Bryson City, North Carolina
A “Road to Nowhere,” has perhaps never led somewhere better than the dead-end road out of Bryson City. After the United States created the Smoky Mountains National Park in 1930s and Fontana Lake in the 1940s, the government was supposed to build a road from the town to the Fontana Dam area, but it was never completed.
Lakeview Drive, the eastern section of what was to become the "North Shore Road" only was built out 7 miles (along with a tunnel) before progress halted on it permanently. Now the scenic route, which ends at the tunnel, serves as a destination of its own for visitors, many who take flashlights and then go on foot through the tunnel.
Home to a piece of the Great Smoky Mountains, the town has everything an outdoors adventurer could want, as its chamber of commerce sums up nicely, “creeks for tubing, trails for hiking and horseback riding, and beautiful waterfalls.”
Bryson City is full of small town charm. Take a walking tour starting at Main Street and brush up on your history of the town at the Swain County Visitor Center and Heritage Museum, where you can learn about Bryson City’s original inhabitants, the Cherokee.
Though many Cherokee were pushed out of their homes following President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, some rejected the order, hiding out in the remote Smoky Mountains. Ten miles from Bryson City now lies a Cherokee reservation, home to many descendants of those resisters. It’s worth a visit, if only to check out work from the longest-running Native American Arts cooperative in the United States, which has been around since 1946.