North Carolina Outdoor Recreation
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- Blue Ridge Parkway
Constructed in the 1930’s as a way to create work for the thousands of locals unemployed by the Great Depression, the Blue Ridge Parkway, “America’s Favorite Drive,” winds some 469 miles through mountain cuts and past ostensibly endless vistas. Split-rail fences, old farmsteads, lush greenery, mountains, and valleys are some of the many attractions the parkway incorporates. The parkway also offers visitor centers, camp grounds, picnic areas, trails, and in some instances lodges, restaurants, gas stations, and other facilities.
- Mount Mitchell State Park
From milepost 355.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway take NC Highway 128 to Mt. Mitchell. At 6,684 feet, Mt. Mitchell is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi. On a clear day, the 85-mile view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the observation tower is breathtaking. Allow time to hike in the tranquil 1,855-acre Mount Mitchell State Park, or enjoy lunch at the picnic area. With temperatures generally 10-15 degrees cooler than downtown Asheville, it’s an ideal place to find relief from the summer heat. In other seasons, bring a jacket. There is no admission fee. 2388 State Hwy 128 Burnsville, NC 28714
- DuPont State Forest
DuPont State Forest is located southeast of Brevard, and is in what the locals call, waterfall country. This region of Western North Carolina is remarkably alluring, and with a little exploration, at any of the 250 waterfalls this area boasts, one can come to appreciate and recognize just why Transylvania County is so spectacular. DuPont is home to approximately 100 miles of trails, unforgettable waterfalls, pristine lakes, and stunning vistas. To visit many of the falls and beautiful scenes one will need to do a minimal to moderate amount of walking or hiking. From Asheville, take I-26 east to Exit 40, and then take NC-280 toward Pisgah Forest. Turn left (east) on US-64 and go 3.7 miles to the Texaco station in Penrose. Turn right on Crab Creek Rd. and continue 4.3 miles and turn right on DuPont Rd. for 3.1 miles.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The US Department of the Interior says this, “No place this size in a temperate climate can match Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s variety of plant and animal species. Here are more tree species than in northern Europe, 1,500 flowering plants, dozens of native fish, and more than 200 species of birds and 60 of Mammals.” The Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides near endless opportunity to view superb mountain scenery, take photographs, picnic, or hike and backpack along the abundant trails, and delight in an almost never-ending showcase that Mother Nature provides. The Park is located due west of Asheville and can be accessed from many locations.
- Pisgah National Forest
The Pisgah National Forest is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts no matter what their ilk. The National Forest offers a wide range of recreating options. To mention just a few, there’s hiking and back-packing, camping, fishing, biking, horse-back riding, swimming, rock climbing, car tour sightseeing, waterfalls, wildlife, historical areas, and a array of exceptional programs to choose from, including everything from lectures to guided hikes and square dancing. If you live in the Asheville Area, this is THE outdoor enthusiast’s playground location. There are so many beautiful places in this tract of nationally protected forest, that in one lifetime you couldn’t see all that it has to offer.
Note: Places of Interest in the Pisgah National Forest include, but are not limited to, the Pisgah Ranger District, Cradle of Forestry, Looking Glass Rock/Falls, Mount Hardy, Pink Beds, Richland Balsam, Bent Creek, Mills River, Davidson River, Shining Rock Wilderness Area, and the Middle Prong Wilderness Area.
