher of elevations. If you’re a hiker, you can be along the top of Siler Bald or Wesser Bald along the Appalachian Trail. As you begin your hike from the trailheads, gradually the colors will reveal themselves, even more so the higher you hike and closer you get to the top.
Hiking Tips: Siler Bald is a nearly 2-mile hike, while Wesser Tower (at Wesser Bald) is less than a mile and a half. On a morning hike, take a picnic to enjoy once you’ve reached your destination. Wesser Tower sits above the trees and is an old Forest Service Tower. Siler Bald is the top of the mountain with a fire pit and 360-degree views.
For those more inclined for a scenic drive without the hike, we have a lot of adventure for you as well. A drive from Franklin up Wayah Road, takes you to the most recognizable Lookout Tower in the Nantahala Mountains, Wayah Bald Tower. Drive up forest service road 69 and you’ll arrive at the nearly one-mile-high tower that is a short walk up a paved path. From there, 360-degree views await to take your breath away.
Insider’s Tip: Arrive well before sunrise with your camera and a comfy chair and watch from the east facing platform as the sun greets the new day. Take a warm coat, the temperatures can be 10-20 degrees cooler even on a sunny day.
Head back down the mountain and continue on Wayah Road heading west into the Nantahala Community. Cherokee for “Land of the Noon Day Sun”, Nantahala is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Take a pontoon boat, kayak, or other watercraft out onto the lake and enjoy nature’s paradise where roughly 80% of shoreline is owned by the National Forest Service keeping it undeveloped. For the fly fishermen in the family, Nantahala River has some of the best fishing in the area. Keep an eye out for whitewater kayakers, as the river is also a favorite for those seeking the thrill of the rapids.
Head back to Franklin and take a stroll down Main Street and browse our locally owned shops, art galleries, and local artisans where you’ll find locally made products and art that would be a cherished reminder of your time in Franklin and Nantahala.
Ready for dinner or how about some world-class entertainment? You’ll have a hard time choosing from our many fine restaurants who offer different types of cuisine, as well as two craft breweries in town, with live entertainment and food trucks to enjoy with their offerings on tap.
You can’t make a trip to Franklin & Nantahala without heading to any of our 9 active gem mines. Families have been gem mining in these mountains and have passed that tradition for generations. You never know what you might uncover at this family fun activity for all ages!
Find out more at www.exploringwnc.com and Get to Know Your Mountain Side, in Franklin and Nantahala, North Carolina.