I say “in Erwin, TN,” but we didn’t actually go into Erwin proper. We did see a sign for Union Street Taproom, so there’s at least one cool-seeming place in town, but otherwise we don’t know anything about Erwin. Sorry! But you may not even need to go into town if you stay where we stayed. Erwin is conveniently just off I-26 in eastern Tennessee, and it’s an easy 45-minute drive south to Asheville, our next stop.
We spent the night at Nolichucky Gorge Campground, tucked into the eponymous gorge (the steepest east of the Mississippi!) in the Cherokee National Forest just ten or so minutes from Erwin’s main drag. We loved it there.
Off-season, when we visited, it’s a quiet riverfront campground. We chilled at the campsite, hiked nearby, walked to the private “beach” down the river, and had beers at the tiki bar at USA Raft next door. But during the summer, it’s a happening hotspot for rafting, standup paddleboarding, climbing, and other outdoor pursuits, and we want to go back during high season and get out on the water!
Like I said: we had beers next door at USA Raft’s dog-friendly outdoor bar and it was a super awesome scene with heaters, a fire pit, and local beers and ciders. USA Raft is adjacent to Nolichucky Gorge Campground, and instead of RV sites they have cabins, campers, and tent campsites. They’re planning a big renovation to include more housing, food, RV sites, and a tavern a bit down the road towards town–but the current riverside location will be hard to top!
We hiked twice: once in the afternoon after we parked the Airstream, and once in the morning before leaving for Asheville. Both hikes were on the Appalachian Trail, which dips down to the campground and then parallels the campground’s entrance road. The first hike was a five-minute drive down the road, and the second was from our campsite.
Our first hike was super short but a great little hike to a viewpoint over the Nolichucky River. The total mileage was under 2 miles, but the climb got out hearts pounding and the view was lovely.
In the morning, we jumped on the AT directly from the campground and hiked south to the train tracks. It was a nice walk in the woods, just a few miles total (although you can make the hike as long as you want as it’s an out-and-back with no real destination), but there were no big river views. While you’re poking around the campground, you should definitely find the path along the river at the far end of the property and follow it a short way to a rocky sort of beach with a beautiful view into the gorge.
We are happy to add Erwin and Nolichucky Gorge into our close-to-home Airstreaming rotation! It’s an easy drive from home and it’s super close to Asheville, our next destination.