Last Updated on September 27, 2022
Last Updated on September 27, 2022
We think you should know about all these fun day trips from Asheville as if you needed another reason to love Western North Carolina‘s largest city. To up the ante, some of our favorite places in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina feature prominently here.
So if you’re as ready to explore these spots as we are to share them with you, buckle up and brace for a wild ride away from Asheville.
To help you easily navigate this article by topic, we’ve organized these places by distance from downtown Asheville into the following sections:
- Buncombe County Day Trips from Asheville
- Day Trips from Asheville in Neighboring Counties (Hendersonville, Brevard, and More!)
- DuPont State Recreational Forest (Hikes and Waterfalls)
- Blue Ridge Parkway Attractions Near Asheville (Stops, Hikes, Boone, Blowing Rock, and More!)
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Hikes, Bryson City, and More Nearby Towns)
- Appalachian Trail Hikes and Hubs
- NC State Parks near Asheville (Mount Mitchell, Chimney Rock, and More!)
- Pisgah National Forest (Linville Gorge Hikes, Morganton, and More!)
- Nantahala National Forest (Waterfall Byway, Highlands, and More!)
- More Small Towns near Asheville
Our map includes all of these places to take day trips from Asheville, in case you’re ready to go right now. Otherwise, keep reading about some nearby towns and attractions within Buncombe County.
Buncombe County Day Trips from Asheville
Note: Travel times for these day trips from Asheville are approximate and follow the fastest route. They can vary due to traffic, construction, and any other types of delays.
You don’t even have to leave Buncombe County in order to enjoy great day trips from Asheville.
Distance from Asheville: 10 miles (15 minutes)
To start our Buncombe County day trips from Asheville, we head north to Weaverville. It’s a great town with nice restaurants (Twisted Laurel), the fabulous Well-Bred Bakery and Cafe, and the lovely Lake Louise.
Distance from Asheville: 10 miles (17 minutes)
Read more: The Best Breweries in Asheville
Distance from Asheville: 16 miles (19 minutes)
Black Mountain is an awesome town, known for Lake Tomahawk and a great collection of shops and galleries. We love walking around downtown before grabbing a beer at Black Mountain Brewing and plotting our next move.
Take a Hike Mountain Outfitters is always on our list of first places to stop in town. Their selection of outdoor gear and clothes is among the best in North Carolina.
Read More: I-40 Exits in North Carolina
Distance from Asheville: 18 miles (25 minutes)
Montreat is near Black Mountain and is the perfect mountain retreat, hence the name! Other than that fun fact, you’ll enjoy Lake Susan and the epic view-unveiling Graybeard Trail (5 miles).
Day Trips from Asheville in Neighboring Counties
When thinking of the closest day trips from Asheville, it’s hard to choose between the seven counties that border Buncombe County. They include the following:
- Madison County (north)
- Yancey County (northeast)
- McDowell County (east)
- Rutherford County (southeast)
- Henderson County (south)
- Transylvania County (southwest)
- Haywood County (west)
Here are some awesome places within each of these counties.
Distance from Asheville: 19 miles (27 minutes)
Some of the closest day trips from Asheville are in Henderson County to the south. Mills River is just across the French Broad River and over the county line from Asheville.
This wonderful town is home to several breweries and one cidery. They include the nationally recognized Sierra Nevada and Bold Rock Cider and local favorites like Mills River Brewing and Burning Blush.
Mills River is also home to the really cool Acony Bell Tiny Home Community. We’ve stayed there and loved using it as a base for exploring.
Distance from Asheville: 24 miles (28 minutes)
Old Fort is known for Catawba Falls nearby and also, Andrews Geyser. The latter is a manmade geyser that pulls its water supply from Mill Creek. If you’re there at the right time, you might see it shoot up as high as 80 feet.
In town, you can also learn about Old Fort’s place in history, and the Mountain Gateway Museum‘s exhibits showcase that. The Old Fort Arrowhead Monument commemorates the peace brokered between Native Americans (Catawba and Cherokee) and settlers.
Read More: Amazing I-40 Exits in North Carolina
Distance from Asheville: 20 miles (29 minutes)
Madison County seat Marshall sits just north of Asheville and Buncombe County. This North Carolina mountain town’s Main St is lined with studios and galleries, great restaurants (including Zuma Coffee), and lovely shops.
You can also walk to Blannahassett Island and fish or enjoy views of the French Broad River.
