Labor Day weekend in the US marks the unofficial end of summer and people love to celebrate over the long weekend. I wanted to go somewhere different and some place not too expensive which meant I didn’t want to fly. While browsing Pinterest, I saw a pin of the Nantahala National Forrest that caught my eye. I had been rafting there as a young child and always wanted to return, so thought this would be the perfect trip. As Erica already a prior commitment, I used this trip for some father/daughter bonding time.
We chose to drive to Chattanooga, TN the night before going to North Carolina. It’s a city we both really like spending time in. Neither one of us had ever stayed at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, so we decided this would be a great time to try it out. If you are worried about the price, know the courtyard is totally worth the price to stay. Even if you are not staying at the hotel, drop by for a visit because the courtyard is fantastic for people of any age.
We stayed one night and got up early the next day to get on the road to reach Dillsboro, NC where we stayed for the next few nights. It was a beautiful 4 hour drive that passed quickly. On the way, we passed the Ocoee River located in Tennessee in the Cherokee National Forest which we have already decided to visit next year.
I chose the Best Western Plus River Escape Inn & Suites for scenery and location, but it really exceeded my expectations. The property was quiet and had a quaint feeling and look with only 65 guest rooms. The highlight was the balcony overlooking the Tuckaseegee River, located of the breakfast room. When we were at the hotel, we spent our time on the balcony. The hotel is convenient to several great breweries and restaurants we had a chance to try. It is a 30 minute drive to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, where we took our rafting trip.
The Nantahala River is located on the Appalachian Trial in the Nantahala National Forest located in western North Carolina. The Forest is the largest of four National Forrests located in the state, covering more than 530,000 acres of terrain that varies in elevation from 5,800 to 1,200 feet. It is home to a large number of beautiful waterfalls and serves as a popular place for hiking, camping and white water activities.
The Nantahala River offers family friendly white water activities, with 8 miles of class II rapids and a few class III’s in the last mile. It is perfect for practically anyone including children 7 + , or those who weigh 60 + pounds. White water rafting, canoeing and kayaking are the most popular forms of white water activity on the river. If paddle boarding and/ or duck mobile rides are your thing, you will definitely have plenty of company on the river too!
Nantahala Outdoor Center
There are a plethora of outfitters in the area that can accommodate every white water excursion or need. For this guided rafting trip, I chose to book with the largest one, Nantahala Outdoor Center located in Bryson City, NC. It is a must visit for every outdoor enthusiast. The 500 acre campus offers both fully and self guided whitewater activities, ziplining, mountain biking and several others. There are also retail shops and restaurants to visit on property and nearby.
Depending on when you visit, we suggest buying tickets in advance online to avoid long lines. We arrived 20 minutes early which gave us plenty of time to check in at the Adventure Center, take some pictures and meet up with our rafting group. The rafting tour we chose says it is 3 hours, but one hour of that is on the ground- listening to instructions, watching a safety video, life vest checks, meeting rating group and guide and riding to the rafting site.
We spent 2 hours on the river which was just perfect. There were a total of 6 of us in the raft including the guide. If you do not want to get very wet, do not sit up front! There were a lot of people there with Go Pro’s, which this trip is perfect for. The river was really busy because it was a holiday weekend, but it never felt overly crowded. We saw a few birds, but not much other wildlife. The trip will take you past several campgrounds and houses, but otherwise the scenery consists the beautiful Nantahala NationL Forrest. If you would like to see a short video of our rafting trip, here’s the link: https://youtu.be/H7DQbcXALEQ.
- Take a change of clothes. There are changing facilities and you will most likely feel like changing afterwards, regardless if you get wet or stay dry.
- Leave as much as you can in the car, but they will hold keys and phones for you.
- Take the time to take in the scenery and enjoy yourself!