Outdoor Adventure | Cherokee, NC

How will Cherokee affect you?

Revel in nature, Cherokee style.

Most of us don’t even know we’ve lost it—our innate connection to the earth. The Cherokee visualize nature as inclusive of all things: animals, plants and people—all of equal importance—to ensure balance and harmony. Doesn’t that sound refreshing? Put your shades on. It’s time for you to experience the outdoors with a new perspective.

Paradise for curious nature lovers.

Having Great Smoky Mountains National Park at your doorstep means heaven for outdoorsy folk. Sacred Cherokee sites and stories appear around every bend in the trail. The Cherokee view their native home as a “living garden,” alive with food from the rivers to the top of the mountains, requiring great care and respect so that they eat well and stay in harmony with nature. Consider that over 800 miles of the best hiking trails east of the Mississippi are located here. Or consider the effect of viewing waterfalls of such cascading awesomeness you feel them flowing right through you. Like Mingo. Or Soco. They have to be seen to be believed, as does the successful reintroduction of elk. The herd that makes Cherokee its home provides something only nature can: you’re left feeling more connected, like someone’s tapped your spirit gently on the shoulder, encouraging it to wake from a long slumber.

Drench your soul.

Be it kayak, canoe, raft or tube; whether it’s rapids or the serene waters of the Oconaluftee you seek—you’ll find in Cherokee a place where worries simply drift away with the murmur of the healing waters. Oconaluftee Islands Park is a central hub for water lovers. From a cooling, relaxing wade with the little ones to picnics full of laughter and body surfing, the Islands Park frees you from mundane modern existence even before you realize you’ve forgotten to check Facebook for hours.

Cherokee is for the birds.

No, really. This area is host to over 200 species of birds and six state-recognized birding trails, making it one of the best bird watching sites in the Southeast. So, if you haven’t seen a Rose-breasted Grosbeak in a while...keep your fingers crossed; you might also catch a glimpse of a black bear or two—real or made of fiberglass. Which version do you imagine your companion would rather encounter? This is anything but a boring vacation.

Dimming of the day.

You’ve braved the wild outdoors and seen a lot. The bonfire warms you into a sleepy haze, and your head is now filled with images of ancient petroglyphs and exploding pink blossoms of rhododendron reflecting in the rippling pools below the waterfalls.  You can almost see the creatures you’ve heard about: the water bears wallowing in their purple puddles that they were known to imbue with transformative powers. Now it’s time for a comfortable bed in Cherokee for the evening. Even a rugged outdoorsman can use a rest in a comfy La-Z-Boy.

Outdoor Adventure

Sequoyah National Golf Club

Experience the breathtaking surroundings and long-range views of Sequoyah National Golf Club. Here, our exquisitely beautiful mountain course mixes with ancient Cherokee culture and the most modern golfing experience you can have. For instance, our new Visage GPS tracks your score, provides precise yardage, and lets you order from the golf shop or grill.

Rope Swing

Swing into summer.

If you've ever wanted to do your best Tarzan impression and swing on a rope followed by a deep dive into a cool, clear river, we have the adventure for you. Though the rope swing we’re describing is a little challenging to get to, most agree it’s well worth your while to find. There are two routes: either begin with a tubing adventure on the Oconaluftee, so you eventually float down and find the area the locals refer to as Piney Grove Beach or take Big Cove Road and take a local with you. It isn’t easy to find if you take the road, but very easy if you access it via tube. You’ll discover the rope swing is part of a big swimming hole near the river, so there’s plenty of fun to go around. The Cherokee Welcome Center can get you started in the right direction.


Fire Mountain Trails

The Fire Mountain Trails are Cherokee’s newest source for big adventure—a multiuse trail system that’s made to mountain bike, hike, or run. The network of trails is more than 10.5 miles total, so there’s plenty of room for everyone to recreate safely, responsibly…and flowy?

That’s right—if you like your trails with a nice flow of features, with fun berms and quick hits of elevation that are manageable and fun, Fire Mountain is made for you. You’ll find tables, rock gardens, and blinds for those who know, along with single-track and wider sections, spots that are smooth and fast, and trails that invite the more technically accomplished with options for those less so. The trailhead is located about 100 yards from the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee and shares a parking lot. The trails interlace through the nearby Great Smoky Mountains, so you already know the views and terrain will take your breath away, even if your recreation of choice doesn’t!

Is it the flowiest trail in the east? Better than Ridgeline? Check the video or better yet, judge it for yourself during an overnight stay in Cherokee. Trails are free of charge, and open every day, all day.

Handicapped-Accessible Fishing Piers

In Cherokee, we welcome fishermen (and women!) of all stripes, creeds, color, and ability. To that end, we continually try to improve the fishing experience for our fishing audience with special needs. There are a host of handicapped-accessible fishing spots throughout the Qualla Boundary. Have a look at the map for precise locations, drop a line, and enjoy. 

Devil’s Courthouse

Explore Judaculla's Dance Hall, known as Devil's Courthouse, another scenic destination for giant chasers. Beyond it, Looking Glass Rock and Pilot Knob carry stories of the giant and make great picnic spots. 

Judaculla Old Fields

View Judaculla’s Farm, now called Judaculla Old Fields, from the Blue Ridge Parkway, and then fish for trout in the Tuckaseegee River.

