North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail In North Carolina

Here is everything you need to know about the North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: North Carolina
  • Length: 167 miles.
  • Type: Water trail.
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Managed By: North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
  • Permit Required?: No
  • Website:

The North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail holds a rich historical significance that dates back centuries. The region was originally inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Cherokee, who relied on the rivers and waterways for transportation, trade, and sustenance. These tribes recognized the value of the rivers and their surrounding lands, which provided them with abundant resources and a means of connecting with neighboring tribes.

European settlers arrived in the area during the 18th century, bringing with them a desire to explore and exploit the natural resources of the region. The rivers and streams of the Smoky Mountains became vital transportation routes for settlers, enabling them to establish communities and trade with other settlements. The rivers also played a crucial role in the logging industry, as timber was transported downstream to mills and markets.

During the early 20th century, the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park brought about significant changes to the region. The park was created in 1934 and covers a vast area of the Smoky Mountains, preserving its natural beauty and protecting its diverse wildlife. The establishment of the park led to the relocation of many families who had lived in the area for generations, as their homes and lands were incorporated into the park boundaries.

Today, the North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail serves as a reminder of the historical importance of the rivers and waterways in this region. It allows visitors to explore the same routes that were once used by Native Americans, settlers, and loggers, providing a unique opportunity to connect with the past and appreciate the natural and cultural heritage of the Smoky Mountains.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Fontana Dam: Located on the southwestern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Fontana Dam is a major access point for the North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail. It offers parking, boat ramps, and facilities for visitors.

2. Bryson City: This charming town serves as a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is a popular access point for the Blueways Trail. It provides various amenities, including parking, boat rentals, and river access.

3. Deep Creek: Situated near Bryson City, Deep Creek is another access point for the North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail. It offers parking, picnic areas, and a campground, making it a great spot for outdoor enthusiasts.

4. Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC): Located on the Nantahala River, the NOC is a renowned outdoor recreation center and a major access point for the Blueways Trail. It provides parking, boat rentals, guided trips, and other amenities.

5. Almond Boat Park: Situated on the shores of Fontana Lake, Almond Boat Park is a popular access point for the Blueways Trail. It offers parking, boat ramps, and facilities for visitors.

6. Lakeview Drive: This access point is located on the northern shore of Fontana Lake and provides parking and boat ramps for those looking to explore the Blueways Trail.

7. Cable Cove Recreation Area: Situated on the southern shore of Fontana Lake, Cable Cove Recreation Area is another access point for the Blueways Trail. It offers parking, boat ramps, and camping facilities.

8. Tsali Recreation Area: Located near the town of Bryson City, Tsali Recreation Area is a popular access point for the Blueways Trail. It provides parking, boat ramps, and camping facilities.

9. Stecoah Gap: Situated in the Nantahala National Forest, Stecoah Gap is an access point for the Blueways Trail. It offers parking and access to the Little Tennessee River.

10. Fontana Village Resort: This resort is located on the southern shore of Fontana Lake and serves as an access point for the Blueways Trail. It provides parking, boat rentals, and other amenities for visitors.

Transportation Available

1. Smoky Mountain Transit – Public transportation service offering bus routes throughout the Smoky Mountain region.
2. Asheville Regional Airport – Commercial airport serving the area with domestic flights.
3. Cherokee Transit – Shuttle service providing transportation within the Cherokee Indian Reservation.
4. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad – Scenic train rides through the Smoky Mountains.
5. Asheville Greyhound Station – Bus station offering long-distance transportation options.
6. Asheville Rideshare – Carpooling service connecting individuals traveling to and from Asheville.
7. Waynesville Taxi – Local taxi service in the Waynesville area.
8. Maggie Valley Shuttle – Shuttle service catering to visitors in the Maggie Valley region.
9. Bryson City Shuttle – Shuttle service operating in and around Bryson City.
10. Fontana Marina Shuttle – Shuttle service providing transportation to and from Fontana Marina.


The North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail offers several amenities for visitors. Some of the amenities available at the trail include:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available at various points along the trail for visitors’ convenience.

2. Parking: There are designated parking areas provided for visitors to park their vehicles while accessing the trail.

3. Camping Sites: The trail offers camping sites for those who wish to spend the night in the area. These sites may have facilities such as fire pits, picnic tables, and access to water.

4. Picnic Areas: There are designated picnic areas along the trail where visitors can enjoy a meal or have a picnic with family and friends. These areas may have picnic tables, grills, and trash receptacles.

5. Boat Launches: The trail provides boat launches for those who wish to explore the waterways by boat. These launches allow easy access to the water for kayaks, canoes, or other small watercraft.

6. Fishing Spots: The North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail is known for its fishing opportunities. There are designated fishing spots along the trail where visitors can try their luck at catching various fish species.

