Maggie Valley NC: Best 5 things to do when you visit

A 180 degree panorama of Maggie Valley, North Carolina (photo by Wollwerth Imagery/stock.adobe.com)

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Nestled in the western mountains of North Carolina sits Maggie Valley, a tourism town that lost a race with Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Or, depending on your point of view, maybe it won after all.

Located about 30 miles from Gatlinburg, Tenn. and 40 miles west of Asheville, NC, Maggie Valley sits high up in the mountains of Western North Carolina in the Cataloochee Valley.

The Cataloochee Valley is known for elk viewing. The best time for seeing them is generally better in the early morning or evening.

Roughly 1,500 more feet above sea level, Maggie Valley is a mountain community at the nexus of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and a pair of national forests.

Specifically, it is known for its natural beauty, moonshine and a defunct tourist attraction that may very well become funct again.

At one time, bolstered by Ghost Town in the Sky, Maggie Valley was a legitimate rival to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. The race, however, wasn’t exactly fair.

At its high elevation, Maggie Valley had less room to spread out and less room for more attractions to support growing interest and traffic.

While it’s not entirely clear that Maggie Valley wanted a bigger slice of the tourism pie, geographically it would have been tough.

With much of Sevier County being mountain adjacent with room to grow, the competition was over before it really began.

Sevier County became a booming tourism mecca, and Maggie Valley became a cool place to stop on the way to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge.

Still, the higher elevations do provide certain advantages, not the least of which is the majestic views. Maggie Valley is absolutely gorgeous and offers a bit of the feeling of visiting the Smokies the way they used to be.

In fact, it is a great place to hike or just relax and watch the sunset. Wake up and grab breakfast at Joey’s Pancake House or enjoy mini golf at Fantasy Golf and Game Room if you want a fun attraction.

What is Maggie Valley known for?

Overall, Maggie Valley has a relaxing, more laid-back vibe.

Maggie Valley offers a short scenic drive to the other beautiful Haywood County towns of Canton, Clyde, Lake Junaluska and Waynesville.

All are a relatively easy, short drive from Asheville.

Seasonally, the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds offers events such as The Hillbilly Jam and car shows as well.

Maggie Valley is located in Haywood County. And the family adventure itinerary is complete with recommendations for fishing, horseback riding, planning a picnic and much more. Visit the Maggie Valley Visitor Center on Soco Rd. to learn more.

If you visit, here are some of our favorite things to do in Maggie Valley.

Vintage motorcycle in the Wheels Through Time museum
The Wheels Through Time Museum is a great attraction for car enthusiasts (photo by Jose Medeiros/shutterstock.com)

5. Visit the Wheels Through Time Museum

Maggie Valley is a great destination for motorcycle rallies and riders. The winding roads, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the scenic routes are perfect for large groups or individual riders.

As such, the Wheels Through Time Museum is a great place to stop, rest and recharge.

Open seasonally (usually opening in early April, always check the website and plan ahead before you go), the museum is in operation Thursday through Monday and features a wide variety of classic and rare American motorcycles.

For a true motorcycle aficionado, or for someone with an appreciation of vintage memorabilia, it’s a great place to stop.

Blue Ridge Parkway at sunset
Morning light on the Lynn Cove Viaduct along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina (photo by Anthony Heflin/shutterstock.com)

4. Ride the Blue Ridge Parkway

I recently learned the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in the area, is much longer than I ever knew.

In fact, It stretches 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina.

The official Blue Ridge Parkway website offers a variety of one or two-day drives to explore the communities in western North Carolina including Cherokee, Asheville and many others along the Parkway.

The 46-miles of the Parkway that runs through the county area is a massively popular tourism destination.

We do recommend gassing up before getting on the Parkway. The next station may be a ways down the road.

Soco Falls near Cherokee
Soco Falls is a great option for cooling off. But, always use caution around the falls since they can be slippery and dangerous (photo by Eifel Kreutz/stock.adobe.com

3. Go swimming

The North Carolina side of the mountains has many waterfalls to explore. For example, the Sunburst Swimming Hole is one of the best places to cool off in the area.

