Escape to the Mountains #OutaboutNC Style: Five Ways to Cool Down in Jackson County, NC

The mountain towns of  Asheville, Boone, Blowing Rock get named a lot in national travel guides. But, the North Carolina mountains have many more towns that offer outdoor adventure for tourists that are within easy reach and can be a day-trip for those who want to stay closer to Asheville.  

Jackson County, NC-Pinnacle Park Hike. Escape to the Mountains #Outaboutnc STYLE

Jackson County, which is made up of the town of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro, Sylva, Balsam, Glenville, and Sapphire Valley has a plethora of trails, perfect for hiking, backpacking or biking, wind through a variety of landscapes ranging from picturesque peaks to rolling valleys, and lead way to several natural ways to cool off on a warm day. Whether the journey leads to a waterfall pool, high-flying fun or an evening taking in the local culture, adventure for all levels awaits here. 

And let's just say this North Carolina girl knows this area is cool. I lived in Cullowhee, N.C, home to Western Carolina University, as a child and teen before going to UNC-Chapel Hill for college. 

I've written a lot about Highlands and Cashiers on the blog with my visit to the Old Edwards Inn and Spa. This area is less than a two-hour drive from Atlanta.  As summer approaches, here are five ways to cool down in Jackson County, N.C. 

Lake Glenville in Jackson County: 5 Ways to Cool Down in Jackson County

Lounge by Lake Glenville

Lake Glenville is one of the highest lakes east of the Rockies, with 26 miles of shoreline, seven islands and three waterfalls hidden in its alcoves. Visit family-friendly Pines Recreation Area at Lake Glenville with a roped-off swim beach for safe splashing, plus restrooms and picnic tables. Life jackets are also available at no charge so everyone can relax and have a good time. The largest lake in Jackson County, visitors can also hit the water for boating, waterskiing, and fishing.

Waterfalls in Jackson County: Escape to North Carolina #OutaboutNC Style

Find Waterfalls and Views

For those seeking an easy find and short walk, Silver Run Falls is one of the most photogenic waterfalls in Jackson County. The 40-foot cascading waterfall tumbles into Silver Run Creek. The large, sandy pool is calm and glassy, ideal for swimming in the shallows or having a picnic on the banks. In Sylva, the 1,100-acre Pinnacle Park offers several trails that range from moderate to difficult for outdoor enthusiasts and families alike. The trails take guests by streams, cascades, and beautiful vistasThose looking for a challenge can climb to the summit, which reaches almost 1,800 feet of elevation gain and showcases a 270-degree view where guests can see for miles on a clear day.

Whitewater rafting in Jackson County, NC

Take a Wild River Ride
Throughout the summer, paddlers can experience the Tuckasegee River and choose their level of adventure. The Lake Glenville Dam releases, which take place this year on June 10July 1 and 22, and August 12 and 26, create class IV rapids over a 5.5-mile stretch. On the milder side, Smoky Mountain River Adventures offer family-friendly outings for the whole family, including children as small as 40 pounds. 

Open May through September, Tuckaseegee Outfitters gives rafters the choice of five-mile solo or guided trips that last about 2-3 hours. The rapids are beginner-friendly with the speed picking up toward the end of the trip to test rafters’ skills.

Explore by Land and by Sky in Sapphire Valley
Take an adventure to the skies at the Vordach Zip Line at Sapphire Valley Resort. The attraction offers a two-hour excursion with 16 platforms, two bridges, and 12 zip lines. For those that prefer to stay on the ground, Red Bird Foot Golf is the new internationally popular hybrid sport that is a cross between golf and soccer. Players see who can get a soccer ball into each 21-inch hole on the 9-hole course with the fewest amount of kicks – perfect for a morning or afternoon of friendly competition.

Enjoy the Sounds of Nature and Live Music
Perfect for enjoying the cool mountain evenings, several towns throughout Jackson County host live music where attendees can take in the outdoor beauty of the area. On Fridays from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day, Concerts on the Creek at Bridge Park in Sylva invites music lovers to bring a picnic blanket and chair to watch talented local acts. Performances include everything from bluegrass and rock to reggae and classic pop. Food trucks and craft beer vendors are also featured throughout the summer. 

Head down to Cashiers for Groovin’ on the Green at Village Commons. Friday evenings at 6:30 p.m. from June 2 through September 1, enjoy a variety of musical acts. Bring a blanket and a chair, and dogs are also welcome.

While in this part of North Carolina, you can 
find a range of places to stay, from vacation rentals and cabins perfect for large families, or cozy cottages and mountain inns. Jackson County’s small towns all feature unique restaurants for any appetite. 

Visit my affiliate or Expedia to find the perfect room for a great hotel rate. 

This piece was written in partnership with DiscoverJacksonNC. Affiliates are in the post.

Travel in North Carolina: A look at Carolina Beach, N.C.

