Last Updated on January 11, 2021
Last Updated on January 11, 2021
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In case you needed another reason to love Buncombe County‘s largest city (really?), we think you should know about all the options for day trips from Asheville. To up the ante, some of our favorite things to do throughout North Carolina feature prominently here.
All are less than two hours away and reaching many of them requires following beautiful scenic roads (such as the Blue Ridge Parkway). 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.
This post is part of our series on day trips in North Carolina, where we’ve also featured spots near Charlotte and the Research Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill). If you’re seeking more things to do in Asheville, check out our guide to a weekend there.
Day Trips from Asheville
To help you easily navigate this article by topic, we’ve alphabetically organized places into the following sections:
- Buncombe County Surroundings
- Blue Ridge Parkway Attractions Near Asheville
- Hikes and Waterfalls
- Small Towns and Nearby Points of Interest
Our map includes all of these places to take day trips from Asheville, in case you’re ready to go right now.
Buncombe County Surroundings
Note: Travel times listed are approximate and by 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 a great day trip from Asheville.
Black Mountain is an awesome town, known for Lake Tomahawk and a great collection of shops and galleries. are a few surrounding towns within 20 to 30 minutes.
If you know about Candler, then you probably already know about Doc Brown’s BBQ and that’s oh-so-delicious brisket. Engadine is a fabulous B&B in Candler and would make for a great night away. We interviewed one of the owners for NC Travel Chat, in case you’d like to hear it from the source!
Montreat is the perfect mountain retreat, which is where the name comes from. Other than that fun fact, you’ll enjoy Lake Susan and the epic view-unveiling Graybeard Trail (5 miles).
We mentioned these spots and others in more detail on our page dedicated to Asheville and Buncombe County.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway runs through Asheville and please don’t tell anyone, but it’s our favorite scenic road in North Carolina. Quite a few prominent stops are within a short-ish drive from Asheville.
They include the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitors Center (MP 384, 12 minutes) 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 and, of course, 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!
Some hikes near Asheville are also off the Parkway and are included in the next section. Stay tuned for a more in-depth post on our favorite places to visit along this awesome road!
Hikes and Waterfalls Near Asheville
Some of the best hiking in North Carolina can be accessed within a short drive of Asheville. Many of them sit within Pisgah National Forest, Nantahala National Forest, state parks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (NC side), and along scenic roads beyond the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Another bonus to many of these hikes is that they lead to waterfalls, though some are viewable from your car. Any trails that we mention will include info about distance and the blaze (color and shape) you need to follow.
19 miles (33 minutes)
Getting up there is a bit tough in spots, but this easy-to-access hike will reward you with 360-degree views of epic mountain peaks like Mount Mitchell.
Bearwallow Mountain is also an operational, protected farm with cows grazing the grassy meadow. Thankfully, the owners of said farm allow visitors to come and visit.
Boone Fork Trail
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 off the Blue Ridge Parkway (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.
Boone Fork is one of a few in this guide that we included among our favorite hiking trails near Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk. We’ve also featured it in our guide to a weekend in Boone.
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.
Additional highlights that make this a memorable hike include stone foundations that were part of a former power dam.
Catawba Falls is also one of our favorite waterfalls in North Carolina.
Chimney Rock State Park
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.
And while the 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 other accesses (Rumbling Bald and Eagle Rock) don’t require admission, so keep that in mind if you “forgot” your wallet.
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.
20 miles (36 minutes)
While it’s still in Buncombe County, we thought you’d appreciate Craggy Gardens being in our “hikes” section. This Blue Ridge Parkway stop (MP 364 to 367) offers 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.
Crowders Mountain State Park
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).
76 miles (1 hour 22 minutes)
We noted that many waterfalls are viewable from the road and Cullasaja Falls is one of those. While this 250-foot waterfall is as gorgeous as any other in North Carolina, there no signs to indicate you’ve arrived.
Just follow your GPS, drive slowly, and arrive early enough to park in one of the few spots available to enjoy this one.
If you drive along the 98-mile long Waterfall Byway (which we featured here), you’ll find quite a few waterfalls near the towns of Cashiers, Highlands, and Franklin.
DuPont State Recreational Forest
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 (High Falls, Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls) bring in tons of people, though Lake Dense and the Covered Bridge are two more that should convince you to come along, too!
French Broad Falls/Mill Shoals Falls/Bird Rock Falls
51 miles (1 hour 9 minutes)
French Broad Falls and Mill Shoals Falls sit about 10 minutes off the Blue Ridge Parkway and are 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.
Gorges State Park
53 miles (1 hour 13 minutes)
Gorges State Park is best known for its waterfalls, and you can reach Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls via the Rainbow Falls Trail (1.5 miles, Orange Circle).
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).
For more adventurous hikers, the 76-mile Foothills Trail funs through Gorges State Park (6.7 miles, White Slash).
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 former, a cool nature museum and trails that for all levels of hikers also await.
And over on the 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.