We share more of Madison County in our “Appalachian Trail Day Trips” section.
Distance from Asheville: 28 miles (29 minutes)
Long known as a retreat for Methodists, Lake Junaluska is also a community that’s ideal for a short drive from Asheville. You can walk around the lake and enjoy the Rose Walk across from the World Methodist Building.
Keep an eye out for the Native Garden, which invites various birds with its 500-plus species of native plants. After taking all this in, you might just want to spend some more time here.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
26 miles (31 minutes)
If you’re around during Labor Day, the NC Apple Festival is probably one of the best things to do in Hendersonville. You should also walk around downtown Hendersonville, eat at some local restaurants, and drive out to Jump Off Rock in nearby Laurel Park.
There are a few trails here, which are among the best hikes in Hendersonville and its surroundings.
Read More: Hiking Bearwallow Mountain near Asheville
Distance from Asheville: 31 miles (36 minutes)
Flat Rock sits south of Hendersonville and is where you can explore the Carl Sandburg Home. You can tour this National Parks site and learn about the Pulitzer Prize-winning author at the place he lived for the final 22 years of his life.
Don’t forget to stop by the dairy barn that houses Lilian Sandburg’s famed dairy goats. You can also hike five miles of trails around the residence.
When you do, try to imagine Sandburg himself spending many days just admiring this serene setting.
Distance from Asheville: 31 miles (36 minutes)
As the largest town west of Asheville, you could spend many weekends exploring Waynesville. Whether you’re walking around Main Street or Frog Level, you’ll find an interesting shop to spend time perusing.
The Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts also resides in Waynesville, open from May to October and home to a nice collection of furniture, quilts, and more.
Distance from Asheville: 36 miles (40 minutes)
Maggie Valley is well known for Cataloochee Ski Area, but more is waiting for you to discover in this Haywood County Town. You can start with a visit to the Wheels Through Time Motorcycle and Car Museum, with over 350 unique and rare automobiles.
Read More: 20+ Amazing Things to Do in Maggie Valley
Distance from Asheville: 36 miles (40 minutes)
Marion is the McDowell County seat and one of the easternmost day trips from Asheville. You’ll realize that this is “Where Main Street Meets the Mountains” while strolling along the Joseph McDowell Historical Catawba Greenway.
A variety of events are held here throughout the year, including October‘s massive Mountain Glory Festival. Another great thing about Marion is the outdoor fun just around the corner. Lake James is close by and Mount Mitchell and Linville Gorge are all within a short drive from Marion.
Read More: How to See Tom’s Creek Falls
Distance from Asheville: 36 miles (41 minutes)
Burnsville is the gateway to Mount Mitchell and elsewhere in the Black Mountains. You’ll find a variety of historic buildings and great local businesses (including shops and restaurants) around Town Square.
Nu-Wray Inn and the Parkway Playhouse are two wonderful examples. Toe River Arts serves many of the artists in the area and each August, the Mount Mitchell Crafts Fair draws creators from all over NC, Tennessee, and Virginia.
The organization’s Executive Director joined us to chat about the Toe River Arts and more during this NC Travel Chat!
Distance from Asheville: 34 miles (43 minutes)
Of course, there’s also a really cool downtown in Brevard perfect for a day trip away from Asheville. The town is filled with shops and great places to eat.
And if you’ve heard of the famed white squirrels, head over to Brevard College for a “chance” at seeing one.
Distance from Asheville: 28 miles (47 minutes)
Any time Lake Lure comes up, Christina reminds me that you can have the time of your life here. Dirty Dancing fans will know what I’m talking about.
Visit in September and get swept away by the Dirty Dancing Festival. There will be dance, music, arts, and attempts. at the famous lake lift.
Day trips from Asheville to Lake Lure are perfect throughout the year, especially when you can enjoy the water via a boat tour or sit back and relax on the beach. We also love the amazing Lake Lure Flowering Bridge that’s just off Memorial Highway.
DuPont State Recreational Forest Day Trips from Asheville
Distance from Asheville: 37 miles (49 minutes)
If DuPont State Recreational Forest doesn’t immediately bring familiar images to mind, watch the first Hunger Games film or The Last of the Mohicans and come back to me. These are two of many movies filmed in North Carolina, by the way!
This park’s waterfalls (including High Falls, Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls) bring in tons of people, though Lake Dense and Lake Julia (part of the Three Lakes Trail), and Wintergreen Falls are worth exploring, too!
