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Your guide to Franklin
Welcome to Franklin
Becoming the first Appalachian Trail gateway town helped put this North Carolina mountain enclave on travelers’ radar, and nearby waterfalls, abundant forestland, and buried natural treasure — including rubies and sapphires — have kept it there. Outdoors enthusiasts have their choice of activities here, and on any given day can be found hiking the historic Bartram Trail to a lovely waterfall or wandering the nearby Nantahala Forest, beholding scenic mountain vistas, or playing on the Little Tennessee River, which cuts right through town.
Mining began in the county as early as 1870, with minerals being hauled by horse and wagon; rockhounds will appreciate learning this history at the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum and trying their own luck in nearby Cowee Valley. There’s also a walkable downtown featuring a couple more history museums and restaurants, along with shops and galleries featuring Appalachian art and crafts. Baseball games are regularly under way at Parker Meadows, while concerts, plays, and dance shows are staged at the state-of-the-art Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Franklin
Franklin offers four distinct seasons, but its weather is generally classified as marine, humid, and temperate. The warm summers ideal for outdoor adventuring tend to draw more visitors than other times of year. Winters are pretty cold, and there’s a moderate chance of rain for much of the year, but it’s a great time to cozy up in one of the area’s cabins for rent. Events and festivals take place year-round, with the Airing of the Quilts (an outdoor quilt market showcasing Appalachian heritage, along with other market items) and Trail Days (a celebration of hikers) in springtime, the Macon County Gemboree in summer, and Pumpkin Fest in the fall. On weekends from May to October, everybody brings their lawn chairs to Pickin’ on the Square at the town gazebo, and mines are open for gem exploration in spring, summer, and fall.
Top things to do in Franklin
Just six miles north of Franklin, this valley contains the Cowee-West’s Mill National Register Historic District, where gem mines proliferate and centuries of Cherokee and American history are on display within the town’s historic structures. Highlights include Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center, a 1929 clapboard church, and Cowee Mound, which was built by the Cherokee people around 600 AD.
Nantahala National Forest
Welcome to more than 500,000 acres of verdant forest and dramatic mountains that rise as high as 5,800 feet from the floor of the Little Tennessee River valley. Top draws include incredible hiking trails, secluded fishing streams, teeming wildlife, and panoramic views from lookout towers. The Appalachian Trail extends for about 60 miles along a crest within this forest.
Two famous rivers, the Nantahala and the Ocoee, run close to Franklin: adrenaline junkies will have an absolute blast rafting, kayaking, or tubing these waters. The Little Tennessee River is also good for canoeing and tubing, and local outfitters can accommodate groups of any size and skill level.