13 Apr 2019
Making the Most of Your Time in Asheville
Summer 2020 has limited offerings compared to previous years as many festivals, concerts, and events have been postponed, rescheduled, or canceled. However, there are still a majority of landmarks, outdoor adventures, trails, breweries, and restaurants open to the public.
The summer months are one of the most popular times to visit Asheville North Carolina...and the hype is totally justified. With average high temperatures that don't regularly exceed the mid-80s and
nightly lows in the mid-60s, Asheville's summer weather is incredibly pleasant. Combine mild temperatures with awe-inspiring mountain views, summer breezes, a bustling beer scene, foodie culture, and a community that is brimming with art and musical talent and you've got a recipe for a vacation experience that won't be easily forgotten.
Things to do in Asheville this summer:
Attend festivals and events
Visit our mountain lakes
Hunt for waterfalls
Float down rivers
Visit The Biltmore
Dine in Asheville
Drink our beer
Experience Asheville music
Cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway
Find out where to stay
Best Summer Hiking in Asheville
Asheville hikes are simply unrivaled (yes, we are biased). With hiking destinations like Craggy Gardens, Graveyard Fields, Looking Glass Rock, Black Balsam, and the Montreat and Linville Wilderness, views are varied and breathtaking. You really never know what you're going to see. The Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Mountains are right in our backyard and the neighboring Smoky Mountains are within a 45 minute to hour drive of Asheville.
Located off of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 418.8, Graveyard Fields. A quick 1/3 of a mile hike from the Parkway trailhead will bring you to a waterfall and a chance to cool off on a summer day in the lower falls. Extend your hike, and embark on the 3.5-mile loop hike in order to catch sight of the upper falls area. While hiking the loop, you are likely to encounter wild blueberries in late July and August, but given the access, these often go fast. Don't worry, Western North Carolina's mountains are a hotbed for blueberries in a variety of locations.
How to get there: From Asheville, hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway and head south. Graveyard Fields is a little over 35 miles south from Asheville at mile marker 418.8. Restrooms are available at this location.
Black Balsam Knob
An additional 2 miles (or less) beyond Graveyard Fields on the Parkway, will bring you to the access road for Black Balsam Knob. From the trailhead, you really have multiple options for great hikes. Black Balsam is a treeless mountain bald that boasts over 6000 feet of elevation, and neighbors other balds like Sam Knob, and Tennent Mountain. The hike to Black Balsam's summit and back is a 1.5-mile roundtrip hike with views from the summit that will make you feel like you've encountered another world.
How to get there: From Asheville, access the Blue Ridge Parkway and travel south to Milepost 420. You will turn right on an access road and travel a little over half a mile to the trailhead. Restrooms are available at this location.
Looking Glass Rock
Looking Glass Rock is a spectacular Pluton Monolith (try saying that 5 times fast), which is visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway and accessible from the Brevard area, but just a quick 45-minute drive
from Asheville. Clocking in as a 6.5 miles roundtrip hike, and over 1600 feet of elevation gain, the Looking Glass Rock hike is not for the faint of heart, but well worth the trek and offers beautiful views.
How to get there: You'll want to get on I-26E, and take the interstate to exit 40. Take a right on Highway 280 and stay on this road for 16 miles. You'll arrive in Brevard and want to take a right onto 276 North to enter into Pisgah National Forest and travel 276 for a little over 5 miles. You'll turn left at the sign for the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and the State Fish Hatchery. After going a short 4/10 of a mile down this road, you'll see a parking area on the right for Looking Glass trailhead.
Summer Festivals and Events
Asheville's festival schedule spans the entire year, but the bulk of our festivals are scheduled during the summer months. We've highlighted some of our favorite festivals of the summer season.
Asheville Beer Week and Beer Festival
Okay, so the Asheville Beer Week and Beer Festival doesn't quite fit into the official time frame of summer, but we're going to include this popular event anyways. Asheville, the city with more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city, celebrates the thriving beer culture with an entire week devoted to delicious craft brews in late May, and the week culminates in the Beer City Festival. It's exactly what you would anticipate: a lot of beer, food, music.
LEAF Downtown AVL
Many know about Black Mountain's bi-annual LEAF Festival which takes place on the grounds of Camp Rockmont, but during the summer months, over 25,000 people come out to Pack Square Park to enjoy live music, great food, and performances. Experience over 200 performers on 3 different stages and 70+ different food vendors during this August weekend event.