Blue Ridge Parkway Day Trips from Asheville
The Blue Ridge Parkway runs north to south throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains from Virginia to Western North Carolina. Its best stops make perfect Asheville day trips.
Read More: How to Visit the North Carolina Arboretum
They include the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitors Center (MP 384, 12 minutes from Asheville) and Folk Art Center (MP 382, 13 minutes) to start. Head north and you’ll pass many more awesome places.
You can keep going to the Virginia border and find more, or turn around after crossing the iconic Linn Cove Viaduct (MP 304, 1 hour 28 minutes).
To the south, the Parkway ends at MP 469, where you can turn left and drive toward Cherokee or left and venture to the Oconaluftee Visitors Center (54 miles, 1 hour 10 minutes). It’s a nice spot to stop and stretch before visiting Clingmans Dome inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
If you arrive early in the morning or near sunset, a herd of elk should be making their way through the area. Seeing them up close was one of the coolest things we’ve ever seen in North Carolina!
Many Blue Ridge Parkway day trips from Asheville are also excellent hikes and are among our favorite mountain towns. Here are some of them.
Read More: The Best NC Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes
Distance from Asheville: 20 miles (36 minutes)
Craggy Gardens is a series of Blue Ridge Parkway stops (MP 364 to 367) that offer some of the finest views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Those are found at the end of the Craggy Pinnacle Trail (1.4-mile loop).
Douglas Falls Trail is a 4-mile walk (Orange Blaze) that will lead you to a 70-foot waterfall.
Distance from Asheville: 35 miles (49 minutes)
Many folks enjoy the Pisgah Inn & Restaurant for its convenience, meals throughout the day, and beautiful views of Pisgah National Forest.
You can also hike the 16-mile Shut-In Trail, which leads to Mount Pisgah’s summit, plenty of birding opportunities, and exquisite scenery along the way.
Read More: How to Enjoy Christmas at Biltmore
Distance from Asheville: 45 miles (49 minutes)
Waterrock Knob is the Blue Ridge Parkway’s highest stop, at an elevation of 5,280 feet. From there, you can hike to the top of Waterrock Knob (a 1.2-mile loop).
Its peak is also the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Sunset and sunrise are both great times to visit this spot but dress accordingly, as the high elevation leads to cooler temps.
Distance from Asheville: 35 miles (55 minutes)
Graveyard Fields sits off the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 418) and is one of the most popular day trips from Asheville. If you visit on a busy day, expect a packed parking lot.
And if you’re fortunate enough to have arrived early, you’ll be able to enjoy two waterfalls either by a 3.5-mile hike (Blue) or much shorter 1/3 of a mile long one.
This hike is in a pretty sweet spot of the Parkway, with Skinny Dip Falls (MP 417) among many awesome spots right around the corner.
Distance from Asheville: 49 miles (59 minutes)
Crabtree Falls is among the more popular Blue Ridge Parkway stops (MP 339.5) that we’ll mention in this section. This 70-foot waterfall is reachable by hiking a 2.5-mile loop through rhododendron and hardwoods.
Please stay on the trail, even if you see others failing to do so. The rocks here don’t forgive mistakes and are very slippery.
Distance from Asheville: 50 miles (59 minutes)
And if you’re looking for a camping spot to enjoy, we’re huge fans of Bear Den Mountain Resort & Campground (MP 324). They offer well-maintained spots, cabins, and even have great hiking trails on the property.
Distance from Asheville: 49 miles (1 hour 7 minutes)
Little Switzerland (MP 334) is an awesome Blue Ridge Parkway town that shouldn’t be overlooked.
You might think you’re just passing a small strip of shops, but you’ll be missing out on a cozy coffee shop/used book store, a general store with an awesome wine selection, and some of the finest NC Barbecue at Switzerland Café.
And when you finally realize what an awesome town you’re visiting, you’ll surely want to extend your trip with a stay at Switzerland Inn.
Distance from Asheville: 56 miles (1 hour 8 minutes)
Linville Falls is a town and also one of our favorite waterfalls near Boone and Blowing Rock in the High Country. You have a few options to hike, though many folks start with Erwin’s View Trail (1.6 miles). That path leads to beautiful views of the falls and valley below.
Follow the Linville Gorge Trail for views from the opposite side of the falls. The Gorge Trail (1.4 miles round trip) and Plunge Basin Trail (1-mile round trip) take care of those who lean toward the more adventurous hikes.
