History of Maggie Valley, NC

Maggie Valley, NC takes its name from a mountain girl with long blond hair and blue eyes who once called the area her home. Maggie’s true life story is recorded in Maggie of Maggie Valley, NC, a book written by her daughter Patty Pylant Kosier. You’ll not only find a true account of Maggie Mae Setzer Pylant’s life but mountain life as well. At that time, Maggie’s home was part of an isolated wilderness settlement.

On December 21, 1890, ten years after Maggie was born, her father, Jack Setzer began tossing the idea around of the formation of a post office. More so, Setzer wanted a post office to be built in his own home. The nearest post office, the Plott post office, was located five miles from his home and someone had to be paid in those days to take and pick up mail for the valley. Soon thereafter, Setzer was contacting officials with the US postal department in order to get permission to establish a new post office in his home that all the people of the valley could use.

For the next six months he was instructed to provide the service that was needed in the area. He also kept careful records during the time. The post office made up a corner of Setzer’s room – a wooden box used to file incoming letters and newspaper.

Jack submitted his records to the U.S. post office department after six months and they accepted his application asking him to submit community names to the postal service. Setzer’s first three submissions were rejected because they we already being used for other post offices in North Carolina. Following that, he submitted the names of his daughters Cora, Mettie and Maggie Mae plus the name Jonathan Creek, the creek which ran through the Setzer’s home. He kept it from his daughters that he had submitted their names.

On May 10, 1904, Jack received an official letter from the US Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock that the post office authorities had made their decision. The official name of the mountain settlement post office was to be Maggie, NC. Maggie was embarrassed when she was told the news. She burst into tears and ran up the mountain to the old log cabin where she had been born. At the age of 17, Maggie became the bride of Ira Pylant of Nashville, TN. They moved to Texas, but she came back to her beloved valley several times before her death in 1979 at the age of 88.

New River State Park

The New River State Park celebrates one of the oldest rivers in North America and the people and cultures that grew up around it.  The New River is one of the few rivers in the US that flows northward and adding that to its age, you have an unique area that is fun to explore.  The New River State Park has lots of amenities and plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure.

The New River is in the northwestern corner of North Carolina.  Potentially, scientist think, this might be one of the oldest rivers in the US.  It was in place before the Appalachian Mountains grew up around it.  For 10,000 years or more the native people of the Smokies and the Appalachians used the New River as a waterway to transport goods back and forth between their communities.  Over the years, as the European settlers moved into the area, the New River area became a hotbed for new communities and settlements.  The easy flow of the river, the farmland surrounding the river and of course trade routes that the river provided made it a no-brainer when people were looking for a place to set up a farmstead.

New River State ParkWhile you are at New River State Park, don’t think you are going to be at a loss for things to do.  Hiking, fishing, camping and picnicking are only a few of the activities that you have to choose from .  Canoeing is probably the number one activity for people coming to the New River area.  The gently flow of the river, the gorgeous scenery around the valley that it has created and of course the relaxation that you experience as you canoe down the New River are just a few of the reasons that people flock to this area. And for flatwater kayakers, there might not be a more picturesque place to get out and play.

If the idea of the number of people that have lived in the area intrigues you, you should spend some time learning about this interesting tract of land around a truly ancient river.  The exhibit hall in the visitors center of the New River State Park houses a hands on interactive museum about the New River and the cultures that grew up around it.  From the science of the river to the native people and even modern times, you will get a look at the history and make-up of the river.  Also, they have a video on canoeing the New River.

The New River State Park in North Carolina makes for a great stop while you are on your vacation in the Smokies.  Spend a day or a weekend hanging out in one of the oldest rivers in North America.  Play in the great outdoors.  Canoe or kayak the river and experience the thrill that it has provided to people since the dawn of time.

Wheels Through Time Museum

Wonder how we got to the point of everyone having their own form of transportation, whether it is a car, a truck or a motorcycle?  Well, then you might want to step into the Wheels Through Time Museum in beautiful Maggie Valley, NC.  Celebrating all the ways that we get around and of course focusing on the motorcycle.  Yes, ladies and gentleman this is a motorcycle museum tucked into the corner of the Smokies.

