Nantahala National Forest (NNF) is one of the four national forests in the state of North Carolina. Administered by the United States Forest Service this is the largest of the four, containing more than 530,000 acres of land. Named for the Nantahala River, this land used to be part of the hunting grounds and tribal lands of the Cherokee. Now, the NNF is a hugely popular recreational area and if you are driving around on the North Carolina side of the Smokies you are bound to find yourself in the Nantahala National Forest at some point.
The term Nantahala means the Land of the Noonday Sun. The reason that the Cherokee gave the land this name is due to the extreme valleys and physical features of this terrain. At some places in the NNF the land does not see the sun until the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. The word has also given its name to the famous river that runs through the national forest. The Nantahala River is one of the best rafting rivers in the Smokies. The Nantahala Outdoor Center has made its home in the valley of the river and provides thousands of people with experienced rafting guides to take them on an adventure down the river each year.
Throughout the Nantahala National Forest, you will find recreational opportunities. Unlike the Smokies there are designated areas that allow you to take an ATV into the mountains and enjoy a ride on a 4 wheeler. There are rafting and other boating opportunities along the various rivers and streams. Parts of the NNF also give you a chance to do some of the best bass and trout fishing that you will find in North Carolina. The NNF never ceases to amaze those people that pass through it and find that they need to spend an extra day in the mountains just to see what the Nantahala National Forest has to offer.
If you are traveling through the Smokies in North Carolina, once you head south from Cherokee, you will be in the NNF until you reach the state line. Many great mountain towns are contained in the national forest: Dillsboro, Franklin, Cashiers, Highlands and Robbinsville – to name a few. Explore the NNF. Get out there and see what it has to offer. Play and stay in the towns contained in this, one of the most beautiful national forest in the country.