Read More: Wiseman’s View of the Linville Gorge
Rough Ridge Trail
Distance from Asheville: 71 miles (1 hour 30 minutes)
The 1.5-mile roundtrip Rough Ridge Trail offers one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s quickest and most rewarding offroad hikes. This stop (MP 302) is memorable for sunrise views, especially because that’s about the only time you’ll encounter fewer people here.
From the overlook, you’ll get nice panoramas of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains and Linn Cove Viaduct. At an hour and a half away, it’s very reasonable for day trips from Asheville.
Read More: Things to Do in Boone
Distance from Asheville: 75 miles (1 hour 35 minutes)
Banner Elk is a great High Country town that hosts the famed Wooly Worm Festival in October. Throughout the year, though, you’ll find a walkable downtown, great restaurants, and beautiful surroundings.
We’re also partial to Apple Hill Farm, a place where you listen and let the animals do all the talking.
Boone Fork Trail
Distance from Asheville: 79 miles (1 hour 40 minutes)
Boone Fork Trail is about as far away as one would get when considering day trips from Asheville, but we think it’d be worth the trip. The almost 5-mile loop starts at Julian Price Memorial Park (MP 296.4).
You’ll cross the namesake Boone Fork River at many turns and walk through diverse terrain. There are nice swimming spots here, but you can also enjoy Boone Fork Trail for spring flowers and fall foliage.
Distance from Asheville: 90 miles (1 hour 42 minutes)
Like Boone (see below), Blowing Rock could be placed in multiple sections of this guide to day trips from Asheville. Of course, it’s surrounded by some of the Parkway’s best stops that we just had to include here.
Read More: Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock
Distance from Asheville: 85 miles (1 hour 50 minutes)
Ask anyone who attended Appalachian State University (or App) and you’ll quickly learn that Boone is a special place. Even if you don’t bleed black and gold, you’ll want to come and take a stroll down King St and Howard St.
Those two are where Boone’s highest concentrations of amazing restaurants and shops await. If you’re feeling a pint, grab beers at Lost Province downtown, at Appalachian Mountain Brewing, or at one of Boone’s other awesome breweries.
Read More: Day Trips from Greensboro
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Day Trips from Asheville
In this section, we’ll include GSMNP day trips from Asheville, a few attractions, and prominent gateway towns to America’s most popular national park.
Distance from Asheville: 52 miles (1 hour 5 minutes)
Cherokee is one of the best gateway towns into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s also our favorite stop before or after Mingo Falls.
Many people come to experience Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and we think you should, too. Just try to get out and explore the town, too, okay?
A visit to Qualla Arts & Crafts will introduce you to pottery, baskets, and more produced by over 250 native artists. And if you’d like to get outside in Cherokee, check out the Fire Mountain Trails for walking, hiking, and biking opportunities.
Big Creek Trail to Mouse Creek Falls
Distance from Asheville: 56 miles (1 hour 7 minutes)
To reach the Big Creek Trailhead, cross over into Tennessee on I-40 and come back to North Carolina via the first exit. The hike to Mouse Creek Falls is a moderate 2-mile climb (4 miles roundtrip).
On the way to the falls, and you’ll pass the beautiful Midnight Hole along the way.
Distance from Asheville: 65 miles (1 hour 8 minutes)
Read More: The Road to Nowhere near Bryson City
Distance from Asheville: 58 miles (1 hour 20 minutes)
Mingo Falls is technically near Great Smoky Mountains National Park and on Cherokee land, but we’ll include it in this section.
The Cherokee people know Mingo Falls as “Big Bear” and when you reach this 120-foot waterfall, you’ll see why. Climb the 160 stairs and half a mile to reach this beautiful spot and spend as much time as you desire, soaking it in.
Just keep in mind that the Mingo Falls parking lot only accommodates maybe six or seven cars (comfortably) at a time. Be respectful of those limitations if you hope to visit during peak travel times.
Clingmans Dome Observation Tower
Distance from Asheville: 77 miles (1 hour 51 minutes)
Clingmans Dome Observation Tower is one of the shortest GSMNP hikes but definitely worth it for the views. It’s open year-round but the road that leads to it closes from December 1 to March 31.
You can reach it via both the Mountains to Sea Trail and Appalachian Trail. We’ll mention more AT day trips from Asheville shortly.
