From getting caught in a downpour on a hike, or getting a flat tire and being stranded on the side of the road for over an hour, there is always an adventure when visiting this quirky mountain city.
Asheville is a city full of art, outdoor activities, breweries, history, and so much more, and all of this is tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. After visiting Asheville multiple times I have been able to experience quite a bit of what there is to offer, although there is much more to do and see than what is in this post.
My first trip was in 2015 and I went for about a week during spring break. I visited again in February of 2018, June of 2018, March, April, and May of 2019, and will most likely visit again soon. Between my many trips to Asheville I have been able to experience both the surrounding mountains and spend a large amount of time in the wilderness, and also explore the city life.
Enough with my rambling right? Lets get to the good stuff.
Looking Glass Falls: This falls is right off the road and easily seen from the parking lot, or you can take a short walk down for a more intimate experience. This is a 60ft. tall waterfall and one of the busier spots. If the water is low you can easily wade in the cool pool beneath the falls as a way to refresh after a long day of hiking!
Moore Cove Falls: This is an easy 1.5 mile hike (RT) and its located ~1 mile from Looking Glass Falls. A unique attribute is that hikers can walk behind and around this lightly flowing 50ft waterfall. Although this waterfall was not overwhelming or impressive, it brings a new perspective and is a peaceful place. The road signage was not the best when I visited, so be on the lookout for a information board in the parking area.
Triple Falls: Located in the DuPont State Forest this is a 120ft. waterfall that is accessible by an easy one mile hike (RT) from Hooker Falls parking lot. This was also where the filming of many Hunger Games scenes took place.
This was my by far my favorite waterfall. It consists of three huge sections of waterfalls that connect together and you are able to walk to the base of it and climb up to where you are standing in the center of a waterfall.
Being such a popular spot, it was crowded during my visit so I suggest going in the early morning or in the middle of the week. Dogs are permitted but should be kept on a leash and away from the rushing current.
Hooker Falls: This is a 12ft waterfall located in the DuPont State Forest. Don’t let this low footage fool you, this is a beautiful creation that is perfect for jumping in and cooling down. This is a short 1/4 mile hike from the parking lot and the trail has both an overview and an access trail. This waterfall is wheelchair accessible via a separate paved trail you can locate from the parking lot.
This spot is also great for kids or families, seeing as the swimming area is calm and connected to Cascade lake. Dogs are permitted on leash.
High Falls: A 1.2 mile trail from the parking area or 2 mile loop (includes Triple Falls) will lead you to this stunning 150ft waterfall in the DuPont State Forest. This falls has many rocks and areas that visitors use for picnics or just a peaceful moment of relaxation.
Catawba Falls: This stunning waterfall is only a 3 mile (RT) hike that is full of other waterfalls, greenery, many puppies, and wonderful memories to be made.
Mount Pisgah: This three mile loop is a great way to experience Pisgah National Forest. It has a steady incline and is rated as “Strenuous” but don’t let that deter you, take your time and it is worth the climb. This summit is at 5,721 ft in elevation and provides an amazing view of Asheville, the Biltmore Estate, Mt. Mitchell, Great Smoky Mountains, and many other high points. This trail is rocky so be sure to wear good hiking boots and be prepared for the second half of the trail to climb at a steep rate.
Black Balsam Knob: This hike includes multiple stunning viewpoints and vista including, Black Balsam Knob, Sam Knob, and Tennent Mountain. There are a few different ways to approach and explore this area and we chose the 5 mile loop beginning at the Art Loeb Trailhead. This trailhead is along the side of the road, almost a mile off of Blue Ridge Parkway.
First you will reach Black Balsam Knob and then as you continue down the trail and turn left you will head towards Tennent Mountain. At the top of Tennent Mountain there is a plaque and this is around 6,040 feet in elevation and 1.5 miles from the trailhead.
After Tennent Mountain there will be another very clear fork and you should turn left onto Investor Gap Trail. This is very flat and the decline of the trail. You will reach a parking lot which is at the end of Black Balsam Road. You can simply follow the road back to your car.
This is one of my favorite hikes that I have been able to experience in this area and I highly recommend it.
Cedar Rock Mountain: A 4.5 mile loop in DuPont State Forest that is filled with gorgeous scenery and rolling mountain views. This trail does get a bit confusing, so be sure to have a map or directions in your pack. We used a map, but many blogs and sites have great directions to utilize. Since this trail does not have a huge amount of elevation change it is a bit easier on the knees and less strenuous than other trails. This area is also used by rock climbers because of the extensive amount of exposed granite.
Mountains to Sea Trail – Devils Courthouse to Black Balsam Knob: 5.5 miles of beauty and lush mountains is packed into this trail. This begins at the Devils Courthouse trail and has stunning vistas all through it. It follows the MST for a good portion. If you aren’t up for the whole 5.5 mile route, the Devils Courthouse overlook is stunning in and of itself. For more detailed directions check out https://ashevilletrails.com/blue-ridge-parkway/devils-courthouse-mountains-to-sea-trail-black-balsam-knob/.
