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30+ of the Best North Carolina Mountain Towns to Visit Now!

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on April 29, 2024.

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There are wonderful places throughout this state, but there’s something extra special about North Carolina mountain towns. The best NC mountain towns range in size and shape, but they all come packed with unique attractions, and people waiting with warm, welcoming smiles.

You can easily immerse yourself in local art, browse unique shops, and dig into each place’s amazing food scene. Of course, they can be the perfect base for some of the best hiking trails and the most beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina.

This guide features more than 30 mountain towns in North Carolina, original photos, and tips from our years of experience exploring them all.

Read More: 100+ Wonderful Places to Visit in Western North Carolina

North Carolina Mountain Towns Book

NC Mountain Towns Book

We’ve also written and published a North Carolina Mountain Towns Book, available in print and digital formats. Visit our shop and grab a copy after reading this article.

List of North Carolina Mountain Towns in this Guide

To ease your search, we’ve organized these NC mountain towns alphabetically.

  • Asheville
  • Bakersville
  • Banner Elk
  • Beech Mountain
  • Black Mountain
  • Blowing Rock
  • Boone
  • Brevard
  • Bryson City
  • Burnsville
  • Cashiers
  • Cherokee
  • Dillsboro
  • Flat Rock
  • Hendersonville
  • Highlands
  • Hot Springs
  • Lake Lure
  • Little Switzerland
  • Maggie Valley
  • Marion
  • Marshall
  • Morganton
  • Murphy
  • Old Fort
  • Robbinsville
  • Saluda
  • Spruce Pine
  • Sylva
  • Valdese
  • Waynesville
  • West Jefferson
  • Wilkesboro

Map of NC Mountain Towns

Western North Carolina Map
Map Created Via Google Maps.

You can visually plan your adventures around these NC mountain towns with the following maps:

Asheville

View of Downtown Asheville North Carolina from the Omni Grove Park Inn

Asheville is the largest city in the NC mountains and the biggest in this guide. It’s long been known as one of the coolest mountain towns in NC.

We’ve often used it as a base for nearby hikes and waterfalls. Asheville is also perfect for hopping on the Blue Ridge Parkway, or just relaxing in luxury at Biltmore Estate or The Omni Grove Park Inn.

The city is perfect for a winter getaway, thanks to milder weather, great events like Christmas at Biltmore, and more!

Throughout the year, we think you’ll love eating and walking around downtown, tasting some of NC’s finest beer at local breweries, and exploring the area’s arts scene.

Read More: 18 Unique Luxury Resorts in North Carolina

Bakersville

NC Mountain Towns Carvers Gap at Roan Mountain near Bakersville
Roan Mountain near Bakersville.

Bakersville is the Mitchell County seat and one of many arts-heavy communities in the area. Mica Gallery is one of a few spaces that showcase local artists from here and surrounding counties.

Access to Roan Mountain goes through Bakersville, and you can also enjoy the Toe River’s waters here. Of course, a very popular time of year to visit is in June, when the annual Rhododendron Festival kicks off.

Read More: 50+ Great Things to Do in Asheville (Downtown, Biltmore, and More!)

North Carolina Mountain Towns Banner Elk Grandfather Vineyard

Floating high at 3,700 feet is one of the best NC mountain towns—Banner Elk. Home to the Woolly Worm Festival in October, we can’t get enough of this town, the amazing restaurants and shops here, and its gorgeous surroundings.

Grandfather Vineyard is one of many nice spots along the water. Except here, you can taste delicious wine and take some home with you. While in the area, don’t miss out on Apple Hill Farm, an ethical and working alpaca farm!

Grandfather Mountain NC

Banner Elk is also a popular gateway to Grandfather Mountain State Park and the Mile High Swinging Bridge on the privately-owned Grandfather Mountain attraction.

Down the road from Banner Elk is Sugar Mountain, home to one of our best ski resorts. The Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster is a newer attraction nearby, sure to provide you with a year-round thrill!

Read More: How to See Elk River Falls (Trail and Safety Tips)

Beech Mountain

Did you know North Carolina’s Beech Mountain is the highest town in the Eastern United States? At 5,506 feet, Beech Mountain is home to awesome views but also, some pretty great ski resorts.

Beyond ski season, we love hanging out in this town. Land of Oz (held in September) is one of many great reasons to come here with its warmer outside.

Read More: 100+ Unique Things to Do in North Carolina

Black Mountain

Black Mountain NC

Just off I-40 (Exits 64 and 65), Black Mountain is the closest NC mountain town to Asheville. Black Mountain features quaint shops, impressive restaurants (including Phil’s Bar-B-Que Pit!), and one of our favorite North Carolina distilleries (Oak & Grist).

