Outdoors Recreation

Outdoors: Jackson County Offers Plenty of Outdoor Fun in Winter

Shadow of the Bear. Photo by Stacy Redmon and courtesy of Jackson County TDA

By Emma Castleberry

The late winter and early spring months can be a challenge for folks who love the outdoors. In Jackson County, there are plentiful opportunities to enjoy nature without suffering too much discomfort from the cold. Additionally, visitors and residents alike enjoy the intimate crowds and shorter wait times of the off-season. “Encompassing the distinctive towns of Cashiers, Sylva and Dillsboro, Jackson County is a year-round destination, but guests will love visiting January through March during Secret Season,” says Nick Breedlove, executive director of the Jackson County NC Tourism Development Authority (JCTDA).

Outhouse Races 2017. Photo by Nick Breedlove, courtesy of Jackson County TDA

One of the major draws to this region is a fascinating natural phenomenon called Shadow of the Bear that takes place just outside of Cashiers in mid-February. The shadow appears around 5:30 p.m. as a small stretch of darkness in the bottom of the valley and evolves into the shape of a bear as the sun sets behind Whiteside Mountain. The best viewing area is just outside of Cashiers along Highway 64 at Rhodes Big View Overlook. In 2006, this overlook was donated by the children of local icons Toni and Bob Rhodes to the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust. “We could think of no better way to honor our parents than to preserve their beautiful view of the mountains in their name,” says Margaret Rhodes Shaffner, a resident of Highlands. Space is limited, so arrive early and make your trip mid-week, if possible.

For those looking for a special winter adventure, Sapphire Valley Resort hosts the annual Sapphire Valley Outhouse Races on Saturday, February 19. Two members of a three-person team push an outhouse attached to a pair of skis down a racecourse while the third member sits (or bounces around) inside. Each team is responsible for constructing their own outhouse, making for a jumble of interesting designs, all of which are required to have a seat, a hole and a roll of toilet paper.

Whatever brings you to Jackson County, there’s plenty of activities to fill out your schedule. Take a winter hike to a frozen waterfall or a scenic drive to view the frost-covered mountains, go shopping in charming downtown areas or dine at award-winning local restaurants like ILDA, which was recently named the Mountain Restaurant of the Year by Eater Carolinas. The Secret Season has it all in Jackson County.

For more information, visit DiscoverJacksonNC.com.

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