A scenic view of a waterfall cascading down a rocky cliff surrounded by autumn foliage and a small pool at the base in a Cherokee forest.

In Cherokee, NC, fall is a time of transformation. The leaves put on a dizzying display, competing for color, and the air is crisp and cool. It’s a time to slow down, gather with loved ones, and take in the culture and beauty of the area. Check out these five things to get the most out of your visit to Cherokee this season. 

1. Experience the history.

Visit the Museum of the Cherokee People and learn the story of the Cherokees spanning the last 13,000 years. This award-winning museum, called a “model museum” by Disney Imagineering, takes visitors from the Paleo period all the way through the Trail of Tears using stunning animations, artifacts, life-size figures, audio, artwork, and more. 

2. Meet the Cherokee Friends.

The Cherokee Friends are tribal members who are cultural specialists with vast knowledge of Cherokee history and culture. The group includes storytellers, singers, flute players, wood and stone carvers, and more. You can find the Cherokee Friends at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, where they demonstrate their arts and crafts skills and talk to visitors. 

3. Support local artists.

Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc., the nation’s oldest and foremost Native American cooperative, showcases the work of over 250 artists working to preserve the artistic traditions of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Discover handmade work from master crafters of pottery, basket weaving, beadworking, silversmithing, wood and stone carving and more, and take a piece of Cherokee home with you. Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual is open year round.

4. See Mingo Falls. 

Mingo Falls on the Cherokee Indian Reservation is one of the tallest, most beautiful waterfalls in the southern Appalachians. (Check out the image at top.) To Cherokee, it’s known as “Big Bear Falls,” or “yon equo” as it’s called in the Cherokee language. It cascades almost two hundred feet down granite boulders, with a spectacular view you can take in safely from a bridge at the base of the falls. A short, moderate hike will get you to the falls, with 161 steps leading up to the base.

5. Fish, Hike or Bike

Fall is an excellent time to go fishing in Cherokee, NC. Not only will you discover beautiful scenery, but the amount of wild fish you can encounter really sets it apart. Cherokee fishing champion Michael Bradley says that of all the rivers he’s fished, he thinks Cherokee has the best one with the Raven Fork in Big Cove. If fishing’s not your thing, check out the Fire Mountain Trail System, a 10.5-mile mixed-use network that appeals to hikers, bikers, and runners.