Franklin, North Carolina is a quaint small town located in Western North Carolina. Its location at the base of the Smoky Mountains, Nahatala National Forest, and both the Appalachian Trail and Bartam Trail make it a great home base for exploring the area.
We stayed a week in Franklin at the Mi Mountain Campground, and enjoyed getting to see a few gems on the other side of our great state of North Carolina.
Looking for what to do in Franklin, North Carolina? Here are five things to do in Franklin, NC and a glimpse of what we got into during our visit in June/July 2020.
1. Gem Mining
Due to the abundance of ruby, sapphires, quartz, emeralds (among other stones) that are found in the soil of local creek beds, Franklin has earned the nickname “Gem City.” So, of course we had to check out gem mining during our visit.
There are many different mines in Franklin, but some are still closed due to COVID. We heard the best things about Rose Creek Mine and Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine. Rose Creek is currently open and social distancing during the time of COVID, plus they allow dogs, so that’s where we went.
We arrived and were set up at the flume with two buckets, screens, a dish for your finds, and scrub brush. It was very easy to social distance, as each station is about six feet apart (or maybe more). Also, everyone was masked up.
We headed to the digging area and filled our own buckets (hint, try to get loose dirt and not the clumps of clay), then took them back to the flume. It took us about 90 minutes to sift through our buckets. I didn’t expect much, but it ended up being really fun and relaxing. Something about searching for treasures in mud, and the monotony of adding new dirt, then sifting just felt so calming.
We enjoyed mining so much that when it rained a few days later, we decided to do it again (the flume is covered). All in all, we found a lot of rose quartz, small sapphires, rubys, like 15 garnets, good size moonstones, and Chad even found a piece of pottery that’s probably around 3000 years old.
I’d highly recommend Rose Creek Mine. The owners were awesome, the staff knowledgeable, and it is a safe social distancing activity for adults and kids. We got 2 buckets each for $10. Visitors can buy buckets that are salted (meaning, you wild find good gems) for $100 and even $300.
Franklin, North Carolina is at the base of the Smoky Mountains and Nathala National Forest, and the Applicaian Trail even runs through it. There are many beautiful hikes for all levels and experience, including many waterfall hikes). Downtown Franklin even has a very well-maintained paved green way with cute bridges.
If you so a search, you can literally find any type of hike. You can even take a day trip to Clingmans Dome. There are also many fire lookouts in the area that offer exceptional views.
We chose to do Wasser Bald Fire Lookout. It was an easier hike to the summit of Wasser Bald, the access road to get there was clean and well-kept, and we were rewarded by an absolutely magnificent view from the top of an old fire tower.
If you like craft beer, Franklin has a few options for you. Lazy Hiker Brewing Co. and Currahee Brewing Company are in Downtown Franklin. If you’re venturing out to hike or chase waterfalls, make sure you do a brewery search because there are a few good ones in close cities like Sylva and Bryson City.
We sat outside at Lazy Hiker and each had a beer. We were super impressed with the cleanliness and social distancing of the brewery. This was our first time actually drinking at an establishment since February, and I’m happy the Lazy Hiker eased us back into it.
I had the Mojito Blonde and Chad had the Phase 2. Both were excellent. Oh, and Frankie dog is welcome!
4. Waterfall Tours
Western North Carolina has many waterfalls to chase. Depending on where you’re going, or coming from, you can catch a lot on a day trip. We used this interactive map to plan our trip.
We took 64 South route where we visited Glen Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Dry Falls, Bust Your Butt Falls, and Cullasaja Falls. Due to COVID, we were very careful and ended up missing Cullasja because there were too many people there (both times we tried!) and we didn’t want to risk it. Dry Falls and Bridal Veil are fun because you can walk behind the falls. Bust Your Butt is a great swimming hole where you can slide down the rock.
5. Trout Fishing
Just a short drive from Franklin, NC is Andy’s Trout Farm. We went there to (easily) catch dinner. Trout farms are fun and great for kids, because you’re pretty much guaranteed to catch a fish. For a small fee ($1 for the pole/bucket and $3 for worms) you can start fishing for rainbow trout. Trout at $5.20/lb and Andy’s will clean them for you for $1/fish.
We took three fish home and grilled them on the fire — and the trout was delicious.
The property is beautiful and is even set up for weddings and events. We were able to properly social distance the entire time. There are trails on site, a waterfall, and even gem mining. The only downfall is dogs are not allowed, so we improvised by driving near the pond and leaving Frankie dog in the backseat with the door open.
If you find yourself traveling through western North Carolina, Franklin is most definitely worth a stop. There are many chain hotels, boutique hotels, rental cabins, and campgrounds. We stayed at Mi Mountain Campground and I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Have you been to Franklin, North Carolina? What did you do or see that we should know for our next visit? We’d love to hear from you via comment below!