And it is popular among local kids and adults alike. Located near the Sunburst campground, the hole features two main swimming areas.

The fresh – and frigid – mountain water is perfect for a hot summer day.

Mouse Creek Falls and Soco Falls are also great options to cool off after you have made the trek to Sunburst.

Soco Falls, located between Maggie Valley and Cherokee, has an observation deck to view the falls and it is only a short walk from US Highway 19.

At a higher elevation than Sevier County, the temperatures are cooler in Maggie Valley. And swimming weather in Tennessee might be a bit chillier in North Carolina.

Still, once you acclimate yourself, the water’s fine. If the kids’ lips turn blue, take ‘em out and let them rest on a rock in the sun. They’ll warm right up.

Abandoned Ghost Town Village in Maggie Valley
Maggie Valley is best known for this defunct attraction (photo by Gregory Simpson/shutterstock.com)

2. Pray for Ghost Town in the Sky to reopen

A revival may be afoot for Maggie Valley’s most famous attraction, Ghost Town in the Sky. The way back for the former amusement park atop a mountain is long and the challenges are plenty.

Among those issues are adventurous vandals who sneak up the mountain and mess things up further.

Surely the current ownership group has enough problems without pesky kids making matters worse.

In fact, perhaps we should form an anti-vandalism squad. All we need is a guy dressing up like a ghost and it’s a Scooby Doo plot.

Bring your family, your dog and your Mystery Machine to Maggie Valley and put ’em on patrol. (I’m kidding. Please don’t do this).

Read Also: When will Ghost Town in the Sky reopen?

1. Get your shine on

Maggie Valley is known for its moonshine. The hometown of infamous outlaw moonshiner Popcorn Sutton, Maggie Valley is a place where the old ways are still appreciated.

Elevated Mountain Distillery is located in the heart of Maggie Valley.

Run by the descendants of old moonshiners, the distillery is carrying on a family tradition. Tours and tastings are available. For more information, visit their social media page.

Bonus: Go skiing or tubing

And finally, the Cataloochee Ski Area, featuring 18 slopes on 50 acres and also Tube World (in the winter) are open seasonally and offer great slopes for snow skiing and tubing.

There are snow-making operations on the mountain and it’s a great place to go and enjoy winter in the mountains.

What are your favorite things to do in western NC? Let us know in the comments!

Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.

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14 thoughts on “Maggie Valley NC: Best 5 things to do when you visit”

  1. My favorite place in the world. Very laid back, beautiful, and surrounded by numerous motorcycle trails that have some of the best views. Love my Maggie Valley!!❤

  2. Heaven on earth for me & my husband!
    We married at Miss Caroline’s wedding chapel in 2001. I spent most every year there for vacation growing up. Would love to see Ghost Town come back.

  3. Our family has been coming to Boyd Mtn cabins twice a year for over 10 years. We love the area, friendly people, beautiful mtns and Joey’s Pancake House. Best breakfast around, always long lines but worth the wait.

  4. Love Joey’s…. J Arthur’s.. Making day trips to Dillsboro and Pigeon Forge.. Visiting Maggie craft shops… Staying at Johnathon Creek Inn..

  5. I’d like to come for the craft stores and wonder if I can do them all in one day? Staying at my son’s in Russellville, TN.

  6. Taking my husband next week for a short trip. My grandmother was born in Maggie Valley and I am hoping to find out information about my family. She passed away during child birth so I never met her. If anyone knew Susie Clim who married Charlie Snowden in the late 1800? If you know the clim family? Thank you. Deb

  7. Maggie Valley Rock Shop and GemMine. So much Fun and my favorite Shopping spot.

  8. Hi Star, it’s great in fall and summer! Summer is a very popular time to visit the Smokies, but the NC side is usually not quite as crowded.

  9. I have grown weary of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. So crowded, and touristy. But, oh, I love the Smokies and surrounding area. I’ve never been to the North Carolina side. I’m in my 60’s, but still youthful. I wonder if I should book a cabin for mid May?

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