A Trail-to-Town Adventure in Asheville with a Local Author

Get outdoors with hiker, mountain biker, and novelist Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle’s recommendations of her favorite adventures for five days in and around this North Carolina city.

A birds-eye view of the Omni Grove Park Inn and the surrounding greenery in Asheville, North Carolina

The Omni Grove Park Inn has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973.

Photo by Reggie Tidwell

Writer Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle lives just west of Asheville, North Carolina and has the kind of local knowledge that lends richness and depth to her storytelling—and makes her a perfect guide for a visit here. That perspective also helped her debut book, Even As We Breathe (the first novel published by an Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizen), earn a spot among NPR’s Best Books of 2020, among other literary awards.

As fans of her work can attest, Clapsaddle’s strong sense of place roots her characters in environments—including the Blue Ridge Mountains, Cherokee, and Asheville—that at once feel palpable and inviting. Experience these same inspiring Asheville landscapes when you enjoy some of her favorite activities including mountain biking on local trails and hiking some of the world’s oldest mountains. Then follow your adventures by dining at her most beloved restaurants.

A table set for two on the Sunset Terrace at The Omni Grove Park Inn, with views of Asheville, North Carolina

Trip Highlight

Spa Time

Listen to music underwater as you relax in The Spa at The Omni Grove Park Inn, followed by a full-body massage. Afterward, sip on a cocktail as the sun goes down with one of the most magnificent views in Asheville from the Sunset Terrace.
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Trip Designer

Explore Asheville

With so much to see and do in this eclectic city and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, Explore Asheville has you covered with in-depth information for every interest and angle. Whether you’re drawn to the city’s architecture, thriving restaurant scene, lively art galleries, or serene natural beauty, this welcoming destination offers all the elements of a rewarding getaway.
A table set for two on the Sunset Terrace at The Omni Grove Park Inn, with views of Asheville, North Carolina

The Sunset Terrace at The Omni Grove Park Inn offers views of Asheville.

Photo by Reggie Tidwell

Day 1:Living History at The Omni Grove Park Inn

Having chosen The Omni Grove Park Inn as the backdrop for her award-winning novel, it’s no surprise that Clapsaddle recommends staying at the property, which she says is “a place thick with history.” Rooms 441 and 443, where F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed, have views of the courtyard. Literary fans will also delight in the recently opened boutique hotel, Zelda Dearest, that stylishly pays homage to American novelist Zelda Fitzgerald in the South Slope area. For lodging in the city center, try the Aloft Asheville Downtown.

According to Clapsaddle, the Omni has something for everyone, including kids. Her oldest, 15, enjoys trying to spot A-list celebrity guests and her 11-year-old loves the National Gingerbread Competition, which Clapsaddle will host for the third year in a row. Festivities begin in November with holiday-themed decorations throughout the property and signature hot chocolate and craft brews served from a life-sized gingerbread house in the library.

After you check in, work up an appetite along a route favored by the author: the lightly trafficked Sunset Trail, which meanders through the resort’s 150 acres canopied with trees. Another option is a self-guided audio walking tour. Available from the concierge to guests and non-guests alike, the 45-minute tour dives into the hotel’s construction, the collection of arts and crafts furniture (among the largest in the country), and some of its most notable guests.

At the end of the day, settle in for nature’s evening finale with one of Asheville’s finest hand-crafted old-fashioneds on the aptly named Sunset Terrace, followed by a meal at nearby ELDR. Clapsaddle, a fan of its breakfast and dinner, suggests ordering the Radiatori Bolognese.
A man hiking on the Mount Pisgah Trail with rhododendrons in bloom in Asheville, North Carolina

Rhododendrons bloom on the Mount Pisgah Trail starting in May each year.

Photo by Andre Daugherty

Day 2:A Day of Hiking, Starring Mount Pisgah

No stranger to adventure, Clapsaddle is a seasoned hiker. One of her favorite Asheville trail-to-town combos includes a trek up to Mount Pisgah for cardio and sweeping views (great for a memorable summit selfie). Though it’s tempting to stay for sunset, she advises that you hop back in your vehicle to cruise the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and stop to stretch your legs at the Walnut Cove Overlook for the expansive mountain panoramas and an access point to the Mountains To Sea Trail.

