Ringed by mountains and cut through by the Valley and Hiwassee Rivers, downtown Murphy is practically its own trailhead to natural wonders. Just to make the point, the town established a beautifully engineered two-mile River Walk and Canoe Trail, including multiple wooden platforms and walking bridges under birches, poplars and other native trees.
Pick up a River Walk map along with lots of information about the recreational possibilities of Hiwassee Lake, Apalachia Lake, the Ocoee and other area rivers, waterfalls and scenic trails at the Murphy Visitor Center on Tennessee Street in the heart of town. You’ll also be within a five-minute walk of neighborhood spaces devoted to heritage and craft.
Just around the corner on Valley River Avenue, you’ll find the Murphy Art Center, a suite of galleries presenting regional artisans–painters and jewelers in particular–generally with a one-person show on exhibit in the Cultural Arts Room and a steady offering of classes in craft. Across the street, the Baerreis family operates Gallery 26, a notable collaborative art space, featuring Martha and Phil Baerreis’ captivating wood art, including beautifully-imagined miniature chests, as well as glass and metal jewelry, photography, basketry and other treasures, all evocative and engaging work.
Around the corner at 87 Peachtree, you’ll find the Cherokee County Historical Museum, displaying Native American and pioneer history with over 2,000 Cherokee artifacts. The museum also serves as an interpretive center for the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. For further information, call the museum at 828-837-6792.
Back on Tennessee Street, across from the iconic Henn Theater, Lotsa Memories offers handmade linens and quilts, wood carvings, dream catchers and beeswax candles, among other things, with proceeds going to support local charities.
Near Murphy, you can explore the inventive world of Jo Kilmer at her Spirit Tall Gallery where she builds (and shows others how to build) rustic furniture, including miniature chairs, garden benches, tables, and shelves made from found forest woods and rhododendron. For studio hours and workshop scheduling, call Jo at 828-837-4866.
Five miles from town and a mile from Campbell Folk School on Old 64, Harry Hearne and Julie Fischer Hearne run Turning Point Clay Studio. Their mugs, bowls, goblets and raku pottery are so beautifully conceived and articulated, they defy description. To make sure they’re home, call ahead (615-631-3645).