10 Asheville Hikes with Epic Mountain Views


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While there are thousands of miles of hiking trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains thanks to our national and state parks and forests, here are our ten top mountaintop hikes with the best panoramic views near Asheville, North Carolina. And they are all free to enjoy! Take a picnic and allow time to enjoy the view.

Mt. Mitchell: After enjoying the 360-degree vistas from the observation deck atop the highest peak in eastern USA, hike the Deep Gap Trail to four more summits over 6,000 feet, including Mt. Craig just a mile away.

Craggy Pinnacle: A 1.5-mile roundtrip hike offers spectacular 360-degree panoramic views and a great spot for a picnic along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Max Patch: Hike the 2.4-mile loop around the grassy summit or continue further on the Appalachian Trail in Pisgah National Forest.

Black Balsam Knob: Hike across multiple mountain balds near the Blue Ridge Parkway. These treeless mountaintops in the Pisgah National Forest offer sweeping views all along the trail.

Looking Glass Rock: Hike this iconic rock face summit with a 1,700-foot elevation gain in the 6.5-mile roundtrip trail.

Whiteside Mountain: This two-mile hike in the Nantahala National Forest near Cashiers takes you on top of sheer 750-foot high cliffs with outstanding views.

Table Rock Mountain: Enjoy spectacular views of Linville Gorge from atop this distinctive summit. This 2.2-mile hike can be combined with a 1.5-mile trek to the top of nearby Hawksbill Mountain.

Roan Mountain: Hike through summer Catawba rhododendron and along a lofty, grassy ridge for five miles along the Appalachian Trail.

Mt. LeConte: The restored Alum Cave Trail is the most hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You’ll see why with interesting geological features and stunning views along the 11-mile roundtrip hike that climbs 2,853 feet in elevation.

Cold Mountain: This strenuous 10.6-mile roundtrip hike takes you to the summit of the mountain made famous by the novel and movie, in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area of the Pisgah National Forest.

All of these hikes were selected by the readers of RomanticAsheville.com Travel Guide. For info on these and others, go to their Top 75 Hikes near Asheville.

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Asheville Spring Updates


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What’s new for 2017 in Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains? There are even more things to do during your vacation.

The biggest event of the year will be a total solar eclipse on August 21st with total darkness for a couple of minutes of darkness in far western tip of North Carolina (in towns like Cashiers, Cherokee and Robbinsville).

For the first time ever, you can take a very fun helicopter tour above Asheville and Biltmore – beginning in March 2017.

At Biltmore, see a new exhibition from February 10 through July 4th with 40 elaborate period costumes from well-known movies. The most visited winery in the country received a makeover with a bigger tasting room.

Downtown Asheville continues to grow with many new restaurants and breweries and several major hotels under construction. The drum circle returns on Friday nights. Many festivals are planned for 2017. Be sure to check out the several new rooftop views and watch the mountain sunsets.

The Tryon International Equestrian Center continues to expand and will host many weeks of Olympic-caliber horse jumping competitions. In addition, find a variety of restaurants and shops. Saturday Night Lights is free to enjoy. In 2018, they will host the FEI World Equestrian Games.

A new trail in the Hickory Nut Gorge area will open April 1. The 3-mile hike to Little Bearwallow Mountain takes you by a 100-foot waterfall and to Wildcat Rock for panoramic views.

PARI (Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute) near Brevard is a former NASA Communications Center that is now a world-class space and science research campus. This year, they are adding more events and tours to welcome all visitors.

The River Arts District in Asheville is getting many road upgrades and more artists and businesses are moving in.

Go to our Asheville Travel Guide for info about all of these – with a handy search feature to help you plan your trip.

Chimney Rock Celebrates 100th on July 4th


 

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On July 4, 2016, Chimney Rock Park will celebrate both its 100th anniversary and the centennial of the North Carolina state parks.

As North Carolina was creating its first state park at Mt. Mitchell, three brothers were also dedicating their new park in Hickory Nut Gorge. On July 4, 1916, Chimney Rock was dedicated by Dr. Lucius B. Morse and the first American flag was raised on the Rock. This year, exactly 100 years later, a special ceremony will take place as the North Carolina state flag will join Old Glory on the top of the “Rock”. The flag dedication will begin at the 8:30 AM on the top parking lot near the base of the Chimney. State Park Superintendent James Ledgerwood, along with other speakers, will open the festivities with a short history of the Park followed by a hike up the Outcroppings trail to the Chimney. Once on the “Rock,” color guard will raise the North Carolina state flag under the American flag to signify that North Carolina State Parks is prepared to continue to protect the park and its natural resources for the next 100 years and beyond.

The band Vintage Vinyl will play their rendition of the National Anthem followed by a short patriotic concert. Park Rangers will share historical photos and articles about Chimney Rock and other state parks, including a display on the 1916 flood that washed out the original Park bridge soon after its dedication on July 4th. Guests will be able to continue their walk through history by a taking a self-guided hike along the Outcroppings trail where other historical photographs of the Park will be on display. A limited number of tickets will be available at the Ranger’s exhibit table for interested guests to take a Behind the Scenes tour of the elevator at different times during the day.

Around 6 PM, as the color guard retrieves the flags, guests can take part in a toast to the next 100 years. The two flags will be then be placed in the Park’s historical archives and saved for future generations.

Gates will open at 7:30 AM and, in the spirit of celebrating 100 years, admission fees will be waived for the first 100 cars that enter the Park before 8:30 AM.

The celebration will continue later in Chimney Rock Village. From 8:30 to 9:30 PM gather along the Rocky Broad River behind the Old Rock Café for free s’mores and campfire stories with the Park Superintendent.

