Asheville, NC

Asheville, NC

Looking for free things to do in Asheville, NC? With a 5,000-foot elevation change, our area of the lush Blue Ridge Mountains has one of the longest-running fall color displays in the country. You don’t have to spend a bundle to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Here are ten vacation getaway ideas for all of us on a tight budget:

  1. Cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the top scenic drives in the country with breathtaking views from overlooks, walking trails, and great spots for picnics.
  1. Take a hike with trails for all fitness levels, from short walks in the woods to strenuous hikes up to mountain peaks. Find hundreds of trails along the Parkway, and in the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests.
  1. Experience Downtown Asheville with hundreds of locally-owned boutiques and art galleries. Enjoy street entertainers, great people watching and the Friday night Drum Circle.
  1. Drive to the top of Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Rockies, and enjoy panoramic views from the observation deck. Take a jacket! It’s always 15-20 degrees cooler up top.
  1. Discover lots of art since this is one of the top arts destinations in the country. Galleries abound in downtown Asheville and in Biltmore Village, along with artist studios in the River Arts District. The Folk Art Center has galleries and daily craft demonstrations.
  1. Find waterfalls in free state and federal parks. At Dupont State Forest, take a short hike to see three waterfalls. Other waterfalls include Looking Glass Falls, Rainbow Falls and Linville Falls. We have guides to our 60 favorites.
  1. Watch elk graze a short distance away from your car in the Cataloochee Valley section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are two additional entrances to the park within 50 miles of Asheville with many free historic sites, hiking trails and more.
  1. Tour the Estes-Winn Antique Automobile Museum with collection of 20 classics, just a few miles from downtown.
  1. Explore architecture, art and history on downtown Asheville’s Urban Trail, a 1.7-mile walking tour.
  1. Enjoy the fall foliage from your bicycle on many mountain bike trails in Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests.

For more details on these and the fall foliage forecast and reports, go to our 700-page free online Asheville NC travel guide.

20 Must See Waterfalls near Asheville NC

Graveyard Fields

The Asheville area of the North Carolina mountains is home to hundreds of waterfalls, many of which are easily accessible and offer beautiful sights year-round. Enjoy cascades framed by colorful foliage in the fall, wade in cool base pools during spring and summer months, and drink in unobstructed views of often-hidden areas of the falls in the winter.

The online travel vacation guide Travel Guide recommends 20 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.

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.

Sliding Rock
In the summer months, cool off as you slide down this 60-foot cascade in the Pisgah National Forest, near Looking Glass Falls. During cooler weather, enjoy the setting from viewing decks.

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 upper section of the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi 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. And it’s a beautiful setting to enjoy any time of the year.

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.

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

Hickory Nut Falls
This 404-foot waterfall in Chimney Rock Park was featured in the movie The Last of the Mohicans. Take the easy hiking trail to its base.

Catawba Falls
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.

To find even more in the North Carolina mountains, see the Top 60 Waterfalls near Asheville.

Top 10 Spots to See Fall Color near Asheville

Blue Ridge Parkway Tunnel

Blue Ridge Parkway Tunnel

With a 5,000-foot elevation change within 50 miles of Asheville, North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Mountains have one of the longest-running fall color displays in the country. Here are 10 fabulous fall spots to enjoy the color show:

  1. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the country’s top scenic drives! Stop at many overlooks, picnic and hike. Color peaks early October in highest elevations, ending late October in the valleys.
  1. See the first colors of the season atop of Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Rockies, with panoramic views from the observation deck.
  1. Enjoy roadside views or walk through Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This highland valley with two waterfalls is surrounded by 6,000-foot peaks and puts on a brilliant color show.
  1. See one of the most photographed waterfalls in the country, Linville Falls. Hike trails to several vantage points to see this waterfall and the Linville Gorge.
  1. Watch many elk graze a short distance away in the Cataloochee Valley section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Each fall, male elk make their legendary bugling calls. Also hike woodland trails and explore historic buildings.
  1. Drive the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway (US 276) from Brevard to the Blue Ridge Parkway, with great stops such as Looking Glass Falls, a challenging hike to Looking Glass Rock and a tour of the Cradle of Forestry.
  1. Take a short hike in DuPont State Forest to see three waterfalls, or hike to the top of Cedar Rock for colorful mountain views, with best color in late October.
  1. Stroll through the gardens and forest trails at the North Carolina Arboretum, attend the Chrysanthemum Show, and see the tiniest color show with their extensive Bonsai display.
  1. Choose from a variety of outdoor activities at Biltmore Estate. By foot, bike, car, horse or Segway – see thousands of colorful mums, mountain views and lush forests.
  1. Hike to the top of the famous Chimney Rock with 75-mile views overlooking Lake Lure. The fall color show ends here, best in late October and early November.

