OK, so my first post about Asheville dealt with how to get there and where to stay once you get there. Now that you have a place to stay, we’ll answer the question. What to do? Sit back and let’s take a tour of all that Asheville has to offer.
As I mentioned, in my last post, to really experience Asheville with your family, you need to get outside. I’ll say it again, you need to get outside. Asheville has so many options of great things to do outside that it is almost comical. From hiking to mountain biking to white water rafting to ropes course elements and zip lining to skiing to leaf peeping (yes, that really is a thing), Asheville will never leave you twirling your thumbs. There can never be a dull moment when you and your family visit here.
OK, so most of the content in this post will focus on what to do in the summer in Asheville. Really, Asheville is an all season destination, but summer I feel is where some real magic can happen. Plus, the length of the blog might possibly be endless, if I wrote about what to do for each and every season. So, summer, here we come.
There are really some great trails in the Asheville area. With the proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway (another blog worthy destination, or journey), Asheville has plentiful hiking opporunities, from surreal Forrests to waterfalls to mountain peaks, to longer trail systems, the Appalachian trail and the Mountains to Sea Trail, there really is just a lot of variety. I’ll highlight three hikes that we have experienced.
Looking Glass Rock
On our honeymoon, we ventured to Looking Glass Rock. The trail is about 36 miles from Asheville, in the Brevard area. The directions are below, curtesy of romanticasheville.com:
Directions from Downtown Asheville (about 36 miles): Take I-240 West / I-26 East. Continue on I-26 East to Exit 40 for Highway 280 (and the Asheville Airport). Take a right onto Highway 280 West and go 16 miles toward Brevard. As you enter the Brevard area, you will see a big shopping center on the right (with Wal-Mart). Just past the center, turn right onto US Highway 276 North (Forest Heritage Scenic Byway) to enter the Pisgah National Forest. Go 5.3 miles and turn left at the sign for Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and the State Fish Hatchery. Go 4/10 of a mile and look for the parking area on the right for Looking Glass Rock Trail Head. For more information about the many hiking trails in Pisgah National Forest, stop at their Visitors Center on US 276 on the way to the trailhead.
From the trailhead, the trail continues on a gradual assent until you get to a clearing that has a large rocky outcropping. This is used as a helipad for search and rescue missions in the area. Once you cross through the clearing, it’s just another mile or so to the top.
NOTE: THIS HIKE IS NOT FOR YOUNG KIDS. The top of looking glass rock affords extraordinary views, but there are no railings or hand holds so a slip from here could be fatal. This hike is perfect for teens and tweens.
When we took our kids to Asheville a few years ago, we stayed over the Fourth of July weekend. There was lots of energy in the city and that made the kids excited too. So we woke up on the actual fourth, a little apprehensive about big crowds, so we thought, where to go on the fourth to avoid crowds? Answer: the summit of Mt. Mitchell. Yes!
Mt. Mitchell sits as the tallest mountain peak east of the Mississippi. Growing up in the Northeast and having traveled out west as a kid, before I came to NC I really only though big mountains existed out west. Wow, was I wrong. North Carolina really has incredible mountains.
OK, so back to Mt. Mitchell. You have a couple of options for hikes. First, you can do what we did, which is drive from Black Mountain, along the blue ridge parkway, up to the summit parking lot. Great views, fun mountain roads, and lots of elevation change await you on this drive. Once you get to the summit parking lot, it’s a short 1/4 mile walk (not even a hike really) up to the summit observation platform, along a paved path! One of our sons still could do a stroller so we pushed him up to the top. Park service for the win there.
There is also the six mile Mt. Mitchell trail. While we have never done this trail ourselves, we have heard that this is a great hike; strenuous, great views, lots of variety. It starts at the Black Mountain campground and goes out to the summit. The climate at the top of Mt. Mitchell can vary drastically due to the altitude so pack accordingly. When we went, the temperature when we left Black Mountain was in the mid 80s, probably about 86 or 87. When we got to the summit parking lot, the outside temp was in the low sixties with a good breeze so it felt like the upper fifties, on the Fourth of July!!!!! It’s definitely a go. Seriously, do not leave Asheville without going to Mt. Mitchell.
In the summer, a GREAT activity to try with your family, dependent upon rainfall totals is river tubing. While we never actually went tubing in Asheville (we went in Tennessee, look for that description in another blog), it was so much fun that we recommend it here. Here are a few well reviewed companies:
Close to Asheville, the French Broad River and the Green River afford the best tubing. French Broad Tubing for the French Broad River and Wilderness Cove Tubing on the Green River are strong, safe, and reputable outfitters.
There is also plentiful trails for Mountain Biking. The Pisgah National forrest in particular has some great single track. You can rent from a number of different shops, but honestly, it’s probably best to bring your own. That way you don’t have to waste time getting to know your bike.
There is also great white water rafting a bit further west and ropes courses that challenge you both physically and mentally. Our oldest LOVES ropes courses and can fly through some pretty tricky elements with complete ease. Asheville Treetops Adventure park is a fantastic place within city limits that has a number of great elements for parents and kids alike. A little far north of Asheville, in Bryson City, is the Nantahala Outdoor Center. This started out primarily as a whitewater rafting and kayaking center but has now expanded to include zip lining and ropes courses.
OK, so there it is, Asheville: Round Two. Again, Asheville really is a four season destination and my review here is by no means exhaustive. So, plan a trip to Asheville, get outside, and see all that this incredible mountain town has to offer. In my next and final post in the Asheville series, I’ll cover where to eat. Asheville is know for locally sourced, organic food. Come along for a quick culinary journey, coming soon. Thanks for reading. See you on the next post.