16 Best Things to Do in Bryson City, NC

Bryson City, NC

Welcome to the heart of the Smoky Mountains, my hometown, Bryson City, North Carolina.

This small town, nestled in the western part of the state, is a gem waiting to be explored.

With its breathtaking views, rich history, and southern charm, it's the perfect getaway for anyone seeking adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both.

Over the years, I've come to deeply appreciate the beauty of our mountains, the tranquility of our waters, and the spirit of our people.

If planning a visit, prepare for a uniquely memorable experience.

I'm thrilled to share the best things to do in Bryson City, North Carolina.

About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it's important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the city for yourself.

Enjoy a Regular Day at Clingmans Dome

People admiring the view from Clingmans Dome
Kemboslice / Shutterstock.com

Whenever I need a break from the daily grind, I drive up towards Clingmans Dome.

Stepping out of the car, you're welcomed by the fresh, pine-scented air embodying the Great Smoky Mountains.

This 6,643-foot peak, the highest in the Smokies, has a trail that can get crowded on the weekends, so I've found it's best to go early in the morning or later in the evening.

The journey to the top is not too hard but a little steep.

But the good news is that benches are scattered along the way, perfect for catching your breath and soaking in the stunning landscape.

Eventually, the trail leads to an impressive observation tower at the top, which is worth every step.

The panoramic vistas of the mountains and valleys are better than any postcard.

While you're up there, you can't miss the information center where you can learn about the local flora and fauna, including the Fraser firs and the area's unique wildlife.

You might even pick up something about the history of the Cherokee, who once called these mountains home.

As someone who frequents the Dome, I want to share some tips.

Trail leading to Clingmans Dome's summit
Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com

First, use the restroom before you start the hike, as no facilities are at the top.

Second, if you're bringing food or drink, remember to bring your trash back down.

No garbage cans are at the top, and we all need to do our part to keep this beautiful site clean and preserved.

Pets aren't allowed either, so leave your dogs at home.

If you're feeling adventurous, side trails branch off the main path.

I've spent many days exploring these offshoot trails, discovering new viewpoints and hidden gems.

But don't just take my word for it - come and experience this mountain marvel for yourself. It's a must-visit spot in the Smokies.

I'll probably see you there!

People climbing up to Clingmans Dome
Ryan_hoel / Shutterstock.com

Paddle and Trek with Carolina Bound Adventures

Living in Bryson City, North Carolina, you get to enjoy the tranquil beauty of this city every day.

But when you team up with the folks at Carolina Bound Adventures, you truly appreciate the breathtaking wonders right at our doorstep.

The water, a stunning shade of emerald green, was a sight to behold, and the tranquility was surreal.

I learned so much about the history of our area during that tour, an enlightening experience that I highly recommend to both young and old.

The adventure didn't stop at the lake, though.

Then, we explored the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and were treated to the grandeur of three magnificent waterfalls.

The hike itself was exhilarating.

My adventures with Carolina Bound extended to horseback riding and an overnight backpacking trip in the mountains.

It was a seamless and enjoyable experience, showcasing Mark's and his team’s expertise and passion for the great outdoors.

He shared fascinating tales of the history around the Great Smoky Mountains that made the experience all the more enriching.

So, whether you're a thrill-seeker looking for your next adrenaline rush or want to soak in the natural beauty of Bryson City,

I couldn't suggest a better company than Carolina Bound Adventures.

Enjoy an Exhilarating Adventure at Wildwater-Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tour

The Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tour is one of my favorite places to escape on a sunny weekend.

I've been ziplining before, but the thrill of hand-braking for the first time was a new experience.

It can seem a little daunting at first, but the guides are fantastic; they explain everything clearly, ensuring every participant feels safe and comfortable.

I remember my niece visiting last year, who had never been on a zipline before.

But it's not just about the ziplining. The panoramic views from the canopy are breathtaking, with the Smoky Mountains providing a backdrop like no other.

Its excellent equipment, fair prices, and genuine warmth and passion set Wildwater-Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tour apart from its competition.

If you're ever looking for a unique, fun way to spend a day and enjoy the beauty of the Smoky Mountains, this canopy tour should be at the top of your list!

Bring the Family to Darnell Farms

Darnell Farms is a magical place that has become a staple for my family.

From the moment you step onto the farm, the freshness of local produce invades your senses, and the stunning views sweep you off your feet.

My kids can never get enough of the place.

Whether it's frolicking on the play structures or taking a fun-filled hayride in the fall, they have the time of their lives.

The farm provides a plethora of activities for all ages.

And let's not forget their incredible selection of jams and jellies that we often take home as a sweet reminder of our visit.

Darnell Farms is a sweet family spot that has something for everyone.

