Summertime in western North Carolina is a wonderful thing. The area around Western Carolina University has so much to offer during the summer months. From hiking to history, you’re guaranteed to find interesting activities to enjoy during the warm, summer days in the beautiful mountains.
Hiking trails for all levels of outdoor adventurer are abundant in this area. Cullowhee Falls and Paradise Falls offer two trails with beautiful views. Mingo Falls in Cherokee is less than an hour’s drive from campus and is an easier trail that anyone can enjoy. The widely-popular Whiteside Mountain is also nearby and offers two different trails based on difficulty for you to reach the top and look at miles of mountains that surround us.
If you have a couple of hours to spare, Graham County is right on the Tennessee border and has beautiful hiking trails for beginners and pros. Here, you can also find the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, which has a walking loop that is less than a mile and magnificent trees that will humble and inspire you just as they inspired Joyce Kilmer to write the famous poem, “Trees.”
An attraction that draws many visitors to the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is the synchronization of fireflies during the summer. On some nights in June and July, the fireflies in the Memorial Forest all light up at the same exact time, you just have to be patient and willing to unplug from technology for a bit.
Graham County also boasts the Tail of the Dragon for anyone seeking to go on a twisty drive. This road into Tennessee is 11 miles long with over 300 curves. If you’re heading into Tennessee and chasing adrenaline, the Tail of the Dragon is the perfect road for you.
Another way to get some adrenaline is to head on over to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Tickets to the park cost $50 –60 dollars and it takes around two hours to get to the park from Western Carolina’s campus. Here, you can enjoy roller coasters, a train ride and even a water park.
Cherokee is a fun place in the summer, as well. The reservation is rich in history, which you can learn about if you go to the wonderful outdoor theater show, “Unto These Hills.” Tickets for the show cost around $20 and the show details the history of the Cherokee Indians and this area.
Cherokee is also home to Harrah’s Casino and Resort, which draws visitors from across the country. You are always guaranteed a fun time of gambling or attending one of the many concerts at Harrah’s.
Another interesting attraction close to Western Carolina’s campus is the Nantahala River. The Nantahala River was home to the 2013 Freestyle Kayaking World Championships, and you can raft or kayak down the river for around $50 through the Nantahala Outdoor Center. The center also offers zip lining locations throughout the Nantahala forest.
The Blue Ridge Parkway can be fun for anyone during the summer and one of its entrances is right outside of Sylva. The Parkway boasts extremely high altitudes, hiking trails, picnic areas and much more. Whether you are just looking for a peaceful afternoon drive or a challenging hike, the Parkway has what you are looking for.
If you get on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Balsam gap and drive toward Asheville, you will eventually get to the Devil’s Courthouse lookout. The 20 –30 minute hike up to the Devil’s Courthouse rock is worth it because you get an amazing view of the majestic mountains that Western Carolina is nestled in.
If you don’t feel like driving anywhere, there are plenty of things to do right in Sylva and Cullowhee! In downtown Sylva every Saturday during the summer, a Farmer’s Market
takes place. Hot summer days are also the perfect circumstance for ice cream, so while you’re in Sylva, head on over to Jack the Dipper for ice cream in a freshly made waffle cone.
Whether you want to just hang out on campus or want to go on some adventures, you will not be disappointed if you decide to spend your summer in Cullowhee.