Know the Inside Details...and Get the Most Out of Your Trip to the WNC Mountains
Considering staying in Asheville or the surrounding area? It’s a solid choice—2017’s 11.1 million visitors is a testament to that! Where else has that seductive mix of mountain getaway and urban vacation?
To prep, pack like you’re hitting the town, and add some hiking boots. Maybe check out some top 10 lists for Asheville activities. Right?
Not exactly. You need to know some insider facts to get the most out of your vacation in the mountains. Not only for convenience but for safety. Unfortunately, visitor mistakes make up many of the local’s jokes.
You want to get the most out of your mountain getaway! To ensure your trip is everything you’ve been looking forward too, here are tourist mistakes to avoid when vacationing in Asheville:
Wearing bad walking shoes (even if you’re not hiking). Unless you are Ubering straight to the doorstep of your event, you will be walking. A lot. A trail, downtown, the Biltmore Estate...the activity doesn’t matter.
The topography varies greatly, even in the urban areas. Make sure your shoes will let you walk up steep concrete, stairs, and gravel. Nothing takes the fun out of a day of a vacation like painful feet!
Driving when you’re not familiar with mountain roads. The Asheville and surrounding area is notorious for challenging roadways. Both in driving and figuring out directions. Roads get curvy and narrow, and can be poorly lit at night. There’s frequent construction, and many roads have no shoulders.
It’s particularly dangerous for bikers, both pedal-cyclists and motorbikers. The combo of curvy roads, fog, and speeding contribute to many car accidents with a biking victim.
The best way to avoid Asheville’s headache-inducing roads, directions, and parking? Hire a service.
You came to enjoy your trip! Let a local friend, taxi, Lyft, or Uber driver make your stay easier. And if you must drive, stay alert, be careful, and watch for bikers, people, animals, fallen trees, and sharp turns.
Leaving your rental’s doors open. You may be tempted to leave the doors open to let in that crisp mountain air, but it’s an open invitation for outdoor critters.
If you’re staying in an Asheville cabin, cottage, or rental, don’t leave doors open unless they have a screen. While there are accounts of deer, birds, dogs, and cats wandering into open homes, it’s more likely bugs and rodents will sneak in. This is common even if your rental’s location doesn’t feel too rural.
Planning to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway...when it’s closed. Don’t make the mistake of driving all the way to a parkway entrance just to meet a locked gate. The parkway can be closed for repairs, ice, snow, fallen trees, and accidents.
Unfortunately, you can’t use the weather at the bottom of the mountain to predict whether the parkway is open. The elevation change is dramatic, so the parkway may be snowy while it’s clear at your vacation rental.
Save yourself time by checking out the real-time parkway closure map. This also lets you know if there is a section that is open!
Going to a side of Asheville that’s not what you came for. Your Asheville experience heavily depends on where you are in Asheville. The area’s different moods overlap, but here is a generalized overview:
Biltmore Estate, Biltmore Village, Biltmore Town Square, and some of downtown have an upscale southern mood. You’ll enjoy this side if you’re looking to shop boutiques, enjoy fine dining, visit a spa, or browse fine art galleries.
On the West Asheville/River Arts District side, you’ll have a more bohemian experience. There, you’ll find hole-in-the-wall restaurants and coffee shops, intimate concert venues, creative art and craft galleries, unique specialty shops, and breweries.
Typically, you’ll have to drive up the parkway or into a national forest to hike to mountain views and waterfalls. These are scattered about Asheville’s surrounding areas. To start exploring trail options, check out Pisgah National Forest, Dupont National Forest, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Go hiking with no experience & no guide. Hiking is physically demanding—and dangerous without the right know-how. You need to be especially careful with hiking to a waterfall or overlook. Most hiking areas have warning signs, but people/pet death count signs are now on the rise.
Be safe, and don’t let this become you! Observe signs, never go alone, stay away from the edge, and prepare well. You can enjoy a hike more safely and confidently by going with a local or hiring a guide.
So do you have to feel like you’re on a Stairmaster all day to enjoy the mountain scenery? Not at all! You can enjoy nature with a less strenuous guided trail walk or drive to a parkway overlook.
Cutting it close with reservations. You’ll need to pad any activity involving driving or walking with some extra time. Parking is often limited, especially in historic areas. Even when you can find a spot, you’ll likely have to walk a few blocks. You’ll also need to factor in rush-hour congestion.
It’s also easy to get lost in the Asheville and surrounding areas. Roads are not always well-labeled or clearly visible. Your GPS may also lose signal in some areas, especially on the parkway. A map or a friendly local can help you out.
Not prepping for daily weather fluctuations. The answer to “what do I wear in Asheville?” is...everything. A 20+ °F temperature change in a single day in Asheville is not uncommon.
Asheville weather may not be extreme, but it is moody. Bring layers to adjust to the coolness of the mountain evenings and mornings. In the winter, bring your winter coat, as well as some lighter options.
A day in December can be 30℉, and the next 60℉.
Precipitation is also unpredictable. Bring an umbrella, whatever time of year you come. But don’t worry—while rain is frequent, it’s rarely long-lived. You’ll be able to enjoy your planned Asheville activities!
Now you can avoid Asheville tourist blunders and fully enjoy your trip to the mountains. And don’t feel stranded when you’re lost or looking for activity ideas.
Reach out to a local. Whether a friend, gas station attendant, waiter, or someone you met on the street (or trail), locals are typically full of great direction, Southern friendliness, and a willingness to help!