7. Hiking Trails: In addition to the water activities, the trail also offers hiking trails for those who prefer to explore the surrounding land. These trails may vary in difficulty and length, providing options for different skill levels.

8. Wildlife Viewing Areas: The trail passes through areas rich in wildlife, and there are designated viewing areas where visitors can observe and appreciate the local flora and fauna.

9. Interpretive Signage: Throughout the trail, there may be interpretive signage providing information about the history, ecology, and significance of the area. These signs offer educational opportunities for visitors.

Please note that specific amenities may vary depending on the exact location and section of the North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail. It is recommended to check with local authorities or trail management for the most up-to-date information on amenities available at specific points along the trail.

Nearby Services

1. Lodging:
– Smoky Mountain Meadows Campground: Campground offering RV and tent sites near the trail.
– Fontana Village Resort: Resort with cabins and lodge rooms located near Fontana Lake.
– Nantahala Outdoor Center: Outdoor adventure center providing cabins and camping options.
– Deep Creek Tube Center & Campground: Campground and tube rental facility near Deep Creek.

2. Food Services:
– The Hub: Restaurant and bike shop offering food and drinks.
– The Filling Station Deli & Sub Shop: Deli serving sandwiches and subs.
– The Bistro at the Everett Hotel: Upscale restaurant located in Bryson City.
– The Iron Skillet: Family-friendly restaurant serving American cuisine.

3. Emergency Services:
– Swain County Hospital: Local hospital providing emergency medical services.
– Bryson City Fire Department: Fire department serving the Bryson City area.
– Swain County Sheriff’s Office: Law enforcement agency responsible for the safety of the area.
– Bryson City Police Department: Local police department serving Bryson City.

North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail Difficulty Notes

The North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail offers a challenging and exhilarating experience for outdoor enthusiasts. With its rugged terrain and varying water conditions, navigating this trail requires a certain level of skill and physical fitness. Paddlers must be prepared to encounter swift currents, rocky sections, and occasional rapids, which can pose a challenge even for experienced kayakers and canoeists. Additionally, the trail’s length and remote location demand careful planning and self-sufficiency, as access points and amenities may be limited. However, for those seeking a thrilling adventure amidst breathtaking natural beauty, the difficulty level of the North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail only adds to its allure.

Features And Attractions

The North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail offers a variety of scenic views, historical sites, natural landmarks, and more. Here are some notable attractions along the trail:

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park: This iconic national park is known for its stunning mountain vistas, diverse wildlife, and numerous hiking trails.

2. Fontana Lake: A picturesque reservoir surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains, offering opportunities for boating, fishing, and scenic drives.

3. Clingmans Dome: The highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, providing panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

4. Deep Creek: A popular spot for tubing, hiking, and picnicking, featuring waterfalls and beautiful forested areas.

5. Oconaluftee Visitor Center: Located near the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this visitor center offers exhibits on the park’s history, culture, and natural resources.

6. Mingus Mill: A historic gristmill built in 1886, showcasing traditional milling techniques and offering guided tours.

7. Cataloochee Valley: A remote valley within the national park, known for its historic buildings, elk population, and scenic beauty.

8. Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest: A preserved old-growth forest with towering trees, including some of the largest poplars in the eastern United States.

9. Soco Falls: A double waterfall located near the Blue Ridge Parkway, accessible via a short hike.

10. Blue Ridge Parkway: While not directly part of the Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail, this scenic road runs through the region, offering breathtaking views, hiking trails, and access to various attractions.

These are just a few examples of the many scenic views, historical sites, and natural landmarks you can explore along the North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail.

Usage Guidelines

1. Pets are allowed on the North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail but must be kept on a leash at all times.
2. There may be designated areas along the trail where pets are not allowed, so please follow any posted signs or instructions.
3. The trail is open year-round, but certain sections may have seasonal restrictions or closures due to weather conditions or maintenance work. Check for any updates or closures before planning your visit.
4. Camping is allowed in designated areas along the trail, but make sure to follow any specific rules or guidelines set by the campground or park authorities.
5. Fishing is permitted in certain areas of the trail, but a valid fishing license may be required. Check with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission for any specific regulations or restrictions.
6. Swimming or other water activities are allowed in designated areas, but always exercise caution and follow any safety guidelines provided.
7. Littering is strictly prohibited. Please pack out any trash and leave the trail and surrounding areas clean.
8. Respect the natural environment and wildlife along the trail. Do not disturb or harm any plants or animals.
9. Bicycles and non-motorized watercraft are allowed on the trail, but motorized vehicles are generally prohibited.
10. Be aware of any additional rules or guidelines specific to individual sections or access points of the North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail.

Seasonal Information

The North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail is a stunning destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. The best times of the year to visit this trail are during the spring and fall seasons. In the spring, the trail comes alive with vibrant wildflowers and blooming trees, creating a picturesque landscape. The weather during this time is generally mild and pleasant, making it ideal for hiking, kayaking, and other outdoor activities.

