• stunning green farmland from the Great Smoky Railroad
    Top 10 List

Our Top 10 List of Things to Do in Bryson City NC

With an abundance of outdoor activities and things to do in Bryson City NC , here is our attempt to narrow it down to just a few. Be sure to check out our Area Info page for many more of our recommendations in the Smoky Mountains. The attractions below made our Top 10 Smoky Mountains List and are in no particular order.

1. Hiking at Deep Creek

woman sitting in the snow at the trail junction in Bryson City North Carolina

This one makes our Top 10 List mainly because of its popularity and the fact that it has something for everyone! Deep Creek is apart of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and a top Bryson City NC attraction. You will love the wide array of hiking trails for ALL skill levels including three waterfalls along beginner level hiking trails. If you need an intermediate challenge take the popular Deep Creek Loop and for a more strenuous hike venture to Lonesome Pine. When you visit during the warmer months you can also join the hundreds of others; kids and adults alike tubing down Deep Creeks cool mountain waters. So much adventure and family fun to be had here! There are many more hiking trails as well so be sure to check out our favorite hiking spots in the Smoky Mountains on the area info page.

2. Fontana Lake

scenic view of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Almond Boat Park on Fontana Lake

The crown jewel of the area in our opinion and one of the reasons we decided this was the area for us is Fontana Lake! If its not the most beautiful lake you will ever see it certainly will be at the top of the list. The lake itself has a green tint from copper deposits and is mostly surrounded by National Forests and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It will be a real treat to take the family out on a pontoon boat rental from Almond Boat Park or a guided fishing trip from one of the many outfitters located in Bryson City NC. Record size fish have been caught in the deep and cool waters of Fontana Lake. Picture yourself on a pristine lake with the Great Smoky Mountain National Park's highest peaks in the background! Thats why this one makes our Smoky Mountains Top 10 List as well as a Perfect Selfie Location!

3. Rafting

majestic sunrise over the Tuckasegee River a top things to do in Bryson City NC

Another classic in Bryson City NC attractions is rafting. The class one and two rapids in the Nantahala Gorge make all this possible and a Smoky Mountain destination for families and rafting enthusiasts alike! There are several rafting companies along the Nantahala River such as NOC, Wildwater, and Endless Rivers that offer guided trips along the Nantahala and Tuckasegee Rivers. The Nantahala Outdoor Center is world famous and offers restaurants, store, tree top adventure park, and a wonderful spectator area to watch those on the water. A must do in the Great Smoky Mountains if you have never gone rafting!

4. Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

Conductor blowing horn on Steam Engine 1702 of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

A staple and timeless classic in the Bryson City NC area would be the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. The train depot is located in downtown Bryson City NC and the 1940's steam train dubbed "1702" turntable makes our can't miss selfie locations list as well! The train makes departures to the Nantahala Gorge and along the Tuckasegee River to Dillsboro, NC offering some of the best views in the Smoky Mountains. We love the pace of the train that will take you back to a time when all of us were not in such a hurry! You and your family will love the scenic routes or one of their themed train rides such as the Polar Express which must be placed at the top things to do in Bryson City NC. Check out more info on the train at gsmrr.com.

5. Craft Breweries

many beer taps with creative handmade handles from Innovation Brewing

Ok so whats the deal with the craft brewery scene and why are they spreading like wild fire in Western North Carolina? Thats an easy one for us to answer; its in the water. No literally, local brewed craft beer is dependent upon the freshest ingredients and purest water possible. The water is more pure in Western NC and we think the Bryson City NC area is among the purest. Naturally, the water coming from the North Carolina Smoky Mountains is mostly protected land and going to be some of the purest waters in the country. When you combine that with great people such as Mark at Mountain Layers Brewing or Liz at Bryson City Outdoors Craft Beer Department it makes for great time with a small town atmosphere. Check out what makes all the local breweries unique on our brew and wine!Area Info page

6. Mountain Biking Tsali

dramatic vista of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Fontana Lake from Tsali Mountain Biking near Bryson City NC

Welcome to the purest definition of mountain biking and the world famous Tsali Recreation Area. Situated along the banks of Fontana Lake the mountain biking options here include four different trails that have alternating days and patterns of usage. The course has a variety of climbs and technical sections but is mostly known for it's sweeping fast downhill flows. The trails have some of the best views in the Smoky Mountains with several overlooks of Fontana Lake and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Didn't bring a bike along? That's no problem at all because you can rent one from Tsali Cycles in Bryson City or from the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Once you have experienced Tsali there is also a newer trail system in Cherokee NC called Fire Mountain Trail System so be sure to check out more information on this spectacular adventure on the Area Info Page!

