DAY TRIPS FROM GATLINBURG
EXPLORE THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SMOKIES!
Vacationing in Gatlinburg? Let the adventure continue on a day trip to Haywood County, located just two hours away in the heart of the NC Smokies. From locally-inspired menus, art, shopping and endless outdoor adventures in our five mountain towns, his side of the mountain may feel a bit quieter, but it’s just as exciting.
Farm-to-table or farm tour, watersports, or hiking Waterrock Knob—no matter what, fresh experiences are just around the corner.
HOW TO GET TO HAYWOOD COUNTY FROM GATLINBURG
The drive is truly part of the adventure. Choose your route below:
Take the Scenic Route: From Gatlinburg, take US-441 until you hit the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take a left onto the Parkway until you hit US-19 North toward Maggie Valley. This is one of the most scenic road trips in the United States, so plan to pull over and take pictures of the beautiful mountain vistas.
Take the Faster Route: Take US-321 to TN-32. Get on I-40 East until you hit US-19 South toward Maggie Valley. It might not be as show-stopping as taking the parkway, but as we like to say: every route is the scenic route.
PLAN THE PERFECT DAY TRIP FROM GATLINBURG
Once you’ve crossed the Haywood County line, planning your perfect day trip from Gatlinburg is easy—you just have to know where to start. So, what’s your speed? Are you a city slicker or nature enthusiast? Craving a home-cooked breakfast or decadent dinner? On a family road trip or romantic weekend away? No matter what kind of traveler you are, you’ll find an ideal mix of unforgettable experiences just across the North Carolina state line.
Don’t miss these experiences:
If you want to get a little wild:
Prior to the mid-1800s, you used to be able to find elk all over the NC Smokies—but they disappeared due to overhunting and habitat loss. Then, in 2001, 52 elk were reintroduced to the area. Since then, the population has grown to more than 150 Smoky Mountain elk! Now, you can catch a glimpse of our favorite neighbors around town and in the Cataloochee Valley.
In a place this beautiful, it’s hard not to love our land—that’s why we have so many local farmers eager to help you experience the best we have to offer. Build a perfect bouquet at a flower farm, pick apples in the fall, load your car with organic veggies fresh from the soil, find your next Christmas tree, or take part in the operations of a working farm.
Trout fishing has long been an important part of life in Western North Carolina, and if you’re visiting the area, we want you to find out why! Haywood County is part of the NC Wildlife Mountain Heritage Trout Waters program, which allows you to get a 3-day fishing license for $7. Stop by the visitor center for a free reel and tackle box, too! Oh, and grab a map to find a place to cast.
If you want to taste your way through town:
Here in North Carolina, we’re known for our breweries—so it’s no surprise that you can find three unique and distinct breweries right here in Haywood. From the riverside BearWaters Brewing Company to the old warehouse with a hidden creekside patio at Frog Level Brewing, to the vibrant Boojum Brewing Company right on Waynesville’s main street, there’s an atmosphere—and a beer—for everyone.
You can find a few drinks a little stronger than your average ale here, too. Get into a real North Carolina Smoky Mountain experience with authentic moonshine brewed right from a generations-old recipe at Elevated Mountain Distilling Co. For only $5, you can take a tour of the still, taste the spirits, and hear owner Dave Angel’s stories about local moonshining history.
If you don’t have time to visit our farms, you can still get a taste of them at one of our local restaurants. We’re proud to boast a huge selection of farm-to-table restaurants with seasonal menus that source ingredients right from neighborhood farmers. You can also visit shops throughout the area for items like fresh produce, handmade soaps, fresh-caught trout, or local dairy products.
If you want an outdoor adventure:
Here in Haywood County, you can find plenty of easy and moderate hikes that are perfect for daytrippers. Drive to the top of Waterrock Knob and take a short 1.2 mile hike to the 16th highest peak in the eastern U.S. See the wildflowers dotting Purchase Knob in the spring and summer, or catch a glimpse of a few waterfalls at Graveyard Fields.
Just because we’re in the South doesn’t mean we don’t get snow! Cataloochee Ski Area is the southernmost ski resort in the region, and it boasts one of the longest seasons, too. It’s the perfect place for beginners, but there’s plenty of slopes for more advanced riders, too. Not a skier? You can still have winter fun across the street at Tube World.
Go horseback riding over mountain peaks at Cataloochee Ranch. Take a dip in a cool mountain stream or slip down a natural waterslide. Hop in a slingshot and get some wind in your hair on a ride across the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rent kayaks or paddleboards and spend a relaxing afternoon at Lake Junaluska. Looking for pure outdoor adventure? You’ve found it.
If you Crave Local Culture:
Hearing banjos? Don’t turn away! You’ve stumbled on a piece of local musical heritage. Stop by a mountain street dance on certain Friday nights in Waynesville. Catch a live show at Elevated Mountain Distilling Co. in Maggie Valley. Check out the event schedules at our local bars and restaurants for even more opportunities for live music.
Waynesville’s own Haywood Arts Regional Theatre—also called the HART Theatre—is well-known in the region for its performances. HART is one of the most active theatres in the Southeast, and the venue boasts a schedule jam-packed with shows you don’t want to miss. Book tickets in advance and plan on having a delicious meal before the show!
If you want to experience one of the most vibrant artist communities in the Smoky Mountains, head to Waynesville! Here, you’ll find plenty of art galleries, jewelry stores, and boutiques tended by local artisans. So whether you’re on the hunt for a hand-knitted scarf, a bespoke burl wood table, or a piece of art for your home, you’ll find an artist who can help you find it.