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5 Fun Things to Do in Hayesville, North Carolina

Updated: Jan 10

I love to visit small towns and off-the-beaten-path places. So, when we had to pack up our RV and get out of the way of a hurricane, my goal was to find one of those places. My family and I ended up near the town of Hayesville, North Carolina, where we spent a few days exploring this beautiful destination with mountain views.

Before you visit the Western North Carolina region, check out these 5 Fun Things to Do in Hayesville, North Carolina.

Cherokee Homestead Exhibit

In downtown Hayesville, a short walk from the town square, we found the Cherokee Homestead Exhibit.

This self-guided display gives insight into what life was like for the Cherokee Indians in the area before the arrival of European settlers.

One display explains some symbols and tools used by the Cherokee people. I found the description of the seven Cherokee clans particularly interesting, as they were matrilineal. A council of grandmothers ran each clan.

There’s also a section about how they grew and stored food. The Cherokee used the “three sisters” gardening method where they planted corn, squash, and beans together as each plant helped the others to grow. Once the harvest was over, they burned the land. This process created nitrogen-rich soil for the next planting season.

They stored corn in a “corn crib,” a structure that stood five-feet off the ground. It prevented the corn from being infested with pests, and allowed for a long storage period.

To the right of the houses stood a wall with beautiful pictures crafted by local artisans.

The two most prominent features of this exhibit are the summer and winter houses. The rectangular house is an example of what the Cherokee used for warmer weather, and, according to the information on site, some may have had two stories. For the colder months, the Cherokee used their winter houses, built using daub – a mixture of the clay soil and grasses – in order to create a type of plaster.

After we checked out the summer and winter houses, we walked the Quanassee Path that begins in the parking area.

There are several spaces available for parking. The Cherokee Homestead Exhibit is outdoors, always open, and FREE to visit. I’d highly recommend it to anyone visiting the Hayesville area. It’s located next to the Old Jail Museum.

Old Jail Museum

When we visited Hayesville at the end of September, we learned we were there during the “off season.” This surprised me, because the weather was beautiful, the leaves were changing, and it was difficult to understand how the area wasn’t flooded with people.

For this reason, we struggled to find out when the Old Jail Museum was open to visitors. After visiting the Clay County Chamber of Commerce, we found out the museum was open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., and was FREE to visit. Even if there was a price for admission, it would have been worth it.

The Old Jail Museum is in a two-story brick building, which, as the name implies, served as the old county jail. Though a museum with an old jail would be interesting enough to visit on its own, this museum also had: an exhibit about Cherokee history, an old doctor’s office, and exhibits about slavery, textiles, education, notable figures who lived in Clay County, and a confiscated moonshine still.

The docent at the museum explained to us that a local family had donated all the medical possessions from one of their ancestors who’d been a doctor in the area. They moved the office to the museum and attached it as an addition. It dates back to the late 1800/early 1900s, and contains medical instruments, medicine bottles, a surgical bag, photos, books, and an old chair.

Though the building does not appear large from the outside, there is so much to see on the inside that I’d recommend setting aside at least an hour. There is parking available on site.

If you’re visiting Hayesville or the surrounding area and want to check out the Old Jail Museum, call (828) 389-6814 to get the most up-to-date information on their hours of operation. You can also check out my in-depth post on the museum here: Old Jail Museum.

Chatuge Dam

The Chatuge Dam has a 1.5-mile paved trail (total of 3 miles out and back), that offers a family-friendly hike along beautiful Chatuge Lake. We saw boaters and swimmers in the lake on our walk. Most of the trail is open to the sky and probably gets pretty warm in the summer. Our hike during late September was stunning, with the sun creating sparkles on the water. Near the end of the trail, we walked through a forested area near a campground and saw some of the maple trees changing with the season.

The Chatuge Dam, named after a nearby Cherokee settlement, stands at 150-feet tall, spanning 3,336-feet along Lake Chatuge. The Tennessee Valley River Authority created the dam in 1941 and completed it in 1942. Their purpose for building the dam involved creating hydroelectric power and flood damage mitigation.

Today, the Chatuge Dam Recreation area, including the Hiawassee River and the trail, are popular areas for boating, hiking, camping, and sport fishing. This trail is FREE to visit and has ample parking near the dam.

The Chatuge Dam Trail is smooth with very little elevation change, making it accessible to almost everyone. For more information about the Chatuge Dam Trail, check out the Tennessee River Valley Authority Geo Tourism page.

Cherokee Cultural Display at Library

We stopped by the Moss Memorial Library in downtown Hayesville to see the Cherokee Cultural Display, which is located inside of the library. There are displays about Cherokee crafts, sports, and their way of life.

Above the glass cases, there’s information about Sequoya, the man who created the Cherokee Syllabary, a system for writing the Cherokee language. This display is FREE to visit.

Though we weren’t able to check out any of the related reading material without a library card, the displays had plenty of information to read. I’d recommend visiting this spot after seeing the Cherokee Homestead Exhibit, as both sites complement one other.

The display is open to the public during the library’s normal operating hours at 26 Anderson Street in Hayesville.

Friends of the Library Bookstore

The Friends of the Library Bookstore is conveniently located next to the Moss Memorial Library. Friendly staff welcomed us in and explained where each subject of books was located. They have fiction, non-fiction, hardcover, paperback, children’s books, music, puzzles, and magazines. We enjoyed the cozy bookshop and came across some great finds there. Don’t miss an opportunity to visit the bookstore and support the local library.

The bookstore is also at 26 Anderson Street, Hayesville, NC. Hours of operation of Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Nocturnal Brewing Company

After enjoying all the fun you can have in Hayesville centered around their town square, you’ll probably want something to eat. Typically, I don’t recommend restaurants because we tend to pack our food with us and/or cook in the RV. But I came across Nocturnal Brewing Company when I was researching things to do in Haynesville, and their menu looked amazing.

Warren LeMay from Cincinnati, OH, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

They have a wide variety of options that include meeting the needs of people with special diets. Nocturnal Brewing far exceeded my expectations. The food was abundant and delicious and the staff was friendly. They are open Tuesday – Friday 11 – 2 (lunch), 4 – 9 (dinner), & Saturdays 12 – 9, with indoor and outdoor seating available.

Next time you’re in the Western North Carolina area, make sure to stop by this cute little town and check out these 5 Fun Things to Do in Hayesville, North Carolina.

Are you familiar with this area and have a favorite place that didn’t make the list? Would you like to visit this beautiful mountain town? Do you have a favorite small town in North Carolina? Drop your comment below!


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