10 BEST Things to Do in Sylva, NC

Sylva is a special little destination of the North Carolina mountain towns and one of the best places to visit in North Carolina, if you like outdoor activities and fresh air that is!

Sylva is known for its iconic courthouse; an ascent to the entrance often offers an excellent photo op of the picturesque surroundings.

Sylva is well known as home to the only fly-fishing trail in the country on the Tuckasegee River, making this activity quite a draw. Whether you have a week or a quick weekend, there are plenty of things to do in Sylva to fill your time with plenty of adventures and memories.

Best things To Do In Sylva NC

1. Follow the Jackson County Ale Trail

Lazy Hiker Brewing and Taproom
Image by Lazy Hiker Brewing and Taproom / Things To Do In Sylva NC
  • Address: 188 W Main St, Franklin (GPS)
  • Style: Brewery, Taproom
  • Hours: Monday – Friday:11:30 am – 10:00 pm, Friday: 10: 00 am- 11:00 pm,
    Saturday: 11:30 pm- 9:00 pm
  • Website: Lazy Hiker Brewing and Taproom

There are four breweries and taprooms in Sylva and they make up the majority of the Jackson County Ale Trail. Innovation Brewing Company has 25 brews on tap while Balsam Falls Brewing offers beers made with local ingredients. 

Lazy Hiker Brewing and Taproom is just as the name suggests – a perfect place to end a long day of hiking. Nantahala Brewing Company features unique brews made with water straight from the Great Smoky Mountains. 

Combine these four great establishments with the two breweries in nearby Cashiers and Dillsboro and you’ve completed the entire Jackson County Ale Trail. You can grab a map at the downtown Visitors Center to help you get from one brewery to the next or you can wing it on your own without the map and get to know the area better along the way. 

2. Climb the Summit of Blackrock Mountain

Blackrock Mountain
  • Address: Black Rock Rd, Sylva (GPS)

There are many hikes around the Sylva area but one of the best ones, if you want to get an all-in-one experience, is Blackrock Mountain. Climb 5,810 feet to the summit where you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the river, mountains and forest below.

The hike is challenging but those views and the opportunity to immerse in the natural surroundings of the area make it all worthwhile. 

3. Visit the Jackson County Courthouse

Jackson County Courthouse
Image by AbeEzekowitz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Things To Do In Sylva NC
  • Address: 401 Grindstaff Cove Rd, Sylva (GPS)
  • Hours: Monday- Friday: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm, Saturday – Sunday: Closed

If there’s one building in Sylva that sticks out from the rest, it would have to be the Jackson County Courthouse. This historic brick building atop a hill is quite grand with its many steps, plaza and fountain all before you even reach the actual courthouse!  

The courthouse is still in use today and you can explore the inside on your own during regular business hours.  On-site, you’ll also find the Veteran’s Memorial site.

4. Discover the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

One of the top attractions in North Carolina and in the Eastern United States is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Sylva is the perfect place to make your base if you plan to explore this beautiful area and its incredible biodiversity.  

As you explore the park, you’ll come across alpine and hardwood forests, waterfalls, ridges and fields of wildflowers, and many plants and animals. Many historic buildings paint a picture of what the area was like in the past. 

There’s no entrance fee to explore this park but there are fees for anyone wishing to park for extended periods within the park’s borders. 

5. Hang out at Monteith Farmstead and Community Park

Monteith Farmstead and Community Park
Image by Warren LeMay via flickr / Things To Do In Sylva NC
  • Address: 316 1381 Hometown Pl, Sylva (GPS)
  • Hours: Monday – Sunday: 8: 00 am – 6:00 pm

Monteith Farmstead is more than just a community park; it’s a scenic place surrounded by nature that makes for the perfect escape away from everyday life and it’s also steeped in fascinating history.  

Inside this beautiful green space, you’ll find a hiking trail to the top of a hill with views of the creek below and picnicking facilities so you can enjoy your lunch outdoors. 

Make sure to check out the historic refurbished farmhouse from the 1800s which is now home to chickens, goats and a garden.  

6. Explore the Downtown District

Sylva Downtown District
Image by Warren LeMay from Covington, KY, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the best ways to learn about a new town is to take a walk around the downtown area and fortunately, Sylva has a highly walkable downtown district with many fascinating things to see! Your first stop should be the Visitors Office where you can get all the information you need to get the most out of your visit. 

As you explore the area, you’ll find a variety of bookstores, cafes, Sylva restaurants, boutique shops, galleries and breweries.  Notable attractions include the town’s welcome mural and Bridge Park where you’ll find the nine-foot statue of Harriet Tubman. During Christmastime Downtown Sylva hosts an elaborate Christmas parade with live entertainment and visits from Mr. Claus.

7. Check out the American Museum of the House Cat

American Museum of the House Cat
Image by American Museum of the House Cat / Things To Do In Sylva NC
  • Address: 5063 US-441, Sylva (GPS)

It’s not every day you find a museum dedicated to house cats but if you’re a cat lover, you’ll love the American Museum of the House Cat in Sylva! The museum has the largest collection of cat artifacts and memorabilia on earth and immersing in the many exhibits is a great way to learn about the history of house cats and how they came to be a beloved pet for millions around the world. 

Among the 5,000 or so items, you’ll find rare collectibles, antiques and even an ancient statue thought to be more than 2,000 years old. It costs $7.50 per adult to tour the museum and you’ll be glad to know that the money collected goes towards the operation of the affiliated no-kill cat shelter. 

8. Go Hiking in Pinnacle Park

Pinnacle Park

If you’re seeking a nice hike that’s not too easy but also not too hard and just the right length, the hiking trail in Pinnacle Park just might be the perfect outdoorsy outing for you! 

It’s seven miles return and although there are some steep ascents, the views are worth the effort. Bubbling streams, stunning waterfalls and picturesque valleys are just some of the sights you’ll enjoy along the way. 

9. Take a Scenic Road Trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway

blue ridge parkway

You don’t have to drive along the entire 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway to get the most out of this epic journey.  Go as far as you want but rest assured that no matter how far you go, you’ll see incredible vistas consisting of mountains and forest.  

You’ll also be able to observe a variety of plants and animals.  Watch for overlooks and resting places where you’ll see some of the best views and have the best opportunities to safely get some photos. 

10. Participate in a range of Outdoor Activities at the Nantahala Outdoor Center

Nantahala Outdoor Center
Image by Nantahala Outdoor Center / Things To Do In Sylva NC
  • Address: 13077 U.S. 19 West, Bryson City (GPS)
  • Hours: Sunday- Thursday: 8:00-6:00 pm, Saturday- Friday: 8:00 am- 7:00 pm
  • Cost of Admission: For ticket information per adventure, check here.

Nantahala Outdoor Center is one of the most popular attractions in the Sylva area.  It’s actually situated in nearby Bryson City but it’s worth the short drive. Once there, you can participate in a variety of activities including white water rafting and kayaking. 

On-site, you’ll also find The Mountaintop Zipline Tour and the Zipline Adventure Park which features 16 high-flying courses. Kids love the Treetop Adventure Nets at the aerial playground and the onsite shops and restaurants mean you can have fun, get some souvenir shopping done and enjoy a delicious meal all in one shot! 


About Natasha

Natasha moved to North Carolina for college years ago (but she's not trying to age herself here). Her days were spent reading a book on the beach and enjoying a cold glass of sweet tea in between classes at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Upon graduation, she met her partner, Cameron, and they traveled the world together crossing 85 countries and seven continents. After, many years of international travel they settled down a bit and launched Lost in the Carolinas to share their experiences about and travel tips on South Carolina and North Carolina.

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