Appalachian Trail Day Trips from Asheville (Hikes and Hubs)
Better known as simply the Appalachian Trail (AT), this famed hiking trail runs 95.7 miles through Western NC‘s mountains. The NC portion is especially beautiful, as some of the best hiking trails in North Carolina are found along the Appalachian Trail.
Hot Springs (and the Lovers Leap Trail)
Distance from Asheville: 36 miles (48 minutes)
Hot Springs is a great Appalachian Trail hub but also close enough for multiple day trips from Asheville. You can catch some incredible views from Lover’s Leap, a 2-mile loop with a gain of 500 feet in elevation.
Afterward, the hot mineral tubs at Hot Springs Resort and Spa are perfect, especially during winter. The busiest time of year is during fall when the leaves change, so keep that in mind when visiting.
You can access the hot tubs that sit along Spring Creek throughout the day (reservation required) or book a cabin that comes with its own tub. All are supplied with healing natural mineral water.
Read More: Winter Getaways in North Carolina
Franklin (and Wayah Bald Tower)
Distance from Asheville: 68 miles (1 hour 13 minutes)
Franklin is known for being both the “Gem Capital of the World” and for hosting the Scottish Tartans Museum, which is America’s only extension of the original in Scotland.
Franklin is also at one end of the Waterfall Byway’s best portion that runs through Nantahala National Forest toward Highlands. We’ll share more about that below.
Distance from Asheville: 47 miles (1 hour 16 minutes)
Max Patch is a 4,600-ft. mountain bald and one of the best day trips from Asheville. In the middle of a 1.7-mile hike, you can enjoy beautiful 360-degree views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
You can picnic here but as of 2020, camping is not allowed. During this closure period, we’re hopeful that the environment can recover and everyone can enjoy a clean Max Patch for many years to come!
Roan Mountain at Carvers Gap
Distance from Asheville: 65 miles (1 hour 27 minutes)
Roan Mountain is another mountaintop bald that sits along the North Carolina-Tennessee border. There are more than five summits here, with a mix of grassy balds and rocky outcrops.
Both can be experienced from the Carvers Gap entrance. Follow the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail and you’ll be treated to some of the most beautiful views of North Carolina’s portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Fontana Lake and Fontana Dam
Distance from Asheville: 88 miles (1 hour 32 minutes)
Fontana Lake is the largest lake in Western North Carolina. Of course, this is also where you’ll find Fontana Dam, the tallest in the Eastern US at 480 feet. Construction on the dam began in 1942 and was completed in 1944.
You can reach it via the Indian Lakes Scenic Byway after driving the famed Tail of the Dragon from Tennessee.
Pisgah National Forest Day Trips from Asheville
Some of the best day trips from Asheville are the epic hikes and waterfalls in the area. Many of them sit within Pisgah National Forest, one of four national forests in North Carolina and the first of two in this guide.
Read More: 100+ Hiking Trails in North Carolina
Distance from Asheville: 27 miles (31 minutes)
Surrounded by mossy rocks and rhododendrons, it’s easy to forget about the wonder 1.5-mile hike (Yellow Blaze) that leads you to Catawba Falls. These beautiful falls offer a nice, cool escape from the summer heat, though they’re wonderful throughout much of the year.
Looking Glass Falls
Distance from Asheville: 37 miles (45 minutes)
Read More: How to Reach Moore Cove Falls near Brevard
Cradle of Forestry
Distance from Asheville: 32 miles (58 minutes)
The Cradle of Forestry is further down the road from Looking Glass Falls on US-276, not far from the Blue Ridge Parkway. There’s even a Cradle of Forestry Overlook (MP 410) near Mount Pisgah.
The beautiful setting here alone is worth the drive, but the history is another reason to visit. The Cradle of Forestry was the first of its kind in North America to exercise “practical forestry.”
When it’s open from April 21 to November, you can visit and explore many hands-on exhibits for all ages and learn about forestry yourself! After you pay admission, hike one of the trails and enjoy a lovely walk in the woods.
Distance from Asheville: 57 miles (59 minutes)
Before you head to the Linville Gorge, spend some time in Morganton, which is an excellent introduction to Burke County. Walk around town and admire the historic buildings (especially the courthouse) before stopping by one of the many spots to shop and peruse some art.
When the harvest begins, Apple Hill Orchard welcomes visitors to U-Pick and spend some time in their country store.
