North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains

Photo by Ronnie Lovler

North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains Itineraries

North Carolina’s Appalachian Trail

North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway

Western North Carolina’s Scenic Highway 64 Drive

Year-round waterfalls, hiking and biking trails

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North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains will capture your fancy in winter, spring, summer or fall. It’s Western North Carolina 101.

You can take it all in from the comfort of your car. Drive the North Carolina section of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Milepost 216.9 at the Virginia/North Carolina State Line to Milepost 469.1. Approach the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Take a walk in the woods and explore the Pisgah National Forest. Or go a little farther down the road heading toward South Carolina to check out the Nantahala National Forest, which is equally spectacular. Oh, and if waterfalls strike your fancy, don’t forget to schedule time in Transylvania County, home to 250 waterfalls.

Have you ever dreamed of touching foot on the Appalachian Trail? Western North Carolina is the place to do it and it’s as easy as walking down the main street in the town of Hot Springs.

But it’s not just nature. Head over to Flat Rock, about 30 miles east of Asheville on Interstate 26. Visit the home of poet laureate Carl Sandburg or take in a play at the world-class Flat Rock Playhouse. This is the state theater of North Carolina.

Or drive straight over to Brevard, where the annual, summer-long Brevard Music Festival takes place or hike through DuPont Forest where the first Hunger Games film was shot. It’s also a good place to kick off a brewery tour. Start with the Brevard Brewing Company, Oskar Blues Brewing Company or the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. This new home in the East is in Mills River between Asheville and Brevard.

For a different kind of experience, consider the cultural tourism trails available here. There are the quilt trails, the music trails, the wine trail, the arts trails and the parts of the Civil War Trail that meander through this part of the state.

Don’t forget the High Country where you can try skiing in the winter or zip lining in the spring, fall or summer. Resorts including Ski Beech, Ski Mountain and Sugar Mountain are all centered around Boone. Nearby in Blowing Rock there is a different scene. See the famous Blowing Rock and a new art and history museum where the architecture of the building rivals what ever may be on display. Also while at Beech Mountain, don’t forget to stop at Fred’s General Mercantile. This is a purveyor of quality goods where you can find just about anything.

North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains with Children

If you are traveling with children and it’s summer, the kids will love Sliding Rock in the Pisgah National Forest. They can easily spend the day at this natural water park. Another option for the afternoon is to head to Brevard to check out OP Taylor’s toy store.  USA Today has labeled this one of the top ten toy stores in the world. Top the day off in a way your kids will love at Rocky’s Grill and Soda Shop. This is a local tradition since 1942 for a good old-fashioned milk shake.

There’s more. Much, much more. But this should get you started on your wild, wonderful visit to Western North Carolina.

Start with a North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains Itinerary

North Carolina’s Appalachian Trail … Hike a few hours or days, or simply set foot on the AT
North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway … Take your time, explore mountain scenery

When To Go

You can head to Western North Carolina anytime of year, depending on your interests and propensity toward cold weather. But for outdoor activity, hiking, biking, sightseeing and more, anytime in spring, summer or autumn is a good time go go. Winter is difficult unless you are a skier, because often roads are closed. Some attractions are not even open during the winter, and often parts of the Blue Ridge Highway are closed because of snow.

What it Costs

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.

ranges are quoted in $US.

See & Do
N/A => Not
$ => Tickets
less than $10 per person
$$ =>
Tickets $11–25 per person
$$$ =>
Tickets $26 per person

$ => Rooms less than $150 for a double
$$ => Rooms $150–$300 for a double
$$$ => Rooms
$300 for a double

$ => Up to $15 for average main at dinner (or
lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$ => $16–22 for average main at dinner (or
lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$$ => $23 for average main at dinner (or
lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Fly the Friendly Skies

Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel.

But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.

That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the
aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings.

Have Car, Will Travel

Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.

There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ‘em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental
company who can fit the bill. There are some great deals here, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.

Zipcar is another choice for rentals. Available in many major cities and college towns in the U.S., Zipcar is a great alternative for super-short term rentals. Picture this scenario: you are in a big city with terrific public transportation, so you don’t need a car. But then you hear
about an amazing restaurant 20 miles away in the suburbs. You can’t go home without trying it. A taxi would cost a fortune. You’d have to wait a long time to get a return taxi. Open the Zipcar app; search for a nearby Zipcar locale. You need to apply for membership and download the app in advance. Memberships cost about $7 a month; rentals are about $8 to10 per hour; gas and insurance are included. Foreign drivers can apply and you don’t need to pay a monthly fee if you’re an occasional driver (from $25 per year for a membership).

Ride-sharing companies, Uber and Lyft, are also ubiquitous in major cities. Through a smart phone app, you can line up rides all over town. It’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.


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