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It is no secret that much of Asheville’s allure is in its sweeping mountain landscapes bookmarked by sunrises and sunsets – not to mention its pristine waterfalls, meandering rivers, and the opportunity to head in any direction for a new adventure. 

From hiking and biking to kayaking and canoeing to climbing and cruising along scenic roads while you take in the breathtaking views, our vacation rentals are uniquely situated to give you convenient access to Western North Carolina’s stunning national forests and state parks. 

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Holding a top spot on the list of America’s “Most Visited National Parks,” The Great Smoky Mountains are situated along the North Carolina border as a part of the Blue Ridge Mountain range. With five of the Smokies’ main entrances within an hour and a half (or less) drive of Asheville, day trips to the over 500,000-acre National Park are a breeze. The highest peak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (though not the tallest in Western North Carolina) is Clingman’s Dome which cranes to 6,643 feet with its accessible observation tower. 

Meanwhile, the Cataloochee Valley, with its misty mornings and wandering elk sightings, is surrounded by 6,000-foot peaks on all sides and is a great spot to visit for wildlife sightings. Cataloochee is also a prime location to view historic buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Among the historic structures are Woody House (built in the mid-1800s), Will Messer Barn (built 1905), Palmer Chapel (built in 1898), and Beech Grove School (built 1901) to name a few. Close to Maggie Valley, within a short hour’s drive from Asheville, Cataloochee is also home to North Carolina's first established Ski Area (circa 1961) that provides a family-friendly spot for snow tubing, skiing, and snowboarding. 

Other popular access points for the park include the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Cherokee, the main western entrance to the National Park, which is situated near the Mountain Farm Museum and historic Mingus Mill that is still operational–don’t forget to buy some cornmeal that was ground at the mill! 

Another popular park point is Deep Creek Recreation Area, located near Bryson City, which is a great spot for tubing in the summer months. Deep Creek has several noteworthy waterfalls including Tom Branch Falls, Indian Creek Falls, and Juney Whank Falls, and there is an easy-to-moderate waterfall loop trail (2.6 miles roundtrip) that passes all three falls. Home to a historic depot, nearby Bryson City offers scenic excursions and seasonal activities on their Great Smoky Mountains Railroad which is not to be missed. 

Both Deep Creek and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center have trails that are prized for their display of gorgeous wildflowers which can be viewed from March to September (peak between April and May). With over 1,500 flowering plant varieties, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park actually boasts the most flower species across all U.S. national parks, earning it the nickname “Wildflower National Park” and a top destination for bloom enthusiasts. 

Blue Ridge Parkway

Did you know that “America’s Favorite Drive”  is also a designated National Park (and the most visited national park in America at that)? The 469-mile scenic highway, which welcomed 16M+ visitors in 2023, spans from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, North Carolina. 

The Parkway regions range from The Ridge (in the north), Plateau, Highlands, and Pisgah (the southernmost section where Asheville visitors are most likely to drive). Not only are the Blue Ridge Parkway’s headquarters located in Asheville, our region also boasts popular stops and overlooks such as Craggy Gardens and Craggy Pinnacle, Black Balsam, Mt Pisgah, Linville Gorge area, and Graveyard Fields. Some of the top highlights along the Blue Ridge Parkway that are accessible from Asheville include Mt Mitchell (the highest mountain peak in the eastern U.S.), Linville Gorge (the deepest gorge east of the Grand Canyon), and Whitewater Falls (the highest waterfall east of the Rockies). 

While the Parkway is known as a great way to view the mountains by car, it is also one of our team’s favorite ways to access some of the best hiking trails in the region. For hiking enthusiasts, the Appalachian Trail and Mountains to Sea Trail are two popular long-distance trails that follow closely with stretches of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and there are sections of each that can be hiked in a day. 

Keep in mind that the parkway is especially busy during the fall when the color show is in session, and portions of the parkway are closed during the winter months when temperatures drop below freezing and create unsafe driving conditions. 

Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park, named after the iconic 535-million-year-old monolith resembling a chimney, was established over 100 years ago and became a state park in the early 2000s. The park’s highest point is the top of the “chimney” which rings in at 2,480 feet as it towers over Hickory Nut Gorge and offers panoramic views of the gorge and nearby Lake Lure. 

To reach the top of the chimney, climb the challenging 494 steps via the Outcroppings Trail. For those with mobility concerns, there is an elevator that takes you to a Sky Lounge and bridge which are wheelchair accessible and offer 75-mile views. For a different view, try rock climbing with Fox Mountain Guides. They offer rock climbing instruction and rappelling adventures across every skill level. 

The park hosts events and activities throughout the year (Santa on the Chimney is a time-honored tradition in December), and there is a family-friendly trail called Great Woodland Adventure designed for kids (and kids at heart) with interactive stations. At the end of that trail, you’ll find the Animal Discovery Den which is home to resident groundhogs, Tater and Yammy (who predict winter weather patterns on Groundhog’s Day in February), and their marsupial pal, Valentine the Opossum.

The park entrance is conveniently located on Chimney Rock’s main street where you’ll find a handful of quaint shops and restaurants. Chimney Rock also offers a brewery and putt-putt course along Rocky Broad River where you can wind down after your time exploring. Greybeard’s vacation homes located on Route 9 and situated in Fairview, Lake Lure, and Chimney Rock all provide great access to Chimney Rock State Park.

Mount Mitchell State Park

Established in 1915, Mt Mitchell State Park is recognized as North Carolina’s first state park, and it holds the title of “Tallest Mountain Peak East of the Mississippi River” at an elevation of 6,684 feet. Located in Burnsville, approximately 30 miles northeast of Asheville, there are two ways to reach the famous summit.

You can opt for the challenging 5.6-mile hike that begins at the Black Mountain Campground, or you can take a leisurely drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. While we highly recommend making the steep but totally worth-it trek of the park’s namesake, there is also a paved, handicap-accessible path just a 1/4 mile from the parking area that leads to the observation deck if you opt for the non-strenuous scenic drive. 

The observation deck offers truly breathtaking views on clear days, so bring your camera along to snap some unforgettable pictures. From the top of Mount Mitchell’s summit, there are several other wonderful hikes to enjoy. We recommend checking out a portion of Deep Gap Trail which is accessible from the lower summit parking lot and picnic area. The trek, approximately 2 miles roundtrip, meanders through an enchanting alpine forest of spruce, Fraser firs, and paper birch before eventually ascending to Mount Craig (which is just 37 feet shorter than its neighbor, Mt Mitchell.) The views at the top are incredible and showcase the ridgeline between Mt Mitchell and Mt Craig. 

At such great heights, Mt Mitchell tends to have its own weather pattern that is an average of 10-20 degrees cooler than Asheville, so be sure to check weather conditions ahead of time to dress accordingly. Mt Mitchell is home to a variety of diverse plant and animal species like the northern flying squirrel, black bear, and bobcat. For those interested in birding, grab your binoculars to catch bird migrations in the fall at Ridge Junction Overlook and Balsam Gap Overlook.

Pisgah National Forest

Spanning 500,000 acres of land, Pisgah National Forest is readily accessible from most of the Greater Asheville area, with its closest access point being less than 10 minutes from downtown Asheville. 

Within the Pisgah National Forest is the “Land of Waterfalls” near the town of Brevard. With more than 250 waterfalls for visitors to enjoy, among the most famous are Sliding Rock (an epic natural waterslide), Looking Glass Falls, and Rainbow Falls.

For even more waterfall hikes, check out DuPont State Recreational Forest also near the town of Brevard. It’s home to the popular 3-mile roundtrip hike to three waterfalls (Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls), two of which were film locations in the 2012 Hunger Games movie. In addition to the waterfall trio, DuPont is one of the best areas in NC for mountain biking and horseback riding. 

