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50+ Awesome Things to Do in Burnsville and Yancey County (and Nearby!)

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on June 18, 2024.

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When you first glance at a map of Western NC, you’ll see Mount Mitchell and the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you’ve been fortunate enough to visit the top of that mountain and drive our most popular scenic road, you’ve already enjoyed two of the best things to do in Burnsville, North Carolina.

Of course, there are plenty of other great attractions in Burnsville and around this beautiful small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. They include Crabtree Falls (Milepost 339 on the Blue Ridge Parkway), various Black Mountains hikes around Mount Mitchell, and more.

We haven’t even mentioned Downtown Burnsville, which includes its lovely Town Square, Main Street, and the fantastic artists in the area.

Of course, our guide covers them all, and even more fun things to do around Burnsville NC.

Here’s how we’ve organized this guide to help your vacation or day trip to the area:

  • Where is Burnsville (and Yancey County)?
  • Where to Stay in Burnsville (Lodging and Airbnbs)
  • Annual Events
  • Things to Do in Burnsville NC This Weekend (and All Year!)
    • Downtown
    • Local Art and Artists (Toe River Artists, Penland, and More!)
    • Outdoor Tours
  • Restaurants in Burnsville
  • Things to Do Near Burnsville NC
    • Blue Ridge Parkway Stops
    • Hikes Near Burnsville (Mount Mitchell and More)
    • Towns Near Burnsville (Asheville and More)
  • More Things to Do in Burnsville (NC Travel Guides)

Whether you’re a new resident, a frequent visitor, or a Burnsville NC local, we’re leaving no detail behind. If you live in the area and are wondering, “What are the best things to do near me?” we know this guide will help you!

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

Where is Burnsville NC?

Yancey County NC Map Wikimedia Creative Commons

Burnsville is a town in Yancey County and sits in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the Northwestern border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Burnsville is the westernmost town is a region known as the High Country.

The county borders one county in Tennessee to the northwest (Unicoi) and four NC counties, including the following:

  • Mitchell County (northeast)
  • McDowell County (southeast)
  • Buncombe County (southwest)
  • Madison County (west)

Burnsville is within a short drive from quite a few great places in Western NC, including some of our favorite cities and mountain towns:

You can visually plan your Burnsville NC trip with our North Carolina Travel Map.

Read More: Asheville NC Map of Attractions (+ 7 Surrounding Counties!)

Where to Stay in Burnsville (Lodging)

There are plenty of beautiful places to stay in Burnsville. Here are a few options for you.

The Nu-Wray Inn (Temporarily Closed)

Address: 102 Town Square, Burnsville, NC

Nu Wray Inn Burnsville
The Nu Wray Inn in downtown Burnsville.

If you’d like to stay in downtown Burnsville, the Nu Wray Inn is a fantastic option and has had famous guests like native North Carolinian Thomas Wolfe, Elvis, and Christopher Reeves.

Carolina Country Inn

Address: 600 W. Main St, Burnsville, NC

Another downtown option includes the 1952 family-owned Carolina Country Inn. The accommodations are quaint and perfect for your mountain getaway in Burnsville.

Creekside Tobacco Barn

Best Airbnbs in North Carolina Burnsville

We’ve listed this rental in our Top North Carolina Airbnbs, and you can easily see why! Located about 15 minutes outside downtown Burnsville, this romantic cabin sits along a roaring creek.

Things to do in Burnsville Drive the Roads
This cool building is one of many you’ll find on NC-197 toward the Creekside Barn.

With an ample screened-in patio and charming setting, this is our favorite place to stay in Burnsville!

Read more: Romantic Getaways in North Carolina

Annual Events in Burnsville

Toe River Arts Council

These annual events are among the best things to do in Burnsville NC, worthy of a spot on your calendar. Unforeseen circumstances can result in event changes or cancellations, so please visit the links to each one that we’ve provided.

