The Smoky Mountains: Haywood County

Haywood County is an “organically grown” kind of place. And that applies to more than our crops. Sure, we are an important part of the farm-to-table movement and have plenty of local farms and local restaurants that use locally grown products. People that live and visit here like it that way…they like to know where things come from. But “organically grown” also applies to our music, dancing, folk art and business culture. We do things in a particular way. Maybe its our Scots-Irish heritage, maybe it’s the quiet, peaceful mountain culture. Maybe it’s that we care a little less about the rest of the world and more about our own local traditions.

The point is, if you want an authentic experience with respect to food, culture and outdoor mountain lifestyle, there is no better place to get it.

Haywood County, North Carolina, is 554 scenic square miles of spectacular country, with beautiful mountains and valleys dotting the landscape. Thirteen of its mountain peaks soar to elevations of at least 6,000 feet (more than any east of the Mississippi River), and the county is one of the highest, with a mean elevation of 3,600 feet, east of the Rockies. Notable mountain peaks include Cold Mountain—the basis for the award-winning, best-selling novel by Charles Frazier and the ensuing 2003 major motion picture—at 6,030 feet, Mt. Sterling at 5,836 feet and Richland Balsam at 6,410 feet in elevation. First established in 1808, Haywood County was named for John Haywood, North Carolina treasurer from 1787 to 1827. The county sits at the western edge of the state, with the Blue Ridge Parkway running along its southwestern border. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Pisgah National Forest are located in the northern section of the county. Unlike the other 99 counties in the state, all the water in Haywood County originates in Haywood County, including the Pigeon River.


Explore Haywood County

Haywood County is centrally located in the Southeast region of the United States and easily reached from most places, either by automobile or plane. Haywood County is located only 20 minutes west of Asheville and 20 minutes east of Cherokee. Driving time to Haywood County are as follows: two hours and 30 minutes from Atlanta; four hours and 30 minutes from Charleston, S.C.; two hours and 20 minutes from Charlotte; three hours and 30 minutes from Columbia, S.C.; one hour and 15 minutes from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tenn.; one hour and 30 minutes from Greenville, S.C.; one hour and 30 minutes from Knoxville, Tenn.; four hours and 30 minutes from Raleigh, N.C.; 10 hours from Tampa, Fla.; and eight hours from Washington, D.C. Asheville Regional Airport is located about 40 minutes east of Haywood County, and Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport is just over an hours-drive from Haywood County.

Maggie Valley

Maggie Valley received its name when John Setzer established its first post office in 1904, naming the newly incorporated town after his 14-year-old daughter Maggie. Today, Maggie Valley is a hotbed of tourism activity with various family-friendly attractions: Wheels Through Time—a world-class, all-American transportation museum with a working collection of over 350 rare antique motorcycles and automobiles; and Cataloochee Ski Area—the Southeast’s longest operating ski resort each season that appeals to novice and experienced skiers and snowboarders.
Maggie Valley plays host each year to dozens of events, from barbecue festivals and motorcycle rallies to craft shows and music festivals-many of which are held at the town’s festival grounds. The town is home to many restaurants and shops (most of which are easily accessible off of Soco Road, Maggie Valley’s main thoroughfare). Maggie Valley was dubbed the “Elk Capital of North Carolina” because of its proximity to Cataloochee Valley, where the animal has been reintroduced and is thriving.
The town offers something for everyone, from golf at the breathtaking Maggie Valley Club to clogging at the Stompin’ Ground to bluegrass and mountain music at the Maggie Valley Opry House (where world banjo champion Raymond Fairchild regularly performs). With a population over 1,300, Maggie Valley is fast becoming a popular destination for those in the second-home market.


Waynesville, the county seat and the oldest town in Haywood County, was founded in 1809 by Colonel Robert Love, a revolutionary war soldier who named the town after his commander, General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. The town was officially incorporated in 1871. With a population over 10,000, Waynesville is the largest town in Western North Carolina west of Asheville.
With the downtown revival that has occurred during the last decade, Waynesville has garnered several honors and recognition, including being voted as a “low-cost Eden,” best undiscovered town, best Main Street town, best small town, and best mountain town in the third edition of America’s 100 Best Places to Retire, published by Where to Retire magazine.
Downtown Waynesville is a lively and friendly locale. Unique shops, art galleries, and cafés and restaurants are all within walking distance on Main Street’s brick sidewalks. Its historic buildings and quaint charm makes Waynesville a thoroughly enjoyable place to live and visit. The heart of Appalachian culture and heritage, each year Waynesville is infused with a decidedly international flavor when it hosts Folkmoot USA, North Carolina’s official international festival. The two-week festival is a “celebration of the world’s cultural heritage through folk music and dance.” Held every July, Folkmoot features performances, parades and workshops by more than 350 performers from a dozen or so countries. During its 30-year history, more than 200 folk groups from more than 100 countries. Other popular events and festivals include the Church Street Arts and Crafts Show, the Apple Harvest Festival, Mountain Street Dances, and A Night Before Christmas. Waynesville is also home to the Haywood Arts Regional Theater, where local actors stage productions of classic and lesser-known works. The Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts is housed in Waynesville at the historic Shelton House.


Canton, a town of about 4,100 people, is set along the banks of the Pigeon River in the eastern part of the county. Incorporated in 1837, Canton is home to a historic paper mill and the historic Colonial Theater. Several annual events—the Mountain ‘Mater Festival, Pickin’ in the Park, a Labor Day celebration, a festival of lights during the holiday season, and a nighttime Christmas parade—have become popular among local residents and visitors alike. Canton native Fred Chappell, an author, poet and professor, served as the poet laureate of North Carolina from 1997 to 2002. Two of the worlds largest sapphires have been found in Canton’s Old Pressley Sapphire Mine, now open to visitors. Haywood’s oldest church, now First Baptist Church in Canton, was established in 1801 as Locust Old Fields Church. Canton has attracted acts like the Charlie Daniels Band and the Beach Boys in recent years.


Clyde, a small town of about 1,400 people just west of Canton, is home to Haywood Community College (which maintains an 83-acre arboretum open free to the public) and Medwest Haywood, the county hospital. Called the “oldest frame house west of the Blue Ridge” by Preservation North Carolina, the Shook Museum at the Shook-Smathers House is located in Clyde and offers tours of this historic structure, circa 1795. Bishop Francis Asbury, a traveling preacher who helped establish Methodism in the United States, spent time at the Shook House, which is considered one of the oldest homes still standing in the county.

Lake Junaluska

Lake Junaluska, a majestic setting in the center of the county, is a popular destination for visitors to Haywood County. The 200-acre lake and surrounding 1,200 acres of rolling hills and valleys offers an abundance of activities, from a stroll along the lake through an array of roses to a paddleboat trip on the lake. Lake Junaluska is the headquarters of the World Methodist Council, a consultative body linking almost all churches in the Methodist tradition. It is also a camp and conference center for the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church in the United States, and hosts Annual Conferences and other United Methodist and religious conferences and events. Lake Junaluska’s Stuart Auditorium hosts the Smoky Mountain Folk Festival, a two-day event that has featured the finest traditional Southern Appalachian music and dance for more than 35 years. Lake Junaluska is home to the Junaluska Singers—a 16-member choral group that perform sacred music, folk tunes, gospel favorites, patriotic selections, and music from Broadway. Along with tours of the Southeast, the Junaluska Singers perform several full-length concerts at Lake Junaluska each year.
Local newspapers include The Mountaineer, the Smoky Mountain News and the Asheville Citizen-Times. WLOS 13, an ABC affiliate based in Asheville, also provides coverage of news and events in the county.