If you feel a little giddy in North Carolina’s mountainous Jackson County, it’s because you have ascended to some pretty amazing – some would say heavenly – heights.
An area comprised of tall, thickly wooded mountains, scenic curvy roads, and cascading waterfalls awaits the visitor seeking grand vistas, fresh, clean air and temperatures about 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the rest of the south.
In the middle of the Great Smoky Mountains, Jackson County is situated about 200 miles from Winston Salem; about fifty miles from Asheville. The towns of Sapphire, Cashiers, Glenville, Cullowhee, Sylva, Dillsboro, and Balsam each have their stake in the county. While a popular tourism destination, the area has maintained its natural beauty and mountain remoteness. The small towns are spread out over the county giving visitors competitive options for views and leisurely pursuits. Each season of the year brings its own activities and opportunities, ranging from hiking to fishing, boating, and golf – and then there are the spas.
The Blue Ridge Parkway runs through the county, passing through Richland Balsam, which, at 6,053 feet, is the Parkway’s highest point; as does forty miles of the Tuckasegee River, home to the first fly fishing trail in the nation and perfect trout waters.
The tiny town of Cashiers bustles due to its unique shops and has much else to recommend it, not the least of which is the famed High Hampton Inn, a historic resort. Here, life is meant to be lived outdoors, specifically on its 1,400 wooded acres replete with a 35-acre private lake. The view of the property’s own mountain face will inspire each morning spent there.
The Inn represents over one-hundred- and-sixty years as a place of retreat and relaxation. Its massive dining hall, where guests have their own table for the entirety of their visit, serves up amazing fare, beginning with a hearty breakfast buffet with all the rich southern favorites. Weather permitting, be sure to have ‘Dinner in the Dahlias.” Visitors can call the Inn, a cottage, or a mountain home rental their home while staying there.
When hunger strikes, head over to Cornucopia for a splendid meal in its large and airy space. The menu is also large and inviting. For a very special dinner, discover Canyon Kitchen where, with its massive open doors, you’ll feel as is you are seated outside but will have all the comforts of romantic shelter and handsome décor. For catching up on local news and regaining caffeine balance, step into Buck’s Coffee, a warm and friendly place.
Sylva is artsy and full of vim and vigor in large part because of its proximity to Western Carolina University which is next door in Cullowhee. You can’t miss the stately courthouse high on a hill in Sylva and you’ll want to catch a performance at the WNC Performing Arts Center.
If you’re not already in Sylva, it’s worth a pretty drive there to dine at City Lights Café. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, their good eats, spirits, and espresso bar will prepare you for the rest of your day.
Wash down great food and see how craft and imagination make for good marriages by visiting the town’s three friendly breweries – Heinzelmannchen, Sneak E. Squirrel and Innovation. Check out the Prohibition-era style cocktails in the comfortable space provided by The Winged Lion; and also the wine and appetizers at Evolution Wine Kitchen. Leave Jackson County feeling totally pampered and rejuvenated after a trip to either the High Hampton Inn Health Club Spa or the Canyon Spa. Both offer amazing signature treatments that will stay with you for a while after your visit.
Leaf Festival, Village Green and Commons in Cashiers, October 7-9: Held each year as the leaves begin to change in this beautiful mountain village nestled at 3,487 feet in elevation, this free event has grown tremendously since its inception in 2009. This year’s festival expects to welcome more than 100 artisans and merchants and over 10,000 visitors. For more information call (828) 743-8428.
Goblins on the Green, Village Green and Commons in Cashiers, October 21: The Village Green’s festive Halloween event includes delicious culinary delights from the food truck, plus lots of fun and games, and tricks and treats! Visitors are encouraged to dress up in costume and prizes will be awarded for best boy, girl and human/canine duo. For more information call (828) 743-8428 or visit http://www.villagegreencashiersnc.com/events/goblins-in- green.php
WNC Pottery Festival, Dillsboro, November 5: Showcasing the work of more than 40 master potters from 13 states. A variety of clay art styles will be presented. Pre-show events - including the Clay Olympics - will be held on Friday. The event is juried and the lineup of potters is impressive. $5 ticket includes a chance in a raffle; kids under 12 admitted free. For more information call (828) 631-5100 or visit www.wncpotteryfestival.com
Cashiers Festival of Trees, Village Green and Commons in Cashiers, Thanksgiving through New Year’s: The park becomes a winter wonderland! The Festival of Trees celebrates one of the area's greatest industries and showcases local businesses. The festival kicks off on Friday, November 25, with Holiday music, s'mores and a visit from Santa. The highlight will be the lighting of the Cashiers Christmas Tree that evening. For more information call (828) 743-8428.