Judaculla Rock

Take a scenic hike to Judaculla Rock to see the ancient petroglyphs considered by the Cherokee people to be Judaculla’s footprint.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Cherokee is situated just outside the gateway to the legendary Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the most beautiful, biodiverse parks in the Southeast. World-class hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and horseback riding are available in this wooded paradise at Cherokee’s doorstep.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Take a ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a definite highlight of any trip to Cherokee and Western North Carolina. This extensive, winding roadway takes you through some of the most breathtaking mountain views in the country. No trip is complete without a family drive, bike ride, or a motorcycle tour on the Parkway.

Oconaluftee Islands Park

A perfect stop for families, Oconaluftee Islands Park is an island oasis among the waters of the rushing Oconaluftee River. Wade in the refreshing waters along the riverbank. Enjoy a quiet picnic. Or walk around the nature trails before exploring the rest of our Cherokee attractions.

Mingus Mill

Visit Mingus Mill near the Mountain Farm Museum, and explore one of the most historic sites in the region, surrounded by some of Cherokee country’s finest hiking trails and numerous historic landmarks. Mingus Mill is the ideal place for those looking to immerse themselves in the natural world of the Cherokee people.

Smokemont Riding Stables

The Smokemont Riding Stables, located within Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offers some of the best horseback riding in North Carolina. You can enjoy short hourly rides, longer excursions to Cherokee’s waterfalls, or wagon rides through the Cherokee landscape. With well-seasoned and sure-footed horses, and knowledgeable and friendly guides, this is a Cherokee attraction you simply can’t miss.


Reservations & Information

Smokemont Riding Stables
Phone: (828) 497-2373
Email: smokemontridingstable@gmail.com


Smokemont Riding Stables
135 Smokemont Riding
Stable Road
Cherokee, NC 28719
Get Directions

Ride Information

1. Hourly Rides — You ford the Oconaluftee River, go through a tunnel underneath US 441, and then make a 3-mile loop on the mountain.
Departure Times: Every hour from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm

Hourly rate: $45 per rider.

2. Waterfall Ride — The 2.5-hour ride, you ride for a mile above the Smokemont Campground. Then you ride alongside mountain streams until you reach the Chasteen Creek Waterfall. You dismount for approximately 15 minutes to view the waterfall. *Note: The Chasteen Creek Waterfall is the waterfall playing in the video on this page.
Departure Times: 9:00 am,12:00 pm, & 3:00 pm

Waterfall rate: $110 per rider.

3. Four-Hour Ride — The four-hour ride departs once a day. Features include a wooded mountain trail, miles of creekside scenery, and two cascades.
Departure Time: Currently Unavailable

4. Wagon Rides — Our wagon ride travels down the Old Turnpike Road, alongside the Oconaluftee River. You pass fields we frequently see wildlife in, and we share some historical information with you along the way. There are no age or weight restrictions on the wagon.
Departure Times: 9:45 am – 4:45 pm

Wagon Rides: $25 per rider.

Oconaluftee River Trail

Take a walking tour along the beautiful Oconaluftee River Trail. From the start of the trailhead, wander along the banks of our pristine river, enjoying natural quiet spots and informative trail markers, before arriving at the Mountain Farm Museum, a collection of some of the oldest cabins and log buildings in all of Cherokee.


Although you may experience tranquility and peace in the calm beauty of Cherokee’s many waterways, ponds, and waterfalls, there is nothing quite like the thrill of an exciting tubing excursion. Take your family on a tubing adventure offered by one of Cherokee’s many rafting and tubing companies on various Cherokee rivers. Find the perfect tubing experience at the Cherokee Visitor Center.

Soco Falls

One of the many Cherokee waterways, Soco Falls is a cascading masterpiece for those who journey to its resting place in the heart of Cherokee. Take a moment, and revel in the lush wilderness that surrounds you. You may find it difficult to leave a place that seems so secluded, while only being a short distance away from the rest of Cherokee.

Mingo Falls

Arguably the most stunning cascade in the region, Mingo Falls will hold your attention for hours. So bring a picnic, recline on the rocks, and bask in the iridescent spray. Your friends will certainly be impressed by the pictures, yet even more so if you can recount a good Cherokee legend to go along with them. Will it be the water bears or the storm spirits? You can imagine the Aniyvdaqualosgi up in the sky above the falls as you listen to the thundering of the water. Just try to be grumpy here; you’ll find it’s just about impossible. 

Directions: From the Saunooke Village shopping area in downtown Cherokee, drive north on Big Cove Road approximately 5 miles (past the KOA Campground) to the Mingo Falls parking lot. 

Elk Viewing

Surrounded by the Smoky Mountains, it’s no surprise that Cherokee is one of the top spots for viewing wildlife like the native elk. You also shouldn’t hesitate to explore the several species of birds. Cherokee is a treasure trove of outdoor wildlife waiting to be discovered through new eyes.

Fish Cherokee

Welcome to the most pristine, well-stocked waters east of the Mississippi. Here, you can fill your livewell or basket with more than just fish. This is where historic cultural stories and experiences enrich every vacation. Learn about the ancient fishing weir, which once served as a significant tool for the Cherokee to provide subsistence for their villages. Grab a multi-day permit at any of our 28 fishing license locations in Cherokee or online at FishCherokee.com.

Sample Trips