With the highest point east of the Mississippi River, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and all sorts of other scenic areas to explore within easy reach — western North Carolina offers an abundance of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Offering urban comfort nestled next to true wilderness, the city of Asheville makes a great base for nature lovers looking to connect with the wilds of this beautiful and mountainous region.
Here’s our look at some of the best outdoorsy things to do in Asheville.
Asheville is near hundreds of hiking trails covering thousands of miles of wild mountain terrain, including some of the most scenic stretches of the Appalachian Trail. Whether you’re up for a climb to the top of a summit or merely interested in a gentle meander, you’ll find the perfect hike just a short drive away.
Up for a challenge? The 12-mile Mount Mitchell – Black Mountain Crest Trail yields epic panoramas from its endpoint atop Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi. But, to get there, you’ll need to summit five other peaks all more than 6,000 feet in elevation.
Bookish backpackers should make a beeline to Glassy Mountain for its easy three-and-a-half-mile loop where the home of Pulitzer Prize winning poet Carl Sandburg sits on the trailhead. You’ll love the views along the way and will see why Sandburg found so much inspiration here.
Make a Splash
Those not content to merely hike along and look at water but jump in will find a variety of fun ways to frolic in the Asheville area. For instance, Sliding Rock in Pisgah National Park is a 60-foot “natural roller coaster” where you can slip and slide down a gradual slope that ends at a deep pool. Prefer to use a paddle to get your kicks? Then make for the French Broad River, which is a prime spot for journeys on a standup paddleboard, in a canoe, or with a kayak. But there’s more to this river. Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot for fishing or a more raucous whitewater outing, you can find a section of the French Broad to enjoy.
Lovers of stiller water should keep Lake Lure in mind for swimming and other waterborne activities.
Other Random Adventuring
Ziplining, caving, stargazing…if you like getting outside for a mix of offbeat or otherwise atypical adventures you’ll love the options available around Asheville. There are ziplines galore in and close to Asheville, with courses atop ancient forest canopies and across downtown. For spectacular spelunking check out the limestone depths of Linville Caverns. As for gazing at the stars, if you’re into wilderness camping you’ll find plenty of chances to admire Mother Nature’s nighttime show. For more sociable stargazing, see about attending any of the Astronomy Club of Asheville’s regular events at the Lookout Observatory. Areas for rock climbing abound. There are a range of golf courses near Asheville as well.
Experience Some Small Town Charm and Big Mansion Grandeur
Not all nature lovers are exclusive with their appreciation. Many love more than just the outdoors and some are even fans of boutique shopping and traditional crafts. If you’re one of the latter, then nearby mountain towns like Brevard and Black Mountain are pretty much worth any flights to North Carolina.
Asheville itself, meanwhile, offers plenty for visitors seeking pleasant strolls, craft beer crawls, and other outdoor urban pursuits. But if you need a bucolic break while in the city, the 65-acre North Carolina Arboretum and the 10-acre Botanical Gardens are both in Asheville and provide tranquil settings within earshot of any city amenities you might require.
For something a bit more opulent, you can visit the magnificent Biltmore just a few miles outside of Asheville. Proudly known as America’s “largest home,” the estate was built by George Vanderbilt in the late 19th century. The property offers 8,000 acres of manicured estate and plenty of preserved wilderness to experience while enjoying a Segway tour, clay shooting, wine tasting, alconry lesson, or deep tissue massage.
Know of any other awesome outdoorsy things nature lovers can do in Asheville? Let us know in the comments!