Read More: The Asheville Art Museum (How to Visit + 7 Great Things to Do)

Blowing Rock 

Blowing Rock and Boone are often talked about together because they are so close–but so different! Downtown Blowing Rock is home to adorable shops and restaurants, as well as the only urban entrance to a waterfall that we’ve seen in North Carolina (Glen Burney).

Stay at the historic Green Park Inn or luxurious Chetola Resort, but make sure you stop by the oldest attraction in North Carolina–The Blowing Rock.

Read More: The Best Day Trips from Boone

Boone 

It is no secret that Boone is one of our favorite North Carolina mountain towns. Every time we visit, we dream of our next home on a hillside in the High Country!

Home to Appalachian State University, Boone is a thriving college town with plenty of High Country hikes, delicious restaurants, trailblazing breweries, and more things to do. Boone’s truly a four-season destination: they boast hiking and waterfalls in spring through fall and world-class skiing and snow tubing in the winter.

While much of the Blue Ridge Parkway closes during inclement winter weather, Otter Falls near Boone is a beautiful hike, especially if there’s snow down there!

Read More: Winter in Boone (20 Great Activities, Snow Tubing, and More!)

Brevard

Looking Glass Falls near Brevard NC Mountain towns

Known as the home of the White Squirrel (and annual festival!), downtown Brevard is charming and boasts the best toy store in North Carolina, O.P. Taylor.

If you’re looking to explore the many waterfalls near Brevard, we recommend starting with Looking Glass Falls. Of course, the nearby Moore Cove Falls and French Broad Falls (Mill Shoals) are two of many more to explore.

Read More: How to See the EPIC Rainbow Falls

Bryson City

Bryson City is one of the coolest North Carolina mountain towns but the Road to Nowhere is one great reason to venture out!

Sitting on the North Carolina-Tennessee border, right before the Tuckasegee River runs right, Bryson City is definitely one of our favorite North Carolina mountain towns! Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, Bryson City is well-known for hiking and river recreation.

Hike to waterfalls via the easy Deep Creek Loop, go whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River from the Nantahala Outdoor Center, ride the scenic Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, or get lost on the Road to Nowhere—there’s endless fun in Bryson City! 

Read More: The Best NC Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes

Burnsville

Burnsville NC Mountain Towns

Burnsville is one of the best North Carolina mountain towns for exploring the outdoors. For example, it’s right on the outskirts of Pisgah National Forest and very close to Mount Mitchell (the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi).

But beyond the dramatic summit of Mount Mitchell, there are also waterfalls near Burnsville—Crabtree Falls joins two near the base of Mount Mitchell (Setrock Creek Falls and Roaring Fork Falls).

You’ll also encounter a thriving art community through the Toe River Arts and awesome barn quilt trails! Don’t forget that Burnsville is home to a great restaurant scene, which you can explore downtown and beyond!

Read More: The Best Black Mountains Hikes near Burnsville

Cashiers

North Carolina mountain towns Casiers Village Green

Cashiers is the gateway to one of our favorite NC mountain escapes, Bear Lake Reserve. Filled with shops, boutiques, and the beautiful Village Green, there is always something to explore in this lovely town.

We definitely recommend stopping at Whiteside Brewing for a pint and a burger (or wings!). If you brought kids, they’ll want to check out the fire engine outside!

There are also some amazing hikes and waterfalls near Cashiers, including Silver Run Falls and the Panthertown Valley Trail that leads to Schoolhouse Falls.

Read More: 20+ Kid-Friendly Waterfalls In NC (Easy Hikes And Swimming Holes!)

Cherokee

Cherokee NC Mountain Towns

Cherokee is home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and one of our favorite small mountain towns in NC.

There are several opportunities for guests to learn about the history and culture of the tribe. Start at the Museum of the Cherokee People or the Oconaluftee Indian Village.

Check out the shops filled with local crafts and popular tourist attractions like Harrah’s Casino. Don’t forget to visit our favorite waterfalls in Cherokee, which are Mingo Falls and nearby Soco Falls.

Read More: 20 Excellent Things to Do in Cherokee and the Qualla Boundary (and Nearby!)

Dillsboro

Day Trips from Asheville NC Dillsboro Haywood Smokehouse
Haywood Smokehouse.

Just a few miles from Sylva (see below) is Dillsboro, an artist community that is one of the coolest North Carolina mountain towns.

With a mix of unique shops and galleries, art festivals, and a charming downtown, this Jackson County NC mountain town lives and breathes local art.