As the sun begins to drop, head back into town for a beer at Asheville’s first craft brewery, Highland Brewing Company. Order the Clapsaddle-approved Cold Mountain (a seasonal spiced winter ale with notes of vanilla, hazelnut, dark fruit, and cinnamon) or a golden, crisp pilsner.
A tray of chocolate tarts at French Broad Chocolate in Asheville, North Carolina

French Broad Chocolate

Photo by Andre Daugherty

Day 3:Mountain Trails and Delicious Eats

Day three starts with another adventure in the mountains. Clapsaddle is keen on Graveyard Fields, a family- and dog-friendly loop trail, which takes hikers 3.5 miles over wooden footbridges, along a scenic path (among rhododendrons come June), and eventually past the stunning cascades known as Upper and Lower Falls. Even getting to the trail is an adventure as you’ll traverse the Blue Ridge Parkway with numerous opportunities for a gorgeous view. (The Hominy Valley Overlook is a favorite at milepost 404.2.)

Post-hike, you’re likely to find Clapsaddle recharging back in Asheville with a scoop of French Broad Chocolate Lounge’s made-from-scratch vanilla ice cream. Vanilla in a chocolate lounge? Yes, she insists, and encourages you to savor some of their artisanal truffles, too.

Clapsaddle hopes you’ve saved enough energy for the evening for a pre-show dinner at Red Ginger Dimsum and Tapas (she recommends their dim sum and pork buns). It’s near Rabbit Rabbit, one of Asheville’s most popular outdoor concert venues, where she recently saw one of her favorite artists, Jason Isbell. Her other top venues include the intimate Asheville Music Hall and the larger Harrah’s Cherokee Center Arena for live acts like Noah Kahan and Bonnie Raitt, both on tap for 2024.
A birds-eye view of the Omni Grove Park Inn and surrounding greenery in Asheville, North Carolina

The Omni Grove Park Inn’s expansive property includes a spa among other delights.

Photo by Reggie Tidwell

Day 4:A Night Out on the Town

Give your legs a rest and delight in a morning at The Omni Grove Park Inn’s subterranean spa. The world-renowned destination features immersive rock walls, tunnels, arches, mineral-based pools, and two therapeutic waterfalls, all of which are paired with soothing underwater music. Follow this up with a 60-minute “Hikers Delight Pedicure,” or one of its newest offerings: the Mindbody Experience, with calming music, sound waves, harmonizing vibrations, and a zero-gravity position to reduce stress and increase relaxation.

Complete your day with a meal at one of Clapsaddle’s favorite restaurants, Bone and Broth, where she recently had a “life-changing” chocolate brownie. Post-meal, settle into a seat at The Crow and Quill, a speakeasy-style bar downtown that also gets a nod from Clapsaddle for their local live jazz nights and extensive whiskey collection. (More than 700 to choose from will satisfy even the most knowledgeable aficionado.)
A person mountain biking at Kitsuma near Asheville, North Carolina

A mountain biker at Kitsuma

Photo by Andre Daugherty

Day 5: Day Trip to Black Mountain and Montreat

Ready to get even deeper into Asheville’s outdoors? Clapsaddle suggests nearby Black Mountain. This mountain town, 20 minutes east of Asheville, makes a great day trip. It’s a welcoming gateway to some incredible trails including the popular mountain biking trail, Kitsuma, known for its heart-pounding climb and thrilling, bone-rattling descent.

The fun doesn’t stop after the ride (or hike). You can relive your adventure, dirt and all, while sipping a cold beer alfresco in the WNC Outdoor Collective’s courtyard. Part gear store, part restaurant, it’s the kind of place where a little mud on your clothes is a conversation starter and you’re likely to leave with a new friend or two (and maybe a new trucker hat or ENO hammock, both locally produced goods). Black Mountain’s Pure and Proper is one of Clapsaddle’s favorite spots for an evening date night, followed by an Aztec cone (chocolate infused with cinnamon and cayenne pepper) at the locally owned Hop Ice Cream.

“There is always something new to see, smell, and experience in Asheville,” says Clapsaddle. She makes a strong case for tacking on an extra day to either end of your trip, particularly during the week when crowds are fewer in number, and you can take your experiences in at a slower pace.

For more inspiration with listings of things to do and places to eat or stay, visit and download the Explore Asheville App.
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