Franklin, North Carolina: #1 SMALL OUTDOOR TOWN

By: Ella Kliger

The town of Franklin is so intertwined with the Appalachian Trail that it was the first town to be named an Appalachian Trail Gateway Community by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Our reputation grew beyond AT hikers when we were chosen as the Best Small Outdoor Town by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine readers in the fall of 2015.

Outdoor recreation options range from hiking on the Bartram Trail and the AT via multiple access points, to walking behind our waterfalls, paddling, or trout fishing in our streams and rivers, digging for treasure such as native ruby and sapphire, and enjoying the natural beauty of the Nantahala Forest. The forest is close enough to reach quickly, yet there are thousands of acres available in Franklin, so you can get away from it all to recharge and relax.

One terrific facet of our recreation options is how many activities are free.The Nantahala Forest is free to walk or hike through, many section hikes of the AT have free parking, waterfalls are free for the viewing, and there are free boat ramps at several points on the Little Tennessee River which runs right through town. The beautiful vistas of the mountains, wildflowers, and trees surrounds you, free for the taking – of photographs.

The Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum is free for everyone to learn about stones and gems before striking out to find their own treasure. Mining for ruby and sapphire began in Macon County in 1870. Corundum and other minerals were hauled to the railroad by horse and wagon, and shipped out of Macon County in large quantities. Tiffany’s showed an interest in the area in the 1890’s but two other companies began work hoping to find the source of the rubies found in the corundum mines. Both companies ended the search in the early part of the 20th century leaving the area open to rockhounds and gem enthusiasts. The source hasn’t been found – yet.

For those that are inclined to the arts, the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts is a 1,500 seat state-of-the-art facility presenting the finest in performing arts to the surrounding towns. Performances include passion plays, musical productions, professional drama troupes, dance and choral festivals, recitals, and various genres including country, bluegrass, gospel, pop, contemporary Christian, and more. The stunning architecture, technical facilities, and impeccable acoustics provide the highest professional standards for both the audience and the performers.

Franklin showcases our walkable downtown for numerous events throughout the year. Some of the highlights are Trail Days to celebrate hikers, the Airing of the Quilts to highlight the heritage arts here, Pickin’ On The Square to get your toes tapping at the Gazebo on the Square, and PumpkinFest where kids of all ages can roll a pumpkin down a steep hill to see whose gourd can get the farthest down Frogtown Hill.

Macon County recently invested in bringing beautiful baseball fields to Parker Meadows, west of town. Tournaments have brought out locals and visitors alike, and there are many games scheduled for this year. There is a playground and a walking track for those who prefer to be more active while watching a game.

We are grateful for being voted the Best Small Outdoor Town by Blue Ridge Outdoors readers. This honor is felt by those who collaborate every day to keep our family-friendly town the best it can be. We’d love to welcome you to Franklin, to share what keeps us here in the heart of the Nantahala Forest. The Franklin Chamber of Commerce has all the tools necessary to plan a great vacation or a day trip. Please call them at 866-372-5546 for more information or to request a free Franklin/Nantahala Visitor Relocation Magazine.


A city grrl by nature, Ella Kliger has taken to the mountains like a Plott hound to hunting. In her second year of gardening this clay soil, the mint is thriving, she has harvested 11 strawberries, and is waiting on her peapod.

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