Appalachian Trail

This driving route parallels the hiking trail, from the top of New England to the heart of Dixie, taking you through continuous natural beauty—without the sweat, bugs, or blisters.


West of Maggie Valley, the Blue Ridge Parkway and US-19 join up 40 miles west of Asheville at touristy Cherokee (pop. 2,138), commercial center of the 56,000-acre Cherokee Indian Reservation, which was established here by a small band of Cherokee Indians in 1866, long after the rest of this once-mighty tribe had been forcibly exiled to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. Cherokee is a last gasp of commercialism at the edge of the national park, a traffic-clogged gauntlet of places where you can “See Live Bears,” “Eat Boiled Peanuts,” “Pan For Gold,” or ride the “Rudicoaster” at the pricey but kid-friendly Santa’s Land Theme Park and Zoo (828/497-9191, $21.16 adults). The biggest draw hereabouts is the ever-expanding Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort (828/497-7777, $109 and up).

The upscale casino, the region’s biggest draw, looms over a fading roadside lined by tacky old-time souvenir stands like the “Big Chief.” But amidst the tourist-taunting sprawl is at least one worthwhile stop: the Museum of the Cherokee Indian (daily, $10 adults), which traces tribal history from pre-conquest achievements—the Cherokee used a natural version of aspirin centuries before western chemists “discovered” it, for example—to their forced removal after gold was discovered here in the 1830s. There’s also a living history village and a big outdoor pageant.




Museum of the Cherokee Indian (589 Tsali Blvd.)

Santa’s Land Theme Park and Zoo (571 Wolfetown Rd.)

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort (777 Casino Dr.)