These 12 NC mountain towns, with their stellar offerings of outdoor activities, good food, good beverages, and lively downtowns, make for the perfect refuge from Charlotte’s heat.
The western part of the state of North Carolina is full of beautiful mountain towns, nestled among the Blue Ridge and the Great Smokies. From the larger cities of Boone and Asheville to the quaint towns of Saluda and Sylva, the mountains of North Carolina have never been more alive. Here are a few destinations to go for a day trip, a weekend, or even escape for a full vacation. Get ready to slow down.
Slow down from the stresses of everyday life with a trip to the quaint downtown area of Spruce Pine. With 2,000 residents, this town is located six miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway and an hour north of Asheville. There are several festivals each year and the town hosts a number of shopping and dining options.
Get out “west” with an excursion to the Oconaluftee Indian Village of Cherokee in western North Carolina. Reminisce on the Cherokee history with exhibits, theatre, family fun parks, and petting zoos. Campgrounds and Appalachian hiking trails can be found at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park nearby.
This small North Carolina town is a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Expect to see wildflowers, streams, and part of the Appalachian Trail in this area. White-water rafting, museums, breweries, farmland visits, fishing, or hopping aboard the railroad for a mountain train ride are all fun activities one can engage in during their stay in Bryson City.
Visit the scenic Great Smoky Mountains just 35 miles west of Asheville in Maggie Valley. Sights include black bears, wildflowers, trails, waterfalls, slopes for skiing or snowboarding, museums, and even barns that are painted in vivid quilt patterns. The only problem you may face during your stay is selecting what to do from this town’s wide array of options.
Escape to the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains of northwest North Carolina in the small town that is quintessential Americana. Take in the breathtaking landscape and crisp mountain breezes in an area that combines a rich sense of history with modern culture. West Jefferson offers an Arts District with galleries and studios, various parks like Backstreet and Mount Jefferson State Natural Area, a theater, and a farmers market to choose from.
Home to Appalachian State University, Boone has an alluring main drag, King Street. There old mountain town nostalgia and student-tailored modernity meet. A stroll down King Street is quintessential Boone, but be sure to make your way out of downtown. A host of swimming holes, like Twisted Falls, Snake Pit, and Hebron Rock Colony, offer a respite from the summertime heat. Nearby, Hickory Ridge Living History Museum in Daniel Boone Park offers a peek at this mountain town’s fascinating past.
Designed by the same landscape architect responsible for the grounds at the Biltmore Estate, the North Carolina Arboretum, located just outside downtown Asheville, offers 426 acres of groomed gardens and lush trails. It’s an outstanding alternative for those already well acquainted with the Biltmore grounds. Plus, it offers a peaceful getaway from the energy of Asheville. Once refreshed, return to Asheville for a brewery tour. Or extend your outdoor getaway with a hike along the nearby Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Brevard is western North Carolina’s quaintest college town, and the perfect headquarters for fly fishing day trips on the Davidson River. Alternatively, drive west to the rugged trails of Gorges State Park. For a gentler experience try the slopes of Panthertown Valley, or cool off in nearby Pisgah’s Looking Glass Falls.
In the tiny village of Blowing Rock, visitors find a refuge from the fast pace of city life. Amid the peaks and valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this village is a haven for artists and artisans. They are attracted in part by the Moses Cone Manor, a 3,500 acre estate with a mansion that houses the Southern Highland Craft Guild. The Guild showcases hundreds of regional artists and offers craft demonstrations on the front porch.
Sylva, so picturesque in its small-town glory that it is often used as a filming site, sits just east of the Nantahala National Forest. In the national forest, opportunities for hiking, camping, and waterfall exploration abound. Cast for trout in the nearby Tuckasegee River or Tanasee Creek. Then trade your rod for a glass of wine while soaking up some small-town charm in the form of Friday evening free outdoor concerts at the Bridge Park gazebo.
Twenty minutes north of Hendersonville is the Sierra Nevada Taproom, which offers the mother of all brewery experiences. With 23 beers on tap, a beer garden, a massive back porch, property abutting the French Broad River, a nature trail, and an amphitheater for live music, the east coast Sierra Nevada taproom rightly describes itself as part brewery, part park. Make gorgeous Hendersonville your home base as you indulge at Sierra Nevada. You’ll also have easy access to Dupont Recreational Forest and a variety of restaurants.
Get to know Banner Elk by walking along the town’s one-mile greenway. Then, visit the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, managed by local Lees-Mcrae College. Take a day trip to Grandfather Mountain and cling to the Mile High Swinging Bridge. Or rock climb along the mountain’s sheer cliffs. Be sure to carve out time to visit Grandfather Vineyard and Winery. That way, you’ll most of your trip to an area slowly emerging as a wine region.
Additional contributor: Sunny Hubler