Get the scoop first with our official blog about Franklin, NC!
When the world becomes a bit too much to take in, a trip to the mountains is quite often just what you need. We all know about unplugging—ditching Wi-Fi, phone data, and electronics—but that’s really only half the battle. Once you take those things out, what do you replace them with?
Here are six of our favorite ways to reconnect with ourselves and our roots here in the mountains.
Cook a meal from scratch with fresh food from a farmers’ market
Cooking is a beautiful art that gets lost in the busyness of day-to-day life. When was the last time you made food from ingredients gathered that day from just down the road?
Find a recipe that looks as lovely as it tastes and don’t take shortcuts. Pour a glass of your favorite beverage and savor the process, and when you’re done, share it with the ones you love or simply take it outdoors to eat in the fresh air.
Walk the entire Little Tennessee Greenway just listening to the world around you
The Little Tennessee Greenway is a walking trail central to Franklin with multiple outlets, so where you start and end isn’t as important as the access to a natural walk in the middle of town.
Walking in the quiet and keeping your ears open allows for the blend of natural sounds—water running, birds and insects, the wind in the trees—and human ones like the distant rumble of a car going over a bridge or a bike passing on your left. Take a moment to enjoy the cross section of human and natural life.
Read a book about something that fascinates you about the natural world
Few things are as good at making you slow down as a good book, which is why reading is often a challenging pastime to make space for in your schedule. A weekend away is the perfect opportunity to catch up, and with our local libraries being open by appointment and bookstores right in the middle of town, there are plenty options to find something that holds your interest. Ask a librarian or bookstore owner to help you find the perfect read, grab a book, and head to a local coffee shop to settle into an armchair for the afternoon.
Commit to a handmade craft that takes more than one sitting to finish
Knitting, embroidery, whittling, and painting are just some of the crafts that have historical significance in this part of the Appalachian Mountains. Take a few hours and browse some of our local craft stores for ideas and all the supplies you need. Choose something you’ve tried before, or explore something completely different—just make sure that it’s something you won’t finish in a single sitting.
The satisfaction of completion will be sweeter, and the commitment to one thing over the course of multiple days is a great way to return to a familiar routine that you don’t often get to indulge.
Bring home three different leaves from a hike, identify them, and then see if you can find them again on a totally different trail
When out in the woods, sometimes it can be equally as easy to lose the trees for the forest as the other way around. Take a short hike and gather leaves with shapes that fascinate you. Maybe one comes from a tree with blooms that catch your eye—maybe another is from the underbrush with interesting ridges. Once you return to civilization, get to know each by name and learn something of their history.
The next time you venture out, recognizing the plants again will feel like greeting an old friend, which is a treasure to enjoy each time you visit the mountain trails in western North Carolina.
Make a pot of locally-roasted coffee and listen to old Appalachian music
Local coffee is on the rise in North Carolina, and those farmers’ markets will likely have plenty options to choose from. (The Madd Ox brand is even roasted right here in Franklin!) Pick a morning of your trip to make a pot of fresh mountain joe and put on some old Appalachian music. Oral tradition is an art form that’s been passed down for generations here, and the lyrics of many old tunes will draw you in to the legacy of mountain life.
You can borrow CDs from local libraries, or, if you still have internet access, queue up a performance like this one from the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Ready to plan your mountain getaway? So are we
However your plans take shape, Franklin is the perfect place to host you—we can’t wait to welcome you to western North Carolina!
Our Beautifully Strong, But Fragile Earth: An Interview with Local Photographer John MacLean
Franklin is home to many artists who are inspired by life in a blue ridge mountain valley. Photographers in particular find themselves surrounded by infinite possibilities to capture and create art, and one such photographer, John MacLean, showcases his incredible work in a gallery downtown near the gazebo.
MacLean accepted our invitation for an interview, and we were inspired by all he had to say about being an artist in Franklin, North Carolina.
How long have you been a photographer, and how did you discover your love for the medium?
I’ve been a photographer for about 50 years. My father introduced me to B&W shooting, film processing and enlarger printing around 1972 when I was 9 years young. My dad will be 93 in January and it’s wonderful to still share this craft with him. It’s been the longest love affair of my life.
What draws you to natural photography in the mountains, especially in the Franklin area?