You'll find it just five minutes away from downtown Bryson City.

Make sure you try their famous dream whips and delectable mocktails.

Every visit feels like an escape into a tranquil, rustic paradise.

Discover History at the Swain County Visitor Center and Heritage Museum

Exterior of Swain County Visitor Center and Heritage Museum
H.J. Herrera / Shutterstock.com

Sometimes, the allure of a small town isn't just the quaint atmosphere but the rich history it holds.

My hometown has the Swain County Visitor Center and Heritage Museum.

This adorable place is a time capsule of American culture and life in the Great Smoky Mountains!

As soon as you enter the main floor, your eyes will be drawn to the intriguing exhibits, each telling a unique story of our town's past.

There's always something new to learn from the information presented alongside the museum's items.

From antique gadgets and tools to exquisite hand-stitched quilts and everything in between, every corner of this museum holds a slice of history.

There's even a fun kayak video game for families visiting that the little ones absolutely loved!

And the clean restrooms and a generous gift shop add to the convenience of this local gem.

They've got some lovely locally made souvenirs that are hard to resist.

Oh, and let's not forget about the easy parking!

Not having to worry about finding a parking spot is a relief.

Plus, for all you national park enthusiasts, there's a stamp inside the museum that you can add to your collection!

Do you want to know more about this place?

On your next visit, visit the Swain County Visitor Center and Heritage Museum.

You never know. You might find yourself fascinated by a piece of history you never thought to be interested in, much like I did.

Cross the Needmore Rd Suspension Bridge

The Needmore Rd Suspension Bridge brings a serene smile to my face. I've spent countless hours on this quaint little bridge.

I often stroll across it in the evenings, the setting sun painting a picturesque view of the river below.

The bridge is usually in good shape, with few loose boards to worry about.

It's not just the bridge I adore but where it leads. On the other side is a charming dirt road, perfect for walking.

It's a tranquil path that takes me away from the hustle and bustle of life.

Sometimes, I dare to venture beyond the dirt road, walking around the barrier to follow an old farm road.

This lovely trail meanders along a beautiful creek and leads to expansive fields of corn and turnips.

What's truly special about Needmore Rd Suspension Bridge, though, is the local wildlife.

I've been fortunate enough to spot a bald eagle in flight, an awe-inspiring sight.

However, I must add a word of caution.

The pull-off area near the bridge often has lots of trash left by careless visitors.

I hope more folks will respect the beauty of our area and clean up after themselves.

Ultimately, Needmore Rd Suspension Bridge may not be a famed landmark, but it holds a special place in my heart.

If you ever find yourself nearby, I recommend taking a moment to enjoy a walk across it.

Discover the Appalachian Rivers Aquarium

Living in the heart of Bryson City, I'm lucky to have the Appalachian Rivers Aquarium in my backyard.

It might be a small facility, but there's beauty in its simplicity.

Stepping into this realm of aquatic life, even for ten minutes, is an experience you wouldn’t want to miss.

I’ve always enjoyed the ease of exploring the aquarium.

Parking has never been a hassle - plenty of space and free.

What truly interests me, though, are the pristine tanks showcasing the local fish species.

The cleanliness is second to none, you can tell they're well cared for, and the fish seem to thrive in their habitat.

Moreover, the Aquarium is not just about fish tanks.

It's a nest of local culture too. The Fly Fishing Museum and Artisan Market are located in the same vicinity.

A stroll around these places post the aquarium visit is like the icing on the cake.

Whether you're a fish lover, an art enthusiast, or someone who enjoys a slice of local life, the Appalachian Rivers Aquarium has something for you.

I must say, the folks running this place have done an exceptional job.

It's a major point of pride in our community and worth the stop.

Experience the Thrills at Nantahala Outdoor Center

People at Nantahala Outdoor Center
elvisvaughn / Shutterstock.com

Nestled in the heart of the mountains, the Nantahala Outdoor Center has been my go-to spot for outdoor adventure for as long as I can remember.

It's become somewhere you can easily spend an entire day, or even multiple days, exploring and enjoying all its outdoor activities.

If you come down for a visit, don't miss their signature whitewater rafting experience.

It's a perfect blend of excitement and safety.

But here's a local tip for you – if you plan to get on the water, come prepared.

The river water can be nippy, mainly when used in warmer climates.

I'd recommend packing some wool socks or waterproof boots.

And don't forget to get the photo pass – it's completely worth it for the memories you'll capture.

After your day on the water, the center has plenty to entertain you.

You can unwind at one of the nearby restaurants or enjoy a cold local craft beer at the onsite bar.

And if you're lucky, you might even catch a live band performance.

So, why am I telling you all this?

Because Nantahala Outdoor Center offers a unique blend of adventure, relaxation, and nature.