35 miles (55 minutes)
Graveyard Fields sits off the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 418) and is one of the most popular hiking spots in Pisgah National Forest. If you get there later in the 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.
56 miles (1 hour 8 minutes)
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.
We also highly recommend Wiseman’s View, which is a short walk to some of North Carolina’s most beautiful mountain views.
Looking Glass Falls
37 miles (45 minutes)
You can see Looking Glass Falls from the road or any visitor’s guide in the area. But if you hop out of your car and walk down the stairs beyond the railing, you’ll see that these might be the most beautiful falls inside Pisgah National Forest.
And they don’t just say that this is one of the most popular waterfalls near Brevard for marketing purposes. This place gets packed.
Drive a mile past Looking Glass Falls and you’ll reach Sliding Rock. Thanks to an exciting natural waterslide, this place might be the most popular spot in all of Western North Carolina.
58 miles (1 hour 20 minutes)
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.
Mount Mitchell State Park
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.
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).
35 miles (49 minutes)
Mount Pisgah was once owned by George Washington Vanderbilt of Biltmore fame and is now a popular stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 408). 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 the Mount Pisgah’s summit, plenty of birding opportunities, and exquisite scenery along the way.
Rough Ridge Trail
71 miles (1 hour 30 minutes)
The 1.5-mile roundtrip Rough Ridge Trail offers one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s quickest and 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 (Grandfather Mountain, especially) and Linn Cove Viaduct. This is just a part of why we always recommend this hike to anyone we know who’s planning a High Country visit.
South Mountains State Park
70 miles (1 hour 14 minutes)
South Mountains State Park 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.
Its trails are open to hikers and include High Shoals Falls Loop Trail (2.7-mile loop, Blue Circle) and River Trail (0.5 miles, Red Triangle). Horseback riders and mountain bikers also have plenty to explore in this awesome park.
Upper Whitewater Falls
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.
We included Whitewater Falls in our guide to waterfalls near Asheville, Brevard, and Cherokee.
45 miles (49 minutes)
Waterrock Knob is the last of the Blue Ridge Parkway hikes (MP 451) that we’ll mention. At an elevation of 5,280 feet, this is the Parkway’s highest visitor center.
From the visitor center, you can hike to the top of Waterrock Knob (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.
Everyone thinks about rivers and waterfalls when talking about water in Western North Carolina, but what about the lakes? Even if you don’t have a boat, there’s enough fun around these bodies of water for more than a few day trips 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 Eastern US at 480 feet. Construction on the dam began in 1942 and completed in 1944.
You can reach it via the Indian Lakes Scenic Byway after driving the famed Tail of the Dragon from Tennessee. You’ll also pass through the Stecoah community (look for pipes on the mountainside) and the Needmore tract, with the latter offering incredible vista views.
Lake James State Park
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.
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!
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. But beyond its role as the backdrop for an iconic movie, you’ll fall in love with the wonderful town around the lake.
Get close-up with the water via a boat tour or sit back and relax on the beach. 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.
50 miles (1 hour 6 minutes)
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 aboretum and research center’s high elevation welcomes a huge vareity of plant species.
After that water-filled thrill ride, it’s time to move onto small towns near Asheville.
Small Towns and Other Points of Interest Near Asheville
As we mentioned, this is our section dedicated to the amazing small towns near Asheville. A few of them also feature in our statewide guide to small towns.
55 miles (1 hour 10 minutes)
Bakersville is the Mitchell County seat and home to an arts scene that features prominently in the cooperative Mica Gallery. Bakersville Emporium also features crafts to go along with locally produced food.
You’ll also want to visit Bakersville for access to Roan Mountain and the Toe River. This place also keeps up a pretty active events calendar, with June‘s Rhododendron Festival headlining the fun.
75 miles (1 hour 35 minutes)
Banner Elk is the first High Country town that we’ll mention, home to the famed Wooly Worm Festival in October. Beyond that exciting event, the town of 1,500-plus is where you’ll find incredible eats, the scenic Grandfather Vineyard, and easy access to skiing at Sugar Mountain or Beech Mountain.
We’re also partial to Apple Hill Farm, a place where you listen and let the animals do all the talking.
90 miles (1 hour 42 minutes)
Blowing Rock was probably the first small town near Asheville that we stumbled upon and it has since become a mainstay weekend stop. Come to this mountain town and start with some shopping and amazing eats.
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. Hang out downtown and grab a cup of Joe at KIND coffee.
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.
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. That street is one of Boone’s highest concentration of amazing restaurants and shops.
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. There’s also plenty of outdoor fun near Boone (and Blowing Rock) that we mentioned in our “hikes” section.
34 miles (43 minutes)
Brevard is known as the land of waterfalls, boasting over 200 in the area. We mentioned a few of them earlier but also wanted to include Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock as spots you’ll want to visit.
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.
65 miles (1 hour 8 minutes)
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is an amazing reason to visit Bryson City, especially in winter when they’re running the Polar Express. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is an amazing reason to visit Bryson City, especially in winter when they’re running the Polar Express.
