On the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you'll find some fantastic small towns that are perfect basecamps for your vacation and adventures in the Smokies. While there are no hotels or restaurants inside the national park, find many lodging options nearby. Also find plenty of restaurants, attractions and things to do in these towns.
The Great Smoky Mountains Expressway connects Asheville to the national park for easy driving. The 4-lane highway begins at Exit 27 on I-40, west of Asheville, and runs 43 miles to the Nantahala Gorge. Along the way, it takes you by Maggie Valley, Waynesville, Sylva, Dillsboro, Cherokee and Bryson City.
From these towns, find five entrances into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
- Newfound Gap Road, US Highway 441: The most popular entrance to the park on the North Carolina side begins in Cherokee, home to many family motels, cabin rentals and Harrah's. Find museums, restaurants and plenty of souvenir shops.
- Deep Creek: Home to popular river tubing, waterfall hikes, campground and more, it's just 3 miles from downtown Bryson City - home to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, brewery, outfitters and plenty of cabin rentals.
- Lake View Drive: Also 3 miles from downtown Bryson City is the Lake View Drive entrance to the national park - better known as the Road to Nowhere since the six mile road was never completed. Read more.
- Fontana Lake: To reach the most remote areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, rent a boat on the big and beautiful Fontana Lake. From Robbinsville, you are about 20 miles from either the Almond or Fontana Village Marinas.
- Cataloochee Valley: This more secluded cove is home to elk, camping, historic buildings and hiking trails. The entrance is near the towns of Maggie Valley and Lake Junaluska.
See our Great Smoky Mountains Vacation Guide to play your trip.