This isn’t just another outdoor guide to Asheville, the North Carolina city that lies amid the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. Here, we dive deep into the region’s rich tapestry of fresh-air experiences through the lens of the BIPOC people who’ve called Asheville home for generations. This is a celebration of diversity, of the cultural vibrance of a place that’s due in large part to the contributions of its communities of color—who have always been part of Asheville’s story. Join us on a journey through the verdant landscapes, uncovering stories, tips, and hidden treasures that resonate with the heartbeats of a diverse array of explorers.
Asheville’s heritage of diversity and nature
The heart of Asheville is a colorful mix of spaces, community-led initiatives, and sustainable businesses all seeking to share and preserve the age-old vitality of a vibrant mountain community that’s historically been known for its sanctuary-like properties. Wellness is in the air with the stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains greeting you as you approach the city.
Local fixtures like Second Gear, an outdoor gear consignment shop, and the Asheville-based nonprofit Dogwood Alliance help keep it that way. Both help make Asheville’s wild spaces accessible and welcoming to all. Working diligently for more than two decades, Dogwood Alliance helps ensure that forests surrounding Asheville remain vibrant and protected for generations to come. Second Gear, in addition to selling high-quality outdoor gear at affordable prices, invests in the local community with an inclusive mission and by donating 1 percent of all sales to nonprofits. Check the Second Gear calendar for cleanups, events, hikes, and contact info to get advice on what gear to take on your next outdoor adventure in Asheville.
For those that may be more inclined towards the wild flora and fauna of the region, the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine is a wealth of resources, offering a directory of herbal conferences or earth skills gatherings (many are local), as well as guides to foraging wild foods, botany, and plant identification. It’s a great reminder of the abundant biodiversity here. Whether setting out on a plant scavenger hunt with the kids, hiking on date night, or capturing the landscape’s glory through photography, taking a moment to get outdoors in the Asheville area promises to be an invigorating and memorable experience.
Interested in a community-led, farm-to-table experience? Don’t miss what’s happening at Southside Community Farm (SCF) and Southside Kitchen—which grew from a small garden behind the Arthur R. Edington Center into beacons of sustainable agriculture. In 2022, Southside Kitchen partnered with SCF and brought in enough produce to supply nearly 500 scratch-made meals daily to children at upwards of seven local schools, in addition to feeding residents near the farm. The work of these organizations is an ode to community resilience and Black food sovereignty, as well as a testament to the importance of local produce. For those on a volunteer vacation reach out to SCF for any upcoming work parties, and check out Asheville GreenWorks for events like litter removal, river cleanups, and tree planting.
New trails add to enriching outdoor experiences that celebrate diversity
More inclusive outdoor experiences await within the city, which reveal tales that echo its spirit of community, resilience, and diverse heritage. The newly opened Asheville Black Cultural Heritage Trail, among the first of its kind in the region, links historic Black neighborhoods and showcases untold stories of familiar landmarks in the community—as well as of places that no longer exist—to bring attention to what was erased here and share a deeper narrative about the notable heroes, accomplishments, and contributions of the local Black community.
The Historic James Vester Miller Trail is a tribute to one of Asheville’s esteemed Black builders who holds a venerated place in American history as one of the most prolific builders of the early 20th century. Born to a former enslaved person, Miller’s rise to prominence in a racially segregated era is a testament to his remarkable talent, resilience, and entrepreneurial spirit. Other significant architectural feats on the Trail include Mount Zion Baptist Church, the Municipal Building, and St. Matthias Episcopal Church.
Groups and places that support inclusivity outdoors
Not sure where to start? We recommend beginning any exploration of the region’s Black history in The Block, a historic Black business district that’s been revitalized as a hub for the local community where you’ll find the iconic YMI Cultural Center, one of the country’s oldest African-American centers of its kind. Plan your visit for the fall to catch the Goombay Festival, a flagship YMI program and vibrant celebration of African and Caribbean culture featuring music, dance, food, and crafts.
Tanya Marie Pender and her husband Larry Pender started Pathways to Parks with a mission of getting more people of color into the outdoors. Other organizations that help support BIPOC outdoors initiatives include Asheville Run Crew, the cycling group Riding in Color, and North Carolina BIPOC Climbers. The North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and Color My Outdoors help ensure every individual, regardless of background, has a moment with nature.
More BIPOC experiences and tours outdoors
For those interested in supporting Black-owned businesses, Asheville has something for you too. In the Burton Street neighborhood, The Peace Gardens is an oasis of upcycled art, found objects, and other distinctive visuals—a living testament to diversity and creativity by Safi Mahaba and DeWayne Barton. As you meander through its walkways, each plant, mural, and corner whispers tales of the local ethos and its unyielding commitment to nurturing its surroundings. The Gardens are also a stop on the Hood Huggers Tours, founded and led by Barton, that take groups out weekly around the city of Asheville for an exploration of the Black history, culture, and resilience of the region. Walking and driving tours are available.
If you love coffee, add Asheville Coffee Tours to your agenda, the brainchild of Jarika Johnson who came up with the idea while working as a barista at Trade & Lore. You’ll learn that each café has its story, often intertwined with art, music, and local legends. For a riverside coffee experience steeped in culture, check out the Black-owned coffee shop and co-working space Grind Coffee Bar in the River Arts District. Every street and corner of this city pulses with the rhythms of its residents—and there’s truly no better way to get outdoors than by visiting the diverse community of Asheville.