Don't miss experiencing a rare total solar eclipse in western North Carolina near Asheville on 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 of a total solar eclipse. 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.
Make lodging reservations now since many people will be traveling to this area from around the world to experience this amazing event. At 2:35 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. Across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina, cities 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, and it is one of the few that will travel the nation from Atlantic to Pacific coasts.
Best Places to Watch the Eclipse
There are many places to witness the entire eclipse in western North Carolina, including mountaintops and lakes in Nantahala National Forest.
Scenic Drives: Our top pick for roadside viewing is the Cherohala Skyway since it will experience the longest period of darkness and there are many overlooks to park. Or hike up to Huckleberry Knob. Arrive early with a picnic to enjoy the entire afternoon of mountain views. Read more about the Cherohala Skyway.
Mountaintops: Hike to a summit and arrive by 1:30 PM to watch the skies gradually get darker. One of our top picks is Whiteside Mountain near Cashiers. More suggested hikes coming!
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.
Clingmans Dome at Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Since the highest (and very popular) peak in the Smokies is in the direct path of the eclipse, the summit and tower will only be open to those with a coveted $30 ticket that will go on sale on March 1st, with 1,325 slots available. The tower could offer the unique possibility of seeing the moon's shadow approaching across the landscape. Cars will not be allowed since a jumbotron screen, telescopes and exhibits will fill the parking area. They will also have NASA speakers and Cherokee storytellers to explain the science and cultural background to this rare event. Event is 12:30-3 PM. Participants will be shuttled from Gatlinburg or Cherokee by motorcoach. Note: The summit is often cloud-covered on summer afternoons, so a lower elevation spot like the Oconaluftee Visitor Center may be better for viewing in the park.
Check back on this page for more updates!
Places to Stay and Watch
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. 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.