Looking for a getaway that’s a little less “people-y?” Consider a road trip to Jackson County, North Carolina.
This remote destination in the Western North Carolina mountains teems with undiscovered treasures hidden around every corner. It also boasts over 494 square miles of wide-open spaces waiting to be explored, making it an ideal spot to social distance!
Jackson County is comprised of the towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro and Sylva. It’s also home to a historic landmark many North Carolina residents might not even know exists. Until now…
Take a peek into North Carolina’s deep Cherokee history at Judaculla Rock. This soapstone rock is etched with numerous Native American symbols — also known as petroglyphs. Petroglyphs are different from hieroglyphics, which were drawings that represented words. Petroglyphs are powerful cultural symbols that reflect the complex societies and religions of the surrounding tribes.
Judaculla’s petroglyphs are deeply associated with the Tsukalu or Judaculla legend of the Cherokee. The markings are believed to have been created thousands of years ago. Like most Native American tribes, the Cherokee believed the spirit world influenced things in the physical world. They believed every man and piece of nature (animals, weather, plants, etc.) exhibited a spirit. The gods of the spiritual world controlled the spirits, and often the Cherokee relied on mediation between the physical world and the spiritual world. Judaculla Rock served as a landmark for the hunting god.
If you’re not ready to venture out just yet, take a virtual tour of Judaculla Rock!
The Great Outdoors
While you’re in Jackson County, make time to explore some of the area’s many gorgeous hiking trails. Here’s a list of trails to choose from:
- The Richard Balsam This is a surprisingly easy 1.5 mile loop. It’s located along the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 431.4. At 6,053 feet above sea level, Richland Balsam is the highest peak on the parkway. This provides hikers with miles and miles of scenic vistas to enjoy.
- One of the most popular and beautiful waterfall hikes in JacksonCounty is the High Falls It’s less than one mile, but contains a lot of steps – so be ready to climb. You’ll be glad you did when you see the 100-foot waterfall fed by the West Fork Tuckasegee River. Don’t forget your bathing suit! The pool at the bottom and its sandy beach are the perfect place to relax and take in the falls!
- Geared toward more active hikers, the initially steep 1.2-mile round-trip hike along Waterrock Knob Trail provides a vigorous climb to reach the 6,292-foot summit. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Western North Carolina.
- Prefer a more moderate trail? Try the two-mile loop of the Whiteside Mountain Trail. Along this 90-minute hike up Whiteside Mountain, you’ll see one of the county’s most recognizable peaks with the highest vertical cliffs in the eastern U.S. at 1,800 feet.
- For a half-day adventure, check out the Pinnacle Park Trail. It’s seven miles round trip and includes streams, waterfalls and scenic views. Make sure you bring a picnic to enjoy amidst the natural beauty. The trail is challenging and covered in boulders, so plan accordingly.
- For a lovely waterfall view that doesn’t require much effort, Silver Run Fallsis the perfect option. The path is not long, perhaps 500 feet, when it reaches a footbridge that crosses the Whitewater River. After crossing the footbridge, you’ll reach the base of the falls within minutes. There’s a small pool at the bottom of the falls if you care to take a dip!
Photos courtesy of Jackson County TDA, Nick Breedlove and Jerry Parker