For more details on these, the latest fall foliage week-by-week forecast and top fall festivals, go to

Top 10 Fall NC Mountain Views near Asheville

Peak Fall Color at Graveyard Fields is usually the second week of October

Peak Fall Color at Graveyard Fields is usually the second week of October

Fall foliage color this year should be absolutely beautiful in the North Carolina mountains near Asheville. And with our 5,000-foot elevation range in the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains, we will have one of the longest fall shows in the country. Peak color begins in early October in the highest mountains and ends in the lowest valleys by early November. See the complete Asheville Fall Foliage Forecast. Then, plan your vacation to come of our top 10 places for fall views and when to expect the most color:

  1. See the first autumn colors in early October on Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak in eastern America, with panoramic mountain views from the top. Grandfather Mountain is another top spot for views.
  2. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of top scenic drives in the United States. Stop at many overlooks, picnic and hike. Best color is the last three weeks of October, varying with elevation. So if you don’t immediately see color, keep driving!
  3. Stop at Graveyard Fields along the Blue Ridge Parkway (pic above) in mid October for the some of the most brilliant color in the mountains. Relax by the waterfall or walk through the highland valley. Nearby, hike across mountain balds at Black Balsam Knob for endless views.
  4. Capture the most photographed waterfall in North Carolina, Linville Falls, surrounded by fall color in mid October. Nearby, see stunning views of Linville Gorge with easy hikes to the top of Table Rock and Hawksbill Mountain.
  5. Visit two areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in mid October. Watch elk graze in the Cataloochee Valley as the male elk make their legendary mating bugling calls, walk woodland trails and explore historic buildings. From Newfound Gap, hike on the Appalachian Trail to Charlies Bunion for spectacular views. And an early morning view from Clingmans Dome is hard to top.
  6. Raft down the Nantahala River or take a zip line canopy tour through the colorful woodlands of the Nantahala National Forest in mid October.
  7. Drive the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway from Brevard in mid October with great stops such as Looking Glass Falls and hikes in the Pisgah National Forest.
  8. Take a short hike in DuPont State Forest to see three waterfalls, or hike to Cedar Rock for mountain views in late October.
  9. Explore the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate in late October by foot, bike, car, river raft, horse or Segway. See fall gardens, mountain views and colorful forests.
  10. Ride the elevator or hike to the famous Chimney Rock with 75-mile views across Lake Lure. The peak fall color show here usually extends into early November.

There are many Fall events and festivals near Asheville to enjoy as well!

Great Smoky Mountains Visited by 4.3 Million in First Half of 2015

Mountain Farm Museum

Mountain Farm Museum

Vacation travelers are loving the Great Smoky Mountains Park more than ever! In May, the park has a record 1 million visitors, the most ever for that month. Between January and June, there has been more than 4.3 million visitors.

All major park entrances have seen increases, especially at the Oconaluftee entrance near Cherokee, North Carolina where visitation has increased 26% this year. More visitors are camping too with 100,000+ people (up 14% over 2014) have camped in one of the park’s nine campgrounds and 55,000 (up 12%) have camped in the park’s backcountry so far this year.

Continued record setting visitation comes on the heels of the park’s busiest year in 14 years. In 2014, 10,099,275 visitors enjoyed the national park, an 8% increase over 2013. The numbers were spurred by strong July and August visitation as well as the highest October visitation in 27 years. So make your plans now for this leaf season! See our Great Smoky Mountains Guide to plan your vacation near Asheville with our top things to do on the North Carolina side of the park. Debuts New Website

RomanticAsheville.comOur travel guide celebrates its 12th anniversary this month with a fully re-designed Website, just in time for the busy July 4th weekend. What started as a hobby by us in 2003 has grown into one of the most popular travel websites in North Carolina with 4.5 million visits during the last 12 months (more than double the year before).