  • April: Typically held each April, the Burnsville Metric is a metric-century bike ride open to riders of all ages. While there is a timer at this event, it is not a race and more of a beautiful summer ride. All levels of bike riders above beginners are welcome. A timer will be running for the curious.
  • June and December: The Toe River Studio Tours, and these biannual events a perfect for art lovers. The tour highlights over 100 artisans from the two mountain counties of Yancey and Mitchell and is held the first weekend of June and December.
  • August: For two days, the Mount Mitchell Crafts Fair takes over the Town Square. Inside the 200-plus juried craft booths, one-of-a-kind artisans sell their wares during this two-day event.
    Late August and September: We will cover The Orchard at Altapass in Spruce Pine in more detail in our “Nearby” section. Keep this place in mind because the Orchard at Altapass is the closest apple picking spot to Burnsville.
  • September: The Old Timey Fall Festival invites heritage crafters to demonstrate old-timey, traditional methods of producing their crafts. Over the years, this event has welcomed basket-makers, yarn spinners, corn grinders, beekeepers, candle makers, quilters, rug makers, and many other types of artists.
  • October: The Ascent on Mountain Air is an annual 5K road race that climbs 1,800 feet. It leaves from the private Mountain Air community’s gates to an air strip at the top of the mountain. Proceeds go to a local community organization.
  • December: Two things to do in Burnsville each December bring families out and the community together. The Burnsville Christmas Parade kicks off the first Saturday in December and is followed by Merry Main Street on the second Friday of the month.

Read More: Christmas in North Carolina

Things to Do in Burnsville NC This Weekend

For this section, we want to show you all the fun things to do in Burnsville NC this weekend and through the year. We’ll start with the downtown area of Burnsville and Town Square.

Here’s a list of Burnsville NC attractions that we feature in more detail below:

  • Downtown Burnsville NC
    • Town Square
    • Local Shops
    • Parkway Playhouse
    • Bare Dark Sky Observatory
  • Local Art and Artists in Burnsville
    • Toe River Artists
    • Toe River Arts
    • OOAK (Micaville)
  • Restaurants in Burnsville

Downtown Burnsville NC Things to Do

No matter what brings you to the area, we hope you spend some time exploring Downtown Burnsville. It’s truly a special place to us, thanks to these attractions.

Explore the Burnsville Town Square

Things to Do in Burnsville NC

When you reach the center of Burnsville, you’ll see a statue in the middle of Town Square. It commemorates Captain Otway Burns, who the town was named for when it was established in 1834.

His story is a pretty interesting one, as Burns was a naval hero who captained the Snap Dragon as a privateer (or legal pirate) during the War of 1812. He and his crew captured multiple British ships during a few successful campaigns.

The famous privateer later became a senator and served in the House of Representatives. During that time, Burns and Bartlett Yancey advocated for more county lines in the West.

That’s why their names live on in the county seat and county, respectively.

Read more: 125+ Important Facts About North Carolina You Should Know (History, Geography, and More!)

Local Shops

Things to do in Burnsville shopping

Here, you’ll find a series of historic buildings packed with wonderful places to eat, shop and plan your next outdoor adventure.

Walking through downtown is one of our favorite things to do in Burnsville. Some locally-owned shops and restaurants dot Main Street, and each one of them invites you in with a smile.

  • We recommend stopping into Something Special (12 W Main St, Burnsville, NC) and browsing around the boutique.
  • The Colorful Gypsy (5 Town Square, Burnsville, NC) offers an eclectic mix of colorful (hence the name!) local and globally sourced goods for your home or office.
  • Another great place to stop is Southern Drifters Outfitters (101 Town Square, Burnsville, NC). They’ll set you up with fly fishing gear (and a trip) and anything you might’ve forgotten before hiking Mount Mitchell.
  • Finally, as lovers of independent bookstores, we think you’ll love Plott Hound Books (102 W Main St, Burnsville, NC). In the former Toe River Arts building, they are a perfect addition to downtown Burnsville!

Read More: Why and How to Support Amazing Local Businesses Every Day

Parkway Playhouse

Address: 202 Green Mountain Dr, Burnsville, NC

The Parkway Playhouse hosts musicals and plays from late spring through fall. As one of the most popular things to do in Burnsville, tickets sell quickly, and you will want to be there for the curtain call!

It is also the longest continually operating seasonal theater in North Carolina.

Bare Dark Sky Observatory

Address: 66 Energy Exchange Dr, Burnsville, NC

Located at the Mayland Earth-to-Sky Park, Bare Dark Sky Observatory is the largest public telescope in North Carolina.

Sitting high above the mountains at 2,736 feet, it’s open for the public and community members to peer into the depths of our universe. 360-degree views of Yancey County await.

The “Sam Scope” telescope is custom-built with a 34-inch diameter mirror. Guided tours and viewings are available, and astronomy students use the observatory to allow real-world experience and hands-on learning.

