Cool Off in NC Mountain Swimming Holes near Asheville

The western North Carolina mountains near Asheville has some great natural swimming holes that are so refreshing on a hot summer’s day. Here are three of the favorites of readers of Travel Guide:

Sliding Rock NC

Sliding Rock in Pisgah National Forest has been thrilling kids and adults of all ages for generations and is a summer tradition for many. This 60-foot natural waterslide flows over a smooth rock slope into an eight foot deep pool with chilly mountain water! Through Labor Day, there are lifeguards on duty every day and changing rooms are available. While lifeguards are on duty, there is a $2/person admission fee. Other times, you can slide for free. Be sure to have heavy duty shorts since the rock can tear thinner fabric! Nearby is Looking Glass Falls, a must stop waterfall along the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. It’s about 38 miles from downtown Asheville on US Highway 276 in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard. Read more about Sliding Rock.

Skinny Dip Falls

Skinny Dip Falls is a locals favorite that most drivers on the Blue Ridge Parkway miss. There are no signs for this beautiful setting with multiple cascades and pools deep in the forest. Jump off an overhanging rock into a pool or find a spot to wade or soak in the cool mountain water. From the Looking Glass Rock overlook on the Parkway (Milepost 417), hike a half mile trail from the parking area. It’s about 23 south of Asheville (from the Highway 191 exit on the Parkway). Read more about Skinny Dip Falls.

Deep Creek Tubing

Go tubing on Deep Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. There are several tube rental companies nearby, just outside the park boundaries. Float past a waterfall and through a dense forest. The Deep Creek ride consists of two sections: The upper “whitewater” section for adults and good swimmers flows from Indian Creek with a wild, bouncy ride. The lower section is wider, easier going and more appropriate for all ages.  From downtown Bryson City, take Depot Street east to Deep Creek Road and turn left. Drive 2.3 miles to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance, and then another half mile to the parking area. It’s about 65 miles from Asheville. Read more about Deep Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Enjoy! Remember to be very careful around waterfalls. Do not get in the water above a waterfall or rapid and watch for slippery rocks.

Best Waterfalls Near Asheville

Crabtree FallsAsheville and western North Carolina have hundreds of waterfalls, many of which are easily accessible year-round. Enjoy cascades framed by colorful foliage in the fall, wade in cool base pools during spring and summer months, and get unobstructed views of often-hidden areas of the falls in the winter.

Here are 20 of our favorite waterfalls to enjoy in the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains:

High Falls & Triple Falls: A three-mile easy hike takes you to the base of three waterfalls in DuPont State Forest. High Falls is a powerful 150-foot drop and Triple Falls was a film location for The Hunger Games. Nearby is Hooker Falls.

Looking Glass Falls: You don’t have to get out of your car to see this 60-foot waterfall, located on the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway between Brevard and Blue Ridge Parkway. There are many other waterfalls in this section of Pisgah National Forest.

Daniel Ridge Falls (near Looking Glass Falls) is a 150-foot cascade along a tranquil hiking trail.

Sliding Rock: In the summer months, slide down this 60-foot cool cascade in the Pisgah National Forest. During cooler weather, enjoy the setting from viewing decks.

Linville Falls: The most photographed waterfall in North Carolina is on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take a moderate 1.6-mile hike with four overlooks to enjoy a variety of views of the falls and Linville Gorge.

Dry Falls: Located near Highlands, this 75-foot waterfall allows the rare treat of walking safely behind it. Nearby, drive behind Bridal Veil Falls.

Graveyard Fields: The highland meadow on the Blue Ridge Parkway features trails to two waterfalls. Second Falls is just 1/3 of a mile from the parking area.

Rainbow Falls: This 150-foot waterfall in the Nantahala National Forest is accessed by a hiking trail in Gorges State Park. Slide and swim at nearby Turtleback Falls.

Crabtree Falls: This beautiful 70-foot waterfall, near Linville Falls, is along a 2.5-mile loop woodland hiking trail from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Upper Whitewater Falls: The highest waterfall east of the Rockies plunges 411 feet and is easily viewed via a short paved trail.

Skinny Dip Falls: This refreshing swimming hole on the Blue Ridge Parkway has several cascades, perfect for a hot summer day dip.

Pearson’s Falls: This 90-foot waterfall in a beautiful glen is located between Saluda and Tryon. It’s a must stop if you are driving on I-26 to/from South Carolina.

