Itinerary: Spend the Day In the Nantahala Gorge

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The Nantahala Gorge


The Nantahala Gorge, located in the Nantahala National Forest, is one of America's favorite outdoor playgrounds, attracting whitewater and adventure enthusiasts from around the world. The Nantahala River is abounding with class 1, 2 and 3 rapids perfect for kayaking, canoeing, or rafting. The Gorge is also famous for ziplining, fishing, jeep tours, horseback riding, hiking and gem mines.


Whether you’re looking for a low-key adventure for children as young as 7 years old, or an active itinerary guaranteed to thrill, the Nantahala River Gorge is the perfect place to explore. The Nantahala Gorge begins about 8 miles west of Bryson City, along Highway 19/74 west. 



Grab a bite to eat and some coffee at Cardinal Coffee on the left side of Highway 19/74 right  before entering the Nantahala Gorge. Choose from some amazing coffee selections, lattes, smoothies, teas, bagels, pastries and more!


Spend the morning in the trees with a zipline adventure. There are two zipline/canopy tour outfitters in the Gorge, the Nantahala Outdoor Center and Wildwater. Both outfitters have options for kids including the NOC’s treetop adventure nets and Wildwater’s Kid Zip.


The outfitters provide all the equipment. Make sure to call in advance, and keep in mind that zipline is a seasonal event, generally operating between the months of April through October.




For lunch, grab a bite to eat at Big Wesser Riverside Pub, or River’s End Restaurant at the Nantahala Outdoor Center or Pizza by the River which is just a little drive up the road. These options are right next to the river for a relaxing lunch listening to the river and watching people raft. 


After lunch head to one of the rafting outfitters to start your water adventure. Children as young as 7 years old can raft the Nantahala. Most of the rapids are considered easy (Class I & II), with a Class III rapid at the end of the run.


Outfitters are listed below and they also provide all the gear you will need. If you are experienced you can go by yourself in a raft rental but if you are a beginner you can have a guide with you showing you the ropes. Rafting trips generally last around 3 hours, and your outfitter will ask you to arrive one hour before your trip. 




After your active day in the Nantahala Gorge, you’re sure to be hungry!  Both Big Wesser and Rivers End Restaurant at the Nantahala Outdoor Center would be the perfect place to end the day with an amazing dinner and talk about your favorite adventure from the day. Or venture into downtown Bryson City for more dining options!


For help booking anything or more ideas, Carolina Bound Adventures offers fully guided adventures and help on planning your adventures.