- Mt. Pisgah – Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 408.6
- North Carolina Arboretum
The North Carolina Arboretum centers on education, economic development, research, conservation, and garden demonstration. On 434-acre in West Asheville, the Arboretum is located on one of the most breathtaking natural landscapes in the United States. Asheville’s Mountain peaks surround the property’s visual perimeters and 1.8 miles of the Bent Creek stream run through the center of the Arboretum. The staff and other plant experts teach a wide variety of classes and workshops. Programs are available for all ages and range from bonsai demonstrations to nature walks. The North Carolina Arboretum is an institutional member of the American Public Gardens Association. 101 Frederick Law Olmsted Way Asheville NC. 28806
- Chimney Rock
Brilliant scenery and awe-inspiring views are what one can find at Chimney Rock Park, located just south of Lake Lure. However, extraordinary scenery is not the only thing at Chimney Rock Park. A variety of rare and indigenous plants, a 404ft waterfall, astonishing geological formations, and special events are just a few of the many more things on can find to do in the area. If your route is 74A, you can also stop in one of the many little towns for shopping, a bite to eat, or stop at a few of the camp sites along the way. Offering amenities for RV camping, tenting or rental cabins, there is something for all levels of outdoor enjoyment. Your four legged friends are also welcome as long as they are kept on a leash. P.O. Box Chimney Rock NC 28720
Transylvania County, known as “Land of Waterfalls” is located to the southwest of Buncombe County and shares a large border with South Carolina. The rock mountain terrain and high rainfall totals, Transylvania is the wettest county in the state, make this county the best in Western North Carolina for waterfalls. In fact, Transylvania County is home to over 250 waterfalls, including some of the most popular in the entire state. The county seat is Brevard, NC, which is a popular tourist attraction in its own right. Transylvania County is also home to DuPont State Forest. DuPont has several spectacular waterfalls and numerous hiking trails. For this waterfalls guide we have chosen to feature only a few of the waterfalls near Brevard.
- Courthouse Falls
Directions: From Asheville, take the Blue Ridge Parkway south until it intersects with N.C. 215. Get on N.C. 215 South and drive 5.2 miles. The Summey Cove trailhead is located at a bridge (which is actually 1 mile south of where F.R. 140 intersects with N.C. 215) and a grassy parking area is on the side of the road. Get on the trail and remember to veer right where it forks near the beginning. Trail Length: Length is 2 miles. Trail Difficulty: Trail is moderate for most and difficult for some.
- Looking Glass Falls
Directions: Looking Glass Falls, definitely one of the most magnificent falls in NC, is located within the Pisgah National Forest. The parking area for Looking Glass Falls is just off of U.S. 276 (between U.S. 64 and the Blue Ridge Parkway). Trail Length: Falls can be viewed from the roadside, and there is a very short trail of well-maintained stairs that leads to the base of the falls. Trail Difficulty: No sweat! The roadside view is handicapped accessible, and the trail of stairs to the base is very safe and easy for the average hiker to use.
- Moore Cove Falls
Directions: The parking area for Moore Cove Falls is located one mile north of Looking Glass Falls on U.S. 276 on the right side of the road. Park, cross the bridge on foot, and begin the trail on the right at the Moore Cove sign. Trail Length: 0.7 miles. Trail Difficulty: Moderate
- Slide Rock Falls
Directions: Take U.S. 276 north to F.R. 475. Make a left onto F.R. 475 and drive 1.5 miles. Take a right onto F.R. 475-B and drive 1.1 miles, at which point you will reach a pull-off on the right side of the road. Trail Length: Falls can be viewed from the roadside. A very short walk will take you down to the base of the falls. Trail Difficulty: No sweat! The roadside view is handicapped accessible.
- Sliding Rock
Directions: Sliding Rock is also located within the Pisgah National Forest, not far from Looking Glass Falls. The paved parking area is just off of U.S. 276 (between U.S. 64 and the Blue Ridge Parkway). Sliding Rock is a popular and often crowded, recreational attraction. “Eleven thousand gallons of water per minute propel adventurous sliders 60 feet into a 6-foot-deep pool. A lifeguard is on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day” (Adams, Ken. North Carolina Waterfalls: Where to Find Them, How to Photograph Them. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, Publisher, 1994. page 49). Trail Length: Very short. Trail Difficulty: No sweat! Only a short walk is required, and the man-made boardwalk trail is handicapped accessible.