Blue Ridge parkway: Explore the Blue Ridge Parkway! There are so many vistas and lookouts that can be found right off the road if you are looking for something less active.
There are so many more great hikes in this area, and not far from here is the Smoky Mountains, Appalachian Trail, and other awesome areas. Be sure to devote some time to the mountains!
Food & Drinks
The Standard: This pizza restaurant has two locations, we enjoyed the one in the River Arts District. The atmosphere of the restaurant was relaxed and friendly, and the pizza itself was delicious. They serve huge slices and pile your toppings on high! They have local beer on draft, which follows the Asheville theme of beer. The Biltmore location also has games such as ping pong, foosball, shuffle board etc. and they have endless outdoor seating (well almost endless).
Hawg Wild BBQ: Personally, I am not huge on BBQ, but I do love the sides. This spot was recommended by a local friend living in the area. I ended up having a classic BBQ sandwich and got the slightly sweeter western sauce. I really enjoyed this and it was definitely different than a normal BBQ sauce.
Sunny Point Cafe: This is located in western Asheville, in the River Arts District. I fell in love with this family owned cafe, but I am a sucker for places like this. At Sunny Point Cafe they plant and grow many of their ingredients and you are even able to tour their gardens while you wait for your table. After enjoying breakfast in this spot I could say it was hands down, the best bacon I have ever eaten, and I am not a huge fan on bacon. This cafe is a great way to feel the culture and lifestyle of Asheville, and you are more than welcome to bring your furry friend!
Early Girl Eatery: This is a small breakfast spot for southern style food. I was a little disappointed by this restaurant. It is a farm to table restaurant, which I love, but our food took awhile even though there were only a few tables occupied at the time, and it was good but not amazing. I had the veggie breakfast bowl and my friend had the porky breakfast bowl.
Tupelo Honey: OH HONEY. This place is AMAZING. Expect long waits, unless you are like me and arrive before they open to wait outside with the other mouth watering early birds. There are now multiple locations of this DELICIOUS restaurant, but it originated in Asheville. Not only is the food amazing and the atmosphere comforting, but the ingredients are also locally sourced from small town farmers. The biscuits themselves are drool-worthy. I embraced the Shoo Mercy Sweet Potato Pancakes, and honestly, they were so phenomenal I ate until I felt uncomfortable and I still had leftovers. (Also I rarely take photos of food, so ya know… It HAS to be good)
Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company: Asheville is known for their breweries and this was the third one to open up. The company has now expanded to three locations and each has different characteristics. Whichever location you decide to visit, the atmosphere is light and fun, with lots of outdoor seating, it is dog friendly, and the food is really great.
Farm Burger: Love this restaurant for many reasons; they source from local and sustainable farms, serving only grass-fed beef and they also have vegan options, in a laidback atmosphere. You can pick from their preset burger options or make your own. I have eaten here multiple times and have never been disappointed.
Cúrate: This is a delicious Spanish tapas restaurant that is great for a nicer meals or special occasion. We didn’t plan on eating here, but stumbled upon the storefront when we were exploring downtown. The food was amazing and the staff was extremely knowledgable and helpful.
Montford Rooftop Bar: This is a beautiful spot for drinks or small plates in the evening and is known for the gorgeous mountain views. We were able to enjoy this spot for the sunset, while indulging in a wonderfully crafted cocktails and an amazing pimento cheese appetizer.
Jack of the Wood: If you are looking for live music and a traditional pub atmosphere then this is a great spot for you. Be sure to check their website for their daily drink deals and music line-up.
Lazy Diamond: This is a hole in the wall, neighborhood bar with arcade games and a more dark atmosphere. They don’t serve food here so you have to be a member, which is basically paying a cover charge to get in. This is good for cheap drinks and a different crowd.
Trade and Lore Coffee: With a cozy atmosphere, amazing coffee, and support of local businesses, this coffee shop is a great spot to begin your day, or take a break and relax.
Smoky Park Supper Club: Located along the French Broad River in the River Arts District, this restaurant and event space is so welcoming and open. You can grab a drink and enjoy it by the water, or get a little fancy and enjoy a delicious dinner. There were couples dressed up fancy, and others (like us) in hiking clothes and boots. So this restaurant is definitely open to all!
Exploring the City
Grove Arcade: Opened in 1929, the Grove Arcade is an indoor shopping area where local small business owners are located. There is a wide variety of shops and restaurants to check out, and its a great way to support local artists and businesses.
Botanical Gardens: A gorgeous 10-acres garden owned by a non-profit and is used to protect and study native growth. (Free admission)
Biltmore: This estate on 8,000+ acres is filled with history and beauty, and it is easy to spend a whole day exploring the grounds. From the house tour, the winery, and the green houses, there is activities for everyone.
Asheville is a city with activities for everyone, with great options to eat, drink, hike, and explore art and history.