It is the largest telescope in the Southeast dedicated to research and tourism. Tours allow up to 25 people for two hours of viewing.

Local Art and Artists in Burnsville

Exploring the area’s art scene is a popular thing to do in Burnsville and its surroundings.

Yancey County has a rich folk art scene, from Quilt Block trails to numerous art galleries and studios. There is something for every art enthusiast in the county, especially in Burnsville.

The arts reach beyond Burnsville and Yancey County, which is why Toe River Arts is a crucial player in the area.

Listen: Our Interview with Executive Director Nealy Andrew on NC Travel Chat

Toe River Arts

Address: 269 Oak Ave, Spruce Pine, NC

Toe River Arts Spruce Pine

If you aren’t visiting Burnsville during the Toe River Studio Tour (see Annual Events), you can still stop by Toe River Arts in Spruce Pine to view local art. The exhibits rotate and feature work from over 100 artists of ranging media.

Quilt Blocks (Barn Quilts)

Yancey County Quilt Block

Throughout Yancey County, there are approximately 150 quilt blocks painted on the sides of barns and buildings. Quilt trails are found throughout six continuous North Carolina counties, but Yancey has the highest concentration of quilt blocks.

Quilt Blocks of Burnsville

Maps can be purchased at the Burnsville Chamber of Commerce or the Quilt Trails Gift Shop in the OOAK Gallery. Drive one of the nine trails on the map to get the most of these magnificent works of art, and tell us your favorite!

Burnsville sundial

One of the most iconic Yancey County quilt blocks is the downtown Quilt Block Sundial on the side of the Common Times Journal building (22 North Main St, Burnsville, NC).

It is the largest vertical sundial in North Carolina and the only quilt block sundial in the world!

Toe River Artists

We were lucky enough to meet Toe River artists during trips to the area. Here are a few that you should know about, though there are many more you can connect with via the Toe River Arts Council.

  • Kenny Pieper of Pieper Glass (2778 Halls Chapel Rd, Burnsville, NC) is a Penland graduate whose exquisite studio features traditional Italian glass. You may already know his work since some of it is featured in the Corning Museum of Glass, the Museum of Fine Art Boston, and the Asheville Art Museum. Seeing his work at the source inside his Burnsville studio is a wonderful experience.

We interviewed Kenny and the next couple of artists during an episode of NC Travel Chat!

Yummy Mud Puddle
John D. Richards sculpture studio
  • Claudia and John (Yummy Mud Puddle): Another must-see artist studio in Yancey County is Yummy Mud Puddle (264 Clear View Ln, Burnsville, NC)! Located on ten beautiful acres of towering trees, Yummy Mud Puddle is the creative base for printmaker Claudia Dunaway, mixed media artist John D. Richards, and handmade textile crafter Kathryn Lynch.

You can even stay in their charming vacation rental for a restful mountain escape.

Outdoor Tours in Burnsville

With so many ways to explore the outdoors in Burnsville, several tour operators in the area. Here are a few of them.

Fly Fishing

Southern Drifters

Western North Carolina has some of the coldest waterways, which means there are plenty of fish! And if you’re familiar with guided fly fishing tours, you’ll know about their benefits.

Your guide will scout the area in advance, and on the day of your tour you’ll be taken to a backcountry stream in a secluded, fish-heavy spot. You can take a guided tour with either Southern Drifters Outfitters (101 Town Square, Burnsville, NC) or Burnsville Anglers for the best experience.

Snakeroot Ecotours

Snakeroot Ecotours guides you off the beaten path to explore nature in a more mindful way. From guided hikes for families to “Naturalist Walks,” you’ll hike places you won’t find on Google.

Your guide will take you to secluded waterfalls, share insight about rare plants, and deepen your experience with nature. Snakeroot Ecotours tailors each tour to your desired experience.

Read More: 25+ Beautiful Waterfalls near Boone (within 2 Hours)

NC Outdoor Adventures

Address: 1173 Whitson Branch Rd, Bakersville, NC

One of the most diverse outdoor sporting companies in North Carolina is NC Outdoor Adventures. They offer daily trips for nature enthusiasts.

From tubing, waterfall rappelling, and ice climbing, to wild edible plant walkabouts, there is an adventure waiting for everyone. There are also multiple courses for self-rescue, a strong climbing education program, and whitewater kayaking.

