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Spend a fabulous day or two in Bryson City and the Great Smokies with waterfalls, hiking trails, rafting, food, and shopping. Since this jewel of small town America offers so much to do, it's one of our top "Cool Mountain Towns" in western North Carolina. Located about 70 miles southwest of Asheville via a freeway, this is a paradise for outdoor activities and nature lovers since much of the county is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's a whitewater rafting mecca, with the Nantahala River cascading through the Gorge and Nantahala National Forest. Check out one of the many overlooks on your way to one of the city's spectacular trailheads, like the Road to Nowhere drive and hike.

ABC’s Good Morning America’s “Vacationland” series named the Nantahala River the number one place to spend a wet and wild vacation in the U.S. In fact, the Smithsonian named Bryson City as one of the "20 Best Small Towns to Visit." It's the getaway of your dreams!

Bryson City NC Depot

Only 90 minutes north of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Bryson City is extra magical during the holiday season! Each November and December, 90,000 people climb aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad's Polar Express at the Depot and travel to the North Pole. (Click here for Polar Express details). Before or after your train ride, find many nearby shops and restaurants—see why it’s one of our Top Christmas Towns. The town is decked out with garland and holiday lights, with a 50-foot Christmas tree in the town square. At the Visitor Center (255 Main St) kids can enjoy cookies and hot cocoa while they write letters to Santa. And don't miss Christmas Wonderland at Darnell Farms! Go to their website for more details

Throughout the rest of the year, take a scenic train ride on the extremely popular Great Smoky Mountains Railroad along rivers and Fontana Dam and Lake—which is right on the Appalachian Trail. Buying advance tickets is highly recommended! And don't miss the Smoky Mountain Trains Museum, which is complimentary with any train ticket purchase. For much more info, go to our GSM Railroad Guide.

Bryson City NC Visitor Center

Your first stop should be the stately historic courthouse (12 Everett Street). Downstairs, get plenty of advice about things to do at the County Visitor Center and buy souvenirs at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Store. Upstairs, browse the interesting Swain County Heritage Museum for a quick overview of local mountain living. Check out the museum's Facebook page for updates and hours.

Downtown Bryson City is small town America with a variety of shops with friendly owners. Many shops showcase area artisans who create chocolate, handcrafted jewelry, hand-turned wood objects, and pottery. For a small town of only 1,500 residents, there is a surprising number of nice restaurants and two breweries. Take a selfie in front of the caboose! We give only a sampling of things to do... for much more, go to the Explore Bryson City website.

Paddleboard in Bryson City
Stand Up Paddleboard with dog Lager on the Tuckasegee River in the middle of town with Bryson City Outdoors (169 Main St).

Bryson City 25 Things to Do

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Take a scenic train ride on excursions along the Nantahala and Tuckasegee Rivers, over the mountains, across valleys and through tunnels. Choose from a variety of train adventures departing from… read more

Take a scenic train ride on excursions along the Nantahala and Tuckasegee Rivers, over the mountains, across valleys and through tunnels. Choose from a variety of train adventures departing from Bryson City. Many special event train rides including beer, wine and Polar Express.

Nantahala Outdoor Center

NOC has been offering whitewater rafting for over 50 years! Enjoy family-friendly paddles on both the French Broad River outside of Asheville and on the Nantahala River campus outside of Bryson… read more

NOC has been offering whitewater rafting for over 50 years! Enjoy family-friendly paddles on both the French Broad River outside of Asheville and on the Nantahala River campus outside of Bryson City with ziplining, lake paddling, restaurants, lodging, and more!

Yellow Rose Rentals, Bryson City

Find a variety of cabins scattered throughout the small North Carolina mountain towns that surround the Great Smoky Mountains, including Bryson City, Cherokee, Nantahala River and Fontana Lake.… read more

Find a variety of cabins scattered throughout the small North Carolina mountain towns that surround the Great Smoky Mountains, including Bryson City, Cherokee, Nantahala River and Fontana Lake. Vacation rentals range from cozy one-bedroom cabins to large 5+ bedroom lodges. 37 cabins. All cabins have something different to offer, from spectacular mountain views, relaxing hot tubs, game rooms,…

Road to Nowhere Hike

(3.2 miles, moderate) This loop hike in the Smokies includes a 1,200-ft. tunnel at the end of Bryson City's Lakeview Drive, known locally as the "Road to Nowhere." Lakeshore Trail starts here too… read more

(3.2 miles, moderate) This loop hike in the Smokies includes a 1,200-ft. tunnel at the end of Bryson City's Lakeview Drive, known locally as the "Road to Nowhere." Lakeshore Trail starts here too, a 35-mile long trek to Fontana Lake Dam.