The infinite variety and natural light of landscapes have always attracted me. The mountains of Western North Carolina provide a never-ending palette of color and illumination.
For photographers who are new to the area, which locations and times of year would you most highly recommend to shoot?
My favorite locations would probably have to be on the BRP. It’s just magical up there. And, of course, amazing waterfalls are everywhere, with a few very famous ones local to Franklin. I also really like some of the fire towers for views. (If aspiring photographers want lessons, I provide small workshops/photo tours and 1 on 1 training in the field or via online mentoring.)
Every season offers a different and inspiring composition. For vivid colors and more atmospheric vistas I would say any time from Spring thru Fall. The winter usually requires a long freeze to produce enough interest for me to go out in cold weather. That being said, I thought my fingers were going to snap off while at Dry Falls during the Polar Vortexes of 2014 and 2015. But I got some unique images. Lately I’m becoming more temperature challenged. 😉
Have you always lived in Franklin? What is the best part of being a local here?
My family has been here for 40 years. I spent 30 years out West, but visited often. I moved back East in 2012 to help my parents in their Golden Years after losing my older brother here a couple years before.
Photographically the best part of being local is having direct access to the area without having to travel long distances. As you know, the weather conditions here change the lighting, by the second. The air and water are great, and lifestyle-wise the traffic is non-existent compared to areas even within a couple hours away. The mountain life gives you more time and subject matter to explore and to experience its wonders.
What message do you hope to communicate through your art?
It’s my goal to capture the essence of each scene and visually communicate that to the viewer. I’m not just recording it with a device that replicates the location, but I’m trying to also put my optical spin on it, while keeping it as natural and organic as possible through controlled exposure and processing. My end result is to hopefully evoke a response that ultimately our beautifully strong, but fragile earth is in need of protection, or else we’ll just be left with beautiful images of it.
For more information check out johnmaclean.com.
Picture this: The moment has finally arrived for you and your love to stand hand in hand, all your friends and family present, to promise your undying love and commitment to one another. All around you, the mountains roll in beautiful hues of blue and green, and the air is fresh and clear—as if the whole world is celebrating with you.
If you’re ready to fall in love a second time, here are four reasons why weddings in the mountains are utterly unforgettable.
A destination that feels like home
Even for those who are visiting the mountains for the first time, there is something about the easy-paced lifestyle and breathtaking natural views that feels like home. For destination weddings, this is the perfect match if you want to feel adventurous but keep that sweet, hometown feel.
It’s sure to charm your family and friends, too, because there’s something for everyone! Split up and chase waterfalls, go shopping, or hike a section of the Appalachian Trail, and then join back together to share stories at the reception after the wedding.
The romance of a blue ridge in all your photos
Truly, this point is a no-brainer. Who could pass up the opportunity to have a backdrop of mountains stretching out into the distance for your ceremony and photographs? Something in the view calls to mind the sweetness of the past and the excitement for the future, and the mountains themselves are to scale with your feelings on the big day.
Every season carries its charm
Think a mountain wedding is only pretty in the fall? Guess again! While leaf-looking season is truly a sight to behold, spring in the blue ridge is a riot of color and life waking up after the winter. Summer is a lush green that invites locals and visitors alike to enjoy the lakes, rivers, and swimming holes—all while striking a balance between warmth and refreshing cool under the shade of the forest canopies.
Even winter holds its charm—the mountains are silver against an icy blue sky, and you may even get a fresh sprinkling of snow to make your special day look like something from a fairytale!
Stay and honeymoon, too!
Once you arrive, you won’t want to leave—and why should you? There’s so much to do, explore, and experience in the mountains that you can save time and money on additional travel by simply staying put. After all, what’s more romantic than catching a sunrise or sunset at an overlook with your love?
Ready to start planning your mountain wedding?
We thought you might be! That’s why we’ve collected everything you need to know about lodging, food, and outdoor activities in one place—be sure to explore our website for more information!
Who doesn’t love a freebie, especially in Western North Carolina, where Appalachian adventures abound? If you’re looking for fun things to do in our lovely valley that go easy on your wallet, check out these five attractions that are absolutely free!
Note: Some of these items are unavailable during COVID-19—however, we’re staying strong and are hopeful to bring it all back as soon as we can!
