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Insider Tips for Outdoor Fun in Haywood County


Insider Tip Experts: Preston Jacobsen, Executive Director of Haywood Waterways Association, and Kristin & Shannon Young, Owners of Maggie Valley Fly Shop. 

Q: What is Haywood County’s most overlooked area to recreate?

  • Preston: The Canton Recreation Park. You don’t need any experience to recreate here, just a relaxed mindset to enjoy the river at the park. There are ADA-compliant restrooms and parking available onsite. If the river’s not your cup of tea, the Champion Credit Union Pool is right next door. 

  • Maggie Valley Fly Shop: The Pigeon River and Richland Creek.*

    • *Richland Creek is designated Mountain Heritage Trout Water!


Q: What’s your favorite season to recreate in Haywood County and why? 

  • Preston: Summer, because the warmer temperatures and sunny days pair nicely with our cold headwaters. The animal and plant life are diverse and rich, and there are a myriad of ways to enjoy time on or along a local waterway. 

  • Maggie Valley Fly Shop: Fall, because the leaves are changing and the elk are out. 


Q: How long should you plan on visiting Haywood?


Q: What sets us apart from other destinations?

  • Preston: Haywood County and the Pigeon River are the highest headwaters watershed in the Eastern US. No surface water enters Haywood County, it all exits. Haywood County is also the highest median elevation county in the Eastern US and averages anywhere from 58 to 92 inches of rain annually, depending upon location. That means it is also, on average, 4 to 6 degrees colder than nearby Asheville or Sylva. 


Q: What is unique about the facilities or infrastructure of the area? 

  • Preston: They are catered to our unique landscape and climate, and to the communities who enjoy them. 


Q: How do you plan ahead and prepare for your recreational activity?

  • Preston: Weather conditions can change rapidly and due to our abundance of public lands and rural settings, communication can sometimes be limited. We plan ahead by researching the forecast, having a way to communicate not based on cellular signal, knowing the limitations of myself and those around me, and understanding what to do in an emergency. 


Q: What piece of outdoor equipment is your must-have?

  • Preston: A chair. There’s nothing finer than soaking in your surroundings in comfort. 

  • Maggie Valley Fly Shop: A Fly Rod. 


Q: How do you put one Outdoor NC Leave No Trace principle into action before, during, or after your activity?

  • Maggie Valley Fly Shop: By not turning over rocks or leaving tackle where we fish. 


Q: What’s your favorite place to visit before or after an outdoor adventure for a meal, coffee, snack, or refreshing beverage?

  • Preston: BearWaters Brewery in Canton, which sits along the Pigeon River with a tube and boat landing for those coming off the water. 

  • Maggie Valley Fly Shop: Joey’s Pancake House.*

    • Joey’s Pancake House has been voted as the best pancake in North Carolina! 


Q: Where can visitors find a unique place to stay in the area?

  • Check out Visit NC Smokies’ Places to Stay page to find your perfect accommodation match!


Q: Are there any other overlooked or under-visited locations to stop into while visiting Haywood County? 

  • Preston: Leave no stone unturned; every store is worth visiting and all of our public spaces are destination-worthy experiences. 


Q: What is your can’t-miss experience in our county? 

  • Preston: Floating the Pigeon River. 

  • Maggie Valley Fly Shop: Exploring Jonathan Creek in Maggie Valley. 


Bonus insider tip! 

  • Preston: If you are to do anything outdoors in Haywood County, the best time to do so is before 11:00 AM. Trailheads, fishing spots, swimming holes, the Parkway, and so on all fill up quickly. Plus you want to unwind the day in town at your favorite restaurant or brewery. 

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