North Carolina Mountains Outdoors

On the Water


Some of the best trout fishing in the state can be found within the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests, where rainbows, browns, and brookies lurk beneath the surface, ready to test your angling skills. If you prefer quiet waters, there are numerous lakes and ponds available for going after largemouth bass and bream.

With nearly 500 miles of fishable streams in the Smokies, the main question is where to start. The Cataloochee Creek System takes anglers into one of the most remote sections of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where they can sample a smorgasbord of trout streams. Located off the established tourist path, this "Forgotten Far East" has limited facilities—a ranger station and a primitive campground (28 stream-side campsites)—but a well-developed trail system. Set up basecamp and head toward your desired trout-filled tributary on foot.


If you're a paddling enthusiast in the Mountains region of North Carolina, you've come to the right place. Rugged hillsides, pastoral meadows, and bucolic farmlands surround the South Fork of the New River; it is North America's oldest river, one of the first American Heritage Rivers, and a National and State Wild and Scenic River as well. Three state-maintained parks along the slow and placid New (each a day's canoe ride apart) offer picnicking and primitive camping; the riverbanks are fertile and blanketed with wildflowers.

Hidden way back in the mountains of North Carolina, the remote and free-flowing Nolichucky River challenges paddlers with Class III-IV whitewater. Unlike many eastern paddling runs, the Nolichucky has no upstream dam to regulate its water level. Rafters take their chances when planning a trip, as the 110-mile river may vary between a dangerous flood and an unfloatable trickle.

As a dam-controlled river with world-class whitewater, the Class II-III Nantahala is probably the most popular run in the Tar Heel State. When the water is released, the river gushes through the dramatic Nantahala River Gorge and tumbles toward Lake Fontana in a mad rush, carrying rafts, canoes, and kayaks alike on a nine-mile roller coaster.

For seriously rollicking rapids, head for the North Fork of the French Broad River; say your prayers as the force of Class V whitewater sends you tumbling down waterfalls and through a breathtaking gorge. The beautiful, 116-mile French Broad offers more peaceful paddling as well; enjoy flat-water canoeing, kayaking, and tubing both north and south of Asheville. An ideal basecamp for outdoor adventures, this quirky, laid-back town will satisfy your need for good food, music, and art.

While in Asheville, don't miss a tour of the Biltmore Estate, the largest private home in America. This National Historic Landmark boasts 8,000 acres surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and includes gardens, shops, restaurants, an award-winning winery, and 250 rooms.

Published: 3 May 2002 | Last Updated: 13 Jul 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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