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. 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 area is known for elk viewing. The best time for seeing them is generally 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 some hope could become funct again. At least in some form.
Subscribe to our newsletter for area news, coupons and discounts
Maggie Valley’s geographical location
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 gorgeous and offers a bit of the feeling of visiting the Smokies the way they used to be. Specifically, it’s 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.
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 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 someone with an appreciation of vintage memorabilia, it’s a great place to stop.
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. 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 certainly 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 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. But 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 surely warm right up.
2. Pray for Ghost Town in the Sky to reopen
A revival is often rumored for Maggie Valley’s most famous attraction, Ghost Town in the Sky. But, the way back to 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. 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 of course. 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. 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 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!