Read More: The Catawba River Greenway in Morganton
French Broad Falls (Mill Shoals) and Bird Rock Falls
Distance from Asheville: 51 miles (1 hour 9 minutes)
On the NC-215 side of the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway is French Broad Falls (Mill Shoals) and Bird Rock Falls. They sit about 10 minutes off the Blue Ridge Parkway, technically on private property.
However, for now, the kind folks at Living Waters Ministry don’t mind people coming to see them. Just be respectful of their property and do mind the “enter at your own risk” signs. Those are for liability and to keep you safe.
The two falls you’ll see at first are French Broad and Mill Shoals. You can hike another 1/4 mile to see Bird Rock Falls, also known as Cathedral Falls.
Distance from Asheville: 55 miles (1 hour 10 minutes)
This town is also home to an arts scene that features prominently in the cooperative Mica Gallery.
You may also recognize Penland (near Burnsville), the world-acclaimed school of crafts. You can tour the campus and peruse artists’ works in the gallery.
Distance from Asheville: 60 miles (1 hour 27 minutes)
Wiseman’s View might not be considered much of a hike, but it offers some of North Carolina’s best views. Wiseman’s two stone observation areas peer down and out into the Linville Gorge and even offer incredible views of Hawksbill and Table Rock, which we’ll mention shortly.
As a bonus, this is one of the few day trips from Asheville that is an accessible paved path.
Distance from Asheville: 67 miles (1 hour 32 minutes)
Hawksbill Mountain Trail is across the Linville Gorge from Wiseman’s View. Hiking to the top takes you up about 700 feet in elevation.
This one is great throughout the year, but especially during peak fall. Note that the road up to Hawksbill and Table Rock Mountain (see next) is unpaved and not well maintained, so it is not recommended for a low car.
However, our Prius made it just fine going slowly.
Table Rock Mountain
Distance from Asheville: 72 miles (1 hour 52 minutes)
Table Rock Mountain is the second trail along Table Rock Rd, five miles from the Hawksbill trailhead. And like its neighbor, this 3,930-foot peak also offers sweeping views of the Linville Gorge.
Your hike to the top will be sometimes steep but is rewarding at the top. As we just mentioned, the road to the trailhead is quite bumpy, so take it slow and easy.
NC State Parks Day Trips from Asheville
The next series of Asheville day trips rank among North Carolina’s greatest state parks sites. Many need no introduction but we’ll share a few of our favorite things and hikes inside each one.
Read More: Elk Knob State Park near Boone
Chimney Rock State Park
Distance from Asheville: 25 miles (40 minutes)
You’ve probably seen photos of Chimney Rock when searching for information about the mountains of North Carolina. The large monolith with an American flag planted on top of it remains one of our state’s most iconic scenes.
To reach it, you’ll need to enter Chimney Rock State Park, one of our favorite day trips from Asheville!
And while the main Chimney Rock access is one of the few state park attractions where admission is charged, funds do go toward trail maintenance and park upkeep.
Two park accesses (Rumbling Bald and Eagle Rock) don’t require admission, so keep that in mind if you “forgot” your wallet. They sit across the Rocky Broad River from the main entrance and are not connected to the main section of the park.
Lake James State Park
Distance from Asheville: 50 miles (56 minutes)
Lake James State Park is popular for boating and fishing, but many folks love this spot for its 150 miles of shoreline.
You can also hike or mountain bike around Lake James, with East Wimba Loop (4.4 miles, Red Circle) and West Wimba Loop (6 miles, Orange Circle) great for all levels of walkers and riders.
There are three camping areas inside the state park, in case you want to extend your time here.
Read More: Airbnbs in Asheville
Mount Mitchell State Park
Distance from Asheville: 32 miles (1 hour)
Mount Mitchell is the highest point in Eastern North America and its namesake state park receives hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. One of the best road trips in North Carolina (the Mount Mitchell Scenic Drive) will get you to the top.
Parts of it run along the Blue Ridge Parkway, with the entrance to Mount Mitchell State Park at MP 355.
Driving isn’t the only thing to do at Mount Mitchell, as you’ll find great hikes here, too. There’s the shorter Summit Trail (0.15 miles) and Balsam Nature Trail (0.75 miles, White Triangle) and for challenge seekers, the Mount Mitchell Trail (6 miles, Blue Diamond).
Gorges State Park
Distance from Asheville: 53 miles (1 hour 13 minutes)
Gorges State Park is best known for its waterfalls, and you can reach Hidden Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Turtleback Falls via the Rainbow Falls Trail (1.5 miles, Orange Circle). Technically, these lie outside Gorges State Park property but you need to start inside the park to reach them.
