Don't miss the opportunity to experience a rare total solar eclipse in western North Carolina near Asheville on Monday, August 21, 2017. Jackson County, Swain County and Graham County - all located about 50-70 miles west of Asheville - are some of the few areas in country where you can experience the extremely rare celestial phenomenon. Towns in the direct path will include Sylva, Dillsboro, Cashiers, Bryson City, Cherokee and Robbinsville, with one to two minutes of complete darkness as the moon moves in front of the sun. Even the city of Asheville will see a 99% eclipse.
Make lodging reservations now since many people will be traveling to this area from around the world to experience this amazing event. At 2:36 PM, the Carolina blue sky will turn pitch black. Temperatures will drop, and stars will come out as the sun disappears. While the total eclipse is just a couple of minutes, the transition will begin about 1 PM and end around 4 PM. Since we expect many visitors, you should be at your viewing location well before noon.
Across the United States, cities from Oregon to South Carolina are inside the 70-mile-wide path of the total solar eclipse. This is the first time in 26 years that America has seen a total solar eclipse (last one in our area was in 1506, next one in 2153), and it is one of the few that will travel the nation from Atlantic to Pacific coasts.
Best Spots to Watch the Eclipse near Asheville
There are many places to witness the entire sun eclipse in western North Carolina, including small towns, mountaintops and lakes. Since visitors from around the world will be here to watch, be sure to arrive very early to get your spot! Expect heavy traffic, especially midday. If you hope to watch at a place with limited parking (like most spots in National Forests and Parks), you better arrive by 8 AM! Rangers will start closing areas as they fill up. The towns with events will have much more parking.
Sylva: Live music, food trucks and eclipse experts at Bridge Park (76 Railroad Avenue) downtown 11 AM-3 PM. Total time of darkness will be 1 minute 45 seconds. They are geared up for large crowds, so you'll find parking, food and plenty of other things to do. Go to the Jackson Website for more events and viewing locations.
Dillsboro: Park at Monteith Park (Old Home Town Road) for $2 and take a free shuttle 11 AM-4 PM into this artsy village with galleries, studios, shops and restaurants along the river. Also find extra vendors and a kid's recreation! Eclipse glasses available for a small donation to the local Merchants Association. 1 minute, 50 seconds of total darkness.
Cashiers: The Village Green will host food trucks, live music 12-4 PM and experts with equipment for viewing. Everyone receives viewing glasses. Totality of darkness will be 2 minutes and 23 seconds. Go to the Jackson Website for more events and viewing locations. Also, the US Post Office will be on site to cancel their special solar eclipse thermal stamp, a great souvenir of the big day!
Cherohala Skyway: Our top pick for roadside viewing is this National Scenic Byway near Robbinsville since it will experience the longest period of darkness (about 2.5 minutes) and there are many overlooks to park. Or hike up to Huckleberry Knob (limited parking, so you need to arrive very early morning). Bring a picnic (no food, drinks or gas on the Skyway) to enjoy the entire afternoon of mountain views. Due to expected crowds, many areas will probably close early in the day. Read more about the Cherohala Skyway.
Blue Ridge Parkway: The southern section of the Parkway will be in the path of total darkness (about 20-60 seconds of totality around 2:36 PM) - from around Looking Glass Rock overlook (Milepost 417) to the end at Cherokee. While there are numerous overlooks to stop, most will fill up quickly. Popular hiking spots to summits like Black Balsam, Devil's Courthouse and Waterrock Knob will be packed. So go early to claim a parking spot! Waterrock Knob has the largest parking area with prime viewing from the lot with picnic area and restrooms. See our Blue Ridge Parkway Guide for stops along this section, Milepost 418-469.
Stecoah: The top spot for viewing in Graham County on Monday is the wonderful Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center, located near Robbinsville and Fontana Lake. Enjoy plenty of art, picnics, special activities, food and music 11 AM until 3 PM with plenty of parking.
Bryson City: Join the block party downtown on Frye Street, 11-3, with music and special offerings at local shops. Food trucks and music at Swain County Event Park. Total darkness for 1 minute 57 seconds. Go to their website for details.
Solar Eclipse Train: Ride the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad from Bryson City, leaving at noon, to Dillsboro with a two-hour layover to explore the artsy town and watch eclipse. Returns at 5 PM. Tickets from $59/person. SOLD OUT! Go to their Website.
Lakes: Rent a pontoon or kayak/canoe (reserve well in advance) to watch from the middle of one of the scenic lakes in the area (Santeetlah, Glenville and Fontana Lakes). Watch from the top of Fontana Dam!
Gorges State Park: A 3-day celebration with free activities. August 19 is Nature Day with a series of guided hikes 10 AM-4 PM. August 20 is Fun Day with programs, exhibits, food and music 10 AM-4 PM. On Eclipse Day (21st), gates will open at 5 AM with activities 10 AM-4 PM with free solar glasses, food and music. They will close the gate when they reach capacity (1,400 automobiles). Hike to Rainbow Falls before the eclipse. They are located in the direct path, west of Brevard. Read more about the park.
