Bryson City is filled with landmarks and destinations that everyone adores. But as we approach our busiest season, these well-loved areas are sure to be buzzing. We’ve curated a list of our favorite must-see places that receive less love so that you can find your quiet time even in our busiest.

Make it “Gorge”-ous

One of the most beautiful places to eat and explore near Bryson City is the Nantahala Gorge. With a river to restaurants to whitewater rafting, it's easy to spend an entire day devoted to unforgettable outdoor adventures. Let's stop by some of our favorites!

Cardinal Coffee Shop

Cardinal Coffee Shop is the perfect spot for your morning brew. Located just outside the Nantahala Gorge, this spot is as historical as it is sustainable. What was once an early 1900s farm home is now a coffee bar filled with products sourced locally and organically. The coffee comes from farmer-owned cooperatives and the art for sale is all from local talents. Have your espresso, appreciate the art, and support the community.

Big Wesser Pub

Just along the riverbank is the Nantahala Outdoor Center’s Big Wesser Riverside Pub, the perfect pit stop on your adventure. This restaurant has weekly live music, open-air seating, and a beverage menu - what more could you ask for? It also gives you a perfect opportunity to explore NOC’s sprawling summer camp-style campus.

Don’t be afraid to take your lunch to-go, though. The Nantahala Gorge has roadside tables along the Nantahala River for picnics.

Another little-known picnic area is the Old 288 River Park closer to Bryson City and located along the Tuckasegee River. The small park offers two trailheads to explore in addition to its waterfront picnic areas.

Gain a New Perspective

We know the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is filled with marvelous viewpoints as far as the eye can see, but what about some lesser-known stunners? Let’s explore a few!

Pattons Run

Patton’s Run Overlook is a stop along the Nantahala National Forest along the banks of the Nantahala River. This is a great place to take a break during your kayak or tubing adventure - keep yourself cool, admire the rushing river, and rest your arms.

Swinging Bridges Overlook lies along Newfound Gap Road, with a breathtaking photography spot of cascading mountains for miles. It sits near mile marker 14 along the road and has ample parking on its north side in a lot called “Swinging Bridge Quiet Walkway Trailhead”.

Soak in Our History

Bryson City and the national park are filled with glorious spots, but where did these landmarks come from? Take a tour of these historical hidden gems to find out.

Mountain Farm Museum

The Mountain Farm Museum includes a collection of farm buildings that moved to the grounds in the 1950s. A log farmhouse, a barn, an apple house, a springhouse and a working blacksmith shop all give you a sense of life in Smokies during the late 19th century. After immersing yourself in the past you can walk along the lovely river trail, but use caution as you may encounter some roaming elk!


Between its history and its endless connections to nearby hiking trails, Fontana Dam is a gift that keeps on giving. It was impounded and created the famous Fontana Lake during World War II, proudly standing today as the tallest dam east of the Rocky Mountains. The dam itself is easily accessible, accessed via a winding, scenic drive up NC-28. Once there, you can either walk across its surface or drive over it. You can also explore the Fontana Dam Visitor Center, which has maps, videos and other displays about the creation of the dam.

Llweyns Boat Ramp on Cheoah Lake

Beyond the dam, adventures are endless. A section of the Appalachian Trail can be accessed here, connecting you to one of the country’s most historic hikes. Cheoah Lake, located just below, offers a different scenic experience, with its calm waters waiting for you to cast your line or paddle on through. Take your fishing even further at Llewellyn Boat Ramp, also close to Fontana Dam. The ramp has an accessible fishing pier and a gorgeous view accenting your day.

 Reel in the Fun

The fishing doesn’t stop at Fontana Dam, either! Our destination is filled with abundant opportunities for anglers to reel in that prize catch. Let’s dive into a few more.

Fontana Lake, Bryson City, North Carolina

               Visit Fontana Marina to rent a kayak, canoe, paddleboard or pontoon boat to visit North Shore. Pontoon Boat Shuttle Services offer exploration of this remote section of the lake, including Eagle Creek and Hazel Creek. These areas in particular are known to be a trout fisher’s dream, with waters swimming with impressive catches. Don’t forget to explore the trail hikes around North Shore while you’re up there!

               The Tuckaseegee River is the 60-mile river that divides downtown Bryson City. It’s stocked with trout and decks to fish easily. It’s good for more than fishing, too. This river offers a gentle experience for whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing or stand-up paddleboarding.

               Bryson City welcomes you to explore any and all of our favorite hidden gems. We can’t wait to see you take the road less traveled. Start planning your tour today:

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