The Nantahala River runs from Fontana Lake at the northwestern border of North Carolina down through Nantahala Lake to the southern border where it branches out into three streams. Along the way, the river passes through a series of small communities, towns, and cities where you can find places to stay for everything from a few days away from real life to a longer vacation meant to recharge your energy. Along with hunting up your outdoor gear and preparing for a stay in the Nantahala National Forest, look at this list for the top places to look for a vacation rental on Nantahala River.

1. Almond

scenic view of a dam

Situated where Nantahala River meets Fontana Lake and Fingerlake, you have nearly endless options. Kayak up and down Nantahala River or down to the Nantahala Gorge for some great views, or just boat next door to the Fingerlake Day Use Area where you can cool off in the swimming hole. After a morning of fishing, spend an afternoon hanging out with your family in your rental, or hike through the woods. If you want a unique experience, stop at Nantahala Village Riding Stables for some horseback riding.

2. Wesser

metal bridge over the river
Source: Flickr / John Hayes

For a little more privacy, make your way south along the river to Wesser. The town is small, but it’s big enough to contain the Big Wesser BBQ and Brew joint, perfect for biting into some hardy victuals before starting out on your Nantahala River adventure. In fact, you need to stop by NOC Outfitter’s Store for gear or allow the Nantahala Outdoor Center to do all the work. Sign up to go whitewater rafting in Class II and II rapids, or rent a mountain bike for some riding.

3. Nantahala

riverbed
Source: Flickr / TimothyJ

Nantahala, further down the river, is just as small as Wesser, but what it lacks in people, it more than makes up for in rafting services and natural wonders. You have the chance to hike through Hewitt Gap or down the famous Winding Stairs to the Nantahala National Forest. You can go a little further east, and you’ll heat Queens Creek Lake the perfect kayaking experience for those who want a more private boating experience. At the very least, take a scenic drive down the National Forest Road to the lake.

4. Kyle

thick forest
Source: Flickr / John Hayes

Kyle’s not directly on the river, but it lies among the hills of the Nantahala National Forest and is just a few minutes from the water. Spend your days hiking through the woods. The Appalachian Trail runs just to the east. Pick it up, and go on a backpacking adventure with the family. The Whiteoak Creek, which runs through Kyle, offers a place to fish and explore. Grab a hot meal between adventures at John Smith Adventures.

5. Aquonne

variety of trees
Source: Flickr / Ken Lund

Just down Wayah Road from Kyle, Aquonne sits on Lee Branch, which is just minutes from both Nantahala Lake and Nantahala River. Go to one of the many nearby streams to fish, and supply yourself at Bryant Bait and Tackle. You could spend a day down at the lake boating and swimming. Lakes End Marina, at the north side of the lake, has a place to moor or rent a vessel for the day or your entire visit. Plus, the accompanying Lakes End Grill is a convenient place to stop for lunch a dinner.

6. Nantahala Lake

lake at the mountainside
Source: Flickr / saiberiac

Nantahala Lake offers plenty of vacation rentals around all three branches. Opt for the main branch to stay close to the marina, or nestle down between the west and south branches to be close to some hiking. Choga Trail explores the inland area without becoming too involved, great for those first nature walks with the kids.

7. Topton

roots of a tree

Topton lies in the hills about halfway between Nantahala and Nantahala Lake. Although not on the lake, it is the nexus of many streams among which is Rowlin Creek that runs through the center of town. You can tuck yourself away from the world for some trout fishing, or stop by Appalachian Rivers Raft Company for a more breathtaking adventure. Take the main road south for a little more of the city at Valleytown or Andrews. Otherwise, it’s time to enjoy the wilderness surrounding Topton.

8. Robbinsville

flowing water
Source: Flickr / anoldent

Robbinsville offers city amenities with close access to nature, a matter of minutes from Fontana lake to the northeast and Nantahala Lake to the southeast. Spend a day at each place, taking the opportunity to do some whitewater rafting, then return to your rental close to Lynn’s Place or El Pacifico Mexican for some homemade food. The Hub of WNC offers food and mood, with its scenic position on the Cheoah River.

9. Franklin

water falls viewed on top
Source: Flickr / Ken Lund

Franklin also marries modern comforts with the wilderness, but with more urban delights from the Root and Barrel eatery to the Motor Company Grill. Take your kids on an educational journey to the Gem and Mineral Museum or Scottish Tartans Museum between days exploring the Nantahala Lake or Appalachian Trail. Speaking of education, you can head down to the Nantahala River Bogs, a unique habitat with only 500 – out of 5,000 – existing acres. Keep your eyes out for the colorful red, orange, and yellow bog turtles.