A private arboretum featuring native plants near Lake Toxaway, the Southern Highlands Reserve is a research center dedicated to sustaining the natural ecosystems of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We accomplish this mission through the preservation, cultivation and display of plants native to the region, and by advocating for their value through education, restoration and research. Located in Western North Carolina at an elevation of 4500 feet, the varied topography and forest types found on our 120 acres allow us to emulate many of the plant communities found in the higher reaches of the Southern Appalachians.
The varied terrain and high elevation makes for a moderate to strenuous hiking/walking experience. Please wear comfortable clothes and shoes, bring water bottle, camera and bug spray. We also invite our visitors to bring a sack lunch and enjoy lunch in the passive recreation areas around Chestnut lodge following a tour.
Reserve a tour
Staff offers two ways to see the Reserve April – October for the perfect outing for backyard gardeners, plant enthusiasts and professionals in the fields of horticulture, design and ecology. Visitors’ Days, led by a Garden Tour Docent, are held the first Tuesday of each month and are best suited for first-time guests to Southern High Reserve. Reservations are limited to 4 tickets
Cost per ticket is $15. Tours are also available for private groups up to 20 and cost $25/person with a minimum of $250 per group. Tours begin promptly at 10 a.m. and last about two hours.
The rivers and streams of the NC mountains and foothills are among the most popular destinations for anglers, especially those who are avid about fly fishing.
The Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians, now located in Bryson City, is filled with exhibits and videos showcasing profiles of legendary “Stream Blazers,” the evolution of rods and reels, basic knots, fly-tying, types of gear, types of gamefish, regional fishing waters, and the history of fly fishing in the Southeast.
A large number of anglers come to Bryson City each year to fish the Delayed Harvest section of the Tuckasegee River that runs through the center of town, as well as other nearby streams.
The museum also includes a gift shop with logoed jackets, caps, shirts, umbrellas and more.
Fly Fishing Hall of Fame
The museum honors prominent proponents of the sport of fly fishing in the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame. The 2016 inaugural inductees include Jim Casada (Communications), Walter Cary (Crafts), Wanda Taylor (Recreation), and Phil Bracewell, Sr. (Conservation).
Hours of Operation
Monday – Saturday, 9 am to 6 pm.
Swain County Chamber of Commerce Building
210 Main Street
Bryson City, NC 28713
(Across the street from the Swain County Visitor Center) 828-488-3681 800-867-9241
Tour a small town with big personalities and welcoming climate
Tryon quickly grew as a resort town, bringing tourists to the area to enjoy the mountain views and good climate. Many artists, writers and crafters chose to stay – at least for a while – including the stage actor William Gillette, most famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This mix of locals, artists and retirees continues today, creating a vibrant, active community. Many of the historic buildings on Tryon’s Trade Street were in place by 1900, including a general store, pharmacy and post office. Buildings like these have contributed to Tryon receiving the designation of historic district by the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1915 Miss Eleanor Vance and Miss Charlotte Yale, co-founders of Biltmore Estate Industries, left Asheville and resettled in Tryon where they purchased a cottage and soon were training young boys and girls to handcraft finely-designed and beautifully-crafted toys. Vance and Yale’s little non-profit business, motivated by a desire to do good and to train young people in rewarding artist-work, eventually became the famous Tryon Toy Makers and Wood Carvers.
In 1928 two boys working for Tryon Toy Makers built a gigantic version of the popular little toy horse for a parade held in conjunction with the spring Tryon Horse Show, to advertise and celebrate Tryon Toy Makers. Their creation was so big that overhead wires along Trade Street had to be lifted out of the way in order for the Tryon Horse to participate in the procession. The toy makers also made miniature wheeled horse souvenirs to sell at the horse show. The giant horse was disassembled after the parade, stored in the basement at Hillcote, and brought out in subsequent years for the horse show parade. Eventually the Tryon Toy Makers donated it to the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club, eventually naming him “Morris” and creating a permanent position in the center of Tryon where he can be visited any time. See the photo on this page. Listen to this short Living Traditions Moments presentation about the Tryon Toy Makers.