In North Carolina, we are blessed to have many wonderful beaches to choose to visit on any given day. And honestly, if you talk to different people from various parts of North Carolina, you will get lots of favorite beach towns simply based on where people live in the state.

Carolina Beach Waterway:  A vacation Guide to Carolina Beach in North Carolina

As we gear up for beach season, we'll look at some of the highlights of Carolina Beach, N.C. This beach town boasts a state park, a historic fort, an aquarium, a fresh lake, a fishing pier and a boardwalk. It is reminiscent of beaches from yesteryear.  Hotels are more limited on the island, but condo and home rentals are bountiful at affordable prices.

Extended families usually take beach vacations together, and Carolina Beach is a good spot to appeal to all ages.

Courtyard by Marriott at Carolina Beach

Where to stay:

Carolina Beach offers a variety of rental homes that are well suited for large groups. Choose from the amenities that are most important to your crew – including oceanfront, pet-friendly, on-site pool, nearby public beach access and more. Bryant Real EstateIntracoastal Vacation Rentals, and Network Real Estate are all good places to start, but if you want more options, there are nearly 150 Airbnb properties in the area that sleep five or more people.

If you are there for a long weekend and want more of a resort vacation with multiple rooms then the Courtyard by Marriott (Oceanfront rates begin at $313 for Marriott Members and does not include breakfast) or the Hampton Inn and Suites Oceanfront Resort (Oceanfront rates begin around $339 and includes breakfast.) I've not personally stayed in either hotel so I can only recommend based on the brand and not on personal Carolina Beach experiences.

Carolina Beach is filled with those family-run inns with the vacancy or no-vacancy signs. It's the epitome of hotel travel of generations before us. They are basic, affordable and can provide a traveler a weekend getaway without paying over $1,000 in a hotel for three nights. Visit Wilmington beaches for a complete list of properties. 

Time to bond

For those days when you want to find one activity for everyone to enjoy, consider coordinating a kayak or paddleboard group tour from Paddle NC at Carolina State Park. Looking for something more fast-paced? Take a group surf lesson from Tony Silvagni Surf School, which is owned by professional surfer and Olympic Gold Medalist Tony Silvagni himself. For those who prefer land, a self-guided bike tour lets you go at your own pace while learning about important Civil War and other historic sites at Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Fort Fisher. Wheel Fun Rentals offers single and double surrey bikes, as well as tandem bikes and kids trailers. Customize a group excursion through one of 20 available fishing charters or explore Carolina Beach’s waterways with one of several cruise offerings from Winner Party Boats, including moonlight dance cruises, narrated sunset tours and educational tours.

Fun at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk

Families reign supreme

When it comes to a family reunion or other family getaways, it’s important to consider everyone from the smallest tots to grandma and grandpa. A “tot lot” playground at Ocean Front Park in neighboring Kure Beach is specially designed for children ages 3 to 6. Adventure Reef, an outdoor interactive play area and fossil dig at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, is also ideal for younger travelers. The seaside swings and benches at Ocean Front Park are popular picks for older travelers, as are Fort Fisher State Historic Site and Museum – the second most visited tourist attraction in North Carolina – and the North Carolina Military History Museum. And lest we forget about those hard-to-please teens and tweens, the Carolina Beach Boardwalk has more than enough donuts, ice cream, fudge, amusement rides and live music to keep them occupied during the summer months.

Out and about town

The Tiki Bar at Carolina Beach

Groove to live music with friends at one of Carolina Beach’s live music venues like The Fat Pelican ranked as one of the top “Diviest Dive Bars in America” by, or The Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar, named one of “America’s Best Beach Bars” by There are plenty of great nightlife options at Carolina Beach, all possessing that low-key beach charm that makes everyone want to loosen up and stay awhile.

Craft Beer. In the mood to try out a delicious selection of craft beers? Head over to Carolina Beach’s Good Hops Brewery. Stop in for a free tour and tasting at the ale-focused brewery with more than two dozen varieties of beers for distribution to local bars, restaurants, and hotels. Good Hops Brewery is also one of the stops on the Port City Brew Bus – a bus tour that travels to breweries in the Wilmington area educating riders about the craft beer scene.

Don’t sweat it

Like the familiar sound of beach music tunes that float along the ocean air, Carolina Beach has a laidback, casual vibe that encourages regulars and first-time visitors alike to relax and be carefree, just like the locals. Plan your next tribe vacation to the island where flip-flops, tank tops and board shorts are widely accepted almost anywhere, every hour of the day is happy hour, and travel via golf carts is widely seen about town.

Thanks to Wilmington Area Beaches for contributing to this #OutaboutNC Carolina Beach Guide 

Carolina Beach Courtyard by Marriott Resort

A North Carolina Travel Guide to Carolina Beach, NC off the Coast of Wilmington, N.C.

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