There are other shorter trails inside the park, including the Visitor Center Connector (0.25 miles, White Square) and Raymond Fisher Trail (0.75 miles, Blue Circle). The latter sits off the Rainbow Falls Trail.
For more adventurous hikers, the 76-mile Foothills Trail funs through Gorges State Park (6.7 miles, White Slash).
South Mountains State Park
Distance from Asheville: 70 miles (1 hour 14 minutes)
South Mountains State Park (near Morganton) is home to rugged hikes, streams to stroll along, and an 80-foot waterfall. Add in some great picnic spots and you’ll wonder why this place gets less press than its friends nearby.
South Mountains still gets busy, as evidenced by the numerous parking spots available. The most popular hike here is the High Shoals Falls Loop Trail (2.7-mile loop, Blue Circle), and it’s one of the park’s shortest.
Horseback riders and mountain bikers are also welcome, with dozens of miles to explore.
Distance from Asheville: 70 miles (1 hour 29 minutes)
You can either visit the non-profit tourist attraction known as Grandfather Mountain (the mile-high swinging bridge is here) or the state park (69 miles, 1 hour 27 minutes).
Inside the private side of Grandfather Mountain, you can visit a cool nature museum and hike trails designed for all levels. Those trails will connect to some that will take you to state-owned land.
Over on that state park side, you can pick from trails that range from easy to difficult. The Grandfather Trail is where famed botanist Andre Michaux once thought he’d reached the highest point of North America.
Read More: Day Trips from Boone
Crowders Mountain State Park
Distance from Asheville: 99 miles (1 hour 44 minutes)
We also mentioned Crowders Mountain State Park in our guide to day trips from Charlotte, but can also include it here.
The park sits in Gaston County and offers views of the Charlotte skyline on clear days. All you have to do is follow Crowders Trail for 2-1/2 miles (White Diamond) to the top of Crowders Mountain. The highest peak, at 1,705 feet, is reachable via Pinnacle Trail (2 miles, Orange Circle).
Nantahala National Forest Day Trips from Asheville
Nantahala National Forest nearly meets Pisgah National Forest but mostly sticks to its southwestern corner of North Carolina. Hikes and waterfalls here are equally awesome and joined by small towns that are some of our favorite Asheville day trips.
Distance from Asheville: 50 miles (50 minutes)
Another fun place to stop is the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory, who’d love to share some delicious creations with you.
We couldn’t leave Dillsboro without mentioning the Jackson County Green Energy Park. It’s an arts center powered by methane gas that was captured from Dillsboro’s landfill. You can purchase their renewable energy-produced creations or watch artists in action when visiting.
Distance from Asheville: 49 miles (52 minutes)
Sylva brings together a fun mix of quirk, history, and scenic beauty that’ll keep you coming back for more.
Climb to the top of the former Jackson County Courthouse (now part of the library) for a look down on downtown Sylva and its mountainous surroundings for starters, and you might just be hooked for life.
Kitty lovers will enjoy the American Museum of the House Cat, home to memorabilia pieces dating back thousands of years.
Distance from Asheville: 50 miles (1 hour 6 minutes)
Lake Toxaway is the largest privately owned lake in North Carolina but there are plenty of ways to enjoy and see it. You can play golf at the Lake Toxaway Country Club, rent a boat at the marina, or learn about hive life and more at Killer Bees Honey.
Visit between April and October and reserve a trip to Southern Highlands Reserve. The arboretum and research center’s high elevation welcomes a huge variety of plant species.
Distance from Asheville: 60 miles (1 hour 26 minutes)
Panthertown Valley is a 6,311-acre backcountry wilderness area near the eastern edge of Nantahala National Forest. It’s in Jackson County, near Cashiers (and Sapphire).
The valley is open throughout the year and a series of well-connected trails lead to gorges, mountain bogs, and domes. Schoolhouse Falls is the most popular waterfall in Panthertown Valley and when you visit, you’ll see why.
Upper Whitewater Falls
Distance from Asheville: 61 miles (1 hour 29 minutes)
Upper Whitewater Falls runs through Jackson and Transylvania counties and drops 411 feet. You can see it after walking 1/4 mile and down a set of more than 150 stairs to the viewing platform. And if you time things right, you can see this all by yourself.