- Selected Waterfalls of DuPont State Forest
Directions: From Asheville, take I-26 east to Exit 40. Turn right off the exit ramp onto NC-280 so that you are driving towards Brevard. Turn left (east) on US-64 and go 3.7 miles to the Texaco station in Penrose. Turn right on Crab Creek Rd. and continue 4.3 miles and turn right on DuPont Rd. for 3.1 miles. You will see a large, paved parking area on your right. The Hooker Falls trail starts from the parking lot itself. N35.19 W -83.85. Trail Length: 0.25 miles. Trail Difficulty: Easy
- Triple Falls
Directions: Follow the directions to Hooker Falls. From the paved parking area, carefully cross to the other side of the road and pick up the trail that leads to Triple Falls. Trail Length: 0.5 miles. Trail Difficulty: Moderate with some very steep sections.
- High Falls
Directions: Follow the directions to Triple Falls and turn left on the High Falls Trail at the intersection at the top of the hill. Trail Length: 5 minutes’ walk from the intersection at the top of the hill near Triple Falls. Trail Difficulty: Moderate with some very steep section. 8270
- Jump Skinny Dip Falls (Parkway South)
This three-tiered waterfall along the Yellowstone Prong drops a total of 30 feet through a rocky bend in an ice-cold mountain stream. Perched on the edge of the tallest falls is a rock that juts over a deep plunge pool. Jump at your own risk and clothing is optional. N 35.19 W -82.99
- Mountains to Sea (Parkway North MP 380)
The Mountains to Sea Trail parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway on the edge of Asheville, offering trail runners easy access to extensive forest runs. From the Folk Art Center, head north for a steady climb up to the Haw Creek Overlook, or head south for an easier out and back over rolling terrain. N 35.59 W -82.71
- Looking Glass Rock Trail (Pisgah National Forest, Brevard)
Looking Glass Rock’s stone face is one of the more recognizable landmarks from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The shear face is a popular climbing spot while the trail to the summit rewards hikers with stunning views. This moderately difficult hike climbs 1700 feet in 3 miles and is well marked with yellow blazes. As with all summit hikes, be careful when you reach the top.
- Deep Gap Trail (Mount Mitchell, Parkway North MP 388)
In just 4.5 miles, Deep Gap Trail crosses four 6,000-foot peaks while taking hikers across rocky out croppings and through spruce-fir forests. This trail takes you down Mt. Mitchell and up to the peak of Mt. Craig. Also, don’t forget your binoculars because this is a great spot to catch a glimpse of the Winter Wren and Blackburnian Warbler. N37.79 W -82.25
- Max Patch (Hot Springs)
This short, one mile hike on the Appalachian Trail takes you across the 4,600-foot grassy knob of Max Patch, which offers 360-degree views of the surrounding peaks. This is great hike with kids due to the easy access from the parking area. Likewise, kick back with a picnic and bring your kite. N 35.47 W -82.57
- Graveyard Fields Trail (Parkway South MP 410)
A moderate 3.2-mile out and back hike through a high alpine valley with two picturesque waterfalls. Start the hike at the lower end of the parking area. Be sure to stop at the first viewing platform to catch a glimpse of the first waterfall. N 35.19 W -82.50
- Cedar Rock Trail (Dupont State Forest, Mountain Bike)
Short but sweet, the 1.5-mile Cedar Rock Trail features a steep climb up eastern slickrock (large slabs of granite) topping out with killer views of Dupont State Forest. Take Big Rock trail from the top of the mountain for a fast, technical downhill over slickrock and single-track. We recommend a loop that includes Corn Mills Shoal to the Little River Trail to Cedar Rock Trail to Big Rock Trail. This loop is about 3 miles. Dupont has many trails so we highly recommend downloading a map from the site below or stopping at a local outdoor store to buy a map. N35.1 W -82.38
- RP to Looking Glass Rock Overlook (Parkway South, Road Ride, MP 388 to MP 417)
Roughly 27 miles of steady climbing on one of the most famous roads in America. You’ll pass several impressive overlooks, pedal through a handful of tunnels, and cap off the ride with a view of Looking Glass Rock, a towering dome of granite deep in Pisgah National Forest. Turn around and enjoy the downhill back to town. N35.50 W -82.76
- Town Mountain Hill Climb (City, Road Ride)
A classic road ride with a 1500-foot climb up Town Mountain that begins on the edge of downtown. The twisty ride features cityscape and mountain views. Hook it up with the Blue Ridge Parkway (north) and descend the steep Elk Mountain for a 30+ mile “in town” ride. N35.60 W -82.55
- Explorer/Lower Sidehill Loop (Bent Creek, Mountain Bike)
This intermediate 6.5-mile loop traverses some of Bent Creek’s most diverse terrain and features creek crossings, optional log rides, diverse woodlands & wildlife clearings with tremendous mountain vistas. After the ride be sure to cool off in Lake Powhatan. N 35.48 W -82.62
- Raft the Nantahala (Nantahala Gorge)
To get a sample of Western NC’s world class whitewater we suggest heading out to the Nantahala River in the Bryson City area. Paddle eight miles of class II whitewater through a steep, narrow mountain gorge. This classic rafting trip ends with the unnerving class III Nantahala Falls.
