Graham County, Robbinsville, Santeetlah, Fontana Lake Attractions

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20 April, 2016 By Steve Wike

Santeetlah Marina
1 Marina Drive, Lake Santeetlah, NC 28771 | Phone: 828-479-8180
The Santeetlah Marina and Ship Store offers boat storage and maintenance and carries the essentials to keep you on the lake and out of town by providing fuel, groceries, cold drinks, snacks, ice, boating supplies, apparel, fishing equipment, bait, tackle, fishing licenses, sporting goods and much more.


Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center. Graham County, NC

Stecoah Valley Center
121 Schoolhouse Road, Robbinsville, NC 28771 | Phone: 828-479-3364
Stecoah Valley Center celebrates mountain traditions throughout the year with music programs, old-time festivals, workshops and other events that appeal to all age groups. The Center includes the Stecoah Valley Artisans Gallery which offers a unique opportunity to buy original artwork as well as the fine crafts that have made North Carolina famous.  Also featured are many talented Cherokee Indian artists whose beadwork, pottery, masks and other artworks are produced today in the traditional ways of their ancestors.


National Parks and Forests in Graham County, NC
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is an impressive 3,800-acre remnant of old-growth forest. Many of the trees in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest are over 400-years-old, and some have a circumference of more than 20 feet with heights over 100 feet tall. This forest was set aside in 1936 as a memorial to the author of the poem “Trees,” Alfred Joyce Kilmer, who was killed in action in France during World War I. This forest, part of the Joyce Kilmer-Slick Rock Wilderness, is maintained in its primitive state. The only way to see this forest is on foot. A 2-mile trail leads to the Joyce Kilmer Memorial and loops through giant trees. A restroom and picnic tables are located at the trailhead. For directions and other information about the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest click here.

The Appalachian Trail passes through Graham County as it winds its way from Georgia to Maine. To walk on the trail, head to Stecoah Gap on Sweetwater Rd./Hwy. 143 East. At the top of the mountain there is a great overlook and parking area. Take the trail where you parked your car – this is also an excellent trail for birding.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park borders the entire northern edge of Graham County. Access to the park on the southern side is at Twenty Mile Ranger Station – a short 1 mile hike round trip will bring you to the lovely Twenty Mile Cascades. Smoky Mountain National Park with 16 peaks higher than 6,000 feet in elevation is part of the Southern Appalachian Range. With dimensions roughly 70 miles east to west and 8 miles north to south, the area is bounded on the east by the Pigeon River and on the West by the Little Tennessee River. All of the rivers, which have eroded deep swathes through the mountains, run more-or-less westerly and eventually empty into the Mississippi River. Scenic vistas in this natural wonderland attract thousands of visitors each day. Take the eleven mile Cades Cove Loop to view wildlife and historical pioneer homes from the past.

Just across the Cherohala Skyway into Tennessee you'll find the 640,000-acre Cherokee National Forest.

Tsali Recreational Area with camping, boat ramp and four challenging trail loops is popular with mountain bikers and horseback riders. Another great location for mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding and camping is the Santeetlah Lake Trail.

Sixty-eight percent of Graham County is located within the boundaries of the Nantahala National Forest.

Snowbird Backcountry area encompasses 8,000 acres with 37 miles of hiking trails, and is a favorite area for hunting, fishing, and primitive camping. In 1836 this area was the hiding place for the Cherokee Indians who refused to be transported westward in the Trail of Tears. Big Snowbird Creek offers some of the best native trout fishing anywhere. Big Snowbird Trail climbs some 2,600 feet along the creek with numerous scenic cascades and waterfalls, including Big Falls, Middle Falls, Upper Falls, and Sassafras Falls.


Scenic Highways and Byways in Graham County, NC
Graham County offers three of the best touring roads in the US. The most widely known is the Tail of the Dragon with 318 curves in 11 miles. Motorcycle riders and sports car enthusiasts from around the world come to test their skills on this one-of-a-kind mountain road.

The Cherohala Skyway passes through National Forest from North Carolina into Tennessee. This 36 mile scenic highway has mile-high vistas and is gaining in popularity with the motoring crowd.

The recent interest in moonshining is drawing people to Moonshiner 28 which runs 105 miles from the “The Dragon” to Walhala South Carolina. Twisting roads, waterfalls and back country shopping are it’s major features.

Forest Service roads in Graham County allow visitors to escape the crowds and find mountaintops, creeks and waterfalls to enjoy all to themselves. These gravel roads are usually well maintained. Only licensed vehicles are allowed on these roads. For a printable map of Graham County roads click here.

Indian Lakes Scenic Byway is a 50-mile route that winds through the Nantahala National Forest along the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park past Fontana, Cheoah, and Santeetlah Lakes, and through the whitewater playground of the Nantahala Gorge.


