Cherokee, NC - Indian Reservation Visitor Guide

Cherokee, NC and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Just 50 miles from Asheville is Cherokee, located in Jackson County at the main North Carolina entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (via US Highway 441) and home to Eastern Band of Cherokee Inidans and many things to do. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation is one of the only three federally recognized Cherokee tribes. There are about 15,300 members, most of whom live on the Reservation. Properly called the Qualla Boundary, the Reservation is slightly more than 56,000 acres held in trust by the federal government.

They welcome all visitors with many free things to do and see. Learn the story of the Cherokee people at outstanding museums, a legendary outdoor drama and at festivals like the annual Pow Wow.

Cherokee NC Crafts

Browse the many shops, clustered along two main roads, Tsali Blvd (US Highway 441) and Tsalagi Road (US Highway 19). Stock up on your mocassins and other Native American souvenirs. Or buy fine quality crafts such as Cherokee Indian pottery, baskets and beadwork; as well as other locally made gifts such as dream catchers, dolls and woodcrafts. Top pick for authentic local crafts and art hand-made with natural materials is Qualla Arts and Crafts Co-op (645 Tsali Blvd), next door to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.


As the Oconaluftee River passes through Cherokee, it is split by a beautiful, grassy island. It's home to the Oconaluftee Islands Park – sheltered by canopies of oak and sycamore. Walking bridges connect the island. Wade in the water, have a picnic, or sit by the relaxing river. Find it along US Highway 441. Go bear hunting throughout the town with a series of large, life-like fiberglass bears and painted in bright vibrant colors and designs.

Cherokee Lights & Legends Christmas
December 2 & 3, 9 & 10, 16 & 17, 30 & 31, 2016
Experience a Cherokee Christmas with interactive displays, ice skating, 40-ft. Christmas tree, lights, games, caroling competition and more. Four sculptures with interactive displays tell ancient Cherokee legends: The Welcome Legend, The Legend of the Seven Clans, Those Who Stayed Awake, and How the Bear Lost His Tail. Open free to the public on Fridays and Saturdays in December, except Christmas weekend, at the Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds, 545 Tsali Blvd. Watch fireworks on New Year’s Eve at 10 PM. Enjoy carnival games ($1 each), ice skating ($5), and buy local crafts. 5-10 PM. 


The impressive Harrah’s Cherokee Casino is operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee. See our Harrah's Cherokee Casino Guide.

Cherokee Things to Do

Harrahs Cherokee
Enjoy a luxurious experience a spacious room that includes plenty of amenities. This 21-story hotel includes a covered parking deck and mountain views of the Great Smoky Mountains. Enjoy dining at five restaurants. Great mid-week rates available. 1108 rooms, large baths, coffee maker, 42-inch HD TV, casino, spa, indoor pool, restaurants,... read more
Museum of the Cherokee
Museum of the Cherokee
Discover the story of the Cherokee people in this impressive museum that sets the scene for the Cherokee Heritage Trails. The Cherokee community presents its perspective on its own history and culture.
Unto These Hills
Unto These Hills Outdoor Drama
America's most popular outdoor drama is the tragic and triumphant story of the Cherokee Indians. Set against the backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains in Cherokee, the drama is presented under the stars at the beautiful Mountainside Theater nightly from June through mid August.
Oconaluftee Indian Village
Oconaluftee Indian Village
This living history museum portrays an eighteenth century Cherokee village on a large site on the mountainside above the town of Cherokee. Interact with villagers as they hull canoes, make pottery and masks, weave baskets and beadwork, and participate in their daily activities.
Pow Wow at Cherokee
Pow Wow at Cherokee
July 01, 2016 to July 03, 2016
Experience authentic Indian dancing, drumming and tribal regalia. Dance competitions kick the excitement up even higher. Enjoy crafts, food and fireworks too.
Mountain Farm Museum
Mountain Farm Museum & Oconaluftee Visitor Center
Located at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, see historic farm buildings is an open-air museum and great plenty of information from rangers.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Top 15
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Top 15
Explore the most visited national park in the country! With 520,976 acres to explore, where do you begin? See our top places and hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains to visit near Asheville. Four entrances to the Park are within 60 miles of downtown Asheville.
Mingo Falls
Mingo Falls
This skinny 200-foot waterfall is located near Cherokee and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's a short hike up a long staircase.
Elk in Cherokee
Elk in Cherokee
Watch majestic elk graze and interact in meadows at the Great Smoky Mountains Oconaluftee Visitor Center and other areas around Cherokee.
Soco Falls
Soco Falls
This rare twin waterfall is located roadside near Maggie Valley and Cherokee. You can easily miss it since there are few signs! The observation deck is a short walk from a small parking area. You can also hike down to the base of both falls.
Mingus Mill
Mingus Mill & Smokemont Church
See two historic structures within a few miles of each other in the Great Smoky Mountains, both located near the North Carolina entrance on Newfound Gap Road / US 441 near Cherokee.

Cherokee is just 52 miles from Asheville via I-40 West to Exit 27, then U.S. 19 to U.S. 441 in Cherokee (just over an hour's drive) via Maggie Valley. Or you can take the more scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, but this could take three to four hours. A great day trip is to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway to Cherokee and return the faster way via I-40.

Nearby are the towns of Sylva and Bryson City.

The Deep Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its streams and hiking trails to waterfalls. In addition, you can mountain bike,... read more
Spend a fabulous day or two in Bryson City, Swain County and the Great Smoky Mountains with waterfalls, hiking, rafting, food and shopping. In fact, since this little jewel of a town offers so much... read more
Beautiful Jackson County is west of Asheville and includes the towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro, Sylva, Balsam, Cullowhee, Glenville and Sapphire. In addition to great small towns to visit,... read more
For a romantic evening watching elk graze a short distance away, drive to the Cataloochee Valley section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Watch elk from the roadside (do not approach them... read more
Robbinsville (population 620) and Graham County is located in the western tip of North Carolina. If you are wanting to escape the crowds, head to this "wild" west where the Nantahala National Forest... read more