Restaurants in Burnsville NC

After all this exploring, driving, and hiking, you will want something good to eat. And don’t worry because there are plenty of great restaurants in Burnsville.

Snap Dragon Burnsville
  • Start your day with powerful coffee and a yummy breakfast sandwich from Appalachian Java (8 W Main St, Burnsville, NC)!
  • You can dig into incredible sandwiches and enjoy a great beer selection and beautiful patio at Snap Dragon (107 Town Square, NC)!
Pig and Grits Burnsville restaurant 1
  • And if you know the area, then it’s no surprise that we found ourselves at Pig and Grits (620 W Main St, Burnsville, NC), considering our huge barbecue obsession. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this Burnsville restaurant has it all!
  • If you’re craving a pizza and a delicious brew, check out Homeplace Beer Company (321 W Main St, Burnsville, NC). As the only brewery in Burnsville, Homeplace also serves wood-fired pizzas and wings. Don’t tell anyone, but we can certainly say this was one of our favorite Burnsville restaurants! Please don’t stop reading, though, because there’s much more to eat in the area.

Read More: The Best Breweries in Asheville

Garden Deli Burnsville NC
  • Garden Deli (107 Town Square) is next to Town Square and boasts beautiful outdoor seating for some of the most delicious sandwiches and entrees.

Have you spent time eating your way through Burnsville, too? If you know of another spot we need to visit, please let us know!

Things to Do Near Burnsville NC

We’re nowhere near finished with this travel guide because there are even more things to do around Burnsville. Here are a few of the best places to go within an hour of Burnsville!

  • Blue Ridge Parkway Stops Near Burnsville
    • From Burnsville to Asheville
    • From Burnsville to Boone and Blowing Rock
  • Emerald Village
  • More Gem Mining
  • Linville Caverns
  • Mount Mitchell State Park
  • The Museum of North Carolina Minerals
  • The Orchard at Altapass
  • Penland School of Craft

Blue Ridge Parkway Stops Near Burnsville

Craggy Gardens Blue Ridge Parkway Stops NC

Burnsville is situated north of the Blue Ridge Parkway and you can access it in a few places. The closest Blue Ridge Parkway attractions to Burnsville include:

Closest BRP Attractions Near Burnsville

  • Crabtree Falls (Milepost 339, 25 minutes away)
  • The Museum of North Carolina Minerals (MP 331, 25 minutes away)
  • The Orchard at Altapass (MP 328, 30 minutes away)
  • Little Switzerland (MP 334, 30 minutes away)

We will mention a few hikes near Burnsville that are accessible via the Blue Ridge Parkway. Including them, here are more BRP stops within an 1-1/2 hour’s drive from Burnsville.

BRP Attractions Northbound to Boone

Mileposts on the Blue Ridge Parkway count down when you’re driving north and they count up when driving south. Here are some BRP attractions near Burnsville that are in the Boone/Blowing Rock area.

Read More: 20 of the Best Day Trips from Boone (Within a 2-Hour Drive)

BRP Attractions Southbound to Asheville

As mentioned, BRP mileposts count up when heading south. Here are some attractions near Burnsville that are closer to Asheville.

  • Mount Mitchell State Park (MP 355, 1 hour away)
  • Glassmine Falls (MP 362, 1 hour 10 minutes away)
  • Craggy Gardens (MP 364, 1 hour 10 minutes away)
  • Folk Art Center (MP 382, 50 minutes away): note that driving from Burnsville to the Folk Art Center is faster when not traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • The North Carolina Arboretum (MP 393.6, 50 minutes away): as with the Folk Art Center, driving from Burnsville to the NC Arboretum is faster when not traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We will feature a few of these BRP stops in this “Nearby” section along with other fun things to do near Burnsville NC.

Emerald Village

Address: 331 McKinney Mine Rd, Spruce Pine, NC
Distance from Burnsville: 14 miles away from Burnsville (25 minutes)

Emerald Village Gem Mine

The Emerald Village is one of the most unique attractions near Burnsville and that’s saying a lot, considering everything else there is to do around here.

Start by getting a bucket to sluice for gemstones and minerals from a mining flume. Our kids love doing this (and yours will, too!) because each shake of the pan is a new surprise!

You can also take home any gemstone inside the bucket. Hopefully, you’ll come home with a precious keepsake!