Fishing in the Smokies, Bryson City

Discover one of the most diverse fishing habitats in the world with four rivers and dozens of mountain streams throughout the Great Smoky Mountains, and the deep, cold waters of Fontana Lake. You… read more

Discover one of the most diverse fishing habitats in the world with four rivers and dozens of mountain streams throughout the Great Smoky Mountains, and the deep, cold waters of Fontana Lake. You can even fish the Tuck in downtown Bryson City. Greatly enhance your chances of catching trophy fish by hiring a professional fishing guide. Find 26 best fishing spots and guide services.

Cherokee

Home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee, NC offers a variety of ways to experience the cultural heritage and long history of the tribe. Tour the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and… read more

Home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee, NC offers a variety of ways to experience the cultural heritage and long history of the tribe. Tour the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the Oconaluftee Indian Village. Watch "Unto These Hills." Shop for local crafts, see their painted bears, attend a pow wow or try your luck at the huge Harrah's Casino. It's also a major gateway to the…

Indian Lakes Scenic Byway

This 60-mile drive takes you by Fontana and Santeetlah Lakes in far western North Carolina, through the historic communities of Stecoah and Robbinsville, in rural Graham and Swain counties. 

This 60-mile drive takes you by Fontana and Santeetlah Lakes in far western North Carolina, through the historic communities of Stecoah and Robbinsville, in rural Graham and Swain counties. 

Bryson City Lodging: Cabins, B&Bs & Hotels

Find a wide variety of lodging accommodations in Bryson City and the Great Smoky Mountains, including log cabin rentals, boutique hotels, bed and breakfast inns and campgrounds.

Find a wide variety of lodging accommodations in Bryson City and the Great Smoky Mountains, including log cabin rentals, boutique hotels, bed and breakfast inns and campgrounds.

Tom Branch Falls, Indian Creek Falls and Juney Whank Falls

See three waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Deep Creek area with a two-mile hike. It is also a popular tubing and camping spot each summer. Near Bryson City.

See three waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Deep Creek area with a two-mile hike. It is also a popular tubing and camping spot each summer. Near Bryson City.

Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tour

Enjoy a half-mile of airtime with three sky bridges and six transfer bridges, 13 zip line sections and 20 scenic and unspoiled acres of flying area, all within the heavily wooded setting of the… read more

Enjoy a half-mile of airtime with three sky bridges and six transfer bridges, 13 zip line sections and 20 scenic and unspoiled acres of flying area, all within the heavily wooded setting of the Nantahala National Forest. Fly through multiple ecosystems in a deciduous forest packed with native flowering plants. Combine this with a whitewater rafting trip down the river.

Swain County Heritage Museum

Located on the second floor of the historic courthouse in Bryson City, see photos, exhibits and video about the early settlers in the Great Smoky Mountains, including a restored log cabin porch.… read more

Located on the second floor of the historic courthouse in Bryson City, see photos, exhibits and video about the early settlers in the Great Smoky Mountains, including a restored log cabin porch. Free admission.

Bryson City Outdoors

This well-equipped outdoor store in downtown Bryson City has everything for your adventure. Services include kayak, paddleboard and gear rentals, a hiker shuttle, and guided tours! Their craft… read more

This well-equipped outdoor store in downtown Bryson City has everything for your adventure. Services include kayak, paddleboard and gear rentals, a hiker shuttle, and guided tours! Their craft beer taproom & bottle shop has 10 rotating brews on tap with an additional 200+ bottles and cans to go.

Road to Nowhere Hike

(3.2 miles, moderate) This loop hike in the Smokies includes a 1,200-ft. tunnel at the end of Bryson City's Lakeview Drive, known locally as the "Road to Nowhere." Lakeshore Trail starts here too… read more

(3.2 miles, moderate) This loop hike in the Smokies includes a 1,200-ft. tunnel at the end of Bryson City's Lakeview Drive, known locally as the "Road to Nowhere." Lakeshore Trail starts here too, a 35-mile long trek to Fontana Lake Dam.

Deep Creek Tubing

Rent a tube and float down Deep Creek on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Bryson City. Float by one waterfall and hike to two others.

Rent a tube and float down Deep Creek on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Bryson City. Float by one waterfall and hike to two others.

Oconaluftee Indian Village

This living history outdoor village portrays eighteenth-century Cherokee life on the mountainside above the town. Interact with villagers as they hull canoes, make pottery and masks, weave baskets… read more

This living history outdoor village portrays eighteenth-century Cherokee life on the mountainside above the town. Interact with villagers as they hull canoes, make pottery and masks, weave baskets and beadwork, dance and participate in their daily activities. Open late April through early November.

Explore Bryson City Travel Guide

Order a free 96-page vacation travel guide (or download a digital version) for the Bryson City area with things to do, dining and lodging for the Great Smoky Mountains. Includes the "All Aboard"… read more

Order a free 96-page vacation travel guide (or download a digital version) for the Bryson City area with things to do, dining and lodging for the Great Smoky Mountains. Includes the "All Aboard" official publication for the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

Clingmans Dome Trail

(1 mile round-trip, moderate) At 6,643 ft., this is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. An uphill, paved trail takes you to the top for panoramic views from the… read more

(1 mile round-trip, moderate) At 6,643 ft., this is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. An uphill, paved trail takes you to the top for panoramic views from the observation tower.

Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians

Through exhibits and videos, learn about past fly fishing legends, the evolution of rods and reels, basic knots, fly-tying, types of gear, types of gamefish, regional fishing waters and the… read more

Through exhibits and videos, learn about past fly fishing legends, the evolution of rods and reels, basic knots, fly-tying, types of gear, types of gamefish, regional fishing waters and the history of fly fishing in the Southeast. Open Mon-Sat. Free admission. Check out their Facebook page for hours and updates. 117 Island St., Bryson City, NC 28713 on the Aquarium Campus

Bryson City Restaurants

For a small town, you'll find a nice variety of restaurants, ranging from southern home cooking to a brewery and gourmet dining. A nice reward after a day of exploring the Great Smokies and… read more

For a small town, you'll find a nice variety of restaurants, ranging from southern home cooking to a brewery and gourmet dining. A nice reward after a day of exploring the Great Smokies and Nantahala River.

Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center ​

Tucked away in small village near Fontana Lake and Nantahala River is an amazing gallery that showcases the work of 180+ area artists and hosts a great summer concert series. Many artist studios… read more

Tucked away in small village near Fontana Lake and Nantahala River is an amazing gallery that showcases the work of 180+ area artists and hosts a great summer concert series. Many artist studios nearby.

Nantahala River Rafting Guide

The most popular river for whitewater rafting and kayaking is about 12 miles west of Bryson City in the beautiful Nantahala River Gorge. The site of the Freestyle Kayaking World Championships,… read more

The most popular river for whitewater rafting and kayaking is about 12 miles west of Bryson City in the beautiful Nantahala River Gorge. The site of the Freestyle Kayaking World Championships, find class II and III rapids, along with calm sections perfect for a dip. Fun for ages 7 and up, with no experience necessary. Choose from nine outfitters, all offering a variety of options.

Mountain Farm Museum, Oconaluftee Visitor Center & Mingus Mill

Located at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, see historic farm buildings in an open-air museum and get plenty of great information from rangers. Nearby you can… read more

Located at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, see historic farm buildings in an open-air museum and get plenty of great information from rangers. Nearby you can explore Mingus Mill, a historic grist mill dating from 1886.

Fontana Lake & Dam

Located in the Great Smoky Mountains, enjoy fishing, boating, camping and swimming in this beautiful lake. Drive or walk across the highest dam east of the Rockies and stop by the Visitor Center… read more

Located in the Great Smoky Mountains, enjoy fishing, boating, camping and swimming in this beautiful lake. Drive or walk across the highest dam east of the Rockies and stop by the Visitor Center to learn more about it.

Great Smoky & Tsali Mountain Biking, NC

Find mountain biking heaven in the Nantahala National Forest with 40 miles of trails overlooking Fontana Lake in the Great Smoky Mountains. Located near Bryson City, where you can find bike… read more

Find mountain biking heaven in the Nantahala National Forest with 40 miles of trails overlooking Fontana Lake in the Great Smoky Mountains. Located near Bryson City, where you can find bike rentals and supplies.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Top 30 in NC

Explore the most visited national park in the country! See our top places and things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains on the North Carolina side near Asheville. Four entrances to the Park are… read more

Explore the most visited national park in the country! See our top places and things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains on the North Carolina side near Asheville. Four entrances to the Park are within 60 miles of downtown Asheville.

Top Events & Festivals

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Polar Express Train

Nov 10, 2023

Ride to the North Pole on the Polar Express Train at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad to pick up Santa. It's fun for all ages. Departs from Bryson City. See our guide for all the details.

Ride to the North Pole on the Polar Express Train at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad to pick up Santa. It's fun for all ages. Departs from Bryson City. See our guide for all the details.

Tier 2

Freedom Fest

Jul 04, 2023

Experience an old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration and street festival in Bryson City with a 5K, crafts, food, contests, live music, and the best fireworks show in the Smokies.

Experience an old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration and street festival in Bryson City with a 5K, crafts, food, contests, live music, and the best fireworks show in the Smokies.

Bryson City NC Downtown
Explore shops, galleries, and restaurants along the three-block stretch of Everett Street from the Depot to the Visitor's Center. 

Breweries

  • Mountain Layers Brewing Company (90 Everett St.) is a seven-barrel microbrewery with two bars, including a rooftop outdoor deck.
  • Bryson City Brewing (234 Deep Creek Rd.) has a large outdoor space for pets and kids, and has 18 guest taps and a full bar with several seasonal cocktails.

More Bryson City Events
From free live music on many nights each week to big festivals, see the complete Bryson City Events Calendar.

For much more information, go to the Bryson City Great Smokies website.

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