Read More: The North Carolina Bucket List

Flat Rock

Flat Rock NC Mountain Towns

Just outside of Hendersonville is the North Carolina mountain town of Flat Rock. Notably, Flat Rock also has the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site, the famed Pulitzer Prize author’s home.

In Flat Rock, spend your days hiking the trails, saying hello to the many goats, and touring the house before heading downtown for some beers and barbecue from Hubba Hubba Smokehouse.

Flat Rock is also where you can find one of the most popular places for apple picking in North Carolina, Sky Top Orchard.

Read More: National Parks Sites in North Carolina

Hendersonville

Appalachian Pinball Museum Hendersonville NC
The Appalachian Pinball Museum.

One of the largest North Carolina mountain towns on this list, we absolutely love all the fun things to do in Hendersonville. Its downtown is home to nice shops, a cozy atmosphere, and great restaurants.

Jump Off Rock is a great scenic overlook that sits in Laurel Park, 15 minutes outside of downtown Hendersonville. There are a few hiking trails there, too, which are among the best in the area.

A handful of breweries and Burntshirt Vineyards (one of the state’s best wineries) is also here and waiting for you to stop by.

Hendersonville hosts the annual NC Apple Festival. Due to Henderson County‘s high concentration of orchards, the area offers some of the best apples for picking in North Carolina.

Read More: Hendersonville NC Map of Attractions (+ 5 Surrounding Counties!)

Highlands 

Highlands NC Mountain Towns

The outskirts of Highlands are known for spectacular waterfalls, but the downtown of Highlands is equally beautiful! Spend a luxurious weekend at The Old Edwards Inn and roam the charming shops.

Be sure to stop by the scenic Lake Sequoyah and of course, the many natural wonders surrounding Highlands.

Don’t forget to visit Dry Falls, an accessible waterfall that you can walk behind. It’s one of many falls along the famed Waterfall Byway. That scenic route is another reason we rank Highlands among the best mountain towns in NC!

Read More: 25+ Beautiful North Carolina Road Trips (Scenic Byways and Highways)

Hot Springs 

NC Mountain Towns Hot Springs Lovers Leap Trail

Hot Springs is one of the most adorable North Carolina mountain communities, best known for its hot mineral springs. Tourists travel from all over to soak in the waters. The town is also a junction for the Appalachian Trail, which winds through downtown.

Catch some incredible views from Lover’s Leap, a 2-mile loop with a gain of 500 feet in elevation.

Read More: Max Patch Trail (A Short Hike to Beautiful 360-Degree Views!)

Lake Lure

North Carolina Mountain Towns Lake Lure

Is there anything more magical than a lakeside mountain town in NC?! At Lake Lure, get the best of mountain and lake life by going boating, biking the trails at Buffalo Creek Park, or climbing to the top of Chimney Rock.

Don’t miss walking across the Flowering Bridge, a beautiful blooming garden that spans the Rocky Broad River.

Read More: 10+ Great Things to Do in Chimney Rock Village (and Nearby)

Little Switzerland

Little Switzerland NC Mountain Towns

Little Switzerland is a Blue Ridge Parkway NC mountain town that packs quite the punch! Its charming downtown is composed of just a general store, bookstore, and restaurant.

Enjoy beautiful vistas at The Switzerland Inn and stay while seeking out your next mountain home. The Diamondback (NC-226) is also a popular road for tourists and motorcyclists alike, famed for its incredible views.

Read More: 20 Awesome Wineries near Charlotte (Vineyards Within 2 Hours)

Maggie Valley

Wheels Through Time motorcyles

One of our absolute favorite North Carolina mountain towns is Maggie Valley, a consistent family vacation spot. Close to lots of great waterfalls (like Soco Falls!), Maggie Valley draws tons of tourists each year.

Enjoy creekside beers at BearWaters Brewing, dance at Stompin’ Ground, and zoom through the iconic Wheels Through Time Motorcycle Museum. Downtown, you’ll find vintage motels, lots of motorcyclists, and the best pancakes of your life at Joey’s Pancake House!

Right down the road from Maggie Valley is Lake Junaluska, a lovely community with a trail that takes you around its namesake lake.

Read More: 20+ Amazing Things to Do in Maggie Valley

Marion

Marion NC Mountain Towns

Have you ever seen Bigfoot? Well, you’ll need to answer that question when you visit Marion and their annual Bigfoot Festival!

Beyond chasing tall hairy creatures, Marion is situated at the base of Mount Mitchell with many waterfalls nearby, such as Linville Falls and Tom’s Creek Falls.