36 miles (41 minutes)
Before heading straight to Mount Mitchell and elsewhere in the Black Mountains, spend a little time in nearby Burnsville. This is the biggest town and Yancey County seat, and you’ll find a variety of historic buildings and businesses around Town Square. The Nu-Wray Inn and the Parkway Playhouse are two wonderful examples.
Burnsville is also known as the home of Penland, the world-acclaimed school of crafts. You can tour the campus and peruse artists’ works in the gallery.
The organization’s Executive Director joined us to chat about the Toe River Arts and more during this NC Travel Chat!
We’ll mention a couple other spots to visit in Yancey County shortly (Crabtree Falls and Mount Mitchell), but also think you should spend time at the gorgeous waterfalls of Roaring Fork and Setrock Creek, both within 10 minutes of each other.
63 miles (1 hour 30 minutes)
Whitewater Falls and Rainbow Falls are two aforementioned things to do near Cashiers. However, you can add Silver Run Falls to the list of reasons to visit this Jackson County wonderland.
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. It’ll take you through wetlands, gardens, and more scenery.
52 miles (1 hour 5 minutes)
Your visit to Cherokee can begin before or after stopping at Mingo Falls. In town, you can learn about Native American heritage at either the Oconaluftee Indian Village or the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.
A visit to Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual 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.
50 miles (50 minutes)
Dillsboro is home to wonderful galleries, shops, and plenty to explore. Dogwood Crafters and Tunnel Mountain Crafts are two places that share the work of local artisans. 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.
31 miles (36 minutes)
Flat Rock sits south of Hendersonville and is where you can explore the Carl Sandburg Home. You can tour the home today 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.
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.
More historic finds in Franklin include the Macon County Historical Museum and Nikwasi Mound. After soaking up all the history and culture, a pint at Lazy Hiker Brewing will definitely hit the spot.
26 miles (31 minutes)
I feel like we haven’t discussed enough NC wine, so start your time at Hendersonville’s Burntshirt Vineyards. Many folks also love visiting Hendersonville for the Apple Valley Model Railroad Museum.
And if you’re around during Labor Day, the Apple Festival is probably one of the best things to do in Hendersonville. Of course, there are quite a few places to go apple picking before and after the festival.
While heading back from Henderson County, stop by Sierra Nevada Brewing in Mills River, just across the line from Buncombe. It’s one of the biggest names in America, especially when talking about breweries in North Carolina.
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 baseball season, LP Frans Stadium is the place to be for a Hickory Crawdads game.
85 miles (1 hour 40 minutes)
Highlands isn’t too far from Dry Falls, 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 arts 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.
71 miles (1 hour 9 minutes)
Hildebran is a town in Burke County, home to a great group of people and a collection of local businesses. If you head a mile south of town, the Henry River Mill Village will come into view.
If you’ve seen The Hunger Games, you might recognize this as the movie’s filming location for District 12. A tour is included with admission ($15 for adults) and you can learn about the history of this village and North Carolina’s relationship with textiles.
Of course, you’re more than welcome to act out a few District 12 scenes at any time.
94 miles (1 hour 36 minutes)
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.
49 miles (1 hour 7 minutes)
Little Switzerland one 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.
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.
Some awesome natural spots are within a short drive of Maggie Valley, too. We already mentioned Waterrock Knob off the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 451) and Soco Falls. Purchase Knob is another of many beautiful spots nearby.
36 miles (40 minutes)
Marion is the McDowell County seat and known by many as the place “Where Main Street Meets the Mountains.” You’ll realize that 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.
57 miles (59 minutes)
We’ve mentioned a few Burke County spots but think Morganton is an excellent introduction to the area. 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.
Catawba Brewing’s production brewery is in Morganton and the owners are from this area. Fonta Flora and Sidetracked also call Morganton “home.”
We included these and more fun in our guide covering things to do in Morganton and Burke County for a weekend!
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.
35 miles (39 minutes)
Saluda is one of a few Polk County towns you should consider for future 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’s General Store. The nearby Green River Gorge welcomes paddlers, anglers, and campers if you’re interested in some extended time here.
81 miles (1 hour 22 minutes)
The area is also livermush central and you should enjoy it “split and dropped” at the Shelby Cafe. And of course, we wouldn’t leave out Shelby’s place in NC Barbecue history. 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.
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. They offer well-maintained spots, cabins, and even have great hiking trails on the property.
We also included Bear Den among our favorite places to stay in North Carolina.
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. And another Sylva bonus is those gorgeous natural surroundings. Spots like Pinnacle Park and Wolf Creek Lake headline an amazing bunch.
45 miles (50 minutes)
Tryon Fine Arts Center headlines an inviting downtown that’s packed with impressive shops and historic buildings. Between Tryon and Saluda is the privately-owned Pearson’s Falls, a 90-foot waterfall that’s easily accessible after a short 1/4 mile hike.
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. Interesting Waynesville events include October’s Apple Harvest Festival and Folkmoot, a huge celebration of both Cherokee and Appalachian cultures.
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 what qualifies as 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.