The Wheels Through Time Museum boasts more than 300 classic and rare motorcycles from America’s past.  Harley Davidson, Indian, Excelsior, Henderson, Crocker and many more are lined up and cared for to show off the shine of the chrome and the paint jobs that might make you go back to the car for your sunglasses.  This is one of the best niche museums that you will find in the Smokies.

Among the motorcycles you will find:

  • 1917 Henderson Special
  • 1917 Traub
  • 1914 Hedstrom Prototype
  • 1914 Flesher Flyer
  • 1948 Panhead
  • 1949 Hot Rod Panhead ”Revised Modified”

Wheels Through Time MuseumAmong the classic automobiles:

  • 1932 Clobes
  • 1954 Cadillac
  • 1954 Eldorado Convertible
  • The Locomobile

Again, you are looking at a transportation museum, there is something here for everyone.  Bring the bike enthusiast, bring the car enthusiast, bring the family and get ready to learn enjoy and have a great time at the Wheels Through Time Museum.

Wheels Through Time Museum
62 Vintage Lane
Maggie Valley, North Carolina 28751
(828) 926-6266

Cashiers, NC

Cashiers is one of the smallest towns, population-wise, in the Smokies.  But even with the shortage of people there is no end to the adventure that can be had while visiting this community that is nestled on top of the mountain itself.  Shopping, golf, hiking and scenic views of waterfalls await the visitor to Cashiers.

Cashiers is a resort town.  The resorts that serve this town have made this unincorporated village a tourism destination in the Smokies.  Both the High Hampton Inn and the Fairfield Inn are on the National Register of Historic Places.  The history in this area is tied to the people who found the natural beauty of the Smokies at its height in and around Cashiers.


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The AT in the Smokies

The most hiked section of the Appalachian Trail

at logoThe southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains, with its temperate climate, slow changes in elevation and lush greenery, is a haven to hikers from around the world.  People flock to the Smokies especially to spend time on any number of trails, but the trail that is most popular and the one that a lot of people want to tackle part of is the Appalachian Trail. One end of the AT starts in the Smokies, in northern Georgia.  From that point you can work your way north to the heart of the Smokies in North Carolina and Tennessee, passing through state parks and national parks along the way.  It is a gradual climb that will inspire both awe and a renewed sense of respect for the mountain folk and Native Americans that hiked these trails season after season in the time before their were European style cities in the area.

North Georgia

In North Georgia, you will start at Springer Mountain, one of the southern most areas of the Smokies.  Technically you are in the foothills of the Smokies at this point.  The gentle slopes, the gradual climb, the verdant landscapes will help to build your anticipation as you progress north.  In this area, you will pass near towns and civilization.  The hike takes you near several state parks with facilities that are open almost year round, depending on the weather.  The North Georgia part of the AT is some of the easiest hiking that the trail has to offer.  Even if you start here when it is late spring you will find that the elevation is not high enough to give you the extremely cold temps that you will encounter in the highest elevations.

Fontana Dam

fontana damOne of the next high points on the trail that you will come across is Fontana Dam.  At this point on the AT you have made your way into North Carolina, your second state if you are heading north from Georgia.  Fontana Lake is one of those TVA created lakes that took in the small towns of Judson and Proctor (near present day Bryson City) when Fontana Dam was established in the early part of the 20th century.  As the trail winds around Fontana Dam, you are going to start to gain some serious altitude.  The elevation change will start to reveal a change in the wildlife and the flora around you.  Just north of Fontana Lake and Dam, yes you follow the dam as you start up the mountain, you will climb until you are walking the ridge of the Great Smoky Mountains in the GSMNP.  You are  also walking the Tennessee / North Carolina line at this point on the trail.

Clingman’s Dome and Newfound Gap Road

The top of the world in the Smokies is Clingman’s Dome.  You will go all the way to the top of this part of the mountain as you progress northward on the AT.  The climb to Clingman’s Dome will take some time even for the most seasoned of hikers but the breath taking views from these peaks are like no other you will find east of the Mississippi River.  As you reach the summit of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you will immediately start back down again.  Soon you will arrive at the most visited portion of the GSMNP, the piece of the Appalachian Trail that starts at the Newfound Gap parking area and trailhead.  From this point you can hike almost 2 miles of the AT, the most hiked portion of the 2,200 mile trail.

