For the longest time, I have not been able to pronounce Nantahla. It’s the name of a forest, a river, a gorge, and probably a ton of other things in that region. And it’s the name of a place that I’ve wanted check out. It’s a little bit of a drive from where I live, but sometimes you have to just go exploring.
This past weekend, me and a couple of friends visited the Nantahala Outdoor Center which is located in Bryson City, NC in a region of the Nantahala National Forest. The intent of the trip was to just head out to the the forest and find a fun trail to hike. We stopped at the outdoor center to check it out and possibly find a good map.
The Nantahla Outdoor Center is a huge outpost in the woods and is located on the Nantahala River thus making it ideal for whitewater rafting, kayaking, and much more. The Appalachian Trail runs right through the center which also makes it a great stop for hikers.
While I knew there was some lodging and food available there, as well as a home-base for outdoorsy fun, I was not prepared for just how big the place is. There’s a small grocery for restocking supplies, a gear and souvenir store, two restaurants/bars, and lodging. If you go to the center or book in advance, you can set up an excursion on the river kayaking, rafting, paddle boarding, zip lining, etc.
It’s a good place if you’re an adventure seeker who wants to spend some money, be guided, and enjoy the company of a small crowd of people. I’m honestly not knocking it, it’s just not my thing. It did, however, baffle me that so many people who were just tourists with no obvious interest in any outdoor activities, were just hanging around to have a drink and a bite to eat. They drove all the way out there just to hang out.
We ended up parking, walking around, and hiking a small section of the Appalachian Trail northbound. From the outdoor center, the trail immediately climbs for a bit. Honestly, we didn’t even hike as far as we thought thanks to the elevation gain and the twists and turns of the trail, but that’s how it goes with most trails in the mountains. The scenery was beautiful though with a forest alternating in pines, rhododendrons, mountain laurel, and wildflowers. Looking out through the trees, you could faintly see some ridge lines that were burnt and regrowing from last year’s wildfires.
After hiking for a bit and grabbing some food, we drove further down the road where we parked and watched folks attempt to paddle their way down the fast moving river. Thanks to dedication marker, we realized that we need look no further for the Nantahala Gorge because we were actually in it.
It was a short trip overall, but an exciting one. I look forward to exploring even deeper into the Nantahala area as we barely scratched the surface.