Cherokee National Forest

If you have driven through Tennessee to get to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you have probably driven through the Cherokee National Forest (CNF).  Containing more than 650,000 acres, the Cherokee National Forest is separated by the GSMNP into two halves.  Both halves follow the state border that Tennessee shares with North Carolina.  The northern half of the CNF extends to the Virginia line to the border of the GSMNP.  In the same way the southern portion extends from the Georgia state line to the GSMNP.

Both sections of the CNF provide excellent and exciting opportunities for recreation and adventure in the Southern Appalachians.  Fishing, hiking, camping and boating are only a few activities that you can take advantage of in the CNF.

In the northern half of the Cherokee National Forest you will find:

  • Cherokee National ForestTrout Fishing – some of the streams and river sin the CNF are stocked streams and provide some of the best rainbow trout fishing in the Smoky Mountain area.  Along with trout you will find bass, crappie and bluegill fishing that is beyond compare.
  • Boating & Watersports – from sailing to skiing, the CNF is full of chance to get in the water and have a good time.
  • Hiking – Of course the most famous trail in the CNF is the Appalachian Trail.  Add to that countless other trails criss-cross the mountain terrain.
  • Camping – whether you prefer a tent or an RV, the Cherokee National Forest has a camp ground to suit your taste.

And remember, your tax dollars go to support this area.  The national forest in the US are a treasure that we need to enjoy and support.  Go explore the Cherokee National Forest, and some of the towns that are contained in this great recreational area.  In the Northern District of the CNF:  Erwin, Johnson City and Elizabethton.  To the south in the Southern District of the CNF:  Etowah and Ocee.  Spend some time in the CNF, have the vacation of your life in the great outdoors.

Pisgah National Forest

Pisgah National ForestThe Pisgah National Forest is a 500,000 acres of land in Western North Carolina.  This national forest, composed mostly of hardwood trees, is also full of action.  Whitewater rivers, waterfalls, and trails aplenty, there is always something going on in the Pisgah National Forest.  Pisgah also has a lot of history that you can explore while you learn about not only this national forest and the national forest system as well.  Between the outdoor activities and educational opportunities the Pisgah National Forest is always ready to entertain.

The Pisgah National Forest borders the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee.  The lands contained in the Pisgah National Forest were once a haven for the logging industry.  Now those former logging trails are roads and bike paths that allow visitors to experience all that the Pisgah has to offer.  Pisgah National Forest contains the Pisgah, Grandfather and Appalachian Ranger districts so the number of mountain peaks in the Pisgah National Forest is astounding.  As you drive through Western North Carolina you will pop in and out of national forests and state parks all the time.  You will at some point find yourself in Pisgah.

Pisgah National ForestThis area was worked over by the lumber industry before the creation of the National Park and the National Forests.  The hardwood forest were dollar signs for the logging industry.  It is hard to imagine today as you walk among the huge trees in the Pisgah National Forest that at one point this area was almost deforested.  Contained in the Pisgah National Forest was one of the first forestry schools in the United States.  Now it is the site of the Cradle of Forestry in America Historic site.

When you find yourself in the Pisgah National Forest you are in store for as many activities as you can stand.  Biking, camping, fishing, hiking, water activities and much more are around every turn in this national forest.  Whether you are just looking to have a picnic in the outdoors or if you are looking for that adventure that involves boating, kayaking, ATV riding or anything else, the Pisgah National Forest might be the best place to spend a long weekend while you are visiting the Smoky Mountains and the southern Appalachians.

Nantahala National Forest

Nantahala National ForestNantahala 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.

Nantahala National ForestThroughout 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.

National Forests

Nantahal National ForestOutside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are a number of national forests and state parks.  The national forests are maintained by the federal government and they offer many recreational opportunities and facilities.  These national forests border the National Park and extend the boundaries of the recreational reach of the area.  As soon as you leave the GSMNP you might just find yourself in a National Park that allows you to keep the fun going in another environment.

Nantahala National Forest (NNF) – This national forest was established in 1907.  Nantahala is the largest of the four national forests in North Carolina.  At 531,270 acres, this area is full of waterfalls, natural wonders, beautiful vistas and plenty of recreational opportunities.  The Nantahala area has hiking trails, ATV trails, horseback riding, fishing, camping and much more.  Well maintained roads and access to these facilities makes the Nantahala National Forest a perfect place to spend part of your vacation to the Smoky Mountains.  This national forest covers an enormous portion of Western North Carolina and is the only national forest located there.

Cherokee National Forest (CNF) – This particular national forest was created in 1920 and takes in 655,598 acres of land in Eastern Tennessee.  The area it covers runs from the northeast portion of the state to the GSMNP and from the southeast corner of the state to the GSMNP.  Though it is divided into two pieces this huge tract of land gives you lots of options and encompasses many of the surrounding towns.  The opportunities in the Cherokee National Forest include but are not limited to: picnic areas, beaches, lakes, swimming rafting, hiking, fishing, snorkeling and much more.   CNF’s campgrounds are incredible and might even be worth a vacation by themselves while you take in the great outdoors.

Pisgah National Forest (PNF) – On the Western North Carolina side of the Smokies, Pisgah National Forest is another great place to spend a few days of your vacation.  Camping, tubing, hiking, kayaking, biking, historical sites and all kinds of other activities are open for you to enjoy in the PNF.  Pisgah surrounds the city of Asheville and is nestled in the corner of the Blue Ridge Mountain chain.  If you are used to driving to Asheville on I-40 then you have passed through the Pisgah National Forest and you will be hard pressed to find a pretty spot in the southern Appalachians.