Roan Mountain State Park

tn nc state lineIf you were to hike from the Newfound Gap trailhead and continue northward the next focal point you are going to come to is Roan Mountain State Park in Tennessee.  If you happen to plan your hike through accordingly you can spend some time at the top of the mountain in the rhododendron garden while it is in bloom.  Bring a camera and prepare to take a lot of pictures.  With the Catawbas in bloom it is a pink and purple wonderland of color.  Roan Mountain also has lots of facilities that a Thru-Hiker might need to take advantage of like campgrounds and other amenities.

Hike the various pieces of the Appalachian Trail int he Smoky Mountains.  Take in the terrain and the sights and the sounds of nature from the trails that make up the AT.  Hike the most hiked portion of the trail and then you too can say that you hiked the AT!

Carolina Smokehouse

The Carolina Smokehouse in Cashiers, NC has closed. Information is maintained here for historical purposes.

The people of the south and more importantly the people of the Smoky Mountains love their barbecue.  It is hard to find a town in the Smoky Mountains or even the whole of the Southern Appalachians that doesn’t have at least one BBQ restaurant.  In Cashiers, NC, one of the best places, one of the places that the locals flock to when they want good barbecue is to the Carolina Smokehouse.  They feature pit cooked bbq and barbecue sauce that has been featured on TV shows and that they have even made available online for those people that need their Carolina Smokehouse fix even after they have gotten back to their homes.

Whether you choose to go to the Carolina Smokehouse for lunch or dinner, you are going to find the same kind of food on the menu – great BBQ!  Chicken, beef, pork, all cooked slow, with low heat and a lot of love.  The juice gets locked in creating a moisture that is present in all great BBQ.  They specialize in chopped beef or pork, pork ribs and chicken.  If you are hungry, get their Plate Dinners, they come with fries, slaw, Texas Toast and soup with cornbread.  This is a meal fit for a king that is certain to fill you up and make your mouth water.

But what is BBQ without the sauce?  At the Carolina Smokehouse they are making homemade, traditional southern style BBQ sauce.  This sauce is so good that it has been featured on:

  • PBS – Southern Accents
  • Food Network – Feasting on Asphalt with Alton Brown
  • Southern Living

In fact they have recently started selling their sauce online do to the people clamoring to take some of their sauce home.  You can order the sauce online, smoke your own meat and pile on the sauce at the house to get that memory of the Carolina Smokehouse back on your taste buds.

The Carolina Smokehouse at the main intersection in Cashiers, NC.  It is easy to find.  In fact, if you are parked and walking from shop to shop in Cashiers, you can probably just follow your nose.  Around noon, when the crank up the smoke and get the food cooking, the aroma that comes from the restaurant is inticing, mesmorizing.  Just like in the Looney Tunes cartoons of old, you will find yourself lifted off your feet by the smell and drawn through the air to the Carolina Smokehouse.  Go inside, order some barbecue and make yourself at home.  Create some tasty memories and maybe take a jar of sauce home to be enjoyed later.

Carolina Smokehouse
281 Highway 64 West
Cashiers, NC

Ghost Town in the Sky

Information on this page was written in 2012 and remains here for historical purposes.

North Carolina Smoky Mountains Headquarters for Fun!

Ghost Town in the Sky sits high above Maggie Valley and has been an area attraction since the 1960s.  Its incline railroad and the site on top of Buck Mountain are part of the scenery and part of the history of the Smokies.  Though it closed for sveral years, it is now open again and the new owners are planning on adding on to make this a first class attraction and continue the tradition of delighting thousands of visitors each season.

Ghost Town in the Sky opened for business in 1961.  It was the brainchild of RB Coburn who had recently spend some time in the South West and he really enjoyed the ghost towns that he toured while he was there.  He came back to Western North Carolina and with the help of some investors he purchased Buck Mountain and in a little over a year, Ghost Town in the Sky was open for business.  With a wild west theme, Ghost Town in the Sky had 40 replica buildings, shows, and eventually rides as well.  41 years and millions of visitors later, Ghost Town in the Sky was forced to close its doors in 2002.  It was reopened from 2006 until 2009 when it closed again.  In the spring of 2012, Alaska Presley, one of the original investors from the 60s, purchased the park and reopened it to the public.  Ghost Town in the Sky is once again an attraction in the Smokies and the plan is to open new phases of the park over the next few years.

