Nantahala Byway


  • DesignationState Byway
  • LocationNC
  • Length47.2 miles
Statewide Byway Partners
North Carolina Department of Transportation
Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina
Nantahala Byway


The Nantahala Byway offers a variety of visual experiences ranging from views of the Nantahala River and the agricultural bottom lands to the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Nantahala Gorge is the heart of the byway, and the Cherokee once referred to it as the “Land of the Midday Sun” for its deep valley and steep walls. The gorge is known for its world-class whitewater rafting, and between mid-March and mid-November, you’ll find whitewater enthusiasts enjoying the river with rafts, kayaks, and canoes. On occasion, slalom gates can be seen from the route for competition races held on the river. For those who prefer a less adventurous experience, a point near the southern end of the gorge provides calmer waters. The byway occasionally provides glimpses of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, which snakes through the gorge paralleling US 74. The railroad offers visitors a different perspective of the gorge and operates daily from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., and reservations are recommended.

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