As one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, Western North Carolina attracts
people who want to get out and enjoy nature. Our students and staff often spend their
free time hiking or mountain biking through national forests, and plenty of nearby
camping destinations provide a fun way to unwind on weekends. Perhaps you’ll go backpacking
for the day on parts of the famous Appalachian Trail—like across Clingmans Dome, the
highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. During winter months, grab
some friends and head north an hour from campus to Cataloochee Ski Area or south about
40 minutes to Sapphire Valley Ski Resort. Other WNC outdoor adventures include ziplining
and horseback riding.
On the Water
With mountain living comes plenty of access to streams, lakes, and rivers throughout
Western North Carolina. Tuckasegee River winds near the northeast side of campus,
and warm months mean lazy tubing trips or gliding on the water via kayaks, canoes,
or standup paddleboards rented through Base Camp Cullowhee, our on-campus outdoor
services program. Or, keep it simple and head to one of the many swimming holes in
the area, like Paradise Falls.
Get a group together for a whitewater-rafting trip if you’re looking for a bigger
challenge, and adrenaline fans will want to sign up for group outings through Base
Camp, like skydiving, overnight excursions, and climbing expeditions.
Learn more about Base Camp Cullowhee
About fifty fishing spots can also be found in and around Cullowhee for another way to soak in the outdoors
and escape for a few hours. Take a fly fishing lesson through Base Camp, or go out
on your own to catch trout and smallmouth bass. A North Carolina fishing license is
Jackson County hosts several annual events that bring together the community. In April,
Greening up the Mountains celebrates sustainability, while Blue, Brews & BBQ comes
to town in May. Summertime focuses on arts and crafts markets. Fall kicks off with
Mountain Heritage Day on campus in September, and October brings the Taste of Sylva
and Leaf Festival.
See the Jackson County calendar of events
Live Music Moments
WCU brings concerts to campus year-round, and nearby Sylva has a few live music venues
as well. For laid-back coffeehouse performances, check out City Lights Cafe and Soul Infusion Tea House & Bistro. For pub atmospheres, No Name Sports Pub hosts
bands 3-4 times a week, while O’Malley’s utilizes their back patio for music on many
weekends. Students 21 and older can also check the calendars at Innovation Brewing
and Heinzelmannchen Brewery for occasional shows.
If you’re looking for a little cultural stimulation, WCU’s Fine Art Museum is a great
place to start. However, several off-campus places may also inspire your creative
side. Cullowhee Mountain Arts holds a range of creative workshops—including painting
and ceramics—while several galleries and shops in downtown Sylva feature works by
local artists and crafters. If performing arts interest you, the Niggli Theater and
John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Art Center both hold shows on-campus, or catch a
movie at Quinn Theater in Sylva.
Hit the Road
Since our campus operates much like its own city, everything you need to live and
have fun exists right on campus. But for those times when you want to go shopping,
buy supplies for your next camping adventure, or just get away for a little while,
several welcoming Western North Carolina communities await a short car ride away—with
beautiful mountain views to keep you company throughout your drive.
Less than a ten-minute drive from WCU is Sylva, a small town boasting a picturesque
historic downtown. Despite its small size of about three square miles, Sylva is home
to several restaurants such as Lulu’s on Main and City Lights Café, with a large outdoor
patio, plus several fast food joints like Bojangle’s and Zaxby’s. For visiting parents
and students over 21, Sylva’s two microbreweries, Heinzelmannchen Brewery and Innovation
Brewing Company, often host live music. You’ll also find a bowling alley, several
spas, and a local bookstore.
Need to do some more serious shopping? Waynesville is located an easy 30-minute drive
away and offers a Mast General Store, several boutiques, and lots of great restaurants
like the top-rated Haywood Smokehouse, The Sweet Onion, and Chef’s Table. With a population
just under 10,000, Waynesville is home to four breweries, any of which could provide
internship or part-time job opportunities for students interested in a career in brewing
Asheville is the most popular city in the vicinity of WCU and is the largest city
in Western North Carolina. It has been experiencing a boom for several years, making
it the perfect getaway for WCU students looking for rising and established musical
acts, tons more shopping, renowned restaurants and art galleries, and over 20 breweries
that epitomize sustainability and community involvement. Asheville has everything
you’d expect from a large city, but maintains a small-town feel thanks to a downtown
that comprises only about five of Asheville’s entire 43 square miles. Asheville features
dozens of music venues, including The Orange Peel, which Rolling Stone magazine named one of the top five music venues in America in 2008. Vegetarians will
be thrilled with the restaurant choices, as nearly every menu offers vegetarian dishes,
while others cater exclusively to vegetarians such as Plant and Laughing Seed. Plenty
of festivals and events year-round also help keep things interesting in quirky AVL.
About 20 minutes from campus, the charming mountain town of Cashiers offers more waterfalls
and hikes to explore. For a taste of the area, pick up local goods at Cashiers Farmers
Market or one of the many boutiques along Highway 107. Nearby Lake Glenville should
not be missed for swimming, fishing or boating on its 1,400 acres. Golfing is also
popular in this beautiful mountain village.
Home to one of two ski resorts within an hour’s drive from campus—the other being
Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley—Sapphire’s scenery is its winning feature. Sections
of Panthertown Valley spill across Sapphire’s city lines, providing easy access to
its 6,300 acres filled with hiking trails to deep gorges, steep cliffs, and lots of
An upscale resort area, Highlands offers amenities like whitewater rafting, zip lining,
and horseback riding if you’re feeling adventurous. The city also keeps a full events
calendar, including visual arts, touring musical acts, and fine art shows.