U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Nantahala National Forest

North Carolina

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Forest Information

The Nantahala (nan-ta-hala) National Forest, located in southwestern North Carolina, is comprised of 516,000 acres. There are ten developed campgrounds, eight of which met the selection criteria.

The Nantahala (Cherokee for "land of noon day sun") National Forest is composed of ancient mountains reaching upwards as if to catch any unwary passing cloud. To escape, the cloud must give up some of its rain to the Nantahala. It is this water that promotes the diversity of recreational opportunities and camping locations found in the National Forest.

The Nantahala has an abundance of beautiful waterfalls, particularly in the Highland Ranger District. However, the Nantahala Gorge most frequently attracts visitors who prefer to be in and challenge the water's power rather than observe its splendor. A mecca for whitewater rafting and kayaking (equipment and guides are available only commercially, contact the Forest Service for information), the Nantahala Gorge is busy from "can-see" to "can't see" each day of the summer. For those who enjoy a more leisurely paced atop water, Fontana and Santeetlah Lakes offer many inlets and baylets to explore. These lakes also offer a wide variety of fish for the angler. Rainbow trout is stocked in many of the fast flowing streams during the cooler months and elusive native trout can be found there too.

The Appalachian Trail, grandfather of all hiking trails, meanders throughout the Nantahala but so are many other trails. The two-mile Whiteside Mountain Trail offers a panoramic view of valley and distant mountain peaks from atop its magnificent, sheer 750 foot cliffs. Several hikes of various lengths near the Standing Indian campground offer the hiker an opportunity to enjoy rhododendron-lined streams with rapids and waterfalls.

Second to "foot-traffic only" hiking trails within the Nantahala are its multi-use trails. The beauty, variety and challenge designed into these trails have made them very popular with horseback riders, mountain bikers, and off-road vehicle users. Perhaps the most popular of the multi-use trails are found near the Tsali campground. The campground, named after a courageous Cherokee, has become so popular with mountain bikers and horseback-riders, each group is given specific days when they can use the trails. While open to recreational vehicles (RV) and motorhome camping enthusiasts, many Tsali's camp sites are better suited to car and tent campers.

The range of family camping experiences found in the Nantahala National Forest can be seen by comparing Jackrabbit Mountain campground to the Horse Cove campground. Located on Chatuge Lake, just a few miles north of the Georgia and North Carolina state line, Jackrabbit Mountain campground is a series of camping loops. Each loop is RV and motorhome friendly and has views of the Lake, flush toilets and a beautifully manicured feel to it. A white sandy beach, open fields and forest to explore, make this campground a delightful experience for the whole family. Horse Cove campground, great for car and tent camping enthusiasts, offers a much more rustic camping experience with only a handful of sites and a couple of fast flowing streams nearby. But the campground is only a short distance from the Joyce Kilmer (author of the poem, "Trees") Memorial Forest and the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness. The influence of this Wilderness can be felt in the campground's rugged beauty, cathedral silences, and magnificent trees. Less developed and so close to the Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, this campground inspires daydreams of Daniel Boone and Cherokee hunting parties.

One of the problems with a visit to the Nantahala National Forest is narrowing the recreational opportunities down to fit your schedule. The beauty of the forest, the magnificent views, the spectacular sights, and the physical challenges offered by the diverse recreational opportunities, will make the Nantahala National Forest a place you will want to visit again and again.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 160A Zillicoa St. Asheville, North Carolina 28801 828-257-4200 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES Cheoah Rt. 1, Box 16-A Robbinsville, North Carolina 28771 828-479-6431 Nantahala 90 Sloan Rd. Franklin, North Carolina 28734 828-524-6441 Tusquitee 123 Woodland Dr. Murphy, North Carolina 28906 828-837-5152

Fred and Suzi Dow