Mountaintops: Hiking to a mountaintop with a view will be a very popular destination. However, most of these hikes are in the Nantahala National Forests with limited parking. Many will probably close. If you want to hike, arrive early in the morning and plan to spend the day. John Rock in Pisgah National Forest should have about 30 seconds of totality and it has a large parking area. More top spots for total darkness: Wayah Bald, Wesser Bald, Devil's Courthouse and Huckleberry Knob.
Cherokee Cultural Eclipse Celebration (August 20 2-9 PM & August 21 9 AM-7 PM): The Cherokee have observed eclipses for millennia and have several names for them. The oldest is “Nvdo walosi ugisgo” with translation “The frog eats the sun/moon.” The traditional belief is the eclipse is caused by a giant frog swallowing the sun or moon. To scare the frog away, people made loud noises. Learn more at the Fairgrounds and the Museum of the Cherokee with warrior dancers, storytellers and craft demonstrators. Admission is $5 that includes 3-D viewing glasses. 545 Tsali Blvd, Cherokee
Downtown Asheville: Solar Eclipse Festival in Pack Square Park downtown on August 21, 12-3 PM, with the Museum of Science and UNC Asheville with music, food, and fun hands-on eclipse related activities led by local organizations. The eclipse will be 99% total here. Free
NC Arboretum: The first 250 cars will receive free eclipse glasses to watch from their gardens. They have plenty of parking, trails, exhibits and more to keep you busy before and after. 99% eclipse here. See our Arboretum Guide.
Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute: Join NASA scientists and hundreds of astronomers from around the world at one of the leading space research facilities in the country. PARI is located deep in Pisgah National Forest and will be in total darkness for 1 minute and 47 seconds. $100/person for a full day (9 AM-4 PM). SOLD OUT. Go to their website for other star gazing events throughout the year. While Monday's event is sold-out, you can take a tour of the campus on Saturday, 10 AM-4 PM.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: The road to Clingmans Dome will be closed both Sunday and Monday to all motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. The park's event at Clingmans sold out in five minutes and ticket holders will take shuttles in. ASA 360 will broadcast the eclipse live from there. Newfound Gap Road (US 441) will close when traffic becomes too congested (so we recommend staying away from that area). Oconaluftee Visitor Center at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains has a large field for viewing, with rangers answering questions. Expect a big crowd there. Cataloochee Valley will have a 99.7% eclipse, so the elk may come out to graze like they do at sunset.
Other Weekend Events
- Robbinsville: Located near Cherohala Skyway, find festivities on Saturday, August 19, at Robbinsville High School (301 Sweetwater Rd) with a craft/antique fair 10 AM-5 PM with live music 7 PM-10 PM.
- Dillsboro: The Summer Arts and Crafts Market on Saturday, August 19, will have 50+ local artists with demos, live music and more along Front Street. 10 AM-4 PM.
- Sapphire Valley: Arts and Craft Festival outdoors, 10 AM-4 PM, on August 19 and 20. Free admission. Located three miles east of Cashiers (100 Cherokee Trail, Sapphire). Free.
- Asheville: Shindig on the Green downtown on Saturday, Aug 19, 7-10 PM, a longtime favorite showcase of local Appalachian music and dance. Free.
- Tryon Equestrian Center: Saturday Night Lights with horse competition, music and more. Free.
- Lake Lure: The Dirty Dancing Festival is Friday night and all day Saturday with plenty of music and fun to celebrate the movie filmed here. Buy tickets in advance since it will sell-out.
Check back on this page for more updates!
Places to Stay
Eclipse Safety Viewing Tips from NASA
- Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse, when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face within the narrow path of totality for up to 2.5 minutes. You can watch the progress of the eclipse for much longer with "Eclipse Shades" like the above or a solar filter on a camera or telescope. Buy glasses at Diamond Brand and Frugal Backpacker in Asheville ($2.50 each) starting July 27th. We bought our "certified" glasses on Amazon (5 pack for $14.95). Homemade filters or regular sunglasses are not safe.
- Put on your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. Do not remove it while looking at the sun.
- For photography, a solar filter on your camera lens is a must. Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device.
- Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer. The concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eyes, causing serious injury. Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device.
- If you are within the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets quite dark. Experience totality, then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to glance at the remaining partial phases.
- An alternative method for safe viewing of the partially eclipsed sun is pinhole projection. For example, cross the outstretched, slightly open fingers of one hand over the outstretched, slightly open fingers of the other. With your back to the sun, look at your hands’ shadow on the ground. The little spaces between your fingers will project a grid of small images on the ground, showing the sun as a crescent during the partial phases of the eclipse.
- More resources from NASA: General Flyer PDF | Safety Tips PDF
During the coming year, The Lookout Observatory at the University of North Carolina in Asheville have speakers, events, and other plans to get you ready. Asheville will only experience a 99% eclipse, being just outside the path of totality, so it can only be safely viewed using proper eye protection, specifically specially filtered glasses. Go to their Web site for upcoming events.