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Vacation North Carolina and you’ll never run short of great things to do in the in the NC Great Smoky Mountains. In addition to the National Parks and our many outdoor activities, you’ll love our family attractions, including amusement parks, a scenic railroad, gem mines, museums and entertainment.

Cherokee is the perfect great home base for your Smoky Mountain vacation. It’s only one hour through the National Park to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, or one hour East to Asheville and the Biltmore House and Garden.

1) Float Down the River

For chilling thrills on a summer afternoon nothing beats floating down the rapids of a cool mountain stream on a giant inner tube. And the Smokies offer several great places for family tubing, including the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee, Deep Creek near Bryson City and the Tuckasegee River

Considered a “family” river, you can also take a raft ride on the Tuckaseigee River. With its Class I and II rapids, the Tuck is open to adults and kids of all ages.

2) Whitewater Rafting

If you want to kick it up a notch, you’ll love whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River, about a half-hour west of Cherokee on Highway 19/74. With its Class II and III rapids, Nantahala River rafting is restricted to children at least 60 pounds or seven years of age.

Because it’s a dam-controlled river, the Nantahala is a dependable source of whitewater rafting adventure. The water is pulled from the bottom of the 250-foot-deep Nantahala Lake, guaranteeing refreshingly cool water, even in the heat of summer.

Several outfitters offer guided, semi-guided and self-guided trips down the Nantahala’s eight-mile whitewater course. The trip takes about three hours.

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3) Fly Fishing Tournaments

With 30 miles of well-stocked freestone trout streams, Cherokee is a fisherman’s paradise. Our catch and release trophy waters were the site of the 2011 U.S. National Fly-Fishing Championship. This year, we’re hosting 8 tournaments, including — Cherokee Mid-Summer Trout Fishing Tournament, with $10,000 in tagged fish. Cash prizes. July 13-15.

4) Spectacular Mountain Vistas

Did you know that Cherokee is bordered by two national parks? We’re best-known for the North Carolina half of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But we’re also the southern gateway to the Blue Ridge Parkway National Park.

The beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway stretches 469 miles from Cherokee to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. The Parkway was designed for a leisurely drive with plenty of pullovers to enjoy the incomparable views. Yet it’s the southernmost section of the Parkway, near Cherokee, that provides some of the most spectacular vistas. Blue Ridge Parkway map (PDF)

Two overlooks near Cherokee are among the most popular. Richard Balsam Knob (mile marker 431), the highest point on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway, is a favorite of sunset watchers. Enjoy stunning views of the Great Smokies right from the parking lot at Waterrock Knob (mile marker 451.2), which sits at nearly 6,000 feet elevation.

In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) both Newfound Gap and the Clingman’s Dome Observation Tower, with its 360-degree view of the mountains, are the best spots for long-range vistas. More about the GSMNP.

And Just a Short Drive Away…

About an hour west of Cherokee, in Graham County, are two natural gems —

The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest offers a two-mile walk through an old-growth virgin forest with giant Hemlocks and Poplars.

Nearby, the 36-mile Cherohala Skyway, connecting Robbinsville and Tellico Plains, Tennessee, provides views that rival the Blue Ridge Parkway. Near Tellico Plains, take the 5-mile side trip (FS Road 210) to the 100-foot high Bald River Falls. This spectacular cascade can be viewed from your car.

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