The United States’ first forestry school, Cradle of Forestry, is a notable historic site within the National Forest. If visiting the “Birthplace of Forestry,” take time to explore the seven historical buildings from the time of the Biltmore Forest School (1898-1914), ring the bell of a 1914 Climax logging train engine, and view the first-generation American Sycamore Apollo “Moon Tree” (a tribute to astronaut Stuart Roosa and the Apollo space program).

In addition to waterfall and view hikes, Pisgah National Forest offers abundant opportunities for mountain biking, including the Bent Creek Experimental Forest located in South Asheville—aka the oldest experimental forest in the East (established 1925). For mountain biking beginners, we recommend the Hardtimes Connector and Deer Lake Lodge trails which are two easy trails near the experimental forest entrance. For more moderate trails, try Explorer Loop and Wolf Branch, and for more challenging trails, try Green's Lick and Lower Sidehill. 

Interestingly, the experimental forest area was owned by George Vanderbilt (yes, that Vanderbilt responsible for the construction of the Biltmore Estate) in the early 20th century before eventually being sold for $5 per acre to the U.S. government to create much of Pisgah National Forest, Another fun fact? The North Carolina Arboretum, prized for its annual Winter Light Display, is located within the boundaries of the Bent Creek Experimental Forest. 

Since Pisgah National Forest is so expansive and perfectly positioned throughout Western North Carolina, you can be sure that its trails and access areas will be within a short distance of your Greybeard vacation rental, no matter which home you are staying in. 

Linville Gorge Wilderness Area

Incorporated within the Pisgah National Forest, Linville Gorge Wilderness is comprised of 12,000 acres and formed by Jonas Ridge on the east and Linville Mountain on the west, and it is bisected by the Linville River. The epic and “gorge”-ous landscapes within Linville Gorge Wilderness are characterized by rocky terrain and are filled with dense pine and hardwood forests. 

Notoriously rugged, the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area’s reputation as wild, untouched land is due in large part because of its exclusion from the deforestation practices that were happening in eastern forests after the turn of the century. Since the terrain was seen as too difficult to navigate (and therefore unprofitable), it was spared clear-cut logging, resulting in one of the few remaining old-growth forests in the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Popular hiking spots in Linville Gorge include the “most photographed waterfall in NC,” Linville Falls along with Hawksbill Mountain, Table Rock, The Chimneys, and Shortoff Mountain (which offers fantastic views of Lake James from its summit). For those interested in spectacular views without strenuous hiking, check out Wiseman’s View. From the parking area, there's an easy 2/10-mile paved trail to the overlook which offers views of Hawksbill Mountain, Table Rock Mountain, and Linville River. Wiseman’s View is also a popular spot at night for catching sight of the elusive Brown Mountain Lights. 

For family fun under the beaten path, check out Linville Caverns– a privately owned cave that was opened to the public in 1937 and takes you inside the 4,245-ft Humpback Mountain. During the tour, you’ll learn all about the cavern’s history and get an up-close look at its intricate details. Don’t forget to bring a camera and sweater because photos are allowed, and the inside stays at a crisp 52 degrees throughout the year. 

For the best access to the Linville Gorge area, we recommend our luxury lakeside homes at Lake James or our vacation homes in Nebo, Marion, or Morganton. Together, the beautiful Lake James State Park (with its bike trails at Paddy's Creek, kid-friendly Holly Discovery Trail, historic Overmountain Victory Trail, and Fonta Flora State Trail Loop) and Linville Gorge Wilderness areas provide endless opportunities for hiking and biking, rock climbing, fishing, and boating.

If you’re up for even more outdoor adventure, check out South Mountains State Park near Morganton which is home to the stunning 60-ft waterfall, High Shoals Falls.

Start Planning Your Asheville, NC Getaway

Explore our collection of Asheville cabin rentals that promise outdoor adventure at every turn and an idyllic mountain escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Come experience rest, relaxation, and recreation at its finest!

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