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 as the crow flies, Maggie Valley sits high up in the mountains of Western North Carolina.
Roughly 1,500 more feet above sea level, Maggie Valley is a mountain community at the nexus of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and a pair of national forests.
It’s known for 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 the higher 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.
If you go, here are some of our favorite things to do in Maggie Valley.
5. Wheels Through Time Museum
Maggie Valley is a great destination for motorcycle 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 Monday through Thursday and features a wide variety of classic and unique motorcycles.
For a true motorcycle aficionado, or for someone with an appreciation of vintage items, it’s a great place to stop.
4. Ride the Blue Ridge Parkway
I recently learned the Blue Ridge Parkway is much longer than I ever knew, stretching 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 along the Parkway.
Maggie Valley is located in Haywood County, North Carolina and the family adventure itinerary is complete with recommendations for fishing, horseback riding, picnicking and more.
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.
3. Go swimming
The Sunburst Swimming Hole is one of the best places to cool off and is popular among local kids and adults alike. Located near the Sunburst campground, the hole features two main swimming areas with fresh – and frigid – mountain water perfect for a hot summer day.
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 rest on a rock in the sun. They’ll warm right up.
2. Pray for Ghost Town in the Sky to finally reopen
A revival is 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. The current ownership group has enough problems without pesky kids making matters worse.
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).
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.
Check out Elevated Mountain Distilling for a safe and, quite importantly, legal moonshine operation. With its high elevation, the distiller uses its available supply of the freshest mountain water on the eastern seaboard.
Run by the descendants of old moonshiners, Elevated Mountain Distilling is carrying on a family tradition. Tours and tastings are available by booking on their website.
Bonus: Go skiing/tubing
The Cataloochee Ski Area is open seasonally and offers great 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 Maggie Valley? Let us know in the comments!