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Nantahala Forest Service

The Nantahala National Forest was established in 1920 under authority of the 1911 Weeks Act. This act provided authority to acquire lands for national forests to protect watersheds, to provide timber, and to regulate the flow of navigable streams The forest took its name from the Cherokee word nondayeli, meaning "noonday sun." The Cherokee word is appropriate because of the number of steep gorges in the forest where the sun only reaches to the valley floor at midday.

Nantahala National Forest is the largest of the four national forests in the state of North Carolina with more than 530,000 acres which span from Murphy to Waynesville and Cashiers to Fontana Village. It runs across the crest of mountains. Nantahala National Forest has hundreds of waterfalls, as well as river valleys and lakes in the lower lands. It ranges in elevation from a low of 1,200 feet along the Hiwassee River in Cherokee County to a high of 5,800 feet at Lone Bald in Jackson County.

Nantahala National Forest is divided into three Districts, the Nantahala, the Tusquitee and the Cheoah Ranger Districts. Visitors enjoy a wide variety of recreational activities, from off-highway vehicle riding to camping. The Nantahala is famous for whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and hiking on over 600 miles of trail. Three long-distance trails—the Appalachian, Bartram, and Mountain-to-Sea Trails—cross the forest.

While permits are required for trail use in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, none are required for trail use in national forests. Great Smoky Mountains National Park adjoins the north edge of the Cheoah Ranger District along the Tennessee River and Fontana Lake. The Blue Ridge Parkway borders the east edge of the Nantahala Ranger District in Jackson County.

Nantahala Ranger District

The Nantahala Ranger District consists of over 250,000 acres in Cherokee, Macon, Jackson and Transylvania counties. 40,000 of it's acres belong to the Roy Taylor Forest located in Jackson County. In 2006 the Highlands and Wayah were combined to make the Nantahala Ranger District.

Wayah Bald

Standing Indian Basin

Appletree Group Campground

Coweeta Hydrologic Lab

Nantahala River Gorge

Chattooga Wild & Scenic River

Cheoah River

North Carolina Waterfalls

Mountain Waters Scenic ByWay

Cliffside Lake and Van Hook Glade Recreation Areas

Whiteside Mountain

Back Country Areas

Cullasaja Wayehutta ATV Area


for more information contact:
Western North Carolina
Nantahala Forest Service
160A Zillicoa Street
Asheville, NC 28802


National Forest Service...Leave no Trace Policy


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