Tryon Wine Country
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Tryon was well known for its table and wine grapes. Due to prohibition, family businesses related to wine dried up over time. Beginning in the early 1990s, this interesting part of Tryon’s history was revived–the planting of grapes for winemaking. About a dozen vineyards now lie about 10 miles to the east in the Tryon foothills. This area, with its gentle, rolling hills and clay-loam soils, has proven to be an excellent location for vinifera grapes. Five wineries welcome visitors for tasting, tours and beautiful mountain views.
Visitors stroll down Trade Street and enjoy the shops and restaurants. They may catch a movie at the tiny Tryon Theater or a performance at the Tryon Fine Arts Center. Scenic drives include a drive through the architecturally rich neighborhoods of Gillette Woods and Godshaw Hill; through the horse estates on Hunting Country Road; or along the Pacolet River Scenic Byway (Hwy 176). Or picnic at Harmon Field and peruse the nearby antique stores.
March: Super Saturday– Also known as the Children’s Theater Festival, this is a one-day festival of “lively arts” for children. Eight to ten different performances encompassing theater, music, storytelling, mime, dance, puppetry and more are brought to Tryon on a Saturday in late March
May:Block House Steeple Chase– Horses and races, tailgate picnics and crazy hat contests, friendly people and a whole lot of fun! Run by the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club.
Festival features competition cookers, two music stages, the Foothills Craft Fair and children’s rides. Admission includes parking. Held the second Friday and Saturday in June each year. Run by the Carolina Foothills Chamber of Commerce.
Summer – June through September
Summer Tracks at Rogers Park – Named for the RR tracks running through the park, enjoy this series of FREE Friday night summer concerts. Schedule available at the Tryon Visitors Center, Polk County Travel & Tourism Office, and online.
Typically held in early November, the Annual Tryon Beer Fest runs from noon until 6pm in the Tryon Depot Plaza. Tickets are sold in advance (online and at local retailers) and at the gate (cash only). Festival only (“Designated Driver”) tickets are also available at the gate (cash only).Admission includes unlimited beer and wine samples.
An array of craft beers are available, along with an oyster roast, authentic German food, non-alcoholic beverages and water. Live Bavarian music entertains during the day, followed by a live rock band later in the afternoon. This is a rain or shine event, under the sun or under a heated tent, depending on the weather.
December:Tryon Christmas Stroll
Tryon Downtown Development Association members serve refreshments at their businesses. Santa listens to children’s wish lists. Carolers make joyful noises. Friday night early in December – Small town Christmas at its charming best!
Elk Knob State Park is located in the Meat Camp area of Watauga County. Elk Knob, at 5520 feet, is an amphibolite mountain with grass-covered grounds beneath a hardwood canopy. There are amazing panoramic views at the top of the 1.9 mile summit trail.
Elk Knob contains an excellent example of a northern hardwood forest typically found above 4000 feet in elevation that consists primarily of American beech, maples (sugar, striped, and mountain), northern red oak, yellow birch, and yellow buckeye. The hardwood nature of the forest lends to spectacular fall color.
Rangers hold regularly scheduled events and interpretive programs throughout the year. Watch for notices of these programs on park displays and websites and through local media. To arrange a special exploration of Elk Knob State Park for your group or class, contact the park office.
The Appalachian Studies Department at Appalachian State University is working with park staff to provide programming rich in southern Appalachian history and culture. Traditional music, story-telling, and mountain crafts are demonstrated at the outdoor amphitheater.
The park is accessible in winter. Snow shoes are available for rent and cross country skiing is allowed. The one mile Maple Run trail (still under construction) is designed for cross country skiing and hiking.
Every September, the park hosts the Elk Knob Community Heritage Day. For generations local folk have gathered in the gap of Elk Knob to visit with one another. The Elk Knob Community Heritage Day is an annual celebration of this tradition. Participants share a covered dish meal while enjoying historical demonstrations, wagon rides, and local music. There is no charge for this event.
Backcountry, primitive camping is available one to two miles down the back country trail. Campfires are not allowed.
