The NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) Adventure Resort in the Nantahala Gorge is paradise for outdoor lovers. In addition to rafting and kayaking on the Nantahala River, you can bike, shop, eat and hang out on the beach! Try stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Fontana, fly on the zip lines, bike and shop at NOC's Outfitter's Store. Located about 75 miles from Asheville (easy trip mostly on a four lane highway), it is tucked along the Appalachian Trail.
Thousands of people flock to NOC on a busy summer day to kayak or raft down the river. The shimmering Nantahala River offers river rafting through rapids that are mild but exciting. Nantahala rafting features eight miles of practice on easy Class II rapids before splashing through the exciting Class III whitewater of Nantahala Falls. Both guided and self-guided trips are available - either on rafts or ducks (inflatable kayaks). Go to NOC's Web site to book a river trip!
Private boaters are welcome to take out at NOC. Shuttles depart the rafting center for the put-in. For more info on rafting in the North Carolina mountains, see our Whitewater Rafting Guide.
Stand Up Paddleboard
Take a paddleboard out on Fontana Lake (the Nanatahala River empties into Fontana Lake on the NOC campus). Paddle through a quiet mountain cove to a 100-foot waterfall.
Zip Line Tours
Nantahala Outdoor Center's Mountaintop Zip Line Tours includes a three-hour tour at the Nantahala River with a half-mile-long “Mega Zip” above Townhouse Creek Falls with views of the Nantahala Gorge, Fontana Lake, National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The fully-guided tour (ten riders or less in a group with two guides) features 10 zips with an “above the trees” feel. Some zip lines provide traditional tree-to-tree rides, but overall the experience delivers more mountain-to-mountain experience. Fly almost a half-mile through the air and get up to 350 feet above the forest floor, and the Mega Zip is one of the longest zip lines in the East. Enjoy 360-degree views and see landmarks like Clingman’s Dome and Cheoah Bald. The Mountaintop Zip Line Tour’s location at NOC’s Nantahala River campus provides many options for guests. Raft and zip line packages are available, and all guests enjoy NOC’s pleasant riverside campus and restaurants after their tour. Go to NOC's Web site for tour info and reservations.
NOC Zip Line Adventure Park
At this self-guided adventure park in the trees, soar over 600 feet through the air on the Wesser Zip; then take on a multi-level challenge course as high as 60 feet above the forest floor. Each level features new obstacles: wobbling sky bridges, confusing spider webs, nerve-racking tight ropes and more exciting ziplining. With all these options, you can pick and choose your challenges based on your abilities. The Zip Line Adventure Park also features the latest in continuous auto-belay technology, so you can guide yourself through the course at your own pace. Once harnessed in you stay connected at all times, and you're free to negotiate the challenges ahead. Go to NOC's Web site for more.
NC Mountain Biking
The mountains surrounding NOC offer world-class mountain biking opportunities, with challenging terrain and great scenery. The NOC Bike Shop is a full-service stop for all of your cycling needs, both on and off-road. The Flint Ridge Trail at NOC is a designed specifically for mountain bikers. It features technical riding as well as some rolling single-track. From the Bike Shop, the ride is about 4.5 miles, with a loop at the end. Just minutes from NOC is Tsali Recreation Area, regarded as mountain biking mecca. (See our Mountain Biking Guide.)
Package & Save
At NOC, there are many options for outdoor adventure. You can also package a zip line tour or other adventure along with your rafting trip and get a discount. Their rafting and train combination includes a three-hour excursion on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Go to NOC's Web site for more.
NOC Restaurants on Nantahala River NC
River's End: Enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner at this longtime favorite, with a menu that includes chicken biscuits to hand-pattied veggie burgers and their all-time favorites—sherpa rice, the big wesser burger and the cool jewel.
Big Wesser BBQ & Brew: This open air cafe offers quick and convenient food riverside with a great outdoors deck to watch the river action. Enjoy live music every weekend night, May thru September.