Right now, the phase one part of Ghost Town in the Sky is open.  This includes the chair lift, carousel, kiddie rides and the Ghost Town Museum.  Phase 2 which is supposed to open in 2013 will be the Wild West portion of the original park re-envisioned.  Gunfights, can-can dancing and the replica buildings will be on display and ready for guests to walk through the town and enjoy the sights.  The final proposed phase will be the Holy Land.  The Holy Land Phase will be built on the highest level of the original Ghost Town in the Sky and will be a replica of the Holy Land during the time of Christ.  Presley had a vision of this when she went to the Holy Land on a tour of Israel.  When finished, this will be a full fledged theme park again, bringing in loads of tourist each season and providing jobs to the Maggie Valley area.

Located right on the main drag in Maggie Valley, Ghost Town in the Sky is not hard to find.  When you arrive, you park at the base of Buck Mountain and ride the incline railroad to the top.  With this theme park being revitalized, people from all over the country are going to be able to have the same experience that people had for 40+ years in the Smokies: a trip to the Wild West in the shadows of the Smoky Mountains.

Harrah’s Cherokee

hcc2There is only one place to go if you are looking for world class gaming in the Smoky Mountains and that is Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in Cherokee, NC.  This casino and hotel opened in November of 1997 and it has become a desination unto itself in theyears since its opening.  The casino boasta hotel that contains 1,108 rooms and 107 suites.  The gaming area started with only electronic games but now it also has actual dealers for some games of chance.  Along with the hotel and casino, they have shopping world class dining and they bring in shows and celebrities throughout the year.

Over the years, Cherokee, NC has been trying to find ways to reinvent their town and bring in more and more visitors into their area.  With the addition of Harrah’s Cherokee, they have finally gotten a lock on the tourism market and they have used the new found draw to make continued improvements to Cherokee and offer more and more to the tourists and locals alike.  The casino provides jobs and is now the only gambling location in North Carolina and it boats the largest hotel in North Carolina as well.  The hotel, connected to the casino, is well maintained, beautiful and has amenities that you only find in huge resort areas.  Guests staying at Harrah’s Cherokee are treated to service that is beyond compare in rooms that are clean and well decorated.  Also, if you are there to game, you never have to leave the casino. You simply walk to the gaming floor, and get your game on.

hcc1And speaking of gaming, Harrah’s Cherokee has games to fit every taste.  State of the art video slot machines line all of the walls and most of the floor pace but their are also computerized versions of many of the game sof chance that you see in Las Vegas.  As of 2012, after attaining approval from the North Carolina legislature, Harrah’s Cherokee now has traditional hand dealt Blackjack, Roulette and Craps tables.  This live gaming, with live dealers, has taken Harrah’s Cherokee to the next level and brought in gamers that are looking for a more Vegas-style experience.  Whether you are into video gaming or live gaming, Harrah’s Cherokee has what you are looking for and has thousands of vsiitors each year.

But, let’s face it, you can’t game 24 hours a day and you are going to get hungry – Harrah’s Cherokee has you covered on that front as well.  Paula Deen’s Kitchen opening in the last few years, a Ruth Cris Steak House is also located inside the grounds of Harrah’s Cherokee, add to that an amazing buffet and lots of other culinary choices and you have more food than you can shake a steak at (pun intended).  There is also shopping located all around the casino so if you have a loved one that is spending a lot of time inside the casino there is plenty for you to do without even leaving the hotel.

Harrah’s Cherokee is a world class venue tucked into the shadows of the Smokies.  From gorgeous hotel rooms to world class gaming, dining and shopping – this stop on your trip tot he Smokies is more then memorable, it is unforgettable.

Harrah’s Cherokee
777 Casino Drive
Cherokee, NC

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s history is forever tied to the nation’s railroad industry. So much so that the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is still one of the best ways to re-live the history of the Smokies while getting an up-close view of its natural beauty at the same time.

