At the end of 2020, to celebrate my birthday we headed to the Great Smoky Mountains and stayed in Bryson City, NC with one of my best friends and her husband. We hadn’t seen each other since my wedding back in September 2019 so this was a much needed trip. We landed in Bryson City because it is halfway between Columbia, SC (where we lived at the time) and Nashville, TN where our friends live. I truthfully didn’t know much about the city at the time but I am SO GLAD we ended up here. Since this trip, Bryson City has become one of my FAVORITE mountain getaways in North Carolina. It’s small, oozing with charm, and packed with outdoor adventure. I have a feeling you’ll love Bryson City, too! Let’s get planning with this guide on awesome things to do in Bryson City, NC!
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Table of Contents
How to get to Bryson City, North Carolina
Bryson City is located in western North Carolina, right near the border of Tennessee. Bryson City is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains and Great Smoky Mountain National Park, so there are no shortage of things to do. However, it is pretty far and not as easily accessible as bigger cities like Asheville. But still totally worth the trip! Bryson City is a 4.5 hour drive from Raleigh, 3.5 hours from Charlotte, and just 2 hours from Knoxville, TN.
Once in Bryson City, you are close to many adorable small mountain towns and big mountain attractions. The entrance to Great Smoky Mountain National Park is less than 30 minutes away and Clingman’s Dome, a famous GSMNP landmark, is 45 minutes by car.
A car is necessary to explore all that Bryson City and the surrounding area has to offer. Public transportation is pretty much non-existent and chances of finding an Uber are very low.
Where to stay in Bryson City
Bryson City is very small in comparison to mountain towns like Gatlinburg or Asheville. Airbnb and VRBO will provide you with the most options but the hotels and inns in this area are so charming, you won’t want to miss out on that!
Ummmmm can we talk about a hidden gem?! This beautiful lodge is located in the mountains near the Fontana dam and features gorgeous rooms with amazing scenery. The selling point of this lodge is the treetop soaking cabanas, though! The secluded, romantic tree top soaking cabanas are reservable to guests. I can’t think of a more romantic getaway!
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if you are looking for the height of luxury in the Great Smoky Mountains, you’ll find it at Blackberry Farm! Nestled in the mountains in Walhalla, TN, this 5 star resort has everything you could dream of. It boasts a spa, horseback riding, archery, hiking, wine tours… just the works. Enjoy farm-to-table dining and top notch service. This would be a great place to take a mini honeymoon or anniversary trip!
Book Blackberry Farm through me to experience VIP perks you won’t get when you book yourself (at next extra cost to you!) such as:
- Daily breakfast for 2
- Room upgrades, when available
- Early check in, when available
- Late check out, when available
- Resort credit
The Everett Hotel
There’s not much more I love than a boutique hotel in a prime location. And The Everett Hotel fits the bill! The historical hotel is in the site of the Bryson City Bank originally built in 1908. Right in downtown Bryson City, this luxury lodging has just 10 perfectly decorated suites as well as a restaurant and bar on site. There’s also a rooftop terrace exclusive for guests.
Best things to do in Bryson City, NC
Take a hike
Hiking is the #1 activity in this area for good reason. You’ve got a national park and national forests and miles and miles of hiking trails to be explored! Here are just a few of the many I recommend:
– Pinnacle Peak: we did this hike and it was perfect. Not too crowded, a little over 7 miles. The beginning was pretty steep but the view over the valley was so worth it. Don’t forget to bring lunch!
– Chimney Fire Tower: rated as moderate and about 6 miles, this trail takes you up to an old fire tower
– Oconaluftee River: This little nature trail is great for those who aren’t keen to hike big hills or just want a leisurely walk. This area is also great to see elk!
– Mingo Falls: an incredibly short .5 mile hike up to a beautiful waterfall. This will only take you about 20 minutes so I highly recommend making the trip!
Of course, you can venture into the bigger “cities” of Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge to check off some more touristy items. Spend a day here to take the sky tram, ride a mountain coaster, or do some shopping! Gatlinburg is a very popular tourist town in the Great Smoky Mountains with more than enough to explore.
Cherokee is a small mountain town on a Native American reservation. Whether you want to learn more of the Cherokee history or even just go to the casino, this small town is worth a quick stop. You might even see some elk in the nearby Maggie Valley!
Enjoy the water
Bryson City has no shortage of bodies of water nearby! Fontana Lake, Tuckaseegee River, Oconaluftee River, and the Nantahala River Gorge are within short driving distance. Rent a boat, float the river, or just spend a day on a sandy beach enjoying the mountain views.
Ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
Right in Bryson City lies the start of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. Choose from the vintage steam powered engine or a diesel powered engine to explore areas you won’t see by car. The train ride will take you by the Fontana Lake, the Fontana trestle, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and many other sites.
During the holidays, book a ticket on the Polar Express that will take you to the North Pole. At the end, meet Santa and listen to Christmas Carols!
Visit Deep Creek Winery
Check out some local wines and this family owned winery with stunning mountain views right in Bryson City.
Where to eat in Bryson City
Nantahala Brewing Company
This little brewery has bar food and plenty of beer so it was a win for us! The patio area is huge so bring your pups. The chicken tenders are excellent after a 7 mile hike, by the way.
The Bistro at the Everett Hotel
The Bistro is a little bit more upscale, so its perfect for a night on the town. It has great reviews and varied fare for any appetite.
The Everett Diner
The Everett dinner is a MUST visit for breakfast! The menu features the classic diner breakfast and an unbeatable laidback atmosphere.
Final thoughts/recommendations on the best things to do in Bryson City, NC
There’s not much better in life than an amazing weekend spent in the mountains. Bryson City is an incredible, quaint town in western North Carolina that is almost storybook! Stay at the adorable Everett Hotel in downtown or Lakeview at Fontana, explore downtown, and pick a few amazing hikes. Though small, Bryson City has so much to do if you love spending time outdoors and in the mountains. Bryson City is perfect for a weekend getaway. Be sure to reach out if you need help planning your trip!