Scenic & Free
When you come to the Franklin NC area, you are in the foothills of some of the oldest mountains in the world. The Blue Ridge Mountains and The Great Smoky Mountains rise up from the valleys of the Nantahala National Forest opening into two of the nation’s most visited National Parks. We’ve put together a list of scenic & free things to do.
Mountain Waters Scenic Byway
Mountain Waters Scenic Byway – take a drive over Wayah Road through the Nantahala Gorge. Side trips to Wayah Bald, Nantahala Lake, and numerous pull offs along the Nantahala River make for a full or half day trip. Return via Wayah Road or take US 74 to Dillsboro and back to Franklin.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Take a scenic drive on America’s most visited Parkway! Two points of entry give you many options for a full day or scenic overlooks, history, and adventure. Take the Balsam Gap entrance to Cherokee passing Water Rock Knob with view east and west, down to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the end of the BRP. Stop in the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and see how life was like in the early days of the park. Wait until dusk to see the elk that bed down in the wide-open field there at the edge of the center.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Take US 74/US 441 to the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and continue into the most visited National Park in the country. Historic Mingus Mill and Smokemont Baptist Church are on the eastern side of the drive. Head up Newfound Gap Road and explore the many scenic overlooks. Take the Dome Road to Clingman’s Dome where you can feel like you’re on top of the world. Continue up to Newfound Gap Overlook and straddle the North Carolina / Tennessee border where the two states meet. Continue west into the Tennessee part of the park or head back down into Cherokee and on back to Franklin..
The Moonshiner 28 Scenic Drive
Franklin is located at the crossroads of several great motorcycle rides in Western North Carolina. The Moonshiner 28 is one such ride, a 103-mile trail that begins at the Tail of the Dragon on US 129 at Deals Gap, and winds southeastward along NC 28 through Franklin and Highlands, NC. It continues southward on NC 28 into North Georgia and ends in Walhalla, SC. The Moonshiner 28 got its name from Moonshine runners traveling from South Carolina to Tennessee on the twists and turns of this back road to avoid the police. This is a great alternative to other more crowded routes, with sections every bit as twisty as the more popular routes. There are also great views and scenic attractions along the way, including three of Western North Carolina’s most popular waterfalls between Franklin and Highlands, NC – Cullasaja Falls, Dry Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls, as well as many other pull offs and scenic stops. Whether you’re on a motorcycle, in a car, or in the family van, you’re sure to enjoy the mountains and scenery that you’ll pass through.