North Carolina’s westernmost tip is blanketed in parkland and sprinkled with tiny mountain towns. The region is rich in Native American history. A large proportion of its Cherokee population were forced off their lands during the 1830s – by their erstwhile ally, Andrew Jackson – and marched to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears, but many managed to hide in the remote mountains. Their descendants, now known as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, live on the 56,000-acre Qualla Boundary territory, on the southern edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Rolling across western North Carolina into the mountainous High Country, the contiguous Pisgah and Nantahala national forests hold more than a million acres of dense hardwood trees and windswept mountain balds, as well as some of the country’s best white-water rapids – and sections of the Appalachian Trail.