Sometimes, feeling small and vulnerable can be alarming or make us feel threatened. But not in the Smoky Mountains.
There’s something about the Smokies’ hazy peaks that offers comfort, its oft-shrouded summits enveloping visitors in something bigger than themselves.
That empowering dose of perspective provides the perfect start to a journey through North Carolina.
Enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Tennessee side, with a quick stop in Gatlinburg for some saltwater taffy and an airbrushed t-shirt. Then plunge into the depths of the Smokies’ dense beauty by taking Highway 441 across the North Carolina border.
The park is the most-visited in the United States, but it’s still easy to get yourself delightfully lost in its vast expanse. Along the way, there are unlimited hikes, myriad waterfalls and even a large population of bears (so watch out and keep your distance).
On the east side of the park be sure to visit Cherokee, where you can learn about the tribe’s rich history. Neighboring Bryson City boasts a rustic hotel, Hemlock Inn, that’s hard to beat – especially for families. Stay there for a night or two, feast on their delicious breakfast and dinner (included in your stay), and splash into nearby Deep Creek for some swift-water tubing.
When you’re ready to leave the mountains behind, Asheville beckons just an hour away. It’s an eclectic town known for a robust culture and dynamite food.
From there, the state is your oyster – literally, if you decide to bolt toward the Atlantic Coast for fresh seafood. Charlotte is the state’s financial and cultural hub, while the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Research Triangle is world-renowned for its academic prowess (and college-town feel).
Start in the Smokies, then set sail anywhere in the state. You’ll never feel happier to feel so small…especially if you’re driving a set of Nokian Tyres all-weather tires, which are prepped for sudden Smoky Mountain snow.