The lower section in South Carolina falls an additional 400 feet, making this the tallest waterfall you’ll find in the eastern US.
Read More: Interesting Facts about North Carolina
Distance from Asheville: 63 miles (1 hour 30 minutes)
We haven’t even gotten to the center of town, which is where the Village Green awaits, hosting events throughout the year. No matter what’s going on in town, a walk through the Village Green will help you stretch those legs.
We loved staying at Bear Lake Reserve, about 30 minutes from Cashiers and Sylva in Jackson County!
Read More: How to See Silver Run Falls near Cashiers
Distance from Asheville: 82 miles (1 hour 36 minutes)
If you drive along the 98-mile long Waterfall Byway (US-64), you’ll find quite a few waterfalls near the towns of Cashiers, Highlands, and Franklin. Between Highlands and Franklin, this scenic road runs high through the Nantahala Gorge and some of the most beautiful (and scary) scenes.
Dry Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in this area, viewable from a platform near the parking lot. If you can descend the stairs for a closer look, this is a waterfall that you can also walk behind!
Distance from Asheville: 85 miles (1 hour 40 minutes)
Highlands isn’t too far from Dry Falls, the roadside Bridal Veil Falls, and Cullasaja Falls but much more than a base for waterfall viewing. The historic downtown is filled with amazing restaurants, shopping, and a cool art scene.
The Museum of American Cut and Engraved Glass showcases pieces from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And finally, theater-goers will appreciate Highlands and should keep an eye out for showtimes at the Highlands Playhouse.
More Small Town Day Trips from Asheville
After that water-filled thrill ride, it’s time to move onto small-town day trips from Asheville.
Read More: Amazing Small Towns in North Carolina
Distance from Asheville: 35 miles (39 minutes)
Saluda is one of a few Polk County day trips from Asheville. With more than a few historic buildings packed in its one-street downtown, its background alone makes this an interesting place to visit.
Explore the art shops, dig into some food, and spend some time at Pace General Store. The nearby Green River Gorge welcomes paddlers, anglers, and campers if you’re interested in some extended time here.
Read More: How to See Pearson’s Falls
Distance from Asheville: 45 miles (50 minutes)
Tryon Fine Arts Center headlines an inviting downtown that’s packed with impressive shops and historic buildings.
Speaking of art, Nina Simone Plaza honors a true music legend who also happened to be born in Tryon. A beautiful mural at 3950 Lynn Rd also awaits.
Distance from Asheville: 76 miles (1 hour 16 minutes)
The name “Boiling Springs” came from the natural spring that feeds into the small lake on Gardner-Webb’s campus. Speaking of G-W, take a walk on campus and enjoy its historic buildings and rolling hills.
Another thing we love about driving into Boiling Springs is all the rolling farmlands and general stores from a previous era that you pass along the way.
Distance from Asheville: 77 miles (1 hour 16 minutes)
Hickory is probably the biggest city between Asheville and Greensboro and definitely worthy of day trips from both. The Catawba Science Center and the Hickory Aviation Museum are two wonderful museums in Hickory and a great way to start your time here.
For a great combo of tasty beer and delicious food, visit one of Olde Hickory‘s three restaurant locations throughout town. And during Minor League Baseball season, LP Frans Stadium is the place to be for a Hickory Crawdads game.
Read More: The Henry River Mill Village
Distance from Asheville: 81 miles (1 hour 22 minutes)
You can explore it further at either Red Bridges and Alston Bridges. We won’t take any sides on the issue, beyond hush puppies and slaw.
Read More: Famous North Carolina Foods
Distance from Asheville: 94 miles (1 hour 36 minutes)
Today, it’s known as the gateway to the parks of Cleveland County.
Other fun things to do there include the Kings Mountain Historical Museum, which is housed in a 1939 Georgian Revival Style Post Office. Kings Mountain’s Southern Arts Society sits just outside town and features works from 75 local and regional artists in their gift shop.
Ready for these Day Trips from Asheville?
From the moment we started our travels through North Carolina, we knew there was something special happening in the western part of our state. That feeling gets stronger every time we hit the road and head out that way, too.
I’m not sure if it’s all the things we continue to find when driving through the mountains, the idea of exploring them, or both. I just know it’s something that I love and want to keep doing for a long time coming.
If you’ve been lucky enough to spend time in this area, we’d love to know about your favorite day trips from Asheville. Is there something or somewhere that we should add to the mix? We’re always eager to find new spots, so please feel free to let us know.