Read More: 20+ Great Things to Do in Hendersonville and Nearby (+ Our Top 5!)

Gem Mining

Emerald Village Gem Mining

Beyond the Emerald Village, the Spruce Pine area near Burnsville has plenty of other gem mining opportunities.

In fact, Spruce Pine has one of the world’s richest deposits of gems and minerals. It is known for mica, kaolin, quartz, and feldspar. 90 percent of the raw materials for plumbing fixtures come from Spruce Pine! 

There are several locally owned gem mines to explore in the area, including:

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

Linville Caverns

Address: 19929 US-221, Marion, NC 28752
Distance from Burnsville: 30 miles (45 minutes away)

Linville Caverns things to do

Linville Caverns is a fascinating underground attraction near Burnsville. It is one of the only NC caves open to the public.

The caverns offer daily guided tours and take you through limestone caves filled with impressive stalactites, stalagmites, and other unique rock formations.

The cool year-round constant temperature inside the caverns makes it a comfortable destination regardless of the weather outside. Tickets must be purchased in person, so we recommend arriving early because they can sell out.

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

Mount Mitchell State Park

Distance from Burnsville: 31 miles (50 minutes away)

Things to do in Burnsville Mount Mitchell

A towering 6,684 feet in elevation, Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. As part of the North Carolina State Parks system, Mount Mitchell is free and offers a wide selection of trails for all levels of hikers and nature lovers.

One of the most popular ways to enjoy Mount Mitchell State Park is to view the summit from the observation deck for 360-degree views. From the parking area, it is a 1/4-mile paved and accessible trail.

Mt. Mitchell views

The high elevation at Mount Mitchell means scenes reminiscent of New England and Canada, with features you won’t find elsewhere in North Carolina.

Note that it is not uncommon for Mount Mitchell to be covered in clouds and fog, but regardless we still find a visit here to be an incredible experience.

Visiting Mount Mitchell is one of the most popular things to do near Burnsville, and we’ll detail its wonderful hiking trails in our “Hikes near Burnsville” section.

Read More: The 11 Best Places to Go Snow Tubing in North Carolina

The Museum of North Carolina Minerals

Address: 214 Parkway Maintenance Rd, Spruce Pine, NC
Distance from Burnsville: 18 miles (25 minutes away)

Museum of North Carolina Minerals Spruce Pine NC Bucket List

The Museum of NC Minerals at MP 331 is another great Blue Ridge Parkway stop near Burnsville. At this free admission museum, you’ll learn about North Carolina minerals and gems and the nearby Spruce Pine Mining District.

The displays here share the importance of mining (and its history) in this part of our state.

Read More: 40+ of the Most Amazing Museums in North Carolina (for ALL Ages!)

The Orchard at Altapass

Address: 1025 Orchard Rd, Spruce Pine, NC
Distance from Burnsville: 20 miles (30 minutes away)

Orchard at Altapass Spruce Pine near Little Switzerland NC Apple Picking

We mentioned this attraction near Burnsville earlier in our “Events” section, but here are even more details. The Orchard at Altapass is an iconic Blue Ridge Parkway stop (Milepost 328), and a beautiful overlook with sweeping views of the apple trees.

As mentioned, you can pick apples when they’re in season and sip hot apple cider, but bring your dancing shoes! Live music creates a fun, festive mood from Thursday to Sunday during the apple season.

Read More: 10 Amazing Apple Orchards in Hendersonville (Apple Picking and More!)

Penland School of Craft

Address: 67 Doras Trl, Bakersville, NC
Distance from Burnsville: 15 miles (25 minutes away)

The world-renowned Penland School of Craft is also near Burnsville and a considerable part of this area’s art scene. The workshop school attracts artisans from all over the world to study, and students learn and showcase their artwork in the gallery.

When open, visitors are encouraged to browse and purchase art from Penland any day of the week!

Hikes Near Burnsville

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs through Yancey County, but more importantly, this is where you’ll find the Black Mountains. These mountains lie within the boundaries of Pisgah National Forest, home to some of the best hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

In coordination with NC High Peaks Trail Association and Friends of Mount Mitchell, Explore Burnsville has created some useful maps you can access here.

  • Big Creek Falls
  • Crabtree Falls
  • Craggy Gardens Hikes
  • Grandfather Mountain
  • Linville Falls
  • Mount Mitchell Hiking Trails
  • Roaring Fork Falls
  • Rough Ridge Trail
  • Setrock Creek Falls

Pro Tip: These hikes near Burnsville get busy, especially on weekends. That’s why we recommend you start early to have them mostly to yourself.