7. Fly Fishing

a group of fly fisherman with a guide on the Tuckasegee River in downtown Bryson City

The North Carolina side of the Smoky Mountains really is the fly fishing capital of the Eastern United States. The Tuckasegee River flows through the middle of downtown Bryson City NC and offers an excellent delayed harvest fishing environment. There are a wide variety of fish from small mouth bass, steelhead, brown trout, rainbow trout, muskie, and crappie. A very common fishing style here is "Fly Fishing". If you're in downtown Bryson City NC between Darnell Farms and Fontana Lake you will most certainly see people wading in the shallow, cool, slow moving water throwing their line into the stream. If you haven't ever been Fly Fishing there are several guides in the area such as Fontana Guides and Tuckasegee Fly Shop. This is a great ay to experience the Smoky Mountains if you have ever been curious to give it a try! One of our favorite spots to reel them in can be found in the Upper Nantahala River just past the rafting put-in area below the Dam. This is very scenic waters with many cascades and small waterfalls.

8. Clingman's Dome

cresting sunrise  from Clingman

Standing at 6,643 feet Clingman's Dome offers some of the best views in the Smoky Mountains! It's the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as along the Appalacian Trail. You will absolutely love the panoramic views from the observation tower at the top so bring your camera along for sure. This Top 10 Things to do in Bryson City NC also takes a spot for best selfie locations as well as one of the most scenic vistas! So much bang for your buck to make this short drive through Great Smoky Mountains National Park! If you want a real treat you will have to wake up real…real early to view the sunrise from the parking area. There are some checklist items you will need for this adventure so be sure to view our Clingman's dome blog for the complete guide. Many people also make the trek on foot from numerous trailheads along 441 or even from the Deep Creek entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Depending on your skill level, there are plenty of reasons to venture to this Bryson City NC attraction!

9. Elk Viewing

a herd of elk getting some sun in the school playground in Cherokee, NC

An extremely rare and one of a kind item to add to our Top 10 Bryson City NC attractions list is Elk viewing! Even living here and seeing them quite regularly they are captivating creatures to see and no it never gets old! You may find a mass of cars pulled to the side of the road in Cherokee NC or along the highway in an open field and wonder whats going on? More than likely there is a herd of Elk grazing. Some of the best times to view the Elk are early mornings and evenings. Some of the best places to see Elk are at the stunning, historic farmland of Kituwah Field along Highway 19 between Bryson City NC and Cherokee NC. The mountain Farm Museum at the Cherokee entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also another great spot as well. There is an Elk Viewing area that is well marked by the Cherokee High School also. Please remember the Elk are very large and wild animals that can be dangerous. Be sure to stay the recommended 50 yards away while taking photos and enjoying the graceful nature of these animals.

10. Mountain Golf

dramatic view of Sequoyah National Golf course a top things to do in Bryson City NC

For golf enthusiasts, playing a round in the Smoky Mountains is something that cannot be overlooked! We have two mountain golf courses near Bryson City NC and Cherokee NC. The Smoky Mountain Country Club is located in Whittier, NC just two miles from the Hive Lodge; our large group cabin rental. Like most mountain courses you can certainly use up your mulligans due to the distractions from the scenic views! Sequoyah National Golf Club is also just a few miles away in Cherokee NC. This is one of my favorite courses ever! Its a very challenging course with so much elevation change and multi-tiered greens. The course presents impeccable fairways and greens as well as some of the best scenic vistas around. If you haven't ever played these courses you should make the plans to do so on your next trip to the North Carolina Smoky Mountains. If you're staying at any of our lodging let us know ahead of time so that we can provide discounted rates. Check-out the golfing Area Info Page for more on each of our local golf courses.

Deep Creek in Bryson City Tubing!

Elk at Kituwah Field in Bryson CIty!

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad 1702

double waterfall in cherokee nc towards maggie valley

Things to Do

There are so many things to do in the Smoky Mountains of Western NC! Its an outdoor adventure paradise. Check out all of our favorite things to do in Bryson City NC and area attractions on our Area Info Page.

tongue and groove interior living room of The Historic Ol Gun Range large group cabin


We have the perfect small family or large group lodging for your next trip to the North Carolina Smoky Mountains! Take a look at our Lodging Page for photos and descriptions of our cabins located near Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

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