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Solar Eclipse 2017 - Where to Watch in Western NC

From: www.romanticasheville.com

Don't miss the opportunity to experience a rare total solar eclipse in western North Carolina near Asheville on Monday, August 21, 2017. Jackson County, Swain County and Graham County - all located about 50-70 miles west of Asheville - are the few areas in our state where you can totally experience the extremely rare celestial phenomenon. Towns in the direct path include Sylva, Dillsboro, Cashiers, Bryson City, Cherokee, Franklin, Highlands and Robbinsville, with one to two minutes of complete darkness as the moon moves in front of the sun. Even the city of Asheville will see a 99% eclipse - but not total darkness.

People will be traveling to this area from around the world to experience this amazing event. At 2:36 PM, the Carolina blue sky will turn pitch black. Temperatures will drop, and stars will come out as the sun disappears. While the total eclipse is just a couple of minutes, the transition will begin about 1 PM and end around 4 PM. Since we expect many visitors, you should be at your viewing location well before noon. Other tips: Gas up and have food and water with you in case you are stuck in traffic for a while. Traffic will be heavy especially right after the eclipse. See places to watch below!

Weather forecast: As of 8/17, the weather forecast for Monday is looking much better with mostly sunny skies with temps in 80s (dropping 10 degrees during the eclipse)! Don't forget sunscreen and water. Even if it is cloudy, you will experience the total darkness.

Monday afternoon traffic: Be ready for very heavy traffic right after the eclipse, since expected sunny weather will bring larger crowds and everyone will be leaving at the same time (like one huge concert). It will be especially bad around the city of Asheville, since many will be passing through during the 5 PM rush. 

Across the United States, cities from Oregon to South Carolina are inside the 70-mile-wide path of the total solar eclipse. This is the first time in 26 years that America has seen a total solar eclipse (last one in our area was in 1506, next one in 2153), and it is one of the few that will travel the nation from Atlantic to Pacific coasts. See viewing safety tips at bottom of this page.

Solar Eclipse NC Mountains

Best WNC Spots to Watch the Eclipse near Asheville

There are many places to witness the entire sun eclipse in western North Carolina, including small towns, mountaintops and lakes. Since we expect big crowds, arrive very early to get your spot! Expect heavy traffic, especially midday. If you hope to watch at a place with limited parking (like most spots in National Forests and Parks), you should arrive by 8 AM! Rangers will start closing areas as they fill up. The towns with events will have much more parking.

Sylva: Live music, food trucks and eclipse experts at Bridge Park (76 Railroad Avenue) downtown 11 AM-3 PM. Total time of darkness will be 1 minute 47 seconds. They are geared up for large crowds, so you'll find parking, food trucks and plenty of other things to do - including educational and children activities. Planetary walk on Main St. Go to the Jackson Website for more events and viewing locations. Dogs permitted on leashes. Park opens at 10 AM. $1 shuttle rides from extra parking at Jackson County Justice Center (401 Grindstaff Cove Rd, Sylva)

Cashiers: The Village Green will host food trucks, live music 12-4 PM and experts with equipment for viewing. Protective glasses available. Totality of darkness will be 2 minutes and 23 seconds. Go to the Jackson Website for more events and viewing locations. Also, the US Post Office will be on site to cancel their special solar eclipse thermal stamp, a great souvenir of the big day! Park opens at 9 AM. Bring water, chair, blanket and sunscreen. 35 Highway 64 West, Cashiers

Cherohala Skyway: Our top pick for roadside viewing is this National Scenic Byway near Robbinsville since it will experience the longest period of darkness (about 2.5 minutes) and there are many overlooks to park. Or hike up to Huckleberry Knob - limited parking, so you need to arrive very early morning. Bring a picnic (no food, drinks or gas on the Skyway) to enjoy the entire afternoon of mountain views. Due to expected crowds, many areas will probably close early in the day. Read more about the Cherohala Skyway.

Blue Ridge Parkway: The southern section of the Parkway will be in the path of total darkness (about 20-60 seconds of totality around 2:36 PM) - from around Looking Glass Rock overlook (Milepost 417) south to the end at Cherokee. While there are numerous overlooks to stop, most will fill up quickly. Portable toilets will be placed at many overlooks. Popular hiking spots to summits like Black Balsam, Devil's Courthouse and Waterrock Knob will be packed. So go early to claim a parking spot! Rangers will allow roadside parking in any grass areas - you just need to be completely off the road. Sections of the Parkway will close if it becomes too crowded. Waterrock Knob has the largest parking area with prime viewing from the lot (44 seconds of total darkness) with picnic area and restrooms. See our Blue Ridge Parkway Guide for stops along this section, Milepost 417-469.

Stecoah: The top spot for viewing in Graham County on Monday is the wonderful Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center, located near Robbinsville and Fontana Lake. Enjoy plenty of art, picnics, special activities, food and music 11 AM until 3 PM with plenty of parking.

Bryson City: Join the block party downtown on Frye Street, 11-3, with music and special offerings at local shops. Food trucks and music at Swain County Event Park. Total darkness for 1 minute 57 seconds. Go to their website for details.