Shindig on the Green
For a chance to experience some true Appalachian culture and Asheville's native music and dance, plan to attend Shindig on the Green on Saturdays in July and August. The free event begins "along about sundown" (or 7-10 p.m.) at Roger McGuire Green in Pack Square Park and includes performances from old-time string bands, singers, cloggers and more. The event has been a tradition of over 50 years. Bring your camp chairs or picnic blanket and enjoy the performance! The season culminates with the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, a paid indoor performance in August.
Living the Lake Life
With pristine shorelines, views of the Linville Gorge Wilderness and easy access from Asheville, Black Mountain and surrounding mountain towns, it's easy to see why the 6800+ acres of Lake James
have so much appeal. Lake James is a great spot to canoe, kayak, swim, fish or bring your boat or jet ski to enjoy a day or two on the lake.
Lake Lure sits in the Hickory Nut Gorge, about 25 miles from Asheville and less from Black Mountain. It also neighbors Chimney Rock State Park and offers a lakefront beach, a waterpark for the kids, options for boating and area hiking trails.
Located in north Asheville, Beaver Lake is a serene spot for a quick walk around the lake and it's also a bird sanctuary. The Elisha Mitchell Audobon Society manages the sanctuary. The summer months are also the recommended time to view birds in the area.
South Asheville's Lake Powhatan offers a great mountain beach area to enjoy for $2 per person (per day). The lake also sits beside the Bent Creek Experimental Forest, which is very popular for its almost 30 miles of singletrack and doubletrack trails for mountain biking. Other attractions located nearby include the NC Arboretum and Blue Ridge Parkway access.
One of the best ways to keep cool during the summer months is to spend some of your time waterfall hunting. The search for waterfalls is easier than you may think and many are very accessible. One of the best areas to search for waterfalls is in the town of Brevard, an easy 40-45 minute drive from Asheville. In Brevard, we recommend visiting waterfalls such as Looking Glass Falls, a 60-foot waterfall located off of Highway 276. While you're traveling 276, continue on a couple of miles to Sliding Rock, a natural 60-foot water slide located directly off the road. Sliding Rock pumps 11,000 gallons of water down its face each minute. This summer hotspot welcomes visitors for $3 per person and is open Memorial Day through Labor Day. While in Brevard, a visit to Dupont State Forest is worth the quick detour. Triple Falls, Hooker Falls, High Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls trailheads are all located off the access road. Hooker Falls is only a 12-foot waterfall, but beautiful, easily accessible at 1/4 mile from the parking area and it's also a great swimming area for the kids.
Closer to Black Mountain and Old Fort, is Catawba Falls, a stunning 100-foot waterfall that has a 1.5-mile one-way hike to access. Further east down I-40 will bring you to Linville Falls, near the Linville Wilderness. Linville Falls is a 90-foot waterfall, located at Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 316.4.
Floating & Paddling Asheville's Rivers
The French Broad River is one of oldest rivers in the world and runs through Asheville River Arts District area as well as beside the Biltmore Estate. On any given summer day, you are almost guaranteed to see large scale procession of people floating down the river in tubes, kayaking, paddling canoes, and paddleboarding. It's really an amazing sight. The activity is so popular that businesses like Zen Tubing exist to fuel the floating obsession, and bars like the Bywater Bar and Salvage Station sit riverside as spots to start and end your journey with a cold beer or mixed drink.
For calm or whitewater rafting trips, we have a great partnership with French Broad Rafting and Ziplines and can offer you discounted tickets for your rafting trip.
Other rivers that run through the Asheville area include the Green River which is the location of the Green River Narrows kayaking race, and the Swannanoa River runs by the pastoral setting of the Warren Wilson campus, in the east Asheville area.
Summer at Biltmore
The summer months at the Biltmore are full of life and a flurry of activity. Greybeard offers discounted 2-day passes to The Biltmore Estate which we think is pretty ideal for spending a day exploring the Biltmore House and the surrounding grounds and gardens on the first day, and then utilizing the 2nd day to pedal or hike some of the many Biltmore trails, visit the Antler Hill Village Winery, the Antler Hill Farm barnyard, and grab a bite to eat from Cedric's Tavern. The Biltmore offers a host of outdoor activities to experience Biltmore in a variety of unique ways, including Land Rover adventures, sporting clays, carriage rides, segway tours, float trips, falconry and more. Biltmore's Summer Concert Series is also a regular hit, drawing popular names like The Beach Boys, Chicago, The Charlie Daniels Band and much more.
Food is a hot topic in Asheville. With top chefs like Katie Button (Curate), Meherwan Irani (Chai Pani), who have been nominated for James Beard awards on multiple occasions, and events like the Chow Chow Food Festival arriving in Asheville (September 2019), you can bet there is something special to the Asheville food scene. While Asheville is a pretty relaxed area, you can certainly find both fine dining establishments like The Admiral in West Asheville, Chesnut or Curate, located in city center, as well as super laid back (but no less delicious) places to grab a bite like Buxton Hall Barbecue on the South Slope, or White Duck Taco Shop in West Asheville and Biltmore Avenue. Food trucks are also very prevalent as an option to grab a bite to eat while at local breweries.
