A North Carolina Smoky Mountains Adventure-filled Getaway Guide

North Carolina Smoky Mountains

I had the most amazing getaway in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains (Haywood County) full of epic adventures! From tubing on the Pigeon River to paddle boarding on Lake Junaluska; from hiking to epic mountain views to chasing magnificent waterfalls; from horseback riding along the border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to staying in an incredible, off-grid treehouse – I felt like I did it ALL! And, it couldn’t have been a better getaway! Now, I’d love to share my North Carolina Smoky Mountains guide with you in hopes that you, too, are able to experience some of this wondrous magic and beauty as well! Have you ever found a place that just inexplicably calls to your soul? A place that simultaneously feels like ‘home’ yet also feels wild and full of wonder? Haywood County, North Carolina, is without doubt one of those places for me!

ℙ𝕠𝕤𝕥 ℂ𝕠𝕟𝕥𝕖𝕟𝕥𝕤:

  • Where to Stay?
    • An incredible off-grid treehouse with spectacular views!
    • + links to more recommendations
  • My Favorite Hikes with Epic Mountain Views
    • Black Balsam Knob / Art Loeb Trail
    • Devil’s Courthouse
    • Waterrock Knob
    • Sam’s Knob
    • Richland Balsam
    • Mt. Pisgah
  • Waterfalls and Swimming Holes to Chase
    • Graveyard Fields
    • Sunburst Falls, Little Bird Falls and Wildcat Falls
    • Soco Falls
    • Midnight Hole
  • Bucket-List Adventures to be had
    • Horseback riding with Cataloochee Ranch
    • Floating down the Pigeon River
    • Paddle Boarding on Lake Junaluska
  • Short Video Guide included at the end!

Author: Mindy Michaels, mindyonthemove.com
Photographers: Doug Michaels and Mindy Michaels

My name is Mindy and, as you can guess, I’m always on the move! I currently live in my 2021 Palomino Rogue truck camper as I travel the country full-time. I’ve been to all 50 states (more than once) and I have a slight obsession with remote wildernesses (such as Alaska)! While traveling, I seek out the most epic hikes, wildlife, scenic views, hidden gems and natural beauty I can find!  

My primary job use to be freelancing in the tv industry and I have worked on various reality/doc tv shows for a multitude of networks, such as: Travel Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery, HGTV, Cooking Channel and more! Luckily, the shows I typically worked on afforded me to begin this nomadic lifestyle because they, too, traveled around the country.  

However, now, I’ve moved on to creating content full-time and work for various tourism boards, travel companies, resorts and cruises, like-minded outdoor brands and more! Along with my husband, I am also a professional photographer and you can browse some of my landscape prints here: https://mindyonthemove.darkroom.com/?…

North Carolina Smoky Mountains





A North Carolina Smoky Mountains Adventure-filled Getaway Guide:

Where to Stay?

Flowertown Charm Off-Grid, Sustainable Treehouse

Flowertown Charm’s treehouse is the most perfect (and romantic) place to stay for couples, without doubt! It’s also great for a peaceful, quiet solo getaway (perhaps with your pup, too!).

This stay offers spectacular, long range views right from the deck! Heck, you can even see the breathtaking Smoky Mountains through the big glass doors while laying on your cozy treehouse bed! Can’t be beat, I’m telling you! I absolutely loved waking up to watch the sunrise right outside my front door; relaxing in my complimentary robe and sipping some locally sourced coffee!

Some of my other favorite amenities include:

  • An outdoor bath – with hot water! (as shown in the photos above).
  • There’s also an outdoor shower (also with hot water).
  • A lower deck with a cozy hammock on the side of the treehouse
  • Trails to hike right outside your door
  • Thoughtful touches, such as: A guide book, robes, complimentary coffee, wine glasses and so much more.
  • The treehouse is equidistant to not 1, not 2, but 3 Blue Ridge Parkway entrances!
  • There’s an awesome fire pit and picnic table
  • Of course, it has the basics (but make it off-grid and sustainable): propane, 2-burner stove top; toilet and sink, outlets to charge your phones, etc (solar powered); solar powered lights + so much more!
  • The interior could not be more charming and brilliantly decorated/designed.
  • Did I mention, the VIEWS?!?

Other accommodation options include:

A North Carolina Smoky Mountains Adventure-filled Getaway Guide:

Hikes with Epic Mountain Views

North Carolina Smoky Mountains
Hiking to Black Balsam Knob via the Art Loeb Trail

Black Balsam Knob / Art Loeb Trail

This trail is easily one of my all-time favorites in Western North Carolina and it is located down a turn right off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Part of the Pisgah National Forest, you’ll be surrounded by layers and layers of mountains every which way! If you hike it in early summer, you’ll also be greeted with stunning wildflowers. Needless to say, I lost count of the amount of times I exclaimed “wow” along this trail!

