Oconaluftee River Trail (N 35.5131, W – 83.3066): One of the park’s best walks combines two separate experiences. The 1.5-mile ORT leads from the Mountain Farm Museum, at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, to the town of Cherokee–or from Cherokee to the farm. Hiking either way (or out and back for a 3-mile trip) offers a major dose of riverside scenery along with what may be the park’s best insight into Cherokee Indian Culture. A half dozen interpretive plaques on the trail explain Cherokee beliefs and respect for the natural world. The signs include evocative illustrations by Cherokee artists that will make you want to visit the tribe’s Qualla Arts and Crafts gallery in town. Wherever you start, the Mountain Farm Museum is a flat, half-mile wander among a stunning collection of 19th century backcountry farm structures that paint a vivid picture of a settler’s life. Along the ORT, the Oconaluftee River dances over ledges and around islands.
The Oconaluftee River Trail is one of two walking paths on which visitors can walk dogs and bicycle. Pets and bicycles are prohibited on all other park trails.
Directions: Park at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center just inside the park near Cherokee, at the Cherokee Transit parking just before the Park boundary, or at any of three pull-offs between Cherokee and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Rd.