Asheville has plenty of mountain loveliness to keep visitors and locals occupied, but a number of charming mountain towns have blossomed within an hour or so from Asheville that warrant exploring too. Whether you’re on the hunt for waterfalls, great shopping, or romance, these 10 mountain towns make for the best day trips from Asheville.
Brevard’s nickname is “The Land of Waterfalls” as the area boasts over 250 of them, ranging from the 125-foot (38-meter) Triple Falls in DuPont State Recreational Forest to the powerful and popular roadside Looking Glass Falls. Brevard is also home to a natural water slide, Sliding Rock, a favorite among kids and families. Beyond the fun of splashing and jumping into these mountain water attractions, Brevard also butts up to Pisgah National Forest, a 500,000-acre mass that spans 12 counties. The city also has three breweries, including the East Coast operations for one of the 10 largest craft breweries, Oskar Blues. Bike riding is also popular, with The Hub providing rentals and other outdoor gear as well as a cool place to have a beer after a day of exploring.
The darling town of Black Mountain oozes charm and sits just 20 minutes from Asheville right off Interstate 40 at the foot of the Pisgah National Forest. Stroll its picturesque downtown and stop at Dobra Tea for an immersive tea experience with an extensive menu and a super knowledgeable staff. Visitors can also find amazing pizza at Fresh and some of the most delicious meat around at Foothills Butcher Bar. And like many destinations in North Carolina, Black Mountain also has two craft breweries and a cidery.
A popular shopping destination, Waynesville has two sides: its classic Main Street where a cluster of boutiques, breweries, and restaurants line the tree-dotted street, and Frog Level, the most historic section of town that hugs Richland Creek. The latter earned its name for its low elevation that used to flood where the frogs lived. Spend a couple of hours enjoying the babbling creek from the large shared back deck of Frog Level Brewing and the adorable Panacea Coffee House & Cafe that could easily serve as a TV set.
Highlands has become known as a romantic destination thanks to stunning properties like the luxurious Old Edwards Inn and Spa and its sister property, Half-Mile Farm. Couples will also love the city’s high-end restaurants such as Madison’s—on the Old Edwards property—and upscale Italian, Asian, and American fusion eateries. Add in some time at one of the city’s spas, and this destination will surely spark romance. Plus, visitors can easily access a variety of hikes, waterfalls, and fishing spots to round out their itineraries.
Just a few minutes north of Asheville sits the cute town of Weaverville. Like many of the mountain towns that have sprung up around Asheville, Weaverville has a darling Main Street with quirky shops, galleries, and three breweries—and all in a town of fewer than 4,000 people. A greenway connecting Asheville and Weaverville is in the works, but in the meantime, folks can bike at the Alexander Bike Park, take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, or have a picnic at Lake Louise Park, the city’s primary recreation facility.
Step back in time in this old-fashioned village of just 700 people that got its start as a railroad depot. The historic depot is now a museum filled with artifacts and information about Saluda’s railroad heritage. While the city typically shuts down after 10 pm, visitors can find live music, quality restaurants, and yes, even a small craft beer bar. And lots of fun activities await on the nearby Green River, including tubing, whitewater rafting, and ziplining at The Gorge, America’s fastest and steepest zipline canopy tour.
Mountainous Boone is North Carolina’s snow skiing hub, with three ski resorts: Beech Mountain, Sugar Mountain, and Appalachian Ski Mountain, all located just minutes from one another. In fact, the area has been dubbed the “Ski Capital of the South,” and this notoriety has shaped the area’s laid-back personality with a side of funky. It’s also home to Appalachian State University, adding a youthful flair to its atmosphere. The rest of the year, adventurous types take to the water, play golf, and hike and bike to their heart’s content. Summer is especially pleasant as the temperature rarely cracks 80°F (26.6°C) thanks to its 5,500-foot (1,676-meter) elevation; in fact, Beech Mountain offers “Summer of 79” golf stay and play packages where guests golf free if the temperature rises above 79°F (26°C).
Another college town, Sylva is home to Western Carolina University, which has won the title of Top Adventure College four years straight. Why? Well, the city sits at the foot of North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway. Students and locals love the plethora of hiking, biking, fishing, and watersports available in the area, and its county, Jackson, has been nicknamed the “Yosemite of the East.” For one of the best hikes to soak in all of this outdoor glory, go on the seven-mile (11.2-kilometer) Pinnacle Park hike that ends 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) above sea level on a small, rocky cliff with a 360-degree view.
The small town of Hot Springs has hosted thousands of weary hikers tackling the famous Appalachian Trail, which is the longest hiking-only trail in the world. The path actually crosses the streets here, and practically everything about this town caters to these thru-hikers. So, expect gear shops and casual eateries. Of course, hikers and visitors alike both love the natural mineral hot spring hot tubs that stay around 100°F (37.7°C) thanks to their location along a volcanic fault line. The hot tubs sit overlooking Spring Creek under covered shacks and stay open year-round at rates starting at just $40 an hour.
This is the first time I have been psyched about winter. It's so frigid out and I have felt like a hibernating bear lately 🐻 but the beauty of the freezing rivers surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains made me completely loose sight of the freezing cold. Hot Springs is one of my favorite towns with plenty of trails around and along the AT to lend to any level of hiker with it's trails ranging from difficult with awesome challenging elevation gains to flat and easy with gorgeous views! It maybe freezing but the tiny AT town always warms my heart and soul. #liveferal #nc#appalachiantrail#appalachianmountains#frozenwonderland#hikelikeagirl#hikersofinstagram#outdoorjunkie#outdoorlife#laurelriver#natgeoadventure#outdoorculture#hikingculture#dayhike#wildernessbabes#wildernessbadass#wowplanet#trailchat#getoutstayout#mtngirls#rei1440project#forceofnature#optoutside#rivers#theoutbound#explore#sheexplores
Last but not least, Bryson City is another town bolstered by the railroad when tracks were laid here in 1884. Today, visitors can ride aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad; it departs from Bryson City year-round and provides two round-trip routes that run for about four hours. And with a small Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance, quality tubing, and the diverse Deep Creek area that offers horseback riding, picnic amenities, and wide trails, Bryson City has a lot to offer.