Kayak the Carolina Wilderness
Once You’ve Pitched Your Tent: This sprawling campground (which runs $15/night) sits on Fontana Lake, a peaceful body of water that flows into noisier streams and rapids as it descends south. After you settle in, grab a kayak (rentals are $25/day at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in nearby Bryson City) for a lake paddle, or rent a raft ($25–$55) and venture downriver. (Don’t worry, a shuttle service will return you to camp.)
Whether you brave the whitewater or leisurely explore the lake, prepare for a Gothic, Old World vibe. “It’s this super-remote, rugged wilderness on the boundaries of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is full of old homesteads and the ruins of partially submerged ghost towns getting absorbed into the forest,” Allison says, referring to mill communities vacated after the building of a 1940s dam.
If watersports (or ghost towns) aren’t your thing, Allison says, Tsali also has 42 miles of mountain-biking singletracks ranging from “supertechnical and expert level to easy and flow-y.”
Post-Trip Indulgence: A made-to-order cheeseburger with coleslaw, which sells for less than a Big Mac, at Na-Bers Drive-In on the Tuckasegee River. If you want to order like a local, go for two burgers and a cherry milkshake delivered to your car.
Then wash it all down with a Trail Magic Series Russian Imperial Stout, an award-winning microbrew, from the nearby Nantahala Brewing Company.