It's a place where you can create unforgettable experiences, whether you're a thrill-seeker or just someone who appreciates the great outdoors.

I find myself returning here year after year, and I bet if you visit once, you'll want to do the same.

Chill Out at Mountain Layers Brewing Company

Life in our town might seem quiet, but there's a gem that adds vibrancy to our laid-back living.

It's the place I've regularly been visiting for a few years now - Mountain Layers Brewing Company.

It's my spot for a chilled-out evening, just a short walk from where I live.

Mountain Layers is a small haven for beer enthusiasts like me.

It's always a delight stepping into the chilled, air-conditioned ambiance.

The bartenders here are lively, always keen to share their knowledge about the brews they serve.

And oh boy, do they have a wide variety! I've fallen in love with their home-brewed beers. Each is crafted perfectly.

The beer isn't the only thing to look forward to; they also make some fantastic wine slushies!

What I love the most about the place is its seating arrangement - downstairs and upstairs, with an upper deck patio overlooking the main street and river.

The view from there while sipping on a cold beer and biting into some delicious food from their truck is the best end to any day.

On some evenings, the place livens up even more with live music.

There's nothing quite like relaxing with friends, local craft beers in hand, with some good tunes playing in the background.

If you ever feel hungry after visiting the Rice Wagon nearby and need a drink, Mountain Layers is the perfect place to quench your thirst.

I remember trying their Blood Orange Ale once after a meal at the wagon, and I kid you not, it was one of the best ales I've ever had.

Visit the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Retail Store & Train Museum

The charm of the Smoky Mountains is reflected in every corner of Bryson City, and there's no better representation of this than the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Retail Store & Train Museum.

Walking through the doors of this place is like stepping into a time machine.

It's immediately apparent that this isn't your regular store. It's much more than that.

In the front, there's an interactive section that the children adore. My kids can't seem to get enough of it.

Don't miss out on the scavenger hunt they provide at the entrance.

It's a fun-filled activity that takes you to the second room, where they've set up a massive model train layout. It's a sight to behold.

The meticulous craftsmanship of the model trains and how they've captured the essence of life in the Smoky Mountains is astounding.

My young ones love participating and discovering all the little details. It certainly helps them, and I appreciate the fine handiwork even more.

During the holiday season, the store transforms into a Polar Express wonderland, something you wouldn't want to miss.

They have an array of merchandise for the Polar Express ride, and the entire place gets a festive makeover.

And while we are here, don't forget to walk by the steam train parked outside.

You don't necessarily have to ride it, but walking alongside it is a pleasure.

It's a place that encapsulates the spirit of Bryson City and, honestly, the heartbeat of the Smoky Mountains. Trust me, spending time here never gets old!

Enjoy Exhilarating Adventures with Carolina Outfitters

Rafting on Nantahala River
Dee Browning / Shutterstock.com

Once in a while, life demands an adrenaline-packed escapade amid nature.

For me, that craving was quenched by the Nantahala rafting experience with Carolina Outfitters.

However, the fears and anticipation that accompany a novice are well-addressed here.

On our anniversary, my partner's enthusiasm for a rafting adventure was met with my apprehension.

Yes, it was an epic expedition I am glad I signed up for.

Uncover Hidden Treasures at Nantahala River Gem Mine

There's nothing like spending a day under the warm North Carolina sun, digging for treasures at the Nantahala River Gem Mine.

Located just a stone's throw from Franklin - the gem capital of the world, this place offers an enriching and exciting experience.

A day at the mine usually starts with investing in a 5-gallon bucket of "seeded" soil.

Sure, it's a bit pricey at around $50, but trust me when I say the joy of unearthing gems makes it well worth the investment.

The prospect of finding your very own gems by sieving soil through running water is an experience that excites both old and young alike.

Moreover, the gems you uncover are like the cherry on top of a beautiful day.

From stunning emeralds to radiant garnets, the selection is impressive.

Moreover, the gems are of such good quality that you might want to consider getting them cut and polished.

And, of course, no visit to the gem mine would be complete without a visit to their gift shop.

Here you can find many gems and related items, perfect as keepsakes or gifts for loved ones.

So, if you're ever looking for a unique and fun-filled activity for the whole family, remember to visit the Nantahala River Gem Mine.

Spend the Day at the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians

Occasionally, I like to break away from my usual routine and soak in some of our region's rich history.

One of my favorite places to do this is the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians.

I'll never forget the first time I walked through those doors; I felt cast into the heart of a true Southern tradition.

Housed in a quaint building, this nonprofit museum is a treasure trove of the history and heritage of southern fly fishing.

With an extensive array of displays showcasing all kinds of equipment and gear, I found myself engrossed in learning about the evolution of the sport.

