Exploring Appalachia: Mountain Drives, Breathtaking Hikes, and Asheville Strolls

The Mountains at Sunset

A destination itself that you can spend days exploring, Asheville is also an ideal home base for immersing yourself in the beauty of the surrounding natural environment and picturesque small-town communities of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Part of what draws visitors and residents alike is the seemingly infinite number of places to visit within about an hour’s drive or less.

On this five-day itinerary, you’ll get a taste of Asheville’s downtown before setting sights beyond the city limits. The journey takes you up the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway toward the charming town of Black Mountain. Throughout the trip, you’ll enjoy Asheville’s most fantastic southern hospitality, incredible cuisine, the option to take a tour, and of course, one (or more) of the area’s many local craft brews.


Trip Designer

Explore Asheville

An exciting and inventive culinary scene, local shops, art galleries—with so much to see and do in this eclectic city and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, the folks at Explore Asheville have you covered with in-depth information for every interest and angle. From architectural explorations of Art Deco, Beaux Arts, and Neoclassical jewels to breathtaking encounters with nature and wildlife, there’s something for everyone in this welcoming mountain destination. And Explore Asheville encourages all visitors to make the most of their trip by travelling responsibly.
original_Appalachia_Trip Highlight.jpg

Trip Highlight

Stunning Seven Sisters Views

There’s nothing more quintessentially Appalachian than a day spent on Montreat’s majestic Graybeard Trail. This strenuous 9.6-mile, out and back hike ascends 2,400 feet to a summit with breathtaking vistas of the peaks of the Black Mountains, also called the Seven Sisters. Graybeard offers inspiring views year-round, but the patchwork of yellows, reds, and oranges dotting the mountainsides during fall are particularly postcard-worthy.


DAY 1Hello, Asheville

Today, you arrive either by plane or car. Driving into downtown Asheville, your stay begins at Hotel Indigo Asheville Downtown. This 13-story hotel, located within walking distance of all the vibrancy downtown has to offer, features rooms and suites with hardwood floors, and some with mountain views and/or balconies. What’s more, starting rates here are among the most reasonable in town. If you prefer a more immersive stay, try one of Asheville’s many historic Bed & Breakfasts.

For a taste of Appalachia (and maybe a little something to bring home), grab a pulled pork and collard greens sandwich or other lunch option at award-winning chef John Fleer’s The Rhu, a café, bakery, and grocery. History buffs can spend the afternoon learning about Asheville through architecture and stories on one of History@Hand’s walking tours. Or for those who love comedy, consider LaZoom Comedy Tours.

You’re eating downtown tonight, at the rooftop restaurant Hemingway’s Cuba. Arrive before sunset to savor the view and one of their famous Cuban daiquiris as you make the most difficult decision of the day—what to eat. In case Hemingway’s gets you in the mood for more alfresco libations, this is just one of many rooftop bars in downtown Asheville such as the especially charming Antidote at Chemist Spirits, which features old-style cocktails. For multiple libations and three different views of the city, book an experience with Asheville Rooftop Bar Tours.
African American_Day 2.jpg


DAY 2Choose your own outdoor adventure

It’s time to immerse yourself in the Appalachian landscape. For a fun experience in nature that’s more active and engaging, try zip-lining from Navitat Canopy Adventures or the Adventure Center of Asheville. Or get into the Asheville ethos on a guided mushroom-foraging expedition with No Taste Like Home. To check out the French Broad River instead, consider a relaxing float with Zen Tubing or kayaking on the river with a naturalist from Hike Bike Kayak Asheville.

For something a little more easygoing, take the scenic route through Pisgah National Forest toward the famous natural waterslide Sliding Rock with its adjacent Looking Glass Falls. There is no hike required to access the slide or see the falls, and this can be a pretty popular site, especially on weekends so we recommend visiting on a weekday.

After some time outside, you’ll probably want to grab a beer. Head to one of Asheville’s great microbreweries, like Forestry Camp, set in a building that once housed young forestry workers in the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps. Alternatively, visit the Highland Brewing Company, regarded as the founding brewer of the local beer scene.
DAY 3 HERO_Culture.jpg

DAY 3Goodbye, city life

After checking out of Hotel Indigo, hop in the car and head toward the Blue Ridge Parkway, bound for Black Mountain, just 20 minutes away and often referred to as “the front porch of Western North Carolina.” Check into a vacation rental from Greybeard Rentals, one of the seven log cabins at High Rock Rentals, or Arbor House before heading downtown. There, you’ll get a full dose of small-town life. The mountain town’s quaint streets are lined with cute shops and restaurants, so you’ll want to take your time weaving in and out of each one. Highlights include Chifferobe, Dancing Dragonfly, CW Moose, and Europa.

After all that shopping, refresh yourself with a glass of hard cider from Black Mountain Ciderworks + Meadery. Last but not least, stop in for some southern-style “casual fine dining” at the old Red Rocker Inn with homey dishes like buttermilk fried chicken breast and grilled Carolina mountain trout. The Victorian-style house has been a part of the Black Mountain landscape since 1896.

DAY 4Happy trails, yall

Head toward Montreat for the Graybeard Trail, one of the more challenging and exciting hikes in the region. This trail is 9.5 miles roundtrip, so be sure you’ve packed plenty of snacks and water. As you make your way, you’ll be rewarded with several sights, including small waterfalls and spectacular vistas. The trail is particularly stunning in the fall, when the mountainsides are sparkling with color. For a deeper connection to nature, consider hiring a guide like the folks at Blue Ridge Hiking Company to hike with a certified naturalist.

For something more low-key (and delicious), head out on the W.N.C. Cheese Trail. The trail includes a total of 17 Appalachian cheesemakers and farms, and you can visit up to six. Consider starting at Round Mountain Creamery in Black Mountain, and making your way back with stops at Blue Ridge Mountain Creamery, Looking Glass Creamery, and Hickory Nut Gap Farm.

If you prefer a beautiful drive instead, take the Blue Ridge Parkway toward Mount Mitchell the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Here, you’ll enjoy some of the most stunning views in the Blue Ridge Mountains, making for prime selfie backdrops.

For dinner, savor local seafood and ingredients at Que Sera including dishes like white cornmeal fried oysters and steak frites.

DAY 5Just one more hike

Before heading out of town, get in one last taste of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway and make your way to the Rattlesnake Lodge Trail, an easy 1.4-mile jaunt to the ruins of a lodge that burned in 1926. Once back at the trailhead, it’s an easy drive back to the interstate to drive to the next destination or to the airport.
More From This Author
Journeys: United States
Journeys: Sports + Adventure