The new Website features a fully responsive design for optimal viewing on the wide range of devices used for internet access, including desktops, tablets and phones. Other new features include photo galleries, a trip planner and a “my favorites” tool to build a custom itinerary.

While the original focus was mostly Asheville, the guide gradually expanded to include most of the mountains of North Carolina.  For example, their Blue Ridge Parkway guide covers 193 miles from Cherokee to Grandfather Mountain. Plus, there are features on more than 25 small towns from Saluda to Beech Mountain to Bryson City, with plenty of things to do in between.

More than 2,000 photographs (by me, Mark File) showcase the beauty of the area. I visit every place I feature, and I’m always carrying my camera. I especially love the outdoors, so the hiking and waterfalls sections are the biggest – more than 100 pages.

Outdoor lovers will find guides to 60 waterfalls and 75 hikes near Asheville. Other information includes Biltmore, Great Smoky Mountains, restaurants, beer, lodging and much more.

The guide grows organically based on reader interests. The most popular feature each year is the fall color guide, highlighted with a week-by-week peak color forecast. All content is free for readers, since the Website is funded by advertising partners such as bed-and-breakfasts, hotels, cabin rentals and attractions.

What’s next? Every week I learn about something new in Western North Carolina. I’ll never run out of finding things to see and do that I can share with readers.

Go to to see the guide.

A Beer Tour of South Slope Craft Breweries in Asheville

Catawba Brewing

Catawba Brewing opened in Asheville’s South Slope on April 1st

Asheville, four-time Beer City USA, is the perfect place to celebrate NC Beer Month! We have an amazing beer scene, with a wide selection of bars, brewpubs, micro craft breweries, cideries, and restaurants. So, to celebrate Beer Month, let’s take a tour of Asheville’s South Slope Brewing District. If you visit the breweries in the following order, you can end with great pizza at Asheville Brewing… or reverse the order if you’d like to start with the pizza!

Burial Beer

Burial Beer began in 2013 with a one barrel pilot system, but has grown to a ten barrel brewhouse. Burial focuses on traditional Belgian ales, and is always tinkering with the ingredients to get the perfect blend. Their Taphouse is open Tuesday – Thursday. Located at 40 Collier Avenue.

Green Man

One of North Carolina’s oldest breweries, Green Man has been at its South Slope location since 1997. Here you can enjoy traditional English-style ales, as well as new and exciting flavors. Conveniently located next to French Broad Chocolate Factory! Open every day. Located at 23 Buxton Avenue.

Catawba Brewing Co.
Catawba opened its location in South Slope only a few weeks ago, but has been around since 1997. They have a seven-barrel specialty brewery and tasting room with thirty taps. They have beers in a wide variety of styles. Open everyday. Located at 63 Brook Street.

Twin Leaf Brewery

This brewery opened last year and has dozens of beer on tap. Home of beer yoga! Open everyday. Located at 144 Coxe Avenue.



Wicked Weed Funkatorium

The opening of the Funkatorium in 2014 made Wicked Weed the largest producer of aged beers in the southeastern U.S. – it houses 1,000 barrels of their beers. They produce Belgian and American style ales. Wicked Weed has been named one of the Best Bars in the South by Southern Living Magazine. Open every day. Located at 147 Coxe Avenue.

Hi-Wire Brewing

Hi-Wire features four classic year-round beers (Prime Time Pale, Hi-Pitch IPA, Bed of Nails Brown, and Hi-Wire Lager) and a variety of seasonals. Open every day. Located at 197 Hilliard Avenue.

Ben’s Tune Up

An urban beer garden, full service restaurant, sake brewery, convenience store, and Foothills Butchery are all located within Ben’s Tune Up. Another of Southern Living’s Best Bars in the South. Open everyday. Located at 195 Hilliard Avenue.

Asheville Brewing Company

Asheville Brewing first opened in 1995. In addition to traditional favorites, the new brewer series goes beyond the conventional to create brews such as the jalapeno infused Fire Escape and the Mardi Gras inspired Bier de Garde Here you can enjoy downtown’s largest covered patio, a giant Jenga game, and cornhole. Voted best pizza in Western North Carolina four years in a row. Open everyday. Located at 77 Coxe Avenue.

Cheers! For more information on South Slope, go to