Leave No Trace Reminder

Before continuing, we want to remind you that it’s important to leave all natural spaces as you found them. Pack out what you pack in and leave no trace.

In fact, if you see some trash, give these amazing hikes near Burnsville a hug by taking it with you.

Beacon Heights

Distance from Burnsville: 38 miles (55 minutes away)

Beacon Heights Hike Blue Ridge Parkway NC

A fast yet steep hike, Beacon Heights is the last of our Blue Ridge Parkway hikes on the Tanawha Trail. You’ll go up 4,340 feet to an expansive look at North Carolina’s mountains.

The summit consists of two rock faces, offering 360 views of Grandfather Mountain and Table Rock Mountain (near Morganton), among others.

Read More: Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster in Banner Elk (7 Important Tips Before You Go!)

Big Creek Falls

Distance from Burnsville: 16 miles (30 minutes away)

Things to Do in Burnsville North Carolina Big Creek Falls Roadside Waterfall

Big Creek Falls is technically a roadside waterfall that is in the northwestern reaches of Yancey County about 30 minutes from Burnsville. You can barely see it from the road, which is why we suggest you get out of your car (if you can) for a closer look.

A short, steep, and sometimes slippery descent down a rock stairway will take you to a better view of this gorgeous waterfall.

Crabtree Falls

Distance from Burnsville: 13 miles (25 minutes away)

Crabtree Falls North Carolina

Crabtree Falls is easily one of our favorite waterfalls in North Carolina. It sits between Asheville and the High Country and just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 339.

The 70-foot cascade is reached by a 2.6-mile loop trail, which isn’t too difficult for most hikers. That’s why this Yancey County waterfall is very popular throughout much of the year.

However, we’ve found that Crabtree Falls is magnificent in the summer when there are plenty of rhododendrons and mountain laurels blooming along your hike to the falls.

Read More: NC Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes (30 of the w!)

Craggy Gardens Hikes

Distance from Burnsville: 40 miles (1 hour 10 minutes away)

Craggy Gardens Blue Ridge Parkway Stops NC

Named for the commonly found “craggy” and twisted rock faces, Craggy Gardens contains a small portion of the Great Craggy Mountains located inside the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Gardens offer a few beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway hikes, mixing mountain view trails and flowery surroundings.

  • Craggy Gardens Trail: 1.9 miles roundtrip, this trail weaves through flowers and shrubs. Rest for lunch or a snack at the picnic tables at the end of the trail before heading back.
  • Douglas Falls Trail: The Craggy Gardens Trail intersects with Douglas Falls Trail. The trail leads you on an 8-mile roundtrip to the 70-foot Douglas Creek Falls.
  • Craggy Pinnacle Trail: This “trail” is more of a drive but you’ll need to climb up some steep stairs to reach the peak. For such an easy hike, the views do not disappoint!

Grandfather Mountain

  • Grandfather Mountain State Park is 55 minutes away from Burnsville
  • The Private Attraction is 1 hour 5 minutes away from Burnsville
Grandfather Mountain NC

Grandfather Mountain is many things, including a mountain, a non-profit tourist attraction with a mile-high swinging bridge, and a North Carolina State Park.

You can reach Grandfather Mountain’s NC State Parks side from the bridge, where some difficult hiking trails and rewarding views await. The include the following:

  • The Grandfather Trail (2.4 miles) is reachable via the Underwood Trail (0.5 miles). The Grandfather Trail is advanced-level and will take you to the Calloway Peak, the highest of Grandfather Mountain’s four summits.
  • The Grandfather Trail also connects with the Profile Trail (3.6 miles), another popular yet tough hike in this state park. The Profile Trail leads to both the Profile View and Foscoe View.

A fantastic annual event is the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, held each July. The GMHG brings colors to Macrae Meadows with pageantry, athletic competitions, and more to celebrate North Carolina’s Scots-Irish heritage.

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

Linville Falls

Distance from Burnsville: 29 miles (40 minutes)

Linville Falls NC Waterfall Plunge Basin Trail View at the Base

The Linville Gorge Wilderness Area is home to some of our favorite hikes in North Carolina. Linville Falls is another excellent Blue Ridge Parkway stop (MP 316.3), running over the gorge and a beautiful sight!