Hours of Operation
November-February: 7 am – 6 pm
March-May, September & October: 7 am – 8 pm
June-August: 7 am – 9 pm
The park office is open 8 am – 5 pm.
The park is closed on Christmas Day.
Hours of operation and fees are subject to change. Contact the park directly for most current information.
Backcountry camping is $10 per night. Group camp sites start at $13.
Before 1856, when no more than 10 families lived on what was then known as Pleasant Hill, education was important to the parents who founded an academy to educate their children.
The French Broad Baptist Institute, as it was known, eventually evolved into Mars Hill College. When the village of Mars Hill was incorporated in 1893, the corporate limits were set at 900 yards in all directions from the northwest corner of the first college building. The name Mars Hill is said to have been inspired by a Biblical passage, Acts 17:22, which says, “Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill and said, ‘Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.’”
As the college grew, so did the town. A general store was built, a doctor’s office established, and boarding houses opened for college students. The year 1913 was a boom year for the growing community. Several new buildings were erected, including two stores, a bank building, general store, and a drug store. Many of the homes and the businesses built during this time can be seen in Mars Hill today.
Mars Hill University
Mars Hill University served the academic needs of a growing community and became one of the premiere two-year private colleges in the nation. In 1962, it reached four-year status, and in 2013, the institution changed its name to Mars Hill University to reflect the institution’s expansion, both in terms of enrollment and variety of offerings. The school identifies itself closely with the history and culture of this area and the wide Southern Appalachian area.
Music at Mars Hill
The college and the town itself are inextricably linked to the traditional music of Appalachia. Musician, folklorist, and festival organizer Bascom Lamar Lunsford, a Mars Hill native, dedicated his life to collecting and promoting the music of the Southern Appalachians. Through his work he became known as “Minstrel of the Appalachians.”
In 1927 Lunsford organized the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville, which has been in existence ever since. He organized many other festivals, performed extensively, and composed songs, including the famous “Mountain Dew.”
The Rural Heritage Museum is on the campus of Mars Hill University. Its exhibits and programming focus on educating students and visitors to the lifeways of the Southern Appalachians. Open year-round, 11 am to 5 pm, except Mondays, and Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days.
The Liston Ramsey Center for Regional Studies is in the Renfro Library on the campus. The extensive collection of photographs, manuscripts, sound recordings, and artifacts document aspects of mountain life and culture, including an exhibit of Cherokee artifacts, some of which date back to 10,000 BC. Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s instruments are on display along with an extensive scrapbook of his writings and manuscripts to rival the one in the Library of Congress.
Whether presenting Broadway musicals or world-premiere original works, SART offers the highest quality professional productions, with one play each season which has a special emphasis on the rich culture and heritage of the people of Appalachia.
Blackberry Festival—Held annually in August, celebrating some of the finest blackberries grown anywhere. Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival—Held the first Saturday in October, in conjunction with the Heritage Festival. Both festivals are on the campus of Mars Hill University, and both celebrate the traditional music, crafts, and cuisine of the region.
The tallest dam east of the Rockies at 480 feet, Fontana Dam was was built by the Tennessee Valley Authority in response to an urgent need for electric power during World War II; construction began in 1942 and was finished in just 36 months.
Surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Nantahala National Forest, and deep river gorges, Fontana ranks among the most beautiful dams in the world. In addition to providing hydroelectric power and flood control for the region, the lake created behind the dam on the Little Tennessee River is a popular site for many kinds of outdoor recreation.
Boating and Fishing
Fontana Reservoir provides 238 miles of shoreline and 10,230 acres of water surface for recreational activities. Several marinas service the lake, including Fontana Marina, the nearest to the dam itself, which offers watercraft and equipment rentals including pontoon boats, canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards. Lake excursions are available, with knowledgable guides relating the history of the region and the dam. Views from the water reveal the pristine nature of the surrounding lands.
Largemouth bass, whitefish, catfish, pike, and bluegills abound in the reservoir, and because of its deep water, fishermen often find such northern species as walleye, muskie, and smallmouth bass.