Now, let’s get down to the details: there’s a few options to hike this trail:

  • To Black Balsam Knob and back –
    • 1.4 miles, round-trip and rated “moderate” on AllTrails
  • Hike to Black Balsam Knob and continue further on the Art Loeb Trail (for as long as you’d like or are able to).
    • We went about 7 miles (one way; so 14 in total) on the Art Loeb Trail and that’s where we saw some of my favorite, panoramic views!
    • In total, the Art Loeb Trail is about 29.3 miles (one way) and rated “hard’ on AllTrails.
North Carolina Smoky Mountains
Views from the Art Loeb Trail

Devil’s Courthouse Trail

This rather short hike offers impressive views on top of the equally impressive mountain that is Devil’s Courthouse! Rising above the surrounding spruce forest at an imposing 5,720 feet, its dark and exposed rock seems to ominously loom over its surroundings. Then again, maybe that’s because we hiked it on a very moody yet mystical evening where we got to see exactly why these mountains are called “Smoky” (see photos below).

Trail details:

  • Only 0.8 miles, round-trip, but rated “moderate” due to the elevation gain on the way up!
  • Parking for this trail is a pull-out right off the Blue Ridge Parkway > click here for directions via google maps.
  • This trail is very close to the trailhead for Black Balsam Knob as well as Graveyard Fields (which I’ll get to further down below).

Waterrock Knob Trail

Another short, but steep, hike with a mesmerizing payoff right off the Blue Ridge Parkway! What’s super awesome about this one is that the views on the way up are just as beautiful as they are at the top! It’s a stunning one, through and through.

Even more, Waterrock Knob has the highest elevation on the Parkway and is a must for those traveling it. If you’re unable to do this hike, you can still soak in the awesome views from the parking lot and visitor center. The visitor center is located at 5,820 feet elevation and the summit reaches 6,273 feet! Fog and clouds are common here, so it makes for a perfect photo-op (especially at sunrise or sunset).

Trail details:

  • This is a 1.0 mile, out and back, trail that is rated “moderate” on AllTrails.
  • Bring a jacket along on this hike because temperatures are typically much cooler up here.
  • Even though it’s short, there’s about 500 ft. of elevation gain within 0.5 mile so be prepared to go straight up to reach the top!
  • This trail is only about 6 miles (12 minutes) from Soco Falls (more information on this hike below).
  • The trailhead is located right at the parking lot for the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center > click here for directions via google maps.

A North Carolina Smoky Mountains Adventure-filled Getaway Guide:

More Hikes with Epic Mountain Views

Time permitting, I also highly recommend hiking these trails with amazing views, as well!

  • Sam Knob Trail
    • 2.5 miles, out and back, with about 565 ft. elevation gain and rated “moderate”.
  • Mount Pisgah Trail
    • 4.5 miles, out and back, with about 1,033 ft. elevation gain and rated “moderate”.
  • Richland Balsam Nature Loop Trail
    • 1.4 mile loop trail with about 385 ft. elevation gain and rated “moderate”.

A North Carolina Smoky Mountains Adventure-filled Getaway Guide:

Waterfalls and Swimming Holes to Chase

Graveyard Fields Lower and Upper Falls

This North Carolina Smoky Mountain trail, right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a rather popular hike but for good reason! Not only does it boast two beautiful waterfalls, but it also catches views of the surrounding mountains, including the nearby Black Balsam Knob (listed above), from the trailhead before plunging into a dense forest of laurel and rhododendron.

Trail details:

If you want to hike to both falls, it’s about a 3.3 mile, moderately rated loop. However, if you wish to hike less and only venture to the stellar lower falls, it’s only about 0.6 mile, out and back, and rated easy!

Parking for this trail and area fills up quickly so I highly recommend attempting this one as early in the day as possible.

There’s a rather nice swimming hole area below Lower Falls! Therefore, bring along a towel and swim suit so you can take a dip, cool off and have some summer fun!

Waterfalls along Lake Logan Rd./ Hwy. 215

This scenic route is right down the way from your wonderful accommodation at Flowertown Charm Off-Grid Treehouse! Even better? It’s chockfull of road-side waterfalls to explore (with minimal to short hiking distance).

My favorite of these waterfalls is…

Sunburst Falls

There’s a little turnout right before (or after – depending on which direction you’re heading) a big bend in the road and, from the turnout, you can walk a couple hundred feet to view the awesome upper falls!

BUT, to view the lower falls and to take a dip in one of the state’s coolest, secluded swimming holes, you’ll carefully walk across the road and down a short 0.2-mile hike along the Sunburst Falls Trail.

This is where you’ll find a hidden little lagoon encircled by large boulders at the base of Lower Sunburst Falls. It’s so wild to me that such amazing natural gems exist this close to a roadway. This one is a must in my books!

