The search is over for the quintessential charming town jam-packed with out-of-the-box outdoor adventure options lurking around every corner. This fall, discover the North Carolina gem that exudes relaxation and offers outdoor splendor and enjoyable activities for all. 

Bordering the southern side of the famed Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the main North Carolina entrance to the park, Bryson City is the laid-back, small mountain town you have been looking for.

Photo courtesy: Bryson City TDA & Chamber

This alluring destination is an easily stroll-able town awash with must-visit assets including arts and crafts galleries with working artisans, a bike shop, two fly fishing shops, a historical museum, a fly-fishing museum, an aquarium, an excursion train, two breweries and a functioning steam train and depot!  

All Aboard!  

Once fall washes over this quaint mountain hideaway, the town transforms before your eyes into the fall destination of your dreams.

Ever heard of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad? You’re in for a treat aboard this staple Bryson City exclusive activity/attraction. Based in Bryson City, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad operates rail excursions with onboard dining through this remote corner of North Carolina, traveling through tunnels, across rivers and lakes, through mountain valleys, and into a deep river gorge. 

In the fall, enjoy color from one of the coach cars or the open-air car during daily “Leaf Looker” excursions to the Nantahala Gorge.  

Experience Fall in Bryson City

A ride with the GSMR is the ultimate way to view fall color, but not the only way! 

Fall colors appear first at the highest elevations and work their way down over a 5-6-week season. The town itself puts on a natural spectacle of fall color and the seasonally decorated streets add to the alluring nature of the area during this time.

The best part? Many of the town’s must-visit outdoor attractions and trails (Deep Creek Recreation Area at GSMNP and the Road to Nowhere to name a few) make some of the best backdrops during this time for that perfect fall photo! 

Those looking to hike through the color in search of the best views, head to the highest peak in the Smokies – Clingmans Dome. The 54-foot observation tower allows for a 360-degree view of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The colors from this view are out of this world and even more beautiful if you go during sunrise or sunset.  

Fall Experiences You’ll Only Find In Bryson City

There are so many amazing fall adventures to experience in Bryson City!


The Appalachian Trail crosses Clingmans Dome, marking the highest point along its 2,144-mile journey — it’s a great area to explore. Another popular hike is at Newfound Gap. At 5,046 feet, the gap is the lowest drivable pass across the mountains – 3,000 feet above Bryson City. Due to Newfound Gap’s nearly mile-high elevation, temperatures can be 10 degrees or cooler than the surrounding lowlands. 

For a more leisurely stroll filled with waterfall backdrops, enjoy leaf-peeping through Deep Creek Recreation Area where guests can hike amongst the trees along trails to three cascading waterfalls, ranging from 25 to 90 feet tall.  

Leave room during your visit for Carolina Bound Adventures. This local tour company offers a wide variety of guided hikes during the leaf season and can take guests to where the color is the best! Booking a guided hike would be the best way to view some magnificent colors and ensure some great hiking adventures in the process.  

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway, which begins in nearby Cherokee, NC, offers equally beautiful fall scenery along every turn and plenty of turn-offs to stop and take them in.  

Fall is prime Blue Ridge Parkway season! For fall lovers, it’s the best.

Zip Lining and More

For the more upbeat adventure-seekers looking for a fully immersive fall experience, zip through magnificent colorful canopies via zip lines at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

If the water is more your speed, enjoy a thrilling and memorable whitewater rafting journey down the Nantahala!  

Water Adventures

Water lovers rejoice! For a limited time in the fall, Carolina Bound Adventures also offers guided kayaking/paddle boarding and/or kayaks and paddle board rentals through the month of October.

The tours take place on pristine Fontana Lake, a true Bryson City gem— the vast majority of the lake is under developed (almost 90%) and always will be thanks to its boarders being a part of the National Park. 

Where To Stay

Bryson City boasts a plethora of accommodation options to fit the needs of all who visit. Pick and choose from uniquely themed glamping options, cabins, boutique hotels / B&Bs, Airbnbs, VRBOs, and more to complete your fall retreat to this one-of-a-kind North Carolina mountain town.

Looking for more? Here are 29 Unique North Carolina Rentals for Your Next Getaway!

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