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Things To Do in Murphy, North Carolina

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Nestled in the southwestern corner of North Carolina, the small town of Murphy provides easy access to the beauty and adventure of the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains. Though a modest spot, Murphy overflows with scenic natural attractions, opportunities for outdoor recreation, and charming historical and cultural sites just waiting to be uncovered.

From striking vistas to roaring whitewater, this Western North Carolina destination has something for travelers of all interests. Read on for some of the top things to do in Murphy, North Carolina that will make your mountain getaway memorable.

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What to Do in Murphy

Ride the Rails on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

One of Murphy’s most popular attractions is the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which departs from the 1905 Murphy Railroad Depot downtown. Take a scenic train ride following the mountain river valleys along a historic rail line that once transported lumber and minerals through the region. Options range from short one-hour trips to half-day or full-day excursions covering over 50 miles of spectacular scenery. Some specialty train experiences like the Moonshine Express or Beer Train offer adult beverages onboard. With its beautiful views of the Smoky Mountains, riding the rails provides a unique way to admire Murphy’s natural splendor.

Go Whitewater Rafting

The nearby Nantahala River provides some of the best whitewater rafting in the Eastern US, flowing through a dramatic narrow gorge lined with boulders. Visitors flock here to ride the thrilling rapids along 8 miles of Class II-IV challenges with names like “Nantahala Falls” and “The Foot Drop.” Sign up for a guided rafting trip with companies like Endless River Adventures or Nantahala Outdoor Center to experience the river safely. First-timers and families can tackle the calmer Lower Nantahala while the Upper Nantahala churns with nonstop action for whitewater enthusiasts. Either way, a rafting adventure down the Nantahala gets the adrenaline pumping!

Hike the Cherohala Skyway

For awe-inspiring mountain scenery, drive or hike along the spectacular 50-mile Cherohala Skyway connecting Murphy to Tellico Plains, TN. This National Scenic Byway rises over 5,400 feet for incredible long-range vistas. Notable hiking trails include the easy 1-mile Haw Knob Path to scenic overlooks and the challenging 7.5-mile Rock Creek Trail passing four waterfalls. With trails ranging from gentle paths to multi-day backpacking routes, Cherohala Skyway offers hikes suited for every ability through some of the most beautiful high-elevation landscapes in the Smokies.

What to See in Murphy

Downtown Historical Walking Tour

Murphy’s quaint downtown centers around the triangular town commons and contains many preserved buildings showcasing various eras and architectures. Stop by the Murphy Visitor Center to pick up a free walking tour map leading you to highlights like the Old L&N Depot, the 1902 Peacock Hotel, and the Dr. Joseph A. Goforth House, one of the fanciest residences built after the arrival of the railroad. You’ll also see Baptist, Methodist, and Episcopal churches constructed from the town’s early days. Exploring downtown allows you to glimpse Murphy’s bygone days as a booming mountain railroad town.

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Cherokee County Historical Museum

This museum located in the 1907 Tim’s Ford Dam Generator Building vividly chronicles the region’s history and cultural heritage. Native American artifacts, Civil War relics, mining equipment, and early settler tools depict what mountain life was like through the years. Other exhibits feature extensive arrowhead collections, antique farming implements, and minerals and gems from the area mines. Don’t miss the scale model depicting downtown Murphy in 1913 or theDISTILLERY display shedding light on Moonshine’s local legacy.

John C. Campbell Folk School

This creative haven located north of Murphy offers free public tours showcasing arts, crafts, music, cooking, and Appalachian heritage. You can watch students demonstrate regional art forms like blacksmithing, quilting, pottery, and woodcarving. The Folk Art Museum displays treasures like handcrafted baskets, paintings, furniture, and more. The school’s picturesque grounds, hiking trails, gift shops, and galleries provide a serene artistic retreat.

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Where to Eat and Drink in Murphy

Murphy Pizza Company: Locals rave about the generous toppings and housemade sauces on pies served New York-style by the slice or whole. Grab a craft beer to accompany you.

Shack of Sugar Valley: Quaint cafe dishes up homemade soups, salads, sandwiches, and fresh baked goods daily. Save room for their rotating cobblers.

Route 60 Diner: Vintage diner with checkerboard floors serving classic comfort food like meatloaf, chicken fried steak, and mashed potatoes done right.

Chevelles Lounge: Lively neighborhood pub with billiards, karaoke, live bands, burgers, and a great craft beer selection.

Where to Shop in Murphy

Downtown Murphy has some nice specialty boutiques and antiques shops worth browsing during your visit.

Everett’s Antiques: Find furniture, glassware, toys, tools, photographs, and other treasures at this unique antique emporium.

Blairsville Scottish Tartans Museum Gift Shop: Shop authentic Scottish apparel, jewelry, decor, and more imported from Scotland.

Toxic Moon Traders: Retro gifts, clothing, posters, incense, tapestries, and smoking accessories at this funky head shop.

Southern Highland Craft Guild: Watch regional craft artists at work and peruse over 10,000 handmade traditional and contemporary crafts.

Where to Stay in Murphy

Holiday Inn Express: Comfortable chain hotel downtown featuring an indoor pool, fitness center, and complimentary breakfast.

Murphy Log Cabin Rentals: Cozy log cabins nestled on 45 wooded acres, with amenities like hot tubs, fire pits, and fully equipped kitchens.

Stonebrook Lodge: Cedar-sided cabins and cottages overlooking the lush Hiwassee River, located 13 miles from downtown Murphy.

Deep Creek Motel & Cabins: Charming retro motel and cottages providing clean, cozy rooms with a large swimming pool on-site.

Camping: Nearby campgrounds include Cherokee/Great Smokies KOA, Tom Johnson Campground, and Parson Branch.

How to Get To Murphy

By car: Murphy sits at the intersection of US-19/129 and US-74 in the far southwestern corner of North Carolina. It’s about 2 hours north of Atlanta and 2 hours south of Asheville.

From Asheville: Take I-40 West to US-74 West into Murphy (about 120 miles)

From Atlanta: Take I-75 North to I-575 North which connects to US-19/129 North into Murphy (140 miles)

By air: The nearest major airport is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), followed by Asheville Regional

Airport (AVL): Both are about 2+ hours away by car.

So whether you love scenic drives, historic sightseeing, outdoor adventures, or railroad journeys, Murphy serves as an ideal base for exploring the lakes, mountains, trails, and charm of this less-visited region of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Conclusion

Boasting a picturesque location in the Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains, the town of Murphy, North Carolina overflows with opportunities to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and regional spirit of Appalachia. Ride the rails behind an old steam engine, brave whitewater rapids, hike to majestic overlooks, and learn about Cherokee heritage and old-time mountain ways through historic sites.

Fueled up on diner food and soulful music, you’ll see why Murphy’s scenic landscapes and traditions embody the essence of Western North Carolina. With so many rich experiences abounding in its forests and rivers, charming downtown, and warm culture, this town is the perfect springboard for memories that will last long after leaving the mountains.

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Krishna Mali
Krishna Mali
Founder & Group Editor of TechGraph.
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