Soco Falls: This spectacular twin waterfall is easy to miss. Located along busy Highway 19 between Maggie Valley and Cherokee, there are no signs for the small parking area. A short walk takes you to an observation deck.

Deep Creek Waterfalls: See three waterfalls (Tom Branch Falls, Indian Creek Falls and Juney Whank Falls) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a beautiful hike near Bryson City. A great spot for tubing!

Mingo Falls: Located near Cherokee in the Great Smoky Mountains, this 200-foot waterfall is a short walk from the parking area.

Catawba Falls: Located just three miles from I-40 near Old Fort. Hike 1.5 miles to the lower falls, a 100-foot cascade with best views in the winter since leaves hide the top of the falls.

For detail guides with photos and videos for these and other waterfalls, along with a scenic drives, see our Top 50 Asheville Waterfalls.

Fall Color Forecast Update for Asheville & NC Mountains

Last year, Hurricane Sandy brought a late October snow to the mountains.

Last year, Hurricane Sandy brought a late October snow to the mountains.

“When is peak fall color in the North Carolina mountains?” “Where are the best views?” To answer these burning questions and to help with vacation planning to the Asheville area, we at have updated our annual fall color forecast, along with the best places to see brilliant colors. After record rainfalls in the mountains this year, most trees are very green and lush so the color season could be longer than usual. Timing of peak color depends on the weather. We are excited to see an improved weather forecast for the next week with lots of sun. Ample sunshine in September and October will create the most color. And chilly nighttime temperatures help much. Last year, an early snow compliments of Hurricane Sandy added a blanket of white on top of the color. See photos from last fall:

With a 5,000 foot elevation range within 50 miles of Asheville, our area has one of the longest lasting fall color shows in the country. Peak fall color begins in the highest elevations and progresses down the mountains to the lowest valleys during a four week period. Here is the fall color timeline forecast for Asheville and the surrounding mountains:

  • Early October: The color show begins at the highest elevations such as Beech Mountain, Mt. Mitchell and Grandfather Mountain, with best color in elevations above 4,000 feet, such as Mount Pisgah and much of the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville during the second week.
  • Mid October: Find the most color above 3,000 feet elevation, which includes much of the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, along with Linville Gorge.
  • Late October: Color is best in the city of Asheville, including the Biltmore Estate and the North Carolina Arboretum.
  • Early November: Best color is in lowest elevations and the foothills, including Chimney Rock and Lake Lure.

Here are the Top 10 Places to enjoy the fall color show in the western North Carolina mountains:

1. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the country’s top scenic drives! Drive 170 miles of it in the Asheville area. Stop at many overlooks, picnic and explore hiking trails. With the big elevation change in the Asheville area, the Parkway’s mountain views may be completely green in one area and bursting with color a few miles down the road. See our Parkway guide at

2. Hikes abound for all fitness levels, with many of them along the Parkway or in the national forests. See our Top 50 Hikes near Asheville at

3. A waterfall framed by the fall colors is a photographer’s dream. One of the most photographed waterfalls in the country is Linville Falls. And don’t miss DuPont State Forest and Looking Glass Falls. See our Top 40 NC Waterfalls at

4. There is plenty of the great outdoors to explore at the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate by car, foot, bike, horse, river raft or Segway. In addition to colorful leaves (especially in late October), see the stunning fall gardens. See our Biltmore guide at

5. For an exciting view of the colorful tree canopy, zoom down zip lines in the Great Smoky Mountains, Nantahala Gorge and the courses near downtown Asheville.

6.  Since Mt. Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Rockies, it boasts the first colors of the season. Enjoy panoramic views from the observation deck. Take a jacket, since it’s always cooler there.

7. Graveyard Fields often has the most brilliant colors. Enjoy roadside views or hike through highland valley with two waterfalls is surrounded by 6,000-foot mountains.

8. Drive the beautiful Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway (US 276) through Pisgah National Forest from Brevard to the Blue Ridge Parkway, with great stops such as Looking Glass Falls, Looking Glass Rock hike and the Cradle of Forestry Discovery Center.

9. Stroll through the gardens and forest trails at the North Carolina Arboretum, attend the Chrysanthemum Show, and see the tiniest color show on Bonsai trees. Garden shrubs contribute fall color, too, in combination with grasses and perennials.

10. Go to the top of Chimney Rock for 75-mile views of Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge. Fall color often extends into early November in this area.