A 2-mile round-trip hike will take you to three different vantage points of the falls. For more of a challenge, the Plunge Basin Trail approaches the waterfall from the opposite side and will take you to the base of Linville Falls.

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

Mount Mitchell Trails

Deep Gap Trail Mt Mitchell

We love to drive up but hiking Mount Mitchell is also one of our favorite things to do near Burnsville. Here are a few trails for you:

  • The Black Mountain Crest Trail has been touted as one of the most challenging hikes in North Carolina and can be a fantastic 2-3 day hike. Crossing five peaks over 6,00 feet over 12 miles, the Black Mountain Crest Trail is one way to scale the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi. The trail ends at the observation deck.
  • If you would like a great view of Mount Mitchell, the Deep Gap Trail offers excellent views of this magnificent mountain. Starting from Mount Craig, the second-highest peak in the eastern United States is a moderate two-mile round trip hike.
  • An easier alternative is the Balsam Nature Trail. An easy 3/4-mile loop walks through the forest with informational signs along the path.

This trail is an excellent example of how diverse the geological features and flora of Mount Mitchell are compared to the rest of North Carolina’s mountains.

Read More: Colorful Fall Hikes in North Carolina (+ 20 Beautiful Places to Explore!)

Roaring Fork Falls

Distance from Burnsville: 17 miles (30 minutes away)

Roaring Fork Falls Burnsville 1

Located at the base of Mount Mitchell, Roaring Fork Falls is another great outdoor activity in Burnsville. It would be easy to do both on the same day since it is only seven miles away from Crabtree Falls.

Reaching Roaring Fork Falls is so easy, we probably wouldn’t call it a hike. You’ll walk half a mile along a mostly flat and paved forest service road.

This 100-foot-long cascade weaves along the rocks and is framed by rhododendrons and greenery.

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

Rough Ridge Trail

Distance from Burnsville: 41 miles (1 hour away)

Winter Hikes in North Carolina Rough Ridge Trail Boone NC Blue Ridge Parkway

Despite the name, Rough Ridge is one of the loveliest hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s certainly the shining star of the Tanawha Trail, offering some of the most stunning views and foliage!

While only 1.5-miles roundtrip, the trail changes by more than 480 feet in elevation relatively quickly, so be prepared for a fast steady incline.

Setrock Creek Falls

Distance from Burnsville: 20 miles (40 minutes away)

Setrock Waterfall

Also at the base of Mount Mitchell is Setrock Creek Falls, a 75-foot easy waterfall hike that can easily be done before hiking the big one that we’ll get to next.

The Setrock Creek Falls hike is a flat 1-mile round trip that starts from the Black Mountain Campground. While the parking lot may fill up, the hike and falls are surprisingly not as crowded.

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

Towns Near Burnsville

If you’re in the area for a while, we think you’ll love these neighboring towns. They’re full of great things to do near Burnsville.

Spruce Pine

Distance from Burnsville: 15 miles (20 minutes away)

Burnettes Country Store Spruce Pine

Spruce Pine in Mitchell County is about 20 minutes away from Burnsville and is full of fun adventures. As mentioned, Emerald Village is a great place near Burnsville, perfect for finding gems and gold seven days a week from spring through fall.

Stroll around downtown Spruce Pine, and you’ll find some great small businesses to visit (including Burnette’s Country Store) and great eats at The Tropical Grill.

We think you’ll enjoy downtown Spruce Pine throughout the year, but the place especially livens up during its NC Mineral and Gem Festival in August and SPACE (Spruce Pine Alien Conference & Expo) in June.


Distance from Burnsville: 18 miles (30 minutes)

Roan Mountain Carvers Gap NC Rhododendrons

Bakersville is the another Mitchell County town near Burnsville. The county seat also hosts a beautiful art scene featured in the cooperative Mica Gallery.

Bakersville is also the perfect gateway to Roan Mountain. One of the best views of Mount Mitchell and North Carolina’s High Country is from Carvers Gap.

Turn around and you can look into Tennessee, too.

If you want to visit the area during a specific time of year, June’s Rhododendron Festival headlines the annual fun.

Read More: The Best NC Mountain Towns

Little Switzerland

Distance from Burnsville: 21 miles (30 minutes away)

We mentioned Little Switzerland is a great Blue Ridge Parkway stop and we want to share more about this wonderful town.

