TOP THINGS TO DO IN ASHEVILLE NC
Whether it’s your first visit or you’re coming back for more Blue Ridge Mountain goodness, there are plenty of things to do in Asheville that you won’t soon forget.
One of the main reasons people come to Asheville is because the variety of fun outdoor activity here is endless. With so many options for things to see and do outdoors, it can feel daunting to choose! Below is a list of outdoor activities favored by locals here in Asheville that I hope will help you plan your perfect mountain adventure.
Things to do outdoors in Asheville
Whether it’s hitting the trails you’re dreaming of, getting in the water, on a bike, visiting a spa, or city strolling from gallery to gallery, Asheville has all the things to do. And of course there’s food- so much good food. So work up an appetite on those trails! Speaking of trails...
Cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway is a great way to access local trails within just a few minutes, and of course there are countless wonderful hikes within an hour drive of Asheville. When it comes to hiking in North Carolina, Asheville hiking satisfies all skill levels and types.
Best local trails for Asheville Hiking:
The Mountains to Sea Trail
The Mountains to Sea Trail is a great option for hiking closest to Asheville. You can access it at the Rattlesnake Lodge Trail where it crosses Ox Creek Road near the Blue Ridge Parkway and hike up to the ruins of the lodge that was a popular destination in the 1900s and burned down in 1926. Or you can begin your hike of Mountains to Sea Trail at the Folk Art Center and combine your hiking activities with a look at some local traditional and modern crafts.
Other highlights of Mountains to Sea trail can be easily accessed off of the Blue Ridge Parkway a little further away. To the south are my favorites Graveyard Fields and Skinny Dip Falls.
The Graveyard Loop
The Graveyard Loop is approximately 4 miles and leads to two waterfalls, Upper and Lower Falls, in a valley of wildflowers encircled by 6,000 ft. mountain peaks. Don’t forget to take a dip in the swimming hole at the lower falls!
Just below the overlook and parking area for Graveyard Fields is the access point for Skinny Dip Falls at mile-marker 417. Skinny Dip Falls is a beautiful spot in the woods where you can dive off a big rock into a deep pool of crisp river water, or simply wade in the other shallower areas. It’s only a ½ mile hike from the parking area to the falls.
To the north about 20 miles away you’ll find the scenic trails of Craggy Gardens where native wildflowers and rhododendron abound. The Craggy Pinnacle Trail is a 1.5 mile round trip hike to the top where you’ll be greeted by extraordinary panoramic views that will take your breath away. Be seated on or along the stone wall and take in the the beauty of the mountains and rhododendron covered slopes. After your hike, enjoy your packed lunch in the designated picnic area.
Hiking and more in NC State Parks and National Parks
The state parks in the Asheville area are filled with awesome things to do outdoors, like hiking, biking, camping, and swimming. Here are some local favorite hot spots for these activities and more:
More hiking near Asheville
DuPont State Forest
Just 40 miles from Asheville, DuPont State Forest is a dreamland for the outdoor activity-lover. Most hikers visiting DuPont make sure to hike up to High Falls, Triple Falls and Hooker Falls, but DuPont is loaded with amazing hikes of varying lengths and ranges of difficulty.
Cedar Rock Mountain is a 4.5 mile loop in DuPont that is a local favorite and that many visitors miss due to the popularity of the some of the nearby short waterfall hikes. Great views and varying scenery make this hike one of my personal favorites.
For those seeking a peaceful and quiet experience in a purely natural setting, I recommend the 4-mile round trip hike to Hidden Lakes. Hike rolling, wooded trails to secluded lakes in DuPont Forest. Enjoy beautiful mountain views along the way, and take a swim in the lakes of course! Pack for a picnic and find a cozy spot to relax near the water.
Mount Mitchell State Park
Enjoy a 35 mile gorgeous scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River.
Deep Creek Trail will take you to the peak of Mount Craig, the second highest peak east of the Mississippi, from which you can enjoy a great view of Mount Mitchell. It’s a 2-mile round trip hike through the forest.
Balsam Nature Trail is a short, easy ¾-mile loop that you can do any time of the year. The information stations along this trail are a great way to get acquainted with the Mount Mitchell environment.