For more details on these and the latest fall foliage week-by-week forecast (and great autumn events) for Asheville and the North Carolina mountains, go to

New Videos: Three Waterfalls Along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Crabtree Falls is accessed via a three-mile hike from the Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 339.4. While the Crabtree Falls campground, picnic area and visitor center are closed this year, the hiking trail is open! See more at

Setrock Creek Falls is just a few miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Pisgah National Forest, at the base of Mt. Mitchell. It’s a one-mile easy roundtrip hike from the parking area at the Black Mountain Campground. See our new guide at

Roaring Fork Falls is a 100-foot long cascade near Setrock Creek Falls. Take the easy one-mile hiking trail to enjoy. It’s especially impressive after a big rain. See our new guide at

These three waterfalls are near Linville Falls, perhaps the most photographed waterfall in North Carolina. For more, see our Top 25 Waterfalls near Asheville and our comprehensive Blue Ridge Parkway Guide. Enjoy your visit in the Land of the Waterfalls in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Memorial Day Weekend Festival & Events in Asheville & NC Mountains

Mountain Sports Festival

Mountain Sports Festival

On Memorial Day Weekend, kick off the summer season in Asheville and the scenic North Carolina mountains  with some great festivals and events (in addition to all of the outdoor activities):

May 25-26: White Squirrel Festival (TOP PICK!)
Go nuts at the White Squirrel Festival in downtown Brevard that features a parade, plenty of live music, food, arts and much. It’s one of the mountains best free North Carolina music festivals of the year, giving prominence to national who are connected locally Transylvania County. Events include the  Squirrel Box Derby, guided white squirrel tours, “Memorial Day” Parade (Saturday at 9 AM), food and plenty of arts and crafts. Street Festival is Saturday 10 AM-6 PM and Sunday 12 Nooon-6 PM. Free admission. Read more about the White Squirrel Festival.

May 24-26: Mountain Sports Festival
Whether you’re a hardcore athlete or a newbie trying an event for the first time, the Mountain Sports Festival in West Asheville offers something for you while celebrating community, athletics and local business. The festival showcases the terrain, environment and unique culture of Asheville and the surrounding mountains. It’s organized by a volunteer group of community oriented citizens dedicated to the presenting of a well-balanced series of events that encourages participation on all levels. Live music and vendors in the Festival Village with free admission. Read more about the Mountain Sports Festival.

May 25-26: NC Arboretum Rose Show
The fragrant and vivid world of roses will be on display at the NC Arboretum. The annual Asheville-Blue Ridge Rose Society Exhibition features award-winning roses of every color and size. Experts answer questions and provide information about the selection, care, and history of roses. Educational programs will be offered throughout the weekend, including a special lecture presented by Paul Zimmerman, rose expert and author of the best-selling book, “Everyday Roses”, and a presentation by Biltmore Rosarian and Arboretum Board member, Lucas Jack, on the roses of Biltmore Estate. Free admission with typical parking fee. Read more about the Rose Show.

May 25-26,: Kenilworth Artists Open Studio Tour
Explore this neighborhood just five minutes from downtown Asheville, home to 20+ jewelers, painters, glass-workers, fabric artists, potters, woodworkers, photographers, and more that open their studio doors for sales and demonstrations. 10 AM-5 PM. Read more about the Kenilworth Art Studio Tour Guide.

May 25-26: Garden Jubilee Festival
This downtown Hendersonville festival is the ideal event for passionate gardeners searching for the perfect plants and unique lawn & garden accessories and arts & crafts, 10 AM-6 PM. It features more than 200 vendors, garden talks and food. Free admission. Read more about Downtown Hendersonville & Garden Jubilee.

May 25-June 1: Asheville Beer Week
Memorial Day Weekend kicks off Asheville Beer Week, with keynote speakers, education, tastings, dinners, and other beer-centric events. See our Asheville Beer Week Guide.

For more ideas for outdoor fun, go to our Top 100 Outdoors Guide.

For more upcoming festivals, see our Top 50 Asheville Summer Festivals & Events.

