How to Have an Adventurous Girls’ Getaway in Jackson County

The best kind of girls' weekend is one filled with hiking, exploring, waterfalls and cocktails.
The best kind of girls' weekend is one filled with hiking, exploring, waterfalls and cocktails. Lauren Kerns
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Isn’t it time for a girls’ getaway? And not just any getaway, no—this one is for the girls who need adventure, who crave the wilderness and dream of standing at the cliff’s edge. The girls who love good beer, craft chocolate and fancy cocktails, exhausting climbs, roaring rivers, the tranquility of nature, and those delicious hits of adrenaline that can be found there. You can find all of this and more in Jackson County, North Carolina, just over an hour away from Asheville. So invite your friends, mark the calendar, and start planning for the ultimate adventurous girls’ getaway.

Hit the Trails

The "shadow of the bear" is visible from the Rhodes Big View Overlook on US 64.
The "shadow of the bear" is visible from the Rhodes Big View Overlook on US 64. Courtesy of Jackson County TDA

Lace up your hiking boots, ladies, and get ready to jump into the wilderness of Jackson County. There are more than 50 hiking trails that wind through the mountains, including 675 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From soaring cliffs to cascading waterfalls, Jackson County is brimming with rugged adventure and breathtaking sights.

For a dramatic hike with a huge payoff, check out Whiteside Mountain between Cashiers and Highlands, North Carolina. At an elevation of 4,930 feet, the sheer cliffs are some of the tallest on the East Coast. Follow a two-mile loop trail to the rocky summit of this iconic peak, where the views are expansive and the sheer exposure is dazzling.

In autumn and late winter, you may be lucky enough to glimpse “The Shadow of the Bear,” a natural phenomenon that appears for just half an hour each day. As the sun sets behind Whiteside Mountain, it casts an unusual and ephemeral shadow over the Nantahala National Forest, best viewed from the Rhodes Big View Overlook off Highway 64.

Chase the Waterfalls

Dry Falls is the reward at the end of a beautiful hike in Jackson County.
Dry Falls is the reward at the end of a beautiful hike in Jackson County. Courtesy of the Jackson County Department of Tourism

Picture yourself standing behind the veil of a 75-foot waterfall in the Nantahala National Forest, surrounded by your best friends, the only sound the pounding of water against rock. Dry Falls (so named because you can remain dry while exploring behind the falls) is an epic spot for a chocolate break, a photo shoot, or to simply stand, eyes closed, and take a deep breath. It’s located on US Highway 64, with a short trail and set of stairs leading to the base of the falls.

Jackson County is studded with waterfalls; some are accessible by short jaunts, others by longer treks on secluded trails. One of the most popular cascades in the area is 150-foot Cullowhee Falls (also known as High Falls) in the Tuckasegee Gorge. A brand new trail, finished in 2013, descends 650 feet over a series of 73 log and stone stairs. Consider it the ultimate quad workout in a spectacular setting.

Explore the Fly Fishing Trail

These ladies are all smiles after a day spent on the Fly Fishing Trail.
These ladies are all smiles after a day spent on the Fly Fishing Trail. Alex Bell

One of the highlights of Jackson County is the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail, which features some of the best trout waters in the Great Smoky Mountains. The trail includes 15 locations, for hooking brook, brown, and rainbow trout, ranging from small streams to open waters. Whether you’re an avid fisher-woman or you’ve never touched a pole in your life, a private guided session with Play On Adventures   is sure to be an experience so unique, rugged and enjoyable...you and your friends might get hooked.

Get Your Chocolate Fix

The signature collection from Baxley's Chocolate should accompany you to the top of every mountain.
The signature collection from Baxley's Chocolate should accompany you to the top of every mountain. Melina Coogan

Life is busy. A girls’ weekend only comes around once in a blue moon, so be sure to make it extra special. Before heading out into the wilderness, stop by Baxley's Chocolates in downtown Sylva for a selection of their handmade confections. The chocolate simply melts in your mouth, leaving you feeling satisfied and properly indulged. A box of their signature collection includes caramels, toffee, malted milk balls, peanut-butter meltaways and their renowned sugar plums. The treats are best enjoyed behind the veil of a waterfall, at the top of a 750-foot cliff, or late-night at the cabin.

The selection of beers at Innovation Brew are eclectic and delicious.
The selection of beers at Innovation Brew are eclectic and delicious. Nick Breedlove

Once you’ve returned from your adventure, head directly to Innovation Brewery in downtown Sylva. Twenty-two house-made beers—10 of which are staples and the rest are constantly rotating to fit the season and the whims of the brewers—are sure to please every taste preference and palette in your crew. If you’re looking to sip on something non-alcoholic, the house made organic ginger ale is so warming and invigorating, it nearly feels like a health tonic.

The tasting room at Innovation is lively and warm, filled with college students, kayakers, climbers, and hikers all returning from a day in the wilderness. A true small-town gathering place, there is live music every Saturday and a food truck out back that boasts the best burger in all of Jackson County.

Drink Cocktails

No adventure is complete without a cocktail hour.
No adventure is complete without a cocktail hour. Marnie Joyce

While nothing beats a good beer, sometimes a girl needs a fancy cocktail after a day out chasing waterfalls. The drinks and spirits at  The Cut Cocktail Lounge are deliriously drinkable and masterfully concocted. The atmosphere of this downstairs, low-lit establishment is retro and mysterious, almost like a movie set; the type of modern day speakeasy where you may find yourself spilling your deepest secrets and telling sublimely embellished stories. The Cut is where Ladies’ Nights comes to life.

Get a Good Night's Sleep...Or Stay Up till Dawn

Wind down around the campfire after an adventurous girls' weekend at a cabin from Smoky Mountain Getaways.
Wind down around the campfire after an adventurous girls' weekend at a cabin from Smoky Mountain Getaways. Courtesy of Smoky Mountain Getaways

After the cocktails and food trucks, after the hours of stories told over beers, crammed in a booth at Innovation, what’s next? Do you retire for a refreshing night’s sleep, soak in a hot tub under the midnight stars, or gather in the main room of your cabin, talking until dawn? If you’re looking the ideal mountain getaway, check out the options atSmoky Mountain Getaways and reserve the cabin that’s perfect for your crew.

Another great option for adventurers is the Balsam Mountain Inn, perfectly situated just two miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Built in 1908, every room and suite is gorgeously decorated. The 100-foot front porch boasts breathtaking views, and the airy sun porch dining room is a gorgeous spot for coffee and breakfast.

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