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There are many beautiful places to see and explore in the U.S., but there are few places that compare to the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau in Western North Carolina. A North Carolina travel guide is just what you need to learn about this area and everything else that makes North Carolina a top vacation destination.

You’ll need a North Carolina travel guide about the Great Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, how to get to North Carolina, how many seasons you can experience, what the state is known for, and everything that makes North Carolina a popular and unique vacation destination.

What is the Number One Tourist Attraction in North Carolina?

what is the number one tourist attraction in north carolina

When we think of North Carolina, it’s hard not to think of majestic and serene places like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Every North Carolina travel guide should cover these impressive landmarks. You’ll also need a complete packing list for a mountain vacation guide.

North Carolina, and especially Western North Carolina, is also home to temperate rain forests and waterfalls. The mountains may be a top attraction, but you’ll soon find yourself wanting to make time to visit these other natural treasures as well.

The Nantahala National Forest is in Western North Carolina and it has the honor of being the largest of the four national forests in the state. Nantahala is Cherokee for land of the noon day sun. It was given this name because the sun only reaches the valley floor at midday. There’s camping, water rafting, 600 miles of hiking trails, and more.

Also be sure to check out Judaculla Rock in Sylva and Sassy Sunflowers Bakery and Café in Cherokee.

Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains are known for many things, but did you know they are home to the salamander capital of the world? There’s also an impressive number of other species and over a hundred native trees.

The Highlands-Cashiers Plateau is one of the few places left in the U.S. with an intact old-growth hemlock forest. The Carolina hemlock is extremely rare. If you spot some, let us know!

Bird watchers will love knowing that the park is home to 200 types of birds, 80 reptiles and amphibians, 67 mammals and 67 types of fish.

The Smoky Mountains are also among some of the oldest mountains in the world.

Blue Ridge Mountains

Every North Carolina travel guide should include the Blue Ridge Mountains. Driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway is a great way to experience this impressive mountain range. The parkway ends in North Carolina and begins in Virginia. It’s a perfect way to spend a day trip on your next North Carolina vacation.

Did you know that the Blue Ridge Mountains extend into South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland? Part of the Appalachian Mountain chain, the mountains get their color from an organic compound emitted from trees called isoprene.

When released into the atmosphere, it creates the famous blue haze over the mountains.

What States Do You Go Through to Get to North Carolina?

If you’re taking the Blue Ridge Parkway to North Carolina, you could drive through Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and South Carolina.

Whichever direction you’re coming from, you can’t go wrong if you’ve decided to drive to North Carolina for your next vacation. For one, you’ll have your own car to use while you’re here. The views along the way are also one of our favorite parts about a road trip to North Carolina.

The state is bordered by four states and the Atlantic Ocean. Virginia is North Carolina’s northern neighbor, the Atlantic Ocean borders it to the east, Georgia and South Carolina to the south, and Tennessee to the west.

What is NC Famous For?

North Carolina is known for a lot of things; you’ll have no problem finding something to do on your next vacation.

What is North Carolina famous for?

  • Visit the site of the first flight where the Wright brothers plane changed the course of history forever. It’s located at 1000 North Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills, NC.
  • Tour the iconic Biltmore Estate & Gardens, built by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s
  • Visit the Great Smokies
  • Explore the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway
  • Check out the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau

Where Should I Go in Western North Carolina?

where should i go in western north carolina

The Highlands-Cashiers Plateau is located in Western North Carolina about two hours away from Asheville. It’s been a popular vacation destination for decades, especially in the summer months. A North Carolina travel guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning this location.

5 areas make up the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau:

  1. Sapphire Valley
  2. Lake Glenville
  3. Cashiers
  4. Lake Toxaway
  5. Highlands

Lake Glenville and Lake Toxaway

Lake Glenville and Lake Toxaway give you the best of both worlds: a relaxing lake paired with stunning mountain views. Lake Glenville is a little larger than Lake Toxaway and it’s also a public lake vs. Lake Toxaway, which is private. On Lake Glenville, you’ll be able to rent boats, kayaks, etc., go swimming, and enjoy general use of the lake.

Please contact Landmark if you’d like more information about what’s available to renters who stay in a Lake Toxaway vacation rental.

Sapphire Valley and Cashiers

Sapphire Valley and Cashiers are known for their hiking trails, waterfalls and natural scenery. Sapphire Valley is home to topnotch luxury communities and two 18-hole golf courses. It’s also only a few miles away from Cashiers. The idyllic community, nestled in the mountains and pronounced CASH-erz, is home to some of the highest peaks in the U.S.


Highlands has a distinct personality and it’s known for its Main Street downtown area. Highlands is one of the most popular vacation destinations for our friends who live in the South. Think storybook-like settings, fine dining and luxury mountain vacation rentals!

Does North Carolina Have 4 Seasons?

No North Carolina travel guide would be complete without mentioning that North Carolina has all four distinct seasons and it’s one of the best places in the country to experience them.


Summer temperatures are ideal in the mountains. It’s not scorching hot and it’s not too cold, either. Many people visit Western North Carolina in the summer to escape hot and humid temperatures in the Southern states. Stay in a lake house on Lake Glenville and take full advantage of summer lake life. It’s good for the soul.


Spring is when all of the flowers start to bloom and nature opens up again. Visiting North Carolina in the spring is a treat. Smell the fresh mountain air and the fresh mountain flowers. It’ll be just what you need after a long winter.


Fall on the Plateau is breathtaking. Picture orange, yellow and red hues from the leaves nearly everywhere you go. The fall colors are always stunning when they’re covering the mountains. Sip your morning coffee and enjoy the crisp fall air. Trust us, it’ll never get old.

Western North Carolina Vacation Rentals

western north carolina vacation rentals

You can’t go wrong now that you have this North Carolina travel guide to help you plan your next vacation. Visit the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Smokies and the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau.

A memorable vacation starts with your vacation rental and Landmark has a variety of options to choose from.  Stay in a large mountain estate and accommodate all of your favorite people, opt for a cozy cabin for a romantic getaway, or maybe a lake house is more your style? Landmark Vacation Rentals has options!

Start planning your trip with this North Carolina travel guide and browse our Western North Carolina vacation rentals at your convenience. Contact us and let us know when you find your next home away from home. We’re always happy to help.

Many of us visited the Plateau on vacation years ago, fell in love with the area and decided to move here. So, we get it. We love sharing this slice of rustic paradise with everyone we meet. We hope you love our home as much as we do!