Top 20 Things to See & Do in Asheville for 2013

Mountain Views on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Mountain Views on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Our 1 million readers in 2012 have spoken! Here are YOUR Top 20 Things to See & Do in 2013, based on readership in 2012. So start planning your romantic getaways to Asheville and the western North Carolina mountains today at

1.Biltmore: See America’s largest castle and most-visited winery, along with grand gardens. It’s the perfect spot to experience the “Downton Abbey” lifestyle.
2.Blue Ridge Parkway: Travel one of the most scenic drives in the country with breathtaking mountain views, hiking, museums, camping and picnic spots.
3.Waterfalls: Explore our Top 25 waterfalls near Asheville, and most are located in state and federal parks with no admission fee.
4.Hikes: Take one of our Top 50 hikes, ranging from long treks on the Appalachian Trail to short strolls in Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests.
5.Downtown Asheville: Browse a big variety of local stores, boutiques and art galleries, while enjoying the street performers and Friday night drum circle.
6.Accommodations: Stay in an elegant bed and breakfast, hip hotel or secluded log cabin, the perfect romantic getaway with options for all tastes and budgets.
7.Fall Color: Soak in the spectacular leaf color show in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the most popular time of the year for visits to Asheville.
8.Restaurants: Savor a culinary scene with many farm-to-table restaurants with local food and world-class chefs.
9.DuPont State Forest: Ride your mountain bike, take a hike and see waterfalls in these beautiful sanctuary.
10.Sliding Rock: Cool off in the summer on this natural waterslide in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard. Nearby is Looking Glass Falls.
11.Events: Attend street festivals, concerts, plays, art tours and other events in western North Carolina, and most are free.
12.Mt. Mitchell: Climb the highest mountain in eastern America easily in your car with a museum and panoramic views from the observation deck.
13.Great Smoky Mountains: Discover an International Biosphere Reserve with rugged mountains, historic buildings, and 100,000 different types of plants and animals.
14.The Hunger Games: Find the film locations for the blockbuster movie that include a ghost town, forests and waterfalls.
15.Graveyard Fields: Hike this mile-high meadow on the Blue Ridge Parkway with mountain views and waterfalls.
16.Beer: Toast our “Beer City USA” title at with 20 craft breweries in western North Carolina, with 10 in Asheville.
17.Zip Lines: Zip through the mountain forests, over rivers and across valleys on guided canopy tours, with no experience needed.
18.Chimney Rock Park: Enjoy the expansive mountain views from the famous rock formation in Hickory Nut Gorge overlooking Lake Lure.
19.Art: Meet artists and learn about their craft at the many galleries and artist studios, including many art festivals, shows and tours. We are definitely the Santa Fe of the east.
20.Linville Falls: Snap the most photographed waterfall in North Carolina as it cascades into Linville Gorge. Hike from the visitor center on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

For comprehensive guides on all of these, go to our 600-page online Asheville vacation guide.

Our Favorite Asheville Holiday Events

Vance Birthplace under a winter snow

There are many festive events to enjoy in the Asheville area during the holiday season. Here are some that are coming up in the next week or so:

November 30-December 2: Historic Biltmore Village hosts their annual Dickens in the Village with horse-drawn carriages trotting along decorated streets as carolers, storytellers and instrumentalists in period costumes. Watch live excerpts from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol while enjoying fresh roasted chestnuts.

December 1: Holiday Twilight Tour in downtown Brevard is a daytime street festival. The downtown businesses will be “open-housing” all day, providing refreshments, entertainment and a preview of holiday gifts. The streets will be closed and many holiday activities have been planned, 11 AM until 5:30 PM.

December 1 & 2: The Toe River Studio Tour is an art-lovers’ dream.  An hour north of Asheville, tucked in the lush green mountains, is one of the finest collections of artists and craftsmen in the world and the acclaimed Penland School of Crafts. Find a unique blend of contemporary and traditional cultures. More than 100 fine artists and crafts people in every medium open their studios for a free, self-guided cultural adventure.

December 1 & 8: The Guild Artist Holiday Sale at the Folk Art Center is an opportunity for artists and the organization’s gift shop to sell over-runs, discontinued stock and studio seconds in a festive atmosphere during the holiday season. 10 AM-4 PM.

December 2: At the Big Crafty at the Asheville Art Museum downtown, shop indie with artists, crafters, food and music, 12-6 PM, free admission.

December 6-23: A favorite holiday play, A Christmas Carol, by Montford Players in Asheville Masonic Temple downtown.

For more things to do during the holiday season, see our Top 10 Asheville Holiday Outings.

