Road Trip of Rarities 21-25

Road Trip of Rarities 21-25

21. Grandfather Mountain’s Mile-High Swinging Bridge - Linville

There are many great vistas in Western North Carolina, but there’s no denying that Grandfather Mountain’s Mile-High Swinging Bridge is both unique and possessed of a spectacular view. True, Charles Kuralt once poked at his old friend Hugh Morton, the mountain’s former owner and the bridge’s builder, by facetiously pointing out that the chasm directly below the bridge was only eighty feet deep, arguing that the bridge wasn’t really a mile high. Morton was mortified, but Charles Kuralt exaggerated, of course. In fact, Grandfather Mountain’s views are legendary because the mountain towers very close to a vertical mile over the nearby Piedmont, a rare drop-off in the east much more akin to the Rockies. Best of all, if the grand view from the bridge isn’t enough, you can always hit the Grandfather Trail on one of the area's great adventure hikes. You’ll climb ladders up cliffs to the teetering, acrophobia inducing, boulder-capped summit of MacRae Peak in Grandfather Mountain State Park. When early explorer Andre Michaux reached these peaks in 1794, he burst into song.

22. Linville Caverns - Linville Falls

Just a few miles below the town of Linville Falls and the Blue Ridge Parkway on US 221, you can switch from going downhill to under the hill with a stop at Linville Caverns. This is the state's only commercial cavern, and it’s a designated North Carolina Natural Heritage Area. It was discovered in the mid-1800s by a future state geologist of Tennessee, and with the addition of walkways and lighting, was opened to the public in 1937. It’s never too hot in the surrounding High Country, but if you do come visit during a scorcher, the caverns are a climatologically cool option at 52 degrees.

Museum of the Cherokee Indian.

23. Oconaluftee Indian Village - Cherokee 

Cherokee sits in the largest Indian reservation in eastern America, and it’s one of WNC’s premier destinations. There’s no better place to appreciate eastern America's Native American history and culture than the Oconaluftee Indian Village, a re-creation of a 1760s Cherokee village. Visitors see hands-on demonstrations of daily life tasks and technology, with stereotype-debunking reconstructions of Cherokee dwellings. Glimpsing the reality of Cherokee life as European settlers arrived is a nice prelude to other Cherokee cultural experiences; the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and outdoor drama Unto These Hills.

24. Collettsville Cup House - Caldwell County

Endless coffee mugs may not be your cup of tea, especially if you’re one of those folks whose cupboards are overflowing with unused logo-emblazoned relics. That may have inspired the quirky destination known as the Colletsville Cup House, a cabin where, apparently, someone started hanging their mugs outside wherever they could. You’d never see this place if you weren’t going there, but a few nearby points of interest make a visit even more worthwhile. Check out the nearby Pisgah National Forest’s vast dirt road-laced Wilson Creek area not far from Collettsville. The super scenic gorge of Wilson Creek is carved by a National Wild and Scenic River. The 130-year old classic, Coffey’s General Store and Museum, is open again (half day on Friday and weekends). The entire Wilson Creek watershed is one of North Carolina’s best trout fishing areas, one reason why the store houses a satellite exhibit from the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians. Caldwell County’s Wilson Creek Visitor Center is a must-see.

25. The Swag Country Inn - Waynesville

It’s well worth a twisty drive to stay at one of the country’s most outstanding mountain inns. The Swag is a magical collection of virgin-forest log cabins perched a cool mile-high above cloud-filled views of Maggie Valley, just feet from the boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Swag is all about nature. Trails beckon everywhere on the 250-acre parcel, and wonderfully private little nooks the resort calls “hideaways” invite guests to pause and ponder. 

Hikers will love the inn’s trail-oriented culture. During the spring to fall season, experts and naturalists engage guests with interpretive programs and guided hikes. A tree trunk holds hiking staffs (with a wooden name medallion for each guest) inviting you to grab yours and go on a hike. Guided walks often visit Ferguson Cabin (the park’s highest historic log cabin) and nearby Hemphill Bald, a spectacular view from a hard-to-reach Smokies summit that is a moderate hike from the inn.

Beyond a stunning setting, the Swag has a national reputation for fine dining. Staying at the inn’s cottages and lodges won't be cheap, but it won’t be easily forgotten either.