WNC Travel Guide

What began as an effort to get rid of alcohol permits granted in conjunction with a 2015 state law ended with the Cherokee Tribal Council’s vote to put out a referendum question that will either keep alcohol access the same on the Qualla Boundary — or significantly increase it. 

When The Conservation Fund began acquiring the land that would eventually become the William H. Silver Game Lands near Maggie Valley, the idea was that parts of the property could be converted into elk-friendly habitat, hopefully alleviating conflicts between the large ungulates and the farmers whose crops they love to munch. 

The doors opened, and the room filled — with hikers, bikers, ecologists, conservation workers, economic development professionals and Cherokee tribal members alike who were intent on making their voices heard during a public form Thursday, Jan. 25, which took input on plans that will impact the future of Waterrock Knob and the Plott Balsams. 

Born in the upstairs of the Post Office building his mom ran in Crabtree, Robert Williams, now 87, has always called Haywood County home. 

His dad was in the cattle business, and when the family moved to Canton during Williams’ childhood, chores such as feeding cattle, splitting wood and tending the fire kept Williams busy. But his grandfather William Silver’s 1,800-acre tract in the Plott Balsams, while also technically a workplace, provided a respite from the busyness of day-to-day life. Silver and his son — Williams’ uncle — ranged cattle up there, and in the summers Williams would join them. 

About 100 people piled into the exhibit hall at the Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds the evening of Monday, Nov. 6, to tell Tribal Council members what they think about expanding alcohol sales on the Qualla Boundary. The consensus was clear: the tribal members filling the room wanted a referendum, and they wanted to see alcohol sales stay siloed on casino property.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The famed scenic motorway winds through the best scenery the mountains have to offer, studded with overlooks to stop and soak in the views. The section of the Blue Ridge Parkway through the Smoky Mountains boasts the highest elevation and most panoramic ridgelines of the 469-mile route. 

 

Tail of the Dragon

No doubt one of the most famous motorcycle routes in the world, the Tail of the Dragon offers 318 curves in 11 miles. There are plenty of great rides on roads off U.S. 129 so its best to plan your trip before you go. A great resource is tailofthedragon.com. The route is ranked No. 3 in the nation by American Motorcyclist magazine.

 

Cherohala Skyway

Long corners and endless vistas make this sky-high road and enthusiasts dream.

Serving up 60 miles of scenic mountain cruising, the Skyway climbs to 5,400 feet from Robbinsville to Tellico Plains, Tenn. But be prepared. There are no restrooms or gas stations along the 36-mile Skyway.

 

Newfound Gap

U.S. 441 twists and winds its way from the Oconaluftee River Valley up and over a 5,000 foot divide in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offering long-range views, forested tunnels and rushing rivers. The scenic route is studded with points of interest, including the Oconaluftee Visitors Center, Mingus Mill, picnic areas or Clingmans Dome.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway and All-American Road that winds for 469 miles from the southern end of Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive in Virginia to U.S. 441 at Oconaluftee in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee.

Mark Woods will retire as superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway on July 3, but on July 4 he’ll don the flathat one last time as grand marshal of the Lake Junaluska Fourth of July Parade. 

“That was a surprise, to get that call,” Woods said. “We have family here, and every year there’s a family reunion that’s been going on for years at Lake Junaluska, so I’ve been coming here for as long as I’ve been married. To me this area is so special.”

It’s just a short walk from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Fryingpan Tower — 1.5 miles roundtrip — but in a season when wildflowers abound and the ecological intricacies of mountain life are on full display, a curious person could spend hours exploring. 

Especially when accompanied by someone who’s full of the knowledge and stories to explain it all. Someone like a Blue Ridge Parkway ranger, two of whom were out last week to lead a group of 25 locals and tourists on a summertime ramble.

An 83-year-old women died after falling 150 feet from an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Graveyard Fields in Haywood County last Friday (May 19).

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