Relia's: Overlooking a tiered garden of flowers and herbs, Relia's offers a mountain dining experience that is unforgettable. Choose from steak to trout, and all of the fresh, seasonal sides that our chef prepares to perfection.
NOC Nantahala Adventure Resort Special Events
Go to NOC's Web site for more.
Appalachian Trial Founder's Bridge Festival
April 8-9, 2016: Jamboree features outdoor adventure-themed film screenings, a vendor village staffed by industry representatives, gear repair, a trail maintenance trip and phenology training session with the Appalachian Trail Concervancy, plus product giveaways, door prizes and live music. Read more about it.
Smoky Mountain Relay
April 23, 2016: Teams of 12 runners race 205 miles from North Mills River, NC to finish at NOC - an accomplishment to celebrate.
NOC Spring Fling & Demo Days
April 22-24, 2016: Check out the season's hottest gear (with free test paddling) at the NOC's Outfitter's Store, plus, enjoy free live music and local brews. Read more about Demo Days & Spring Fling.
NOC's Sizzling 4th of July
July 2-3, 2016: Celebrate the 4th with live music and specials. Cool off with a raft trip down the Nantahala or a lake kayak tour on beautiful Lake Fontana. Enjoy plenty of onshore entertainment.
Whitewater Junior Olympics
July 22-24, 2016: This national-level youth event featuring slalom, downriver and freestyle competition as well as just-for-fun on and off-the-water events such as duckie-cross, SUP Head-to Head and a cornhole tournament. Fun for beginner through advanced paddlers.
Guest Appreciation Festival & Gear Sale
September 23-25, 2016: NOC thanks loyal guests for another great year with great discounts on outdoor gear and gifts, live music and entertainment for the whole family, as well as food and beer specials. Read more about the NOC Guest Appreciation Festival.
October 22, 2016: Celebrate fall colors with a german-style beer garden set on the bank of the Nantahala River with seasonal treats, craft brews, pumpkin decorating, costume contest and a kayak treasure hunt.
Outdoor School Courses
Since 1972, NOC has been leading courses in whitewater kayaking, whitewater canoeing and river leadership. Over the year's they've grown to become one of the most convenient, comprehensive destinations for learning in the outdoors. They are the top school for kayak instructors and raft guides, and a destination for backcountry leaders to get wilderness medicine certification. Go to NOC's Web site for more.
- Kayak Instruction: Recognized by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Outside magazine, NOC offers complete weekend or week-long clinics for beginners through advanced paddlers.
- SOLO Wilderness Medicine: NOC has teamed up with SOLO to offer courses ranging from the basic Wilderness First Aid (WFA) through Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT).
- Canoe Instruction: A classic way to get outdoors and explore the river, NOC leads solo and tandem workshops for canoe paddlers of all levels, beginner through advanced.
- River Leadership: At NOC, you can enroll in American Canoe Association Swift Water Rescue or a more-intensive River Rescue, or get professional-level training in Kayak Instruction and Raft Guide School.
- Survival School: Learn to survive almost any situation in the outdoors. NOC's spring Wilderness Survival School is led by four experts in wilderness medicine and backcountry survival.
Directions from Asheville
(About 75 miles, but mostly four-lane roads) Take I-40 West toward Knoxville, TN. Take exit 27 onto US 74 West toward Waynesville. The Nantahala is located 50 miles down this road. Stay on 74 West. Eight miles west of Bryson City, the four-lane highway you are on will split into two 2-lane roads. Stay on 74, which is the left lane. Go another five miles. On the last descent you will see a yellow caution sign on the right indicating you are entering the Nantahala Gorge. Just after the sign you will see the Nantahala River, and NOC's Nantahala Outpost.
Go to NOC's Web site for more.
For road bikes, the popular spot is the Blue Ridge Parkway. Read some great tips about biking on the Blue Ridge... read more