For more information on food and restaurants, check our Asheville and Black Mountain restaurant guide.
The Beer Scene
Beer City USA attracts both beer connoisseurs and novices, and whether you are just getting into craft beer or in the area to explore how the master brewers exercise their craft, everyone is welcome! Our beer culture is very collaborative and it's not uncommon to see breweries work together on delicious concoctions. While we recommend trying every brewery in Asheville, we know time is limited. For our purposes, we've outlined 5 breweries we think you should try on your summer vacation to Asheville.
Not only do they produce inventive brews, but they are also one of Asheville's largest beer distributors and claim the title as Asheville's first craft brewery, established in 1994. Highland Brewing has a funky space in east Asheville. Highland Brewing's "Meadow" is also the spot for many popular musical performances.
Pisgah Brewing Company
Pisgah Brewing is located in nearby Black Mountain, North Carolina. They draw some great bands to their outdoor stage and also have a fun taproom space with an indoor stage, located in an industrial building. Pisgah uses primarily Certified Organic Grains in all of its brews, and produces everything from their award-winning Pisgah Pale Ale, to Blueberry Wheat, to Russian Imperial Stouts...usually, 15+ Pisgah brews on tap at any given time. While it's not always possible, the goal is always to use local ingredients in the brewing process -- they utilize cocoa nibs from French Broad Chocolates, hot pepper powder from Firewalker Hot Sauce, and more.
When it comes to beer, Burial just wins for creativity. Located in Asheville's hip south slope area, Burial develops beers that range from their easy drinking Innertube Lager beer to a Skillet Donut Stout, saisons, Belgians... and the list goes on.
Wicked Weed Brew Pub and Wicked Weed Funkatorium
Wicked Weed gets two mentions for their two locations, which both produce very different beers. Wicked Weed Brewing has been making the beer world proud since 2012. The Wicked Weed Brew Pub is located in the heart of downtown Asheville directly beside the Orange Peel music venue. The upstairs of the Brew Pub is a trendy space that serves delicious pub food, American, Belgian and German ales. The downstairs area typically serves a different variety of beer than the downstairs space. Wicked Weed's second location, The Wicked Weed Funkatorium, is located on Asheville's South Slope, and is a space devoted entirely to sour beers. If you haven't tried sour beer, it's definitely worth a try. You may be surprised by these inventive beers.
Music and Art
Asheville is fortunate to have a whole host of local musical talent, as well as a reputation for attracting high caliber and popular out of state musicians. With venues like The Orange Peel, which was named as one of the top 5 rock clubs in the nation by Rolling Stone Magazine, and more intimate venues like The Grey Eagle, The Mothlight, Isis Music Hall and Ambrose West -- the city offers some great opportunities to catch some amazing live performances while sipping on a local craft brew. The Thomas Wolfe Auditorium and U.S. Cellular Center also attract a host of mainstream musicians.
For art lovers, Asheville boasts over 25 downtown district art galleries, but we're also advocates of Asheville's hip River Arts District which house studios for painters, potters, and other makers of glass, jewelry and more. There are also some amazing spots to catch glass blowing demonstrations at Lexington Glassworks (downtown) and the NC Glass Center (River Arts District).
Ziplining & Treetop Excursions
One great way to see our mountains in a whole new light is through a zipline canopy tour. While Asheville has many different options for ziplining, we're big fans of French Broad Rafting and Ziplines, and have partnered up with them to offer discounted tickets for this favorite summer activity. French Broad Rafting and Ziplines' offers 10 different zipline options so you can zip through the trees for all the fun you can handle.
There are also other tree-centric activities such as Asheville Tree Top Adventure Park, which includes over 60 climbing, flying, swinging, rappelling challenges and obstacles to enjoy.
Blue Ridge Parkway
America's Favorite Drive is 469 miles and includes multiple access points around Asheville. The Blue Ridge Parkway's allure is different for everyone, but it's easy to agree on the sheer majestic beauty
of the drive. Some enjoy being able to cruise down the scenic drive for miles and miles, while others will enjoy stopping at some of the over 200 overlooks that span the drive, many of which include expansive views of surrounding mountains. For Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway is also one of the primary access points for many popular hikes. The Parkway is also a great area to find a spot to picnic. The Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center (Milepost 384) and the Folk Art Center (Milepost 382) are great spots to get more information about this amazing scenic drive.