Chimney Rock also joins nearby Pisgah National Forest and the National Park Service in celebrating their centennials this year. Chimney Rock State Park is located 25 miles southeast of Asheville on Highway 64/74A in Chimney Rock, N.C. It is recognized as one of the Southeast’s most iconic sites and popular travel destinations. The Park’s 535-million-year-old monolith called Chimney Rock can be accessed via a 499-step Outcroppings Trail and offers guests 75-mile panoramic views of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. The Park features one of the highest waterfalls of its kind east of the Mississippi River, Hickory Nut Falls, at 404 feet.  Hickory Nut Gorge, one of the state’s most significant centers of biodiversity, is home to 36 rare plant species and 14 rare animal species.

See our Chimney Rock Park Guide for more info for visiting any time of the year.

Hike 100 Miles in the Smokies


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Celebrate the National Park Service Centennial near Asheville and “Hike 100” in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Park Superintendent Cassius Cash has committed to hike 100 miles in the Smokies during 2016 and is challenging the public to do the same.

To complete the Hike 100 challenge, you must hike any 100 miles of maintained trail within the park boundaries between January 1 and December 6. The miles can include everything from the front country nature trails to the extensive backcountry network of trails. See our favorite Smoky Mountains Hikes for the North Carolina side.

The 100-mile goal is part of the “Smokies Centennial Challenge-Hike 100” program. This program aims to inspire all potential hikers to experience and gain a new appreciation and stewardship for their national park. Participants who reach the 100-mile goal will earn a commemorative “Smokies Centennial Challenge – Hike 100” pin and be invited to a park celebration hosted by Superintendent Cash.

As part of the Hike 100 program, the park is hosting hikes for several regional youth organizations throughout the year. These opportunities will provide a chance for groups, who otherwise face barriers to travel due lack of transportation or funding restraints, a chance to explore the Smokies. These groups will have the added benefit of hiking alongside Superintendent Cash, as well as experienced hikers from the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club and Carolina Mountain Club.

The Superintendent is also providing a unique opportunity for the general public to hike alongside him on his way to reaching the 100-mile goal through a series of four hikes open to the public. Two front country hikes in August and December will be completely open to the public, while two backcountry hikes in June and October will be limited to 20 people each.

Read more about special events near Asheville to celebration the National Park Service Centennial during 2016.

Thanksgiving Weekend Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains


Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Asheville NC invites visitors to join them for ranger-led hikes across the park on Friday, November 27, 2015. Hikes will be offered in the Cataloochee, Elkmont, and Cades Cove areas of the park providing an opportunity for people of all ages to #OptOutside and enjoy the park.

Rangers, park volunteers, and Friends of the Smokies staff will help visitors discover special cultural and natural resources along the hikes. Visitors may also choose to hike on their own and can come to any of the park’s visitor centers throughout the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to receive information about hiking options including several short nature trails that are perfect for children.

The park has over 800 miles of trails to explore throughout the year with every season offering its own special rewards. During late fall and winter, the absence of deciduous leaves opens new vistas revealing stone walls, chimneys, and foundations. These reminders of past communities allow hikers to discover a glimpse of history along park trails.

Friday, November 27 at 10:00 a.m. – Hike to Abrams Falls in Cades Cove
Join park staff for a 5-mile, roundtrip hike to one of the largest waterfalls in the park. The hike is rated moderate with several steep, rocky sections. Expect 4 hours total for the hike. Participants will learn about the parks 2,900 miles of streams, wildlife that depend on the stream, and the significance of Abrams Creek to the diversity of the park. Meet at the Abrams Falls trailhead, halfway around the Cades Cove Loop Road at 10:00 a.m. The program is subject to cancellation if the weather is bad. For more information, call Cades Cove at 865-448-4104.

Friday, November 27 at 10:00 a.m.  – Little Cataloochee Trail near Cataloochee
The 5-mile, roundtrip hike on the Little Cataloochee Trail is rated moderate but does have several steep sections. The trail follows an old road that provided access between Big Cataloochee and Little Cataloochee in the past. Stops on the hike include the Hannah cabin, the Little Cataloochee Church and cemetery, and the Cook cabin as well several former homesites. Read more about Cataloochee Valley and the elk.

The ranger leading the hike will have historic photos and maps of the area to share with participants.  The guided portion of the hike will end after 2.5 miles at the restored Cook family cabin. Participants can return to their cars at their own pace or further explore the area. Meet at the parking area on the left just after entering Cataloochee Valley. From there, participants will follow the ranger and drive 5 miles to the Little Cataloochee trailhead.  The best route into Cataloochee is Cove Creek Road which is accessible from Hwy. 276 near its intersection with Interstate 40. Participants driving to the area on I-40 should use Exit 20 (Hwy. 276 exit) and immediately turn right on to Cove Creek Road. The drive from Hwy. 276 into Cataloochee is 10 miles. Cove Creek Road is a winding, two-lane road and includes a four-mile section that is unpaved. For more information, call the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at 828-497-1904.

Friday, November 27 at 9:00 a.m.  – Cucumber Gap near Elkmont
This easy, 4.8-mile roundtrip hike follows the river through a beautiful, cove hardwood forest. Participants will learn about the rich history of the area including the logging operations of the Little River Lumber Company. Expect 3-4 hours total for the hike. One river crossing may be required. Meet at the Little River trailhead at 9:00 a.m., 7 miles west of Sugarlands Visitor Center in Elkmont. For more information, call Sugarlands Visitor Center at 865-436-1291.

Weather in the Smoky Mountains can be unpredictable, especially in the fall. Rangers recommend participants dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes, and bring rain gear. Participants should also bring a bag lunch, snacks, and plenty of water.

There are plenty of hiking trails for you to explore in the Smokies. See our Great Smoky Mountains Guide for North Carolina.

20 Must See Waterfalls near Asheville NC


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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 RomanticAsheville.com 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 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!