The Appalachian Trail crosses Fontana Dam, which stretches 2,365 feet across the Little Tennessee River. The hot showers available at the trail shelter, maintained by the TVA, have led hikers to dub it the Fontana Hilton.
The Fontana Dam Visitor Center is located off N.C. Highway 28 near the Tennessee/North Carolina state line. It is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from May through October except major holidays. Newly refurbished and staffed by TVA retirees, the visitor center has updated maps, videos, and displays about TVA and the construction of the dam.
Historic Fontana Village
With a history reaching back more than 100 years into the logging and mining industries that flourished in the area at the turn of the 19th century, Fontana Village today is a year-round vacation destination resort, with a lodge, cabins, campgrounds, marina, and programming that includes traditional music, car club and motorcycle gatherings, outdoor activities and special holiday events.
Perched on the crest of the Blue Ridge atop the Eastern Continental Divide, the Orchard at Altapass occupies a unique spot in both America’s landscape and history. The Orchard has been a vital travel route since the earliest settlers began exploring these mountains. Buffalo and elk traversed here, followed by the Cherokee and eventually European settlers.
Early settlers defied British attempts to make peace with the Indians by disallowing settlement to the west of the mountains. Their resentment of British rule culminated when they formed the Overmountain Men during the Revolutionary War, marching to King’s Mountain and handing the British a stinging defeat recognized as a turning point of the conflict.
America’s industrialization came to the area in the 1890s. The Orchard’s location on the lowest pass through the Blue Ridge in the surrounding 100 miles ensured that the nation’s railroad barons would find it.
In 1908 the Clinchfield Railroad opened, complete with an engineering marvel: the Clinchfield loops, consisting of 18 tunnels in 13 miles of track built beside and below the present-day Orchard.
The arrival of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the 1930s was yet another key chapter in the Orchard’s history dictated by geography. Today the Orchard is one of the most popular stops along the Parkway.
In 1995, Bill Carson and his family purchased the Orchard and now operates it today as a non-profit dedicated to preserving local history and lore, heritage apple varieties, and traditional music, and storytelling.
To help preserve local culture the Orchard offers free live music Wednesday through Sunday in May through September, and weekends in October.
Take part in the ever-popular Storytelling Hayride, a 45-minute journey through time, which begins on the old path of the Revolutionary War soldiers called the Overmountain Men. The hayride continues through the orchard, past old and young trees, with spectacular scenery for the entire route. Hayrides are offered every Saturday and Sunday.
In addition to hayrides, the Orchard offers guided storytelling walks and guided nature walks on beautiful trails.
The store and music venue have been completely remodeled and there are now dedicated areas for: kids’ activities, history, butterflies, honey bees, and books. All proceeds from the store help to support the mission of the Altapass Foundation.
Location and Operating Hours
The Orchard is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 328.3, outside the town of Spruce Pine, NC. The Orchard is open 10 AM to 5 PM every day of the week except Tuesdays from May to October. The Orchard is open everyday of the week during the month of October.
Established in 1789, the town of Rockford served as the county seat of Surry County until is was encompassed into present day Yadkin County. As an early seat of government Rockford developed as an earl seat of commercial activity in the area. Hotels, taverns, and retail stores along with craftsmen including a blacksmith and tinsmith as well as industry including a forge and tannery flourished in the town.
A notable resident of the town during the 19th century was Judge Richmond Pearson, who established a law school just across the Yadkin River (Richmond Hill Law School). Pearson served as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1858 until his death in 1878.
After a period of decline Rockord saw success and a resurgence in the coming of the railroad in 1890 and through the early 1900’s. Rockford became the chief carrier of passengers, freight, and mail for Northwestern North Carolina Railroad and as a result resurfaced as a commercial center. During this time the village boasted three general stores and tobacco factory.
Modern Rockford still maintains much of its early character as several buildings of architectural significance still stand in town. These include, the Rockford Inn, the Rockford Methodist Church, the Mark York Tavern, the Rockford Post Office, the Dudley Glass Store – Davenport Galley, and the Rockford Masonic Lodge.