Read More: 50+ Great Things to Do With Kids in Asheville (and Nearby!)

Marshall

Madison County seat Marshall sits just north of Asheville and Buncombe County. This mountain town in NC’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.

Read More: 75+ Fun Day Trips from Asheville (Within a 2-Hour Drive)

Morganton

Morganton NC Mountain Towns

Morganton is one of the easternmost North Carolina mountain towns we’ll mention. It’s known as the gateway to the Blue Ridge mountains.

You can see Table Rock Mountain, one of the most incredible hikes in the area, from downtown Morganton. A number of great restaurants and breweries (including Fonta Flora) are based here, too.

Venture out and explore the rest of Burke County, hike to Hawksbill Mountain‘s peak, Linville Falls, the nearby Wiseman’s View in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, and High Shoals Falls inside South Mountains State Park. The last one is an amazing introduction to the latter state park.

For a flatter road, check out the Catawba River Greenway in Morganton.

Include stops in Valdese (more on it later), Connelly Springs, and other great smaller towns. Make sure to get a taste of Hollywood at the Henry River Mill Village in Hildebran.

Read More: 25 of the Most Amazing Winter Hikes in North Carolina

Murphy

North Carolina Mountain Towns Murphy NC

If you’ve heard the saying “From Murphy to Manteo,” then you might already know that the former is the western end of US-64 in North Carolina. People don’t just come here for that bucket list-worthy accomplishment.

You’ll love Murphy for its fun downtown and the surrounding NC mountains, water, and trails. Regardless of your religious views, Fields of the Wood (a massive representation of the 10 Commandments) is an interesting place to visit.

Old Fort

Old Fort NC Mountain Towns

Old Fort is another of our North Carolina mountain towns off I-40, best known for gold and Catawba Falls. There’s a bit of a dispute that we won’t get into, but Old Fort’s Gold Festival typically kicks off each June.

About Catawba Falls, we think you’ll love the 2.3-mile hike that leads to the 100-ft tall waterfall with beautiful cascades. Many people come to this waterfall every year as the trail is an almost entirely flat gravel road.

wRead More: 4 National Forests in NC (Things to Do + Why We Love Them!)

Robbinsville

Tapoco Lodge entrance view

Graham County is just above Murphy and Cherokee County along the western edge of NC, home to Robbinsville. The town itself is nice for a stroll from the county courthouse.

Historic Tapoco Lodge is a great place to stay in Robbinsville, and is perfect as a base for exploring the area!

Robbinsville is surrounded by some wonderful places both natural and manmade. Joyce Kilmer Forest, the Cherohala Skyway, Nantahala National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Lake Santeetlah are nearby.

The tallest dam in the Eastern US, Fontana Dam, is also one of the more popular spots in Graham County. You can also view Fontana Lake in Graham County, though another spot is near Bryson City’s Road to Nowhere.

All this wonderful scenery might be a reason why many movies, including The Fugitive and Nell, were filmed in the area.

Saluda

downtown Saluda

Saluda is a popular spot for rafting and tubing along the Green River. It’s a small town that harkens back to simpler times with vintage signs and brick buildings. Make sure to stop in the Pace’s General Store (operating since 1899) and Thompon’s Grocery Market- North Carolina’s oldest grocery store!

Pearsons Falls in the Summer
Pearson’s Falls.

Pearson’s Falls is also nearby. While it’s a rare admission-required waterfall, the area around the 90-foot falls remains well-maintained.

Spruce Pine

Things to do in Spruce Pine NC

Spruce Pine is about 15 minutes away from Little Switzerland and is full of fun to explore. The Emerald Village complex hosts 12 mines for gem and gold panning seven days a week from spring through fall.

Spruce Pine is a nice spot throughout the year, but two events here are really cool—the NC Mineral and Gem Festival in August and SPACE (Spruce Pine Alien Conference & Expo) in June.

Sylva

Sylva NC Mountain Towns

Sylva is one of the most interesting and quaint NC mountain towns you’ll find. It’s bustling with incredible restaurants, shops, and an iconic courthouse on a hill.

Fly fishing is a popular thing to do in Sylva. In fact, the town is home to the only fly fishing trail in the United States.

Valdese

North Carolina mountain towns Valdese Old World Baking Company

We mentioned Valdese earlier and thought you should know about this truly interesting place. Its downtown is packed with shops and restaurants galore, but there’s also some outdoor fun to find here.

The Valdese Recreation Department oversees five parks in the area but we think you must visit McGalliard Falls. The 40-foot falls await after a short walk from the parking lot.

It’s a lovely scene, as the falls join a recreated grist mill, perfect to watch during a picnic.