- Canoe the French Broad (City)
Canoe seven miles of the French Broad River as it meanders from the Bent Creek River Park to the Asheville Outdoor Center River Park. You’ll paddle through the Biltmore Estate, navigate mild rapids, and have plenty of opportunities for cool dips in the French Broad’s deep waters.
- Raft the Nolichucky (Nolichucky Gorge)
The Nolichucky River sits in the steepest river gorge east of the Mississippi River. The gorge is flanked by the Unaka Mountains which makes for an impressive wilderness setting. For more adventurous folks we suggest running the Nolichucky Gorge section and for the younger or more cautious tackle the Lower Nolichucky.
- Raft the Whitewater of the French Broad (Hot Springs)
The French Broad is calm as it cuts around downtown Asheville, but it’s a torrent of whitewater further west near Hot Springs. Run the half-day trip for an experience chocked full of class II-III rapids, or extend your trip to a full day and tackle the class IV Frank Bell’s rapid.
- French Broad Rafting Expeditions
Whether its adventure and excitement of whitewater rafting or the ease and relaxation of a calm water trip, French Broad Rafting Expeditions is the rafting outfitter for you, your family, or your group. 9800 US Hwy 25-70 Marshall, North Carolina 28753
- Asheville Outdoor Center
Canoeing, Kayaking, Rafting, and Tubing in Asheville, N.C. on the quiet, scenic French Broad River through Biltmore Estate property. This is truly a unique rafting, kayaking, and canoeing experience.521 Amboy Rd. Asheville North Carolina 28806
Western North Carolina is also home to numerous horse rental facilities. In many cases horseback riding rentals are offered by larger resorts, farms and ranches as part of a more complete set of vacation amenities, while other businesses focus entirely on horseback riding, riding lesions, and guided horseback adventures. Below you will find a list of featured horseback riding options in the Asheville area.
- Riverside Riding Stables
Offering pony rides, guiding trial rides, 2 hour river rides, and overnight packing trips. Swim with the horses. Located 36 miles East of Downtown Asheville. 1325 Freemantown Rd Rutherfordton, NC 28139
- Sandy Bottom Trail Rides
Riding options ranging from one hour to all day rides. Open year round.
Located 28 miles North of Downtown Asheville. 1459 Caney Fork Rd
Marshall, NC 28753-5476
- Whitewater Equestrian Center
Horseback ride on the 150 year old Hinkle family farm, with 375 acres of wilderness mountain land, spectacular views and abundant wildlife.
Located 55 miles South of Asheville
- Reems Creek Golf Club
The 18-hole “Reems Creek” course at the Reems Creek Golf Club facility in Weaverville, North Carolina features 6,492 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 72. The course rating is 71.9 and it has a slope rating of 133 on grass. Designed by Hawtree & Sons, the Reems Creek golf course opened in 1989. 36 Pink Fox Cove Rd. Weaverville, NC 28787
- Asheville Drifters
Asheville is located in the heart of some of the best trout fishing and smallmouth bass fishing in the country. They provide year ’round, world-class sport fishing opportunities in every direction. Whether interested in a float fishing trip for big trout in tailwaters, a wade fishing trip for wild and native trout, or float one of our freestone rivers in search of smallmouth bass and muskie they can make it happen. They also offer winter trout fishing trips.