Upper Sunburst Falls along Lake Logan Rd / Hwy 215

Other notable waterfalls to chase along Lake Logan Rd/ Hwy 215 are…

Soco Falls

As mentioned above, this beauty is super close-by to Waterrock Knob Trail and also right off the Blue Ridge Parkway (per most of these rad adventures).

Soco Falls is a beautiful, double waterfall – which makes it so unique to see! You can view it from a viewing platform via a short walk from US Highway 19, at Soco Gap, Milepost 455.7.

Then, if you’d like, you can opt to get a closer / more personal looks at these gorgeous falls by continuing down a steep trail from the deck to the base of the waterfalls. Though short, this section is steep, slippery and potentially dangerous (be careful!). It does have some ropes to help with balance as you make your way down.

Midnight Hole and Mouse Creek Falls via Big Creek Trail

This hike in the North Carolina section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a true slice of paradise! A crystal clear, emerald pool awaits hikers and beckons to be swum in. The water is irresistible and akin to the likes of alpine lakes you’d find out west in Washington State.

It’s a short hike (1.5 miles each way) along Big Creek Trail and you’ll know you’ve arrived when you see a small white circle painted on a tree (at mile 1.5) to the right of the trail.

Still hoping to snag some more waterfall-chasing fun? Keep hiking beyond Midnight Hole and make your way to Mouse Creek Falls for another gorgeous view! Mouse Creek Falls is only another 0.5 mile from Midnight Hole – now making the total 2.0 miles, each way.

A North Carolina Smoky Mountains Adventure-filled Getaway Guide:

Bucket-List Adventures to be had…

Horseback Riding with Cataloochee Ranch

Horseback Riding with Cataloochee Ranch in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains

To say this was a highlight of my NC Smokies getaway would be an understatement – it was an overall adventure highlight of a lifetime! Seriously one of my favorite adventures to-date and I could not recommend it more!

We rode clear to the top of Hemphill Bald, bordering Great Smoky Mountains Nationals Park, and were inundated with SPECTACULAR mountain views the whole way! And to witness it all on horseback was a dream come true for me and something I’ll never ever forget.

Apart from the insanely amazing views as far as the eye can see, you’ll also ride through gorgeous forests en route and pass through beautiful wildflowers, rhododendron tunnels and so much more! We were even fortunate enough to pass by several of the ranch’s resident cows and calves and I got to live out my cowgirl dreams. If you’re lucky enough, you can even spot wildlife during your ride (I.e. turkey, deer, or even black bear).

Our guide, Melinda, was absolutely amazing and so knowledgeable of the land’s flora and fauna, the land’s history and…of course…horses!

Tubing down the Pigeon River in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains

Floating down the beautiful and pristine Pigeon River with Pigeon River Outfitters is such a perfect summer adventure: unwind, relax, cool-off and just float through the Smoky Mountain scenery.

Pigeon River Outfitters provides a wide variety of tube options to rent, including: open bottom tubes & solid bottom tubes, child-sized and multi-sized family tubes, clover tubes and even tubes for your cooler so you can bring along refreshing beverages and a lunch!

Furthermore, every year during the 4th of July holiday, they host a special “Float and Fireworks” night in which I was so fortunate to attend! It was, by far, the coolest way I’ve ever watched a fireworks show before AND…what a show it was!!!

Paddling on Lake Junaluska in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains

At the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains near Waynesville and Maggie Valley sits the super-scenic, 200-acre Lake Junaluska. With an array of outdoor adventures (a swimming pool, a. 3.8 mile paved hiking trail around the lake and, of course, Lake Junaluska Outfitters which offers a plethora of lake rentals: kayaks, paddle boards, canoes and more), it’s a recreational hub!

After paddling around this gorgeous lake and soaking in all the surrounding views, I ABSOLUTELY recommend heading to Inspiration Point for an awe-inspiring sunset scene (see photo below)!

There’s also the delicious foodie spot: Crepe and Custard! As if this destination could get any sweeter….swing by here for a real treat on top of it ALL!

North Carolina Smoky Mountains
Sunset at Inspiration Point overlooking Lake Junaluska

This wraps up my adventure-filled, getaway guide to the North Carolina Smoky Mountains! I truly had the trip of a lifetime here this summer and I hope that this guide helps you in planning your future travels to Haywood County (aka, the NC Smokies).

I’ve included my video travel guide to the North Carolina Smoky Mountains below, as well – just in case you’d prefer to visually see all the adventures I’ve laid out for you above.

As always, feel free to leave a comment and/or ask me any and all questions you may have! I’m happy to help!

Much love and happy adventuring,

Mindy (on the move)

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North Carolina Smoky Mountains

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