Fall is another fantastic time to explore the North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail. The foliage transforms into a breathtaking display of reds, oranges, and yellows, attracting visitors from all over. The crisp air and cooler temperatures make it perfect for hiking and enjoying the scenic beauty of the trail. Additionally, the fall season offers a quieter and less crowded experience compared to the summer months.

It’s important to note that the North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail may have seasonal closures or restrictions. During the winter months, some sections of the trail may be inaccessible due to snow or ice. It’s advisable to check with local authorities or the trail management before planning a visit during this time. Additionally, certain areas of the trail may have closures or limited access during hunting seasons for safety reasons. Being aware of these closures and restrictions will ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience while exploring the trail.


1. Accessible Parking: Designated parking spaces are available near the trailhead, providing convenient access for individuals with disabilities.
2. Accessible Restrooms: Wheelchair-accessible restrooms are located at various points along the trail, ensuring comfort and convenience for all visitors.
3. Paved Pathways: The trail features paved pathways, allowing individuals using wheelchairs or mobility aids to navigate the trail with ease.
4. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas along the trail are designed to accommodate individuals with disabilities, providing accessible seating and tables.
5. Accessible Fishing Piers: Wheelchair-accessible fishing piers are available along the trail, allowing individuals with disabilities to enjoy fishing activities.
6. Accessible Boat Launches: The trail offers accessible boat launches, enabling individuals with disabilities to easily launch their watercraft and enjoy the waterways.
7. Accessible Viewing Areas: Scenic viewpoints along the trail are designed to be accessible, providing individuals with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
8. Accessible Interpretive Signs: Informational signs along the trail are designed to be accessible, featuring braille or large print for individuals with visual impairments.
9. Accessible Trailhead Facilities: The trailhead facilities are equipped with accessible ramps, entrances, and amenities to ensure equal access for all visitors.
10. Accessible Camping Areas: Campgrounds along the trail offer accessible campsites and facilities, allowing individuals with disabilities to enjoy overnight stays in nature.

Safety Information

1. Plan and prepare: Research the trail, check weather conditions, and pack essential safety gear.
2. Water safety: Wear a life jacket, be aware of changing water levels, and avoid strong currents.
3. Sun protection: Apply sunscreen, wear a hat and sunglasses, and seek shade during peak sun hours.
4. Insect precautions: Use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and check for ticks after hiking.
5. Wildlife awareness: Respect wildlife, keep a safe distance, and store food securely to avoid attracting animals.
6. Trail conditions: Be cautious of slippery rocks, fallen trees, and other hazards along the trail.
7. Hiking with a buddy: It’s safer to hike with a partner, but if hiking alone, inform someone of your plans.
8. Emergency communication: Carry a fully charged cell phone, a whistle, and know the emergency contact numbers.
9. Leave no trace: Pack out all trash, respect the environment, and leave the trail as you found it.
10. First aid: Carry a basic first aid kit and know how to treat minor injuries or illnesses on the trail.
11. Weather monitoring: Stay updated on weather forecasts and be prepared for sudden changes in conditions.
12. Trail markers: Pay attention to trail markers and signs to avoid getting lost or straying off the designated path.
13. Respect private property: Stay on public access areas and respect private property boundaries.
14. Water quality: Check for any advisories or warnings regarding water quality before swimming or drinking from natural sources.
15. Physical fitness: Assess your fitness level and choose trails that match your abilities to avoid overexertion or injury.

Conservation Notes

The North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail is a significant natural resource that requires conservation efforts to ensure its long-term sustainability. As a designated blueway trail, it encompasses a network of waterways, including rivers, lakes, and streams, that are vital habitats for numerous plant and animal species. The conservation status of this trail is of utmost importance to protect the biodiversity and ecological integrity of the region.

Efforts are being made to conserve the North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail through various means. One crucial aspect of conservation is the preservation of water quality. Pollution prevention measures are being implemented to minimize the impact of human activities on the waterways. This includes promoting responsible recreational activities, such as boating and fishing, to prevent the introduction of pollutants and invasive species.

Additionally, habitat restoration and protection initiatives are being undertaken to maintain the natural balance of the ecosystem along the trail. This involves the preservation of riparian zones, which are critical for filtering pollutants, preventing erosion, and providing habitat for wildlife. Conservation organizations and government agencies are working together to restore degraded areas and protect sensitive habitats, ensuring the survival of native species that rely on the blueways trail for their survival.

Overall, the conservation status of the North Carolina Smoky Mountain Blueways Trail is a priority for environmental organizations and local communities. By implementing measures to preserve water quality and protect habitats, the trail can continue to serve as a valuable resource for both wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts for generations to come.

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