Pisgah National Forest
Things to do in Asheville- Pisgah National Forest
You can take a shorter 4.5 mile hike to two 100-ft waterfalls called Twin Falls and back, or take the longer 6.5 mile loop. The hike to this beautiful setting is one of my absolute favorites. You can also take a guided horseback ride to Twin Falls with Pisgah Forest Stables. The ride is is about 9 miles roundtrip and takes 3.5 hours.
Turtleback Falls is a fun natural water slide and swimming hole in Pisgah National Forest. This slide is more suitable for adults than it is for children due to the slippery rocks, strong current, and deep pool. There are no lifeguards on duty, so exercise caution. Sliding Rock and Hidden Falls are also fun options for younger swimmers and those looking for something more serene.
Max Patch is a definite local favorite because it is truly sensational! This section of the Appalachian Trail was once a pasture on top of Max Patch Mountain and is now 350-acres of open wildflower covered land from which you get to enjoy magnificent 360-degree views. This is an ideal picnic location. Two loop trails, one 1.4 mile loop and a 2.4 mile loop, lead you to the summit and back. Max Patch is also a wonderful camping location.
Where to Mountain Bike in and near Asheville
Dupont State Forest is one of the best places for mountain biking in the Asheville area. There are nearly 86 miles of trail open to mountain bikers. Check out the Gunion Farm area trails, a favorite for local bikers.
Bent Creek near the NC Arboretum is another option for a mountain biking adventure and is located just a few minutes from downtown Asheville. This area has a variety of trails for all skill levels.
Lake Lure, located about 45 minutes southeast of Asheville, has some new trails that have opened in Buffalo Creek Park. Lake Lure is also a great place to swim, canoe, and kayaking.
North Mills River is not far from South Asheville and offers multiple riding loops in Pisgah National Forest suitable for all skill levels. Park at the Trace Ridge Trailhead to begin your adventure.
Camping near Asheville, NC
Mount Mitchell State Park
Tent Camping is available in Mt. Mitchell State Park May-October. Each site has a grill and picnic table.
Pisgah National Forest
Pisgah National Forest is one of the best locations for camping near Asheville, offering full-featured, primitive, and group campgrounds.
The campgrounds at Lake Powhatan are wooded and private, with showers, flushing toilets picnic tables, tent pads, lantern posts and campfire rings with grills.
Other fun things to do outdoors in Asheville
Blue Ridge Parkway
Things to do in Asheville- Blue Ridge Parkway
The 469 mile road known as the Blue Ridge Parkway runs north and south from Asheville along the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 175 miles of the parkway are in NC. You could find nearly every type of outdoor recreation you desire by driving along the parkway with a map of all its hidden gems in hand. Many enjoy just cruising along it and stopping at the many overlooks to enjoy the breathtaking views.
Tubing down the French Broad River
Renting inner tubes and floating down the river is a fun way to be outside and enjoy the sunshine in a more relaxing way. Pack up your cooler and get on the river. You won’t regret it! Tube rentals begin at $20 per person and can be rented from various locations along the river.
See Asheville by foot
Get to know Asheville more intimately by booking a guided walking tour through Downtown, Montford, or Biltmore Village. Learn about Asheville’s history, appreciate the architecture, and experience its culture. Tours begin at $25 per person and last about 1.5-2 hours.
Downtown Asheville has many wonderful restaurants with outdoor seating. I recommend choosing somewhere on Pack Square to be in the center of it all and enjoy the best people watching. Options on Pack Square include Rhubarb, Posana, and Bomba among others. Just a block away is the AC Hotel which has a fantastic rooftop restaurant and bar, Capella on 9, with great mountain and city views.
Popular Asheville Attractions
Asheville obviously has its “must-see” attractions that people travel from places near and far to see. We’ve covered some, like the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest, but there are a couple more things to do in Asheville that you shouldn’t miss and that we locals return to again and again.
The Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore Estate is one of Asheville’s most famous and popular attractions, and it’s not surprising why! With 250 exquisitely designed rooms, including a Library with 10,000 volumes, a Banquet Hall with a 70-foot ceiling, an indoor pool, and a bowling alley, the Biltmore is America’s largest home built over a span of 6 years beginning in 1889. But the size is only one of its marvelous qualities. Almost everything throughout the home is original to it and reflects the elegance and sophistication of the Vanderbilt family who built and lived in the famous French Renaissance Chateau. But the Biltmore House, in all its gloriousness, is not the only reason to visit the estate. The grounds alone are worth a visit. There are acres of breathtaking gardens to stroll and lush landscapes to surround yourself with. Additionally there are shops, restaurants, a spa hotel, an Inn and a winery where you can taste Biltmore Estate wines. Plan to spend a whole day here! Ticket prices range from $50-$75 depending on time of visit.
The River Arts District
Things to do in Asheville's River Arts District
Immerse yourself in Asheville’s art scene by spending some time in the River Arts District (or the RAD, as we locals call it) where many of Asheville’s artists create their masterpieces. Explore artwork in various mediums and from hundreds of different local artists. You might even meet many of the artists who will surely be doing what they love within the walls of the 22 old industrial and historical buildings they now call studios. The RAD is located near the French Broad River and has several restaurants, breweries, and a wine bar. Try Bull and Beggar for Dinner, hang out at the Wedge and sip a cold microbrew outside, or visit The District, the RAD’s new wine bar.
Best Asheville Spas
Asheville Spa Days
Are you a spa lover like I am? Asheville is packed with body workers and others in the business of pampering just dying to help you relax and unwind. Let me introduce you to some of them!
There are two locations for Sensibilities Spa, one downtown and one in South Asheville’s Biltmore Park neighborhood. Sensibilities is perfect for the spa-goer with a preference for organic and natural products. Their services include body treatments, various types of massage, facials and manicures and pedicures. You can expect a luxurious experience with professional service. The shop at Sensibilities is also great with lots of wonderful skincare products, robes, candles, and local jewelry.
The Spa at The Grove Park Inn
The Spa at the Grove Park is a true escape, having not only typical spa services but also a wonderful pool area, a fitness area, and a spa cafe. Robes, towels, and slippers are provided for all guests. It is possible to use the spa facility without getting a treatment by purchasing a spa day pass, but all spa treatment recipients receive full access. Pricing varies throughout the year.
Hot Springs Spa and Resort
Just a 40-minute drive from Asheville is the Hot Springs Resort which has a more casual vibe than the spas I’ve already listed and a variety of wonderful spa treatments and superb therapists. What they have that no other spa does is private outdoor mineral soaking pools/hot tubs that are nestled in among the trees along the river. This is probably my favorite of all the Asheville spa experiences. I love to hike in Hot Springs (Lover’s Leap is a great trail!), then head to the spa for a massage and then a soak, and then head into Hot Springs charming downtown for dinner. It’s the perfect spa day getaway!
Located in the mountains but only 15 minutes from downtown Asheville is Shoji, a japanese inspired spa that offers the feel of a spa retreat just minutes from the bustle of Asheville’s city center. Shoji has a wonderful list of spa services as well as outdoor hot tubs and some romantic packages for couples and fun packages for groups, like the Gather the Girls package which includes a soak for up to 8 ladies, side-by-side massages, and a bottle of champagne. Love it!
Want to be pampered and enjoy a spa environment but don’t want to spend a lot of time or money? Visit Wake Sanctuary in downtown Asheville! Enjoy an amazing foot soak for $25 (a great idea since you’re gonna be on your feet a lot exploring Asheville!), and add-on a shoulder or scalp massage if you like. The Wake shop is also full of goodies like soap, lotion, jewelry and other fun gifts for self or others.
There is so much to do in the Asheville area, and I hope this list gives you some great ideas for how to enjoy your time here in our wonderful city! Don’t forget to stop by the Visitor Center at 36 Montford Avenue and talk to a local who can answer all of your questions about things to do in Asheville, NC. Then head over to one of my favorite places of all, The Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar at the Grove Arcade, to enjoy a glass of champagne or wine with cheese or a sweet treat while you plan out your perfect Asheville Adventure