The Switzerland Inn is a beautiful place to stay, but also great for lunch and dinner with a view.

Of course, we also think you should also stop by the Switzerland Café in town.

There, you’ll find a great coffee shop, used books, and a general store with some of the area’s most delicious smoked barbecue sandwiches!

Read More: North Carolina Barbecue (27 Iconic Restaurants, History, and More)


Distance from Burnsville: 36 miles (40 minutes away)

SW Cafe Fall Colors in Asheville NC

Asheville is the largest city in the NC mountains and is just 40 minutes from Burnsville. We’ve used it as a base many times, but it’s also a great spot to drive into from Burnsville.

Asheville is 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 also an amazing 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: The Wild and Wonderful WNC Nature Center in Asheville


Distance from Burnsville: 29 miles (40 minutes away)

Madison County seat Marshall sits just west of Burnsville and is one of our favorites. This mountain town’s Main Street 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: Max Patch Trail (A Short Hike to Beautiful 360-Degree Views!)


Distance from Burnsville: 33 miles (50 minutes away)

Things to do in Marion NC downtown

Marion is about 50 minutes from Burnsville, and you’ll likely pass through it if you’re traveling from Central and Eastern North Carolina. The town is known as the place “where Main Street meets the mountains.”

We love strolling through town and grabbing a bite at Bruce’s Fabulous Foods. A visit to Mount Ida or the beautiful Tom’s Creek Falls are the perfect way to walk off all the delicious meals that await in town.

Read More: 25+ Beautiful Waterfalls near Boone (within 2 Hours)

Banner Elk

Distance from Burnsville: 43 miles (1 hour away)

Floating high at 3,700 feet is one of our favorite places to visit near Burnsville—Banner Elk. The Woolly Worm Festival in October is one of the biggest events, but we frequently visit and can’t get enough of this place.

Grandfather Vineyard and Banner Elk Winery are two lovely spots along the water. While in the area, don’t miss out on Apple Hill Farm, an ethical and working alpaca farm!

Down the road from Banner Elk is Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain, two 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: 12 Amazing Restaurants in Banner Elk, NC and Nearby (+ Where to Drink!)

Black Mountain

Distance from Burnsville: 52 miles (1 hour away)

Downtown Black Mountain

Just east of Asheville and off I-40 (Exits 64 and 65), Black Mountain features quaint shops, impressive restaurants (including Blue Ridge Biscuit Company), some of our favorite breweries, and many great local shops.

We love this town throughout the year, but for two days in August, Black Mountain comes together to host the Sourwood Festival, full of food, arts and crafts, rides, and bees!

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

Old Fort

Distance from Burnsville: 41 miles (1 hour away)

Old Fort North Carolina Hillman
Hillman Beer.

Finally, Old Fort is another great mountain town near Burnsville and also off I-40 (Exit 73). The town is best known for gold and Catawba Falls, but this is a nice place to visit beyond those two fun attractions.

There’s a bit of a dispute that we won’t get into, 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.

Spend some time perusing the food menu while sipping a beer at Hillman and we think you’ll become a loyal customer.

We also recommend a stop at the Mountain Gateway Museum. The exhibits inside will help you learn about the region’s history and where it stands today.

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

Is Burnsville NC Worth Visiting?

We say Burnsville is absolutely worth visiting. Why? Well, here’s a quick summary.

Burnsville’s diverse, community-oriented art scene, with studios scattered throughout the area, gives you as many sights to enjoy as the nearby falls, mountains, and rivers.

Don’t let yourself stare from a distance. It’s too wondrous for that. Keep reading. Discover more about the next small town you’re going to visit on the western edges of our state.

We hope you’ll consider Burnsville as your next place to visit because based on what we’ve discovered here, there’s so much to this area.

And if you’ve been lucky enough to spend time here, we’d love to know about your favorite fun things to do in Burnsville NC and Yancey County (and nearby). Let us know in the comments section!

Don’t forget to share your adventures in Burnsville with our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group! Photos are welcome.

More Burnsville NC Things to Do (Travel Guides)

We have created many more NC travel guides that include these amazing things to do in Burnsville. Here are a few of them.

4 thoughts on “50+ Awesome Things to Do in Burnsville and Yancey County (and Nearby!)”

  1. Thanks for this great overview of Burnsville. My wife and I will be visiting in a few weeks, and this is a big help to us.


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