Often this side of Western North Carolina gets overlooked. However, that’s exactly what we love most about it. Robbinsville makes the perfect base for a weekend mountain trip, without the crowds of Asheville or Boone.
Centrally located between the Cherokee National Forest, Nantahala National Forest, and the Great Smoky Mountains the small town of Robbinsville is a hidden gem. Let’s dive into what you can see and do in the area.
10 Things to do on a Weekend in Robbinsville, NC
1) Take a Drive Along the Cherohala Skyway
Start your weekend in Robbinsville with a drive along the Cherohala Skyway. The 43 miles of scenic roadway runs between Robbinsville, NC and Tellico Plains, TN. Connecting the Cherokee and Nantahala national forests, each forest lends the road its name, Cherohala.
There are about a dozen overlooks and several hiking trails to enjoy. Read our more detailed post on the Cherohala Skyway for things to see and do along the route.
2) Walk Among the Ancient Giants at Joyce Kilmer
Our favorite find on our weekend in Robbinsville was the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.
Spared from the heavy lumbering of the early 1900’s, the park includes one of the oldest and largest contiguous tracts of old growth forest in the eastern US. Ancient, untouched, and awe-inspiring, it was the highlight of our trip to Robbinsville.
Learn more about visiting this magical forest – Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest: Best Kept Secret In Western Carolina
3) Enjoy the View from Maple Springs Observation Deck
As you exit the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, take an immediate left up Santeetlah Road. It will seem a bit strange as the road continues to climb to seemingly nowhere. However, your patience will be rewarded.
At the end of the roughly 5-miles of road is a short walk to the Maple Springs Observation Deck. From here you have stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding Robbinsville. Unfortunately, we never made it back for sunrise or sunset, but I bet it’s stunning from here.
As you make your way back down, there’s one more stop. Keep a lookout on the left for a large pile of rocks and a pull-in. Here you’ll find a beautiful view of Santeetlah Lake and the forested mountains surrounding its shoreline.
4) Take A Short Hike to Yellow Creek Falls
Continue your drive by making the left onto Joyce Kilmer Rd. This will follow the north side of Santeetlah Lake and along Cheoah River. At Tapoco Rd (US-129) make another left and drive for roughly 3 miles.
If you blink, you’ll miss the tiny turn in on the right for Yellow Creek Falls. It’s a short hike, but worth the stop.
Read more on Yellow Creek Falls – Nantahala National Forest.
5) Test Your Nerve Driving the Tail of the Dragon
Extremely popular with motorcyclists, this 11-mile stretch of road contains 318 curves. It also has very few turn-offs and no stop signs or lights, so it’s mostly an uninterrupted ride. However, not everyone has the same nerve (or stupidity from some of the drivers we saw). Everyone will go at a different pace. Help others enjoy their ride by using the pull-offs to allow passing when it’s safe to do so.
Though we didn’t have a motorcycle or sports car, we still had a ton of fun driving this route. We even got to pass a few Nervous Nellies. If you prefer to use a motorcycle, you can rent them from Wolf Creek Rentals.
Quick warning: There is a speed limit. It’s fast enough to enjoy the road, even too fast for some sections. Plus, we did see police using radar on this road.
The only true stop along the route is on the back half of the drive. There’s a pull-off where everyone shakes out their tightly clutched fists and has a good laugh. It’s not much of a pit-stop, but there is a nice view of Calderwood Dam.
6) Visit the East Coast’s Tallest Dam
The most famous dam in the area is Fontana Dam. On one side of the dam is the Great Smoky Mountains, on the other, the Nantahala National Forest. Cross over the dam, and you’re walking a small piece of the famous 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail. Not only is Fontana Dam the largest dam east of the Mississippi, but it’s also genuinely a beautiful spot to visit in Western North Carolina.
See our post Fontana Dam: Tallest Dam in the Eastern US for more information on visiting.
7) Hike Part of the Appalachian Trail
Known for it’s 2,000-miles of backcountry hiking opportunities, the Appalachian Trail runs right over Fontana Dam. It also continues north to the Tennessee – North Carolina border and south into the Nantahala National Forest.
In addition to the Appalachian Trail, Western Carolina has a ton of awesome hiking opportunities. However, many of the trails in this region are NOT for the unprepared. Make sure you have proper gear and plenty of water with you.
If you are going to take advantage of the hiking opportunities, pick up a hiking book or map on the area. Here are a few books on Amazon you may find useful:
8) Rent a Boat on Lake Fontana
Instead of working hard on the trails, you could relax on a boat. Lake Fontana is a rarity. More than 90% of the 240-miles of shoreline are undeveloped. This is because most of the lake sits within the National Park Service or US Forest Service.
They say, on a clear day, from the water you can see as far as Clingmans Dome on the Tennessee-North Carolina border.
Several places rent boats, including the nearby Fontana Dam Resort Marina.
9) Raft the Nantahala River or Just Watch
If you want to get out on the water, but boating is too tame, try white water rafting on Class III rapids. Robbinsville is very close to the Nantahala River. Lots of local companies offer rafting and kayaking.
If you want to check out what you’ll be getting yourself in for, here are a couple of nice spots where you can observe.
- Patton’s Run Overlook – small park where you can observe rafters going through a set of Class III rapids.
- Ferebee Memorial Picnic Area – gorgeous picnic area with a boat ramp where rafters float by.
10) Bathe in the beauty of the Blue Ridge
After such a busy weekend you deserve to relax and watch the magic of the Blue Ridge Mountains at sunset (or sunrise). They’re not called “blue” for nothing.
Due to this ancient mountain range’s unique height, the Blue Ridge Mountains are covered in a thick tree canopy. To protect themselves from heat, the vegetation emits natural hydrogen-carbon compounds. These compounds defuse the light, causing a magnificent blue tint across the mountains.
Where to eat in Robbinsville
- Our favorite place in Robbinsville is only open Mon – Fri from 11-2. But, if you get the chance, stop at T. Dubbs BBQ shack. It is literally a shack, but my goodness it is worth timing your lunch to catch them open.
- Tapoco Tavern has a wonderful large outdoor eating area with a good selection for everyone in your party. It’s close to the Tail of the Dragon.
- The town of Andrews is about 30-minutes away, close to the Nantahala River, and has lots of options. They even have a few local breweries worth checking out.