My favorite was the collection of vintage rods and reels, each meticulously maintained and telling a story of its own.

As I took my time exploring the exhibits, I was impressed by the detailed information available about the history of fly fishing.

It's not just about the sport but rather a snapshot of life in the Southern Appalachians.

I realized that fly fishing is a craft, an art form, and a way of life for many in our community.

Whether you’re a fishing enthusiast or just curious about Southern history, I’d highly recommend you drop by.

This museum is a testament to our community's shared passion for fly fishing and showcases the bonds that tie us together.

Enjoy a Memorable Ride with Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Steam locomotive of Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Joseph Creamer / Shutterstock.com

Oh, the charm of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad!

There's nothing quite like the feeling of stepping onto a vintage steam train, the anticipation building as the whistle blows and the wheels start clattering against the tracks.

This historic railway is an invaluable part of our community, whisking passengers away on a journey through the stunning countryside right from the heart of our town.

For the best experience, I tend to go for the open cars.

Not only do they offer an unobstructed view of the landscape, but the breeze that wafts in is refreshingly cool.

For the foodies among us, the dining car is a treasure trove.

The menu covers everything from the Berry chicken salad sandwich I’ve enjoyed a couple of times to all kinds of food and drink options.

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad train passing by a scenic view
Bob Pool / Shutterstock.com

And yes, they even serve beer for those who want a little cheer on their journey.

The truly adventurous ones might want to try taking the train down and returning with the thrilling rafting trip.

It's a fun and exciting day out that's perfect for families.

The Nantahala Gorge trip is another fantastic option, providing unforgettable memories and experiences.

So, if you ask me for a recommendation, I would say, without a doubt, go ahead and book an excursion on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

People waiting to board the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad train
Bob Pool / Shutterstock.com

Spend the Day at Deep Creek Winery

I have a little slice of paradise tucked away in the mountains.

The charm of a quaint family-owned winery, Deep Creek Winery, is something to behold.

Nestled within the serene mountain valley, it's a place where the wine flows like water, and the views are breathtaking.

From the moment you drive down the single-lane road (don't worry, there's a separate exit road), you're greeted with cascading mountain views that never fail to amaze you.

The wines are exceptional!

Each offers a unique tasting experience that's unparalleled.

My favorite is the Amish cheese and crackers paired with their exquisite wines.

It's a match made in heaven that elevates the wine-tasting experience to a new level.

Unwinding in the winery's relaxing ambiance has become my favorite pastime.

The setting is perfect for enjoying a glass of wine while getting lost in the beauty of the mountain views.

Moreover, the owners are some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet, adding a personal touch to the entire experience.

Not to mention the adorable fluffy dogs that roam around the place; they're the cutest!

I've spent countless afternoons here, savoring the wines, snacks, and soothing views. It's a peaceful place that always makes me forget all my worries.

Whether celebrating a special occasion or enjoying a relaxing day, Deep Creek Winery has become my go-to spot.

Embrace the Great Outdoors at Deep Creek Tube Center & Campground

There's something genuinely magical about waking up to the gentle chirping of birds and the rustling sound of leaves amidst the serene beauty of nature.

And that's precisely what I experience every time I visit the Deep Creek Tube Center & Campground.

The air is always fresh, the sunlight filters through the trees casting a beautiful glow everywhere, and the mountain views are breathtaking.

It's the appealing natural beauty and the beautifully furnished cabins that serve as a cozy retreat.

Every corner is kept meticulously clean, from the laundry areas to the bathrooms.

What I love most about the campground is the variety it offers. You can choose between a tranquil waterfront site or a picturesque mountain view site.

There's never a dull moment.

During the day, you can join the kids on the playgrounds, visit the charming goat farm, or sit back and watch the world go by.

The camp store is always stocked with everything you need during your stay, and the staff is as friendly as they come.

One of the unique attractions here is the opportunity to go tubing down the river.

It's an incredible experience, gliding down the gentle currents, surrounded by lush greenery and clear blue skies.

After a fun-filled day, you can freshen up with a shower. Although I always recommend bringing shower shoes, just to be safe.

Only five minutes from downtown Bryson City, the campground is conveniently located for those who want to explore the local attractions.

Tucked away in the mountains, it offers the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Final Thoughts

My hometown of Bryson City, North Carolina, offers more than just the charm of a small mountain town.

Regardless of your interests, you'll find a unique mix of experiences in Bryson City that create a sense of connection to the Appalachian lifestyle, something I cherish every day.

There's truly no place like Bryson City!

Spotted a mistake, have some feedback, or just want to chat with our editorial team? Click here to get in touch.
Find out more about Travel Lens and read our editorial guidelines here.