Also of interest is the Rockford General Store which dates back to 1890 and is included on the National Register of Historic Places! Creaky wooden floors, old fashioned candy jars, hoop cheese, glass bottle drinks including Nehi and Crush are just a few old timey items you will discover at the Rockford General Store.
In September the town hosts the Rockford Reunion, (this year’s event is on Sept. 8th) at the Masonic Lodge from 10 AM to 4 PM. The day’s activities will include traditional music, a BBQ lunch, sharing of family and local history, and dedication of the new Whitaker/York marker and hand rails donated by Bob and Betty Whittaker and several other Whitaker and York families. Registration fee for the day is $10.00 which includes lunch.
Each year the town hosts the annual Candlelight Christmas in Rockford event at the Rockford Methodist Church. Be sure to stop by the Dudley Glass Store and Davenport Gallery to do some Christmas shopping before the event!
Waynesville is the largest city west of Asheville. It is Haywood County’s oldest town and the Haywood County seat, framed by mountain vistas, vast national forest lands and clear, rushing streams. It is also where team square dancing originated in the 1930s.
The Town of Waynesville was founded in 1809 by Colonel Robert Love, a Revolutionary War soldier. He donated land for the courthouse, jail and public square, and named the town after his commander in the war, General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. The Town of Waynesville was incorporated in 1871.
For many years visitors have traveled to Waynesville to enjoy the cool clean air, clean water, outstanding scenery and an opportunity to escape the crowded cities.
Main Street’s tree lined brick sidewalks offer pedestrian access to fine shops, galleries, cafés and restaurants. Historic buildings, relaxing benches, public art, and welcoming folks make Waynesville an enjoyable place to live and visit.
Parks, Museums and Arts Centers
Founded in 1977, The Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts at the Shelton House is a repository and cultural exhibit preserving and displaying traditional crafts by some of the states’ most renowned artisans. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Charleston style farmhouse was built in 1875 for Stephen Jehu Shelton, a Civil War veteran and Haywood County sheriff. Exhibits include period furnishings and antiques, folk art, and collections of pottery, wood carving, basketry, metalwork, weaving, quilting, marquetry and other fine crafts. Open May-October.
The award-winning Haywood Arts Regional Theater features a full schedule of performances. Widely known as one of the finest community theaters in the southeast, the theater presents shows on the main stage at the Shelton House, April through December, and in the Feichter Studio, January through April.
Ten to twelve rotating artists’ exhibits are shown annually at the Haywood County Arts Council’s Gallery 86, a creative showcase on Main Street in the historic downtown. Special music and art events are held there throughout the year.
The town of Waynesville has many parks and greenways that afford visitors and residents alike the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and beatuiful scenery of the area.
Festivals and Events
On the first Friday each month between May and December, Downtown Waynesville Galleries remain open until 9 pm for “Art After Dark,” with demonstrations, artist receptions, and music.
Mountain Street Dances enliven downtown Waynesville on four summer Friday nights. Put on your clogging and square dancing shoes and enjoy an old-fashioned mountain hoe down at the historic County Courthouse! Live mountain music, demonstrations and instruction by local clogging teams.
In July, Waynesville goes international, hosting Folkmoot USA, the State International Festival of North Carolina. This two-week celebration of the world’s cultural heritage through folk music and dance beings with a parade of nationns down Main Street featuring performances, a parade and workshops. Performers demonstrate their cultural heritage through colorful, authentic and original reproduction costumes, lively dance and traditional music.
On Labor Day Weekend the annual Smoky Mountain Folk Festival, held at Stuart Auditorium at nearby Lake Junaluska, offers two nights of the finest traditional music and dance of the Southern Appalachian Region.
The Church Street Art and Craft Show is held in October on Main Street in downtown. Now in its 30th year, this event showcases the area’s arts, craft and music heritage.
Tailgate Farmers Markets
The Waynesville Farmers Market is open May through October, held on Wednesday and Saturday mornings on Legion Drive, just off Main Street. Vendors offer fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers grown in Haywood County.
Waynesville is easily accessed from Interstate 40/US 74 on the north, and US 23/74 from the south. Parkway travelers can take the Waynesville exit at Balsam Gap.