Read More: 25 Wonderful Wineries Near Asheville (Vineyards Within 2 Hours)

Waynesville 

Waynesville North Carolina
Waynesville, North Carolina

Waynesville is the largest town in Haywood County, home to adorable shops, amazing restaurants, and surrounded by beautiful outdoor scenery. You’ll enjoy walking on its brick sidewalks while admiring the town’s historic buildings.

Looking for places to stay in Waynesville? Check out The Swag.

It’s one of the most unique luxury resorts in NC and the perfect place to escape everything!

We mentioned Lake Junaluska earlier and thought you should know it is only 3 miles from Waynesville.

Read More: How to Find 20+ Haywood County Artists on Blue Ridge Craft Trails

West Jefferson

North Carolina mountain towns New River Brewing West Jefferson Ashe County

Ashe County might sound familiar if you like yummy cheese. The Ashe County Cheese factory and store are two great places to visit in West Jefferson, one of the cutest mountain towns in NC!

New River Brewing is one of a few great places to grab some food and a beer. You’ll also enjoy walking around and stepping into local shops, art studios, and more here.

There are so many outdoor options in West Jefferson’s surroundings, including the Blue Ridge Parkway, the New River (ironically one of the oldest rivers), and Mount Jefferson. We love the latter’s overlooks almost as much as the Blue Ridge Parkway, if not more.

Of course, we can’t forget about the famous Christmas Fraser Firs you’ll see around Ashe County. Frosty’s in Ashe County is one of our favorite Christmas tree farms in North Carolina.

Read More: Christmas in North Carolina (the Best Holiday Events)

Wilkesboro

North Carolina Mountain Towns Downtown Wilkesboro

The last of the North Carolina mountain towns we’ll mention is Wilkesboro. You might say it’s a Foothills or Piedmont town, but we’ll argue otherwise.

It’s largely known as the Moonshine Capital of the World, with those spirits practically married to our mountains (along with stock car racing).

That last part is why Wilkes County is also home to the first-ever NASCAR track. You can take a side-trip to the not-mountain town of Charlotte and learn about its history at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Back to Wilkesboro, of course, which is love for so many things but above all, the iconic MerleFest. This wonderful (and family-friendly) music festival brings in big names each year.

We don’t want to leave out North Wilkesboro, the county’s largest town, before moving on. The Wilkes Art Gallery is one of many reasons to visit NW, along with a variety of events happening throughout each year there.

Mountain Towns in NC FAQ

What are the best North Carolina mountain towns?

Boonerang Music and Arts Festival Boone NC Event

After years of living in North Carolina and traveling around the state, we think these are the best NC mountain towns.

Boone, Black Mountain, Burnsville, Morganton, and Waynesville.

What’s the most beautiful mountain town in North Carolina?

Banner Elk downtown

Based on looks alone, Banner Elk is the most beautiful town in the NC mountains.

What mountain town is closest to Charlotte?

Morganton is about 1 hour 20 minutes away. Asheville is about 2 hours 10 minutes away from Charlotte NC.

Which of These North Carolina Mountain Towns is Your Favorite?

These mountain towns in NC possess something unique, so we can’t choose our favorite. What about you, though? Do you have a favorite place you like to go or is there one that stands out?

Let us know in the comments section, as always. Meanwhile, we’ll continue exploring all these quaint towns, from fantastic restaurants to mountain hikes to local artist communities!

More Western North Carolina Travel Guides

We’ve created many more travel guides that include these NC mountain towns in more detail. Here are a few of them.

11 thoughts on “30+ of the Best North Carolina Mountain Towns to Visit Now!”

  1. My favorite mountain town is Banner Elk. You forgot to mention that it is home to Lees-McRae College! Banner Elk is a very interesting town with quaint little stores, wineries, and restaurants! Great place to visit!

    Reply
  2. My favorite is Waynesville because I live there. My son moved to Asheville in 1991 so we moved up here in 2006 after Katrina in New Orleans. I would never live anywhere else again. I hope Waynesville stays relatively small in comparison to Asheville which is getting very crowded.

    Reply
  3. My husband & I love West Jefferson. You can turn in a circle to see the mountains. We enjoyed renting a cabin house with our grandson & children, the young children walking in the New River & my husband & I kayking.

    Reply
  4. My favorite is Flat Rock because I am a resident. Can some one tell me where the goats are in the Flat Rock picture?

    Reply
    • Hi Marguerite, the goats are at the Carl Sandburg home in Flat Rock. Hope you get to see them sometime! Thanks for commenting.

      Reply

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