If you’re craving some fresh air, mountain views, and tons of outdoor activities, then it’s time to plan your escape to the southwestern North Carolina Mountains. Nestled close to the Great Smoky Mountains and within the Cherokee Native American reservation is the friendly mountain town of Cherokee. You and your family can find a hidden rustic cabin or a luxury log home to spend a laid back week in the area. Although Cherokee has a lot to offer during your stay, there are also many nearby mountain towns with easy access to national parks, rivers, skiing, hiking, and a myriad of other outdoor activities. Here are nine of the best locations to find the ideal Cherokee vacation rental.

1. Cherokee

Source: Flickr / L Church

Make Cherokee your home away from home to spend your days fishing, hiking, and reconnecting with your family. You and your sweetheart can take an evening, and check out one of the local casinos to try your luck at the slots or the roulette table. Get your heart pounding with a steep hike up the mountain that leads you to the breathtakingly beautiful Mingo Falls, or load the family in the car for a day taking in the views on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

2. Maggie Valley

Source: Flickr / Chris M Morris

Drive northeast through gorgeous scenery to arrive in the popular mountain town of Maggie Valley. In the wintertime check out Cataloochee Ski Area with its 18 slopes and ski trails to meet the needs of every skill level. This popular ski destination offers classes for beginners, or those that feel a little rusty. In the warmer months, take the kids for an exciting day at Ghost Town Village, a Wild West themed amusement park, with all their favorite rides and a live gunslinger battle each day.

3. Waynesville

Source: Flickr / mricon

Enjoy mountain life in the small town of Waynesville just a few minutes from Maggie Valley, and great skiing in the winter months. Learn more about the history of motorcycles at the Wheels Through Time Transportation museum with its collection of more than 300 rare motorcycles, and then ride out to Balsam Gap on your bike and hike up to the waterfall. Spend your days fishing, hiking, and biking and enjoy a fire at night at your vacation rental tucked in the woods.

4. Lake Junaluska Area

Source: Flickr / justinknabb

If you want to spend your vacation on the water and fishing for your dinner, then look for a vacation rental in the Lake Junaluska area. Rent a boat, kayak, canoe, or paddle board to explore the lake, or enjoy swimming in the warm summer months. The local golf course welcomes visitors to play a few holes. Take the kids to the Lake Junaluska Aquatic Center to swim in the community pool. They can also play a few rounds of mini golf.

5. Whittier

Source: Flickr / Andrew Kalat

Southwest of Cherokee is the small mountain town of Whittier, which sits just a few minutes from the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway, where you can spend an afternoon driving and taking in the amazing scenery. Take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad to see some remote sights in the mountains, or you can pack the kids in the car for a day at Santa’s Land Fun Park & Zoo, where the holidays come a little early.

6. Bryson City

Source: Flickr / Patrick Mueller

To the west of Cherokee is the bustling town of Bryson City, where you can find a cabin with mountain views, or choose a family home closer to the center of town as your vacation rental. Stop by the Deep Creek Tube Center or find a tour company to take you white water rafting on the Nantahala River. Spend your days hiking, biking, fishing in the river or one of the creeks, and enjoying waterfalls. Let your family show off how creative they are by creating their own works of art at Pincu Pottery.

7. Qualla

Source: Flickr / Doug Kerr

South of Cherokee, you and your family can find a vacation rental in Qualla, where you can unwind and catch up on gossip with the friendly locals. Use this area as a starting point to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Check out the observation tower of the park’s highest point at Clingman’s Dome for views of mist covered mountains.

8. Canton

Source: Flickr / Michael Hicks

If you’re looking for a little city with your wilderness adventure, then make your home base the city of Canton with its modern amenities and proximity to nature areas. Take the kids to Canton Recreation Park to enjoy a day at the community pool, or to play on the playground, and end the day by enjoying a picnic dinner at the park’s pavilion. For a unique experience, take the family to the Old Pressley Sapphire Mine for a tour.

9. Clyde

Source: Flickr / Alex Ford

Retreat to the mountain town of Clyde, where you and the kids can fill your days with biking, hiking, fishing, cross country skiing, and checking out the local culture. At the Shook Museum at the Shook-Smathers House, learn more about the history of this small town and the surrounding area. At the Blue Rooster, your family can enjoy an authentic southern meal, or get your barbecue fix at Fat Buddies Ribs and Barbecue.