Winter Things to Do in Cherokee, NC

Winter Things to Do in Cherokee, NC

Cherokee, North Carolina, is best known for its Native American roots and its history. It is also a popular destination for people seeking experiences in the great outdoors, as it is home to many hiking trails, waterfalls and other activities with exquisite scenery and calming auras.

While many people choose to visit Cherokee in the summer, traveling in the winter provides a great number of activities you can enjoy in less crowded situations. Bundle up and pack your bags this winter and discover why Cherokee is such a beloved vacation spot all year long.

Museum of the Cherokee Indian

Experience a full sensory journey through the 13,000-year history of the Cherokee people. Explore this intricate, peaceful culture full of perseverance, achievement and survival. Along with the Story of the Cherokee Exhibit, the museum features a collection of changing exhibits, meaning even if you have been here before, it may be worth another trip.

Patrons are welcome to enjoy this museum every day of the year minus Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. 

Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc.

This is the oldest Native American cooperative nationwide, and it is home to the work of more than 350 Cherokee artisan members. Created in 1946, Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual is part shopping center and part display gallery. It allows the Cherokee nation to share their millennia-old techniques with the modern world and preserve records of their skill and craftsmanship. You will find hand-woven baskets, clay pottery, wood carvings, quilts and jewelry, among other things.

Mountain Farm Museum

The Mountain Farm Museum transports you back to the early 20th century to learn about historic agricultural and gardening practices. The buildings you will see on your tour come from all over the Smoky Mountains so that you can see a complete picture of life in the early 1900s. Explore an old barn, farmhouse, springhouse, apple house and blacksmith shop. It also includes a log house built from chestnut wood, one of the few left in the country.

Mingo Falls

As one of the largest waterfalls in the southern Appalachians, Mingo Falls mesmerizes anyone who gets to see it. Accessing the waterfall requires a short hike on the Pigeon Creek Trail, less than half a mile. Still, the hike is considered to be at an intermediate level, so plan accordingly and prepare to take your time getting there.

Soco Falls

One of Cherokee's two waterfalls, Soco Falls, is a must-see for anyone who has yet to experience the firsthand view of water plunging down centuries-old rocks. Soco Falls is actually twin waterfalls, allowing you to see twice the beauty in a short hike. Some locals prefer seeing it in the winter, as it is easier to see the second fall without foliage covering the view. After a fresh snow, there is an added magic in the scene that you simply cannot recreate.

Waterrock Knob Overlook

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you will find Waterrock Knob. It is the last hiking trail you will encounter before reaching the Great Smoky Mountains and the perfect place to catch a sunrise or sunset. If you choose to take the steep half-mile hike to the summit, you can see up to 50 miles past the overlook with the right conditions. And because there is little light pollution, it also makes an excellent place for stargazing. You might even be able to see the Milky Way!

Fire Mountain Trails

Biking, hiking and running — you can do it all at Cherokee's newest trail system. There is lots of scenery, abundant wildlife and a trail that challenges and promises a beautiful reward when you reach the top. Make it a whole family adventure and bring your loved ones, including your dog. Dogs are welcome on the trail as long as they stay leashed.

Oconaluftee Islands Park

After working up a sweat on the trails, take your lunch break near the waters of the Oconaluftee River. Although it is likely too cold to do any wading in the waters, this calming location will allow you to take in the nature of the area and even continue your afternoon on some of the nearby trails.


In Cherokee, you will find 30 miles of privately managed streams where catch-and-release fishing is available year-round. You might catch some smallmouth bass or other freshwater fish, but this area takes special pride in its populous and varied selection of trout. Whether this is your first time fishing or you are an experienced angler, you can get excitement and fun on the shores of these abundant bodies of water.

If you find yourself in Cherokee without a fishing license or an out-of-date one, you will not have any trouble finding a place to purchase a new one. There are more than 40 shops in the area that sell authorized permits, so you can get out on the water right away.

Have Some Winter Fun at Cherokee/Great Smokies KOA Holiday

While there are so many things to do in Cherokee, NC, in winter, there is even more available when you choose to stay at Cherokee/Great Smokies KOA Holiday. Along with being a short distance from all of the activities above, you will have access to campground exclusives like:

  • Trout fishing: Trout fishing is an integral part of local culture. Now, you can join in on the festivities from the comfort of your own camp. Choose from the Raven Fork River that runs along one side of the grounds and the three tribal-owned ponds on KOA's westernmost border.
  • Indoor swimming pool and sauna: When it's cold outside, KOA brings the wet fun inside. Whether you prefer to swim laps and wind down with a game of Marco-Polo or relax in a hot tub while the steam rejuvenates you, you will have exactly what you need on your vacation at KOA.
  • Christmas in Cherokee: During December, every weekend is Christmas! Enjoy building toys with the elves, decorating cookies with Mrs. Claus and having breakfast with Santa while intermittent snow fills the campground with Christmas magic.

Make your winter reservation today. Bring your RVset up a tent or indulge in a Camping or Deluxe Cabin — vacation your way at Cherokee/Great Smokies KOA Holiday.

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