Solar Eclipse Train: Ride the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad from Bryson City, leaving at noon, to Dillsboro with a two-hour layover to explore the artsy town and watch eclipse. Returns at 5 PM. Tickets from $59/person. SOLD OUT. Go to their Website.

Lakes: Rent a pontoon or kayak/canoe (reserve well in advance) to watch from the middle of one of the scenic lakes in the area (Santeetlah, Glenville and Fontana Lakes). Watch from the top of Fontana Dam!

Nantahala Outdoor Center: Experience the eclipse while enjoying outdoor adventures in the Nantahala Gorge. Rental kayaks or stand-up paddleboards to watch from Fontana Lake. Take a guided rafting trip down the river. Zip line with panoramic views, stopping for moments of darkness. All trips include viewing glasses. Read more!

Gorges State Park: A 3-day celebration with free activities. August 19 is Nature Day with a series of guided hikes 10 AM-4 PM. August 20 is Fun Day with programs, exhibits, food and music 10 AM-4 PM. On Eclipse Day (21st), gates will open at 5 AM with activities 10 AM-4 PM with free solar glasses, food and music. They will close the gate when they reach capacity (1,600 automobiles). Hike to Rainbow Falls before the eclipse. They are located in the direct path (2 minutes of darkness), west of Brevard. Read more about the park.

Mountaintops: Hiking to a mountaintop with a view will be a very popular destination. However, most of these hikes are in the Nantahala National Forests with limited parking. Many will probably close. If you want to hike, arrive early in the morning and plan to spend the day. John Rock in Pisgah National Forest should have about 30 seconds of totality and it has a large parking area. More top spots for total darkness: Looking Glass Rock, Wayah Bald, Wesser Bald, and Devil's Courthouse.

Cherokee Cultural Eclipse Celebration (August 20 2-9 PM & August 21 9 AM-7 PM): The Cherokee have observed eclipses for millennia and have several names for them. The oldest is “Nvdo walosi ugisgo” with translation “The frog eats the sun/moon.” The traditional belief is the eclipse is caused by a giant frog swallowing the sun or moon. To scare the frog away, people made loud noises. Learn more at the Fairgrounds and the Museum of the Cherokee with warrior dancers, drumming, storytellers and craft demonstrators. 1 minute, 25 seconds of totality. Admission is $25/day and includes viewing glasses. 545 Tsali Blvd, Cherokee

Dillsboro: Park at Monteith Park (Old Home Town Road) for $2 and take a free shuttle 11 AM-4 PM into this artsy village with galleries, studios, shops and restaurants along the river. Also find extra vendors and a kid's recreation! Eclipse glasses available for a small donation to the local Merchants Association. 1 minute, 50 seconds of total darkness.

Brevard: West Jordan Street will be closed to traffic since it's the prime viewing spot - about a minute of darkness. Stop by the "Heart of Brevard" booth for a free moon pie! The public is also invited to Brevard College to watch near Porter Center - with viewing glasses available. The event at Brevard Music Center is sold out.

DuPont State Forest: We recommend staying away from this area since it's crowded already and facilities are limited. 

Franklin: Block Party downtown on Iotla Street, 1-6 PM, with 3 PM concert on the square. Total darkness 2 minutes 30 seconds. Free viewing glasses to first 1,000 people. Free moon pie and RC Cola to first 100 people! Try their EclipSmart binoculars in front of Town Hall. Kid's zone too. Many downtown merchants will open at 8 AM.

Downtown Asheville: Solar Eclipse Festival in Pack Square Park downtown on August 21, 12-3 PM, with the Museum of Science and UNC Asheville with music, food, and fun hands-on eclipse related activities led by local organizations. The eclipse will be 99% total here. Free

NC Arboretum: The first 250 cars will receive free eclipse glasses to watch from their gardens. They have plenty of parking, trails, exhibits and more to keep you busy before and after. 99% eclipse here. See our Arboretum Guide.

Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute: NASA scientists and hundreds of astronomers from around the world will come to this leading space research facility. Visitors can watch them at work. PARI is located deep in Pisgah National Forest and will be in total darkness for 1 minute and 47 seconds. General visitor tickets ($100/person) are SOLD OUT. They have some VIP event tickets at $750/person, a fundraiser for their outreach programs. Call Sarah at 828-862-5554. Go to their website for other star gazing events throughout the year. On August 11, 7 PM, PARI presents "Eclipse of a Lifetime" with a great overview of what to expect, campus tour and star gazing with telescopes, registration required, $20/adult. The campus will be open the Saturday before the eclipse with guided tours at 10:30 AM & 2 PM. Read more.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: The road to Clingmans Dome will be closed both Sunday and Monday to all motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. The park's event at Clingmans sold out in five minutes and ticket holders will take shuttles in. Newfound Gap Road (US 441) will close when traffic becomes too congested (so we recommend staying away from that area). Oconaluftee Visitor Center at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains has a large field for viewing, with rangers answering questions. Expect a big crowd there. Cataloochee Valley will have a 99.7% eclipse, so the elk may come out to graze like they do at sunset.

Eclipse Online: Watch the NASA 360 Live Stream from Clingmans Dome on Aug 21, beginning at 12:15 PM.


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