Rafting and Kyaking
The Cheoah River in the western North Carolina mountains offers some of the best whitewater rafting/paddling rivers in the east. Graham County's Cheoah River has the wildest nine-miles of Class IV rapids, while the Nantahala River is a great family white water experience with only one class IV rapid at the end. Boaters are allowed to go down the Nantahala River without a guide on this 3 hour adventure. The nearby Ocoee River in Tennessee was home to the 1996 Summer Olympic Kayak and Canoe competitions. The Ocoee has a few class V rapids and is regulated by a dam. The Chattooga River in north Georgia is where the movie "Deliverance" was filmed. It has many class V rapids and is naturally flowing through complete wilderness. (Only for serious, experienced adventure seekers!) Rafting trips are regulated with a group of 5-6 rafts going down every hour with Southeastern Expeditions. For additional information on rafting and kayaking in the Blue Ridge Mountains in and around Graham County, NC, visit our Whitewater Rafting page.


Trout Fishing
Slick Rock Creek is home to big wild brown trout and offers native trout fishing in the headwaters. Snowbird Creek is stocked with Rainbow, Brown, and Brook in the lower section and Native Brook trout in the upper section. Hazel Creek on the north side of Fontana Lake in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is accessible only by boat or foot. Contact Fontana Marina for shuttle service. For trout fishing guides on the lakes, streams and rivers of Graham County visit our Fly Fishing page.


Graham County, North Carolina is home to numerous waterfalls, including Big Falls, Middle Falls, Upper Falls, Sassafras Falls, Wildcat Falls and Bald River Falls. For descriptions and directions visit the Graham County Waterfalls page.


Horseback Riding
Guided horseback riding trips for individuals, couples and groups through breathtaking mountain scenery are available at:

Carolina Outfitters, Inc.
12121 Hwy 19 West, Bryson City, NC 28713 | Phone: 828-488-6345
Carolina Outfitters offers trail rides ranging from one hour to eight hours in length, with opportunities to see and enjoy a wide variety of terrain and wildlife, including deer, turkey, birds, wild hogs, and bears.

Chunky Gal Stables
1306 Hot House Road, Hayesville, NC 28904 | Phone: 828-389-4175
Chunky Gal Stables offers 1, 2 and 4 hour long trail rides through Nantahala National Forest in Hayesville, NC.  All rides are guided and include a safety demonstration that shows how our horses are trained so riders have an idea of what to expect on the ride.  Chunky Gal Stables has several different trail riding options based on experience level and scenery, from very inexperienced to the most experienced riders.  Chunky Gal Stables offers rides for virtually all ages.

Lonesome Dove Riding Stables
7940 Tallulah Road, Robbinsville, NC 28771 | Phone: 828-479-6105
Lonesome Dove Riding Stables provides guided trail rides through the mountains of North Carolina, with a variety of horse breeds, including thoroughbreds, Arabians, and Morgan mixes, quarter horses and Tennessee walkers. Lonesome Dove also provides log cabins for riders who want to extend their stay and time with the horses.


Golf Courses
Graham County has several great golf courses within a short scenic drive, including Cherokee's Sequoyah National, Murphy's Cherokee Hills, Whittier's Smoky Mountain Golf Club, Hayesville's Chatuge Shores, Blairsville's Old Union and Butternut Creek, Young Harris' Brasstown Valley, Maggie Valley's Club and Resort, and Lake Junaluska's Golf Course. Also, the Sweetwater Driving Range is located one mile northeast of Robbinsville on NC143. For additional information on golf courses in and around Graham County, visit our Golf Course page.


Wineries and Micro Breweries
Calaboose Cellars is the smallest free-standing, complete winery in America located just outside Andrews, NC, which is also home to Andrews Brewing Company.

Crane Creek Vineyards sits high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia, just three miles north of the quaint college town of Young Harris in the shadow of Brasstown Bald, the state's highest peak.

Nantahala Brewing Company (located in Bryson City, NC, across the street from the Train Depot) is home to award winning craft beers, a taproom, and fun summer concerts.

For additional information on breweries, tap rooms and distilleries, visit our Craft Beer page.


Graham County Barn Quilt Trail
Graham County's Barn Quilt Trail agriculture and strong traditions in handcrafts spans across Graham County from Stecoah to Robbinsville, and from Yellow Creek to Snowbird. Quilt patterns include traditional and non-traditional patterns. The Trail displays patterns such as Spinning Star, Ocean Waves, Inverted Log Cabin, original designs and many more.

Written by

Steve Wike

Steve Wike launched in 2008 - now a leading online travel resource. He also published the Blue Ridge Travel Guide coffee table book with hundreds of breathtaking photos by professional photographers - over 40,000 in print!

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Every year on the 3rd Friday and Saturday of June