Pickin’ on the Square
Nothing says mountain life like an outdoor bluegrass open mic on a warm summer night, and that’s exactly what you’ll get with our Pickin’ on the Square nights on Saturdays from late May to mid-October. Held downtown at the gazebo on Main Street, this casual but lively event is sure to get your feet tapping. Bring a chair and takeout from one of our Main Street restaurants for a perfectly Franklin experience!
Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum
Franklin isn’t called the gem capital of the world for no reason, but don’t take our word for it! Head over to the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum for the fascinating story of how rubies and sapphires were first discovered in our valley—plus, learn how gem mining works, head out from there to try your hand at the mines yourself, or purchase a piece of Franklin treasure there at the museum itself.
Macon County Historical Society and Museum (Suggested Donations)
Franklin is the county seat of Macon County, and while you may assume it’s a small area given our cozy, small-town feel, Macon County takes up a sprawling 520 square miles and has an incredible history. For a taste of all the stories our beautiful county has to tell, stop in at the Macon County Historical Society and Museum downtown. Donations are suggested, but you’ll find the museum well worth any donation you make!
The Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center
If you want a true blast from the past, you absolutely must visit the Cowee School. This beautiful piece of Franklin history is now home to Appalachian arts, crafts, and lessons for all sorts of local traditions. Whether you want to learn contra dancing, hear a bagpiper up close, or browse the antique toy museum, you’ll have plenty to explore at the old school building.
Wherever you end up on your mountain adventures, we’re delighted to have you! Check out more information in our Explore section if you’re interested in lodging or more opportunities to see the Franklin side of life!
Of course, it’s exciting to think of all the things to do once you arrive in Franklin, North Carolina – the mountains rise on every side of the valley, calling you to hiking, fishing, kayaking, and other adventures, while the small town coziness rounds out a feeling of relaxation and rest – but have you ever realized that the journey in could be one of the best parts?
Let’s talk about going the long way round from Highlands, Cherokee, and Atlanta.
Highlands is a beautiful mountaintop town frequented by celebrities and locals alike, so if it’s your last stop on the way to Franklin, there are several ways to head down into the valley.
The most frequented route is US 64, which takes about 40 minutes. The views are beautiful, and several waterfalls dot the landscape as you wind up the tight curves and watch the world fall away. It’ll feel like an adventure without ever leaving your car, but if you choose to make a stop, be sure to walk the short trail behind Dry Falls to see a rare angle of the roaring water.
You could also drive down to Georgia and up through Sky Valley, which is only 50 minutes. While it adds around 10 minutes to your trip, drivers who would like a bit of cushion on the mountain roads can enjoy two lanes as they navigate the route’s sharper curves.
Travelling from Cherokee
Is culturally-rich Cherokee your last stop on the way to Franklin? We’ve got routes for you, too.
There are two main ways to travel: you could swing to the east on US 441 and pass through the quaint and lovely town of Dillsboro (about 40 minutes), or you could take US 28 to wind up through the mountains on an exciting stretch of road (55 minutes).
The choice comes down to how adventurous you are. The route through Dillsboro has some construction on US 23, but it doesn’t slow traffic much, and the highway has two lanes each way while traversing the mountains. US 28, on the other hand, takes a bit longer but treats avid drivers to the thrill of hugging each tight curve.
Travelling from Atlanta
Finally, if you’re heading up from the big city, we have routes for you, too!
Most will come up I-985 until it turns into US 23 – it’s an easy way to travel, since it’s a straight shot once you leave I-85 in Atlanta, and takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes. You’ll also be treated to a faraway view of the mountains breaking through the trees, and the North Georgia mountains are a great taste of what’s to come.
If the truly scenic route is what you’re after, stay on I-85 and take the exit for US 76 to ride through national forest land and arrive in Clayton, Georgia. The roads are two-way traffic but not too curvy – just enough to get you ready for Franklin. It adds more travel time than the traditional route, taking about 3 hours, but if you’re willing to spend an extra 40 minutes driving through beautiful forests, US 76 is the way to go.
Wherever you’re from, welcome!
Franklin is delighted to host your next mountain adventure! While you’re here, why not explore some of our housing, dining, and outdoor adventures? Getting here is just half the fun!