Obviously, the scenic train excursion is what makes The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad such a unique attraction. Train rides include the Nantahala Gorge Excursion – a 44 mile trip to the gorge and back, or the Tuckasegee River Excursion – a 32 mile roundtrip along the river. These spectacular trips range from three and a half hours to an entire day and can even include a meal or special seating while you ride the rails in the Smokies.

With each new season comes a different set of trips. Rhododendrons explode into a pink canvas in the spring; the fall foliage comes into full view as the steam engine makes its way around the Great Smoky Mountains. This is the same experience people had decades ago when they wanted to visit the national park before it was actually a national park.

The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad’s special events calendar is pretty crowded each year with new programs and shows turning up by the month while annual events continue to attract large crowds.  The Lone Ranger is the star event on the spring calendar.  With a “Hi Yo Silver!” the Lone Ranger does what he does best – saves passengers from a train robbery.  In October, the railroad features an adaptation of “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.” This classic Halloween tale is told to kids while they travel to the pumpkin patch to pick out their own great pumpkin. Also dedicated to kids is a November ride aboard the Polar Express. Listen as the story of the Polar Express story is read while families ride along behind the train. It’s one golden ticket per person to ride the Polar Express.

Great Smoky Mountain RailroadDeciding on the type of rail car you want to ride will be your hardest decision. It’s a decision that will more than likely depend on how much money you want to spend on your trip. Pick from First Class, Crown Class or Standard seating.  With a First Class ticket you get a ride in an air conditioned enclosed car with a meal served to you by the car’s personal attendants. Crown Class admission gives you a seat in an enclosed environment with large windows. You also get a tumbler for a drink during the trip. The final option, Standard seating, is the most cost effective way to travel and includes open air seating during the train ride.

For East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is a one-of-a-kind attraction. Bryson City, NC is home to this unique attraction and they continue to preserve and share this piece of living Appalachian history with visitors of all ages.  Whether you’re in town for one of the seasonal special events or just to take a train ride through the Great Smoky Mountains, they give you plenty of options for the train enthusiasts in your traveling group.  Make sure that you ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad while you are in the area.

From Gatlinburg, TN: Take US 441 south to Cherokee, North Carolina. US 441 will dead end onto US 19. Turn right onto US-19. Turn left at next stoplight onto US-441 South. Continue on US 441 South to US 74. Go West on US 74 until you reach Bryson City exit 67. Bear right at the end of the exit ramp onto Veterans Blvd. Turn right onto Main St at the first traffic light on Veterans Blvd, and then turn left onto Everett St at the next light. At the first traffic light on Everett, turn left onto Mitchell St. Parking for the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad will be on your right.


Teepees in Cherokee

I remember as a child, when we were vacationing in the Smokies, the signs in Cherokee, NC advertising “real live indians” always intrigued me.  Now that I am an adult, I realize that at that time, the people of Cherokee were giving the people that visited the mountains what they expected.  They were giving the tourist a ‘real’ indian, not a real cherokee experience but the indian experience that they expected, full of teepees and tomahawks.  Looking back on this now, it was kind of sad how exciting that prospect was.  Here is th good news though, these roadside attractions are still around but they have changed.

Nowadays when you visit the Cherokee Indian Reservation in Cherokee, NC, you can still sit on the benches under a small tent.  You can still get your picture taken with a ‘real live’ Indian but the show has changed. Now you will get to see traditional Cherokee dancing.  You will get to hear stories about the Cherokee, about the proud people that settled this land thousands of years before the European settlers go to the Southern Appalachians.  You will hear the true tongue of the Cherokee, you will be able to understand more about their language and their culture.  And of course, the best part is that they are not the cheesy roadside stands of many years ago.  These offer a more modern look at the Cherokee.  No longer are they doing this to make a little income.

Now these Native Americans are using this darker part of their past when these roadside stands were frowned upon and making them an interactive attraction.  They are making these an educational opportunity.  Now, you can sit down and here Cherokee stories and be taught songs about the Cherokee people, you can also see authentic Cherokee dances.  Yes, the teepees are still there, and though they are out of place (the Cherokee never lived in teepees) they are a reminder of the past and great way to bring in the crowds to learn more about the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.