Plunging waterfalls, rugged river gorges, sheer rock walls and one of the greatest concentrations of rare and unique species in the eastern United States are found within Gorges State Park. An elevation that rises 2,000 feet in only four miles, combined with rainfall in excess of 80 inches per year, creates a temperate rain forest and supports a collection of waterfalls.
On April 29, 1999, thanks to a unique partnership of industry, the environmental community and the state of North Carolina, 10,000 acres of the Jocassee Gorges in Transylvania County were placed in public ownership to be preserved for future generations of North Carolinians.
The property was purchased by the state from Duke Energy Corporation, and the transaction created a 2,900-acre gameland managed by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Currently, Gorges encompasses nearly 7,500 acres and is the only state park west of Asheville.
At the Park, visitors can enjoy camping, fishing, boating, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, picnicking and chances to see waterfalls and wildlife. Click here, for more information about the activities Gorges State Park has to offer.
Gorges State Park opened its new 7,100 square-foot Visitor Center on October 12th 2012. The Center was designed and built to national green building standards. Additionally two large picnic shelters with restrooms, and a maintenance facilities were completed.
The Visitor Center is home to the park offices, large exhibit hall, a 75-person auditorium, 40-person classroom, and large covered wrap around decks offering outstanding southern views of the escarpment and park. The center currently under review for “GOLD” status by the national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
Do you enjoy skiing or snowboarding? Or are you looking to learn for the first time? If so, then Western North Carolina is a great destination for you this winter. Home to six ski mountains, Western North Carolina has many opportunities for the snow seeking adventurer.
Listed below are the ski mountains of Western North Carolina and their contact information. Happy Skiing from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area!
Nestled in the High Country in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina is the charmingly rustic small town of Lansing, a prime travel destination in Ashe County.
From Villages and Trading Centers
Like numerous villages throughout Ashe County, Lansing began as a small trading center for the local agrarian population. It is not known where the name Lansing originated, but the name was used in the establishment of a post office on August 24, 1882. Lansing was one of the county’s many modestly-sized rural communities in 1896.
According to Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory, its population was 40, Harrison Perkins’ General Store was the only business, along with the original Lansing School, built in 1889.
Growth with the Railroad
The Virginia-Carolina Railroad (later owned by Norfolk & Western) was constructed through Ashe County in 1914 to 1916 and had a significant impact on the growth of Lansing. With the construction of the railroad, industries based on the export of the county’s natural resources sprang up. Small-scale mining of iron ore was conducted in the Lansing area and the shipment of the ore from the Lansing Depot contributed to the town’s early growth.
The timber industry was even more important to the economy of Lansing and the county in general. Lumber and pulpwood, and probably tan bark, were all shipped from Lansing to processing plants that were located across Southwest Virginia and beyond. These products were the primary impetus for the construction of the railroad into Ashe County and created an economic boom for much of the 1910s and 1920’s culminating in the town’s charter on May 26, 1928.
Discover Modern Lansing
While industries have come and gone, the beauty of the mountains and surrounding natural heritage remains the same for the town and people of Lansing. No matter what the season, Lansing offers unforgettable landscape and scenery, year-round festivals and incredible outdoor recreation opportunities.
The quaint downtown offers a variety of interesting and unique shops filled with local arts and crafts, antiques and household goods. Our shopkeepers enjoy every opportunity to welcome you to the area, and direct you to any goods and services you may seek during your stay. Local eateries in town offer everything from old fashioned country cooking to hand tossed pizza.
Take a ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a mecca for recreational opportunities, a habitat for diverse species of flora and fauna, access to America’s cultural heritage, an icon of American progress and ingenuity, and a gateway to charming communities.
Lansing is about 20 minutes from Jefferson and West Jefferson, the seat of Ashe County, is only 45 minutes from Boone (NC) and is less than an hour from Abingdon (VA) or Mountain City (TN). You could get here from Charlotte or Winston-Salem in about 2-1/2 hours and just a few miles from the Virginia Creeper Trail.