Asheville Restaurant Scene Becomes America’s First Green Dining Destination™

Tupelo Honey Restaurant in downtown Asheville NC

For the first time ever, one of America’s cities, Asheville, North Carolina, has earned the official designation of being a Green Dining Destination™ with Certified Green Restaurants® throughout Asheville. This accomplishment was driven by the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), Asheville Independent Restaurant Association (AIR), and the Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute (BRSI), who formed a local Coalition to encourage more environmentally sustainable practices within the city’s restaurants.

This month, Asheville has met and exceeded its goal of having 16 Certified Green Restaurants® throughout the city, all of which have met the GRA’s rigorous certification standards by earning at least 100 GreenPoints™ in the categories of food, water, waste, energy, chemicals, and disposables. Additionally, each Certified Green Restaurant® has eliminated use of polystyrene foam, (aka StyroFoam™), and has implemented a full-scale recycling program.

The 16 Certified Green Restaurants® in Asheville are:

  • The French Broad Chocolate Lounge
  • Homegrown
  • Laughing Seed Café
  • Luella’s Bar-B-Que
  • Plant Restaurant
  • Neo Cantina
  • Posana Cafe Rosetta’s Kitchen
  • Strada Italiano
  • The Corner Kitchen
  • The Green Sage
  • The Green Sage South
  • Tupelo Honey Café
  • Tupelo Honey Cafe South
  • Cedric’s Tavern on the Biltmore Estate
  • Bouchon

The Green Restaurant Association is a national non-profit organization that provides the only official Certified Green Restaurants® mark in the country. For 22 years, the GRA has pioneered the Green Restaurant® movement and has been the leading voice within the industry encouraging restaurants to listen to consumer demand and green their operations using transparent, science-based certification standards. The Asheville Independent Restaurant Association (AIR) has a mission to unite the independent restaurant community of Asheville NC as committed to local people, local philanthropies, local businesses, local food and the local economy, with a promise to preserve the authenticity of our mountain home through genuine food and signature hospitality.

See our list of the best Asheville restaurants.

NC Christmas Tree Farms Open This Weekend

Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm near Asheville

A wonderful holiday tradition is going to a North Carolina mountain Christmas Tree farm and returning with the perfect tree for your home. Boyd Mountain and Mehaffey Christmas Tree Farms open this weekend near Waynesville, a short drive west from Asheville

North Carolina has 1,600 growers producing an estimated 50 million Fraser fir Christmas trees growing. Fraser Fir trees represent over 90% of all species grown in the state. The North Carolina Christmas Tree Industry is ranked second in the nation in number of trees harvested, and its Fraser fir Christmas tree is the most popular in North America and is shipped into every state in the U.S. and all over the world.

Find the perfect tree and have a great holiday outing at one of the “choose and cut” Christmas Tree Farms near Asheville. You select the tree…they cut it, bale it and tie it on your vehicle or you can use their bowsaws and cut it yourself! They also have fresh wreaths, garlands and other greenery.

Here are a few tips for picking out a tree:

Certain species simply last longer and remain fresh much longer than others. Some of the best are the North Carolina Fraser fir, Balsam fir, Scotch pine and Douglas-fir. Regardless of species, you make the final judgment of quality by looking at, touching, feeling, smelling and shaking the tree. The Fraser fir has soft, pleasant-to-touch needles, incomparable needle retention, long lasting aroma, and more pliable yet stronger branches for even the heaviest ornaments.

Removing a thin disk (1/4 to 1/2 inch) off the trunk before placing the tree in a water holding stand is all that is needed. It is always a good practice to make a new cut before putting the tree into the stand.

As a general rule, a tree can use up to a quart of water per day for each inch of stem diameter. The warmer the temperature and the lower the relative humidity where the tree is displayed, the greater the amount of water required by the tree.

Check all electric lights and connections before decorating. Don’t use any lights with worn or frayed cords. Don’t overload the electrical outlets.

Place your tree away from fireplaces, radiators, television sets, and other heat sources. These elements can prematurely dry out your tree.

For more information, go to

Winter Wonderland in the North Carolina Mountains

The sun returned to the mountains today, unveiling a stunning winter wonderland in the highest elevations. This afternoon, we hiked the Appalachian Trail at Roan Mountain after receiving 20 inches of snow and plenty of rime ice to whiten the trees. Hurricane / Superstorm Sandy brought three days of snow in an unusual October snow storm. While the snow never laid on the ground in the city of Asheville, more than a foot of snow was just 20 miles away in the higher elevations. Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park received three feet of snow! See more snow photos from the “Frankenstorm.”