Asheville Top 20 Things to Do in 2015

Blue Ridge Parkway NCAccording to the two million readers of Travel Guide during 2014, here are the Top 20 Things to Do and See during romantic getaways and family vacations to Asheville and the western North Carolina mountains as you plan for 2015:

  1. Blue Ridge Parkway: Unwind on “America’s Favorite Drive” and escape from your busy lives. Slow down to enjoy a leisurely drive with many scenic overlooks and attractions along the way. Hike, picnic, camp and meander without a schedule to keep!
  2. Waterfalls: Find cascades of all sizes from a never-ending list in the “land of the waterfalls.” Of the hundreds of waterfalls near Asheville, most are within state and federal parks with no admission fee. See our Top 60 waterfalls with guides for each.
  3. Hiking: Take a hike to fully appreciate the outdoor splendor. There’s a trail for all fitness levels, ranging from multi-day treks on the Appalachian Trail to short strolls in Nantahala National Forest. See our Top 60 hikes with detailed directions.
  4. Fall Color: Hunting autumn colors is definitely the favorite time of year for many visitors. With a leaf season that lasts 4-5 weeks, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy.
  5. Biltmore: Exploring America’s largest castle and most-visited winery, along with grand gardens, is a fairytale outing for sure. It’s the perfect spot to experience the “Downton Abbey” lifestyle, especially with the Dressing Downton costume exhibit that runs February 5 through May 25!
  6. Events: Attend a street festival, concert, play, art tour and other events. Check out our seasonal calendars for our favorites. Most are free.
  7. Downtown Asheville: Browse 200+ local stores, boutiques and art galleries, while enjoying the street performers, drum circle, and plenty of local food and brews. And don’t forget the many charming small towns nearby.
  8. Accommodations: Stay in an elegant bed and breakfast, hip hotel or secluded log cabin, providing the perfect romantic getaway with options for all tastes and budgets.
  9. Restaurants: Tasting your way through our booming culinary scene will keep you busy for weeks with many farm-to-table restaurants with local food and world-class chefs. See our Foodie Favorites guide to get your started.
  10. Sliding Rock: Gliding down this natural waterslide in Pisgah National Forest has been the favorite summer pastime for generations.
  11. DuPont State Forest: Hike, bike or ride a horse to beautiful waterfalls and mountaintops with panoramic views.
  12. Beer: Sample the local brews at dozens of craft breweries in Asheville and western North Carolina. Tour the new Sierra Nevada Brewery.
  13. Mt Mitchell: Drive to the top of the highest mountain in the eastern United States. See the views from the observation deck and walk through Alpine forests.
  14. Great Smoky Mountains: Discover this International Biosphere Reserve, home to rugged mountains, historic buildings, trails and 100,000 different types of plants and animals.
  15. Weddings: Get married and bring your friends and family for a memorable vacation. Destination weddings are booming in Asheville, and we have some amazing venues.
  16. Zip Lines & Whitewater Rafting: Fly through the trees in the morning and raft down river rapids in the afternoon.
  17. Chimney Rock Park: Ride the elevator through the famous rock formation to the top for spectacular views of the Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. Plus, hike to a 400-foot waterfall.
  18. Art: Get up close to artists and their work. Hundreds of galleries and artist studios feature many art festivals, shows and tours. Take a hands-on class in the River Arts District.
  19. Spa: Pamper yourself with a soak in natural hot springs or a massage in a tranquil setting.
  20. Great Smoky Mountain Railroad: All aboard for a scenic train excursion in the Smokies. Their Polar Express train during the Christmas season is their most popular ride.

For more information on all of these things to do, go to the 650-page online Asheville travel guide at

Top 20 Places for Fall Color near Asheville

Fall Mt. MitchellBeautiful fall mountain scenery abounds in North Carolina in October. The fall color season is a long one with the 5,000-foot elevation range in the Asheville area. In fact,  the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains have one of the longest-running fall leaf shows in the USA. Here are our top places to go and things to do to enjoy the colors. For more information on these and more things to do, go to Travel Guide.

  1. See the first autumn colors the first week of October on Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak in eastern America, with panoramic mountain views from the observation deck. Colorful views into the valleys from the top extend into mid October. Take a jacket! It’s always cooler on the summit and there is often snow there by late October.
  2. The other spot for early fall color is Grandfather Mountain and the Rough Ridge hiking trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  3. Cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of top scenic drives in the United States. Stop at many overlooks, have a picnic and take a hike. The best color varies with elevation throughout the month. So if you don’t immediately see color, keep driving!
  4. Watch the sunrise from atop Craggy Pinnacle at Craggy Gardens.
  5. Drive the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway from Brevard to the Blue Ridge Parkway in mid-October with great stops such as Looking Glass Falls and hikes to many other waterfalls in the Pisgah National Forest.
  6. Stop at Graveyard Fields along the Blue Ridge Parkway the second week of October for the some of the most brilliant color in the mountains. Relax by the waterfall or walk through the mile-high valley.
  7. Near Graveyard Fields on the Parkway, walk across mountain balds at Black Balsam Knob for endless views.
  8. Drive US Highway 64 from Brevard to Highlands. Stop to walk behind Dry Falls and drive behind Bridal Veil Falls.
  9. Watch the Shadow of the Bear immerge from behind Whiteside Mountain near Cashiers just before sunset.
  10. Capture the most photographed waterfall in North Carolina, Linville Falls, surrounded by fall color in mid October.
  11. Speaking of Linville Gorge, see stunning views of the canyon with easy hikes to the top of Table Rock and Hawksbill Mountain in Pisgah National Forest.
  12. Watch elk graze in the Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains as the male elk make their legendary mating bugling calls, walk woodland trails and explore historic buildings.
  13. Also in the Great Smoky Mountains, enjoy views from Newfound Gap gap road and hike on the Appalachian Trail to Charlies Bunion for spectacular views.
  14. Raft down the Nantahala River or French Broad River in early October for warmer temperatures!
  15. Take a zip line canopy tour through the colorful woodlands throughout October.
  16. Ride the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad along Fontana Lake and Nantahala River on a train excursion.
  17. Take a short hike in DuPont State Forest to see three waterfalls, or hike to Cedar Rock for mountain views in late October.
  18. Explore the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate by foot, bike, car, river raft, horse or Segway. See colorful fall gardens, mountain views and colorful forests.
  19. Stroll through the gardens and see the tiniest fall color show with their bonsai collection.
  20. Ride the elevator or hike to the famous Chimney Rock with 75-mile views across Lake Lure. The peak fall color show there extends into early November.

For more details on these and the latest fall foliage week-by-week forecast for western North Carolina, events and festivals and many photos, visit the free 600-page online travel guide at

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.