20 Awesome Things to Do in Burnsville and Yancey County

Last Updated on September 8, 2021

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If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.

First glance at a map of Burnsville and of Yancey County reveals the bucket-list-worthy Mount Mitchell and the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you’ve been fortunate enough to see that mountain and drive that wonderful road, you already know this. You may also know nearby Crabtree Falls.

Those awesome places share Yancey County with Burnsville, a lovely mountain town in Western North Carolina we think you should consider. Here, you’ll find a series of historic buildings packed with wonderful places to eat, shop and plan your next outdoor adventure.

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. Fun events honor all the fun things to do in Burnsville, and Yancey County, throughout the year.

Don’t let yourself just 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.

This post is mainly about all the things to do in Burnsville and Yancey County, but we’ve supplemented it with a few more important things, such as lodging and food. Here’s how we’ve organized things:

  • Lodging in Burnsville
  • Things to Do in Burnsville
  • Restaurants in Burnsville and Yancey County
  • More Things to Do in Burnsville (Related Posts)
  • Nearby Places
  • More Things to Do in Western North Carolina (Related Posts)

Since it’s just a short drive away, we’ve also included Burnsville in our guides to day trips from Asheville and also, Boone.

Lodging in Burnsville

There are plenty of beautiful places to stay in Burnsville. From the beautiful Buck House Inn at Bucktown Stables to private mountain cabin retreats with Greybeard Realty, lodging in Burnsville provides for beautiful mountain getaways.

The Nu-Wray Inn

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

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

Airbnb in Town

If you are looking for a more intimate setting, you can’t go wrong with Mary Jane’s Guest Room. The Yancey County Chamber-Commerce arranged for us to stay here and we loved the convenient location and cozy interior.

This Airbnb is located next to Laura’s Pizzeria e Trattoria and is an open floor plan with three beds, a kitchen, and the sweetest host you’ll find in all of North Carolina.

Things to Do in Burnsville and Yancey County

The Burns Statue (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 were instrumental in advocating for more county lines to be drawn in the West.

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

Local Art (Toe River Arts, Penland, and Beyond)

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.

Executive Director Nealy Andrews joined us to share more about the organization during this NC Travel Chat!

Penland School of Craft

The world-renowned Penland School of Craft is also near Burnsville and a huge part of this area’s art scene. The workshop school attracts artisans from all over the world to study, 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!

Toe River Arts

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

OOAK (Micaville)

OOAK Gallery Burnsville

Another incredible way to connect with the community’s creatives is at One of a Kind Art Gallery (OOAK). Located in the 1922 Micaville Country Store, OOAK exhibits come from more than 170 local and regional artisans.

Bringing local art to the community in one central place is just the beginning of OOAK’s mission.

One of a Kind Gallery

They also give back to the community by providing a space for Shortbus Studio, an organization serving adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. OOAK also offers live music from local musicians every Saturday morning.

Toe River Studio Tours

Toe River Arts Council

We briefly mentioned Toe River Studio Tours and these biannual events a perfect for art lovers. Held the first weekend of June and December, the tour highlights over 100 artisans from the two mountain counties of Yancey and Mitchell.

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 (Pieper Glass)

Kenny Pieper of Pieper Glass is a Penland graduate whose exquisite studio features traditional Italian glass. You may already know his work, since some of it features 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 this episode of NC Travel Chat!

Claudia and John (Yummy Mud Puddle)

Yummy Mud Puddle
John D. Richards sculpture studio

Another must-see artist studio in Yancey County is Yummy Mud Puddle! 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.

Mount Mitchell Crafts Fair

For two days each August, 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.

Parkway Playhouse

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 definitely want to be there for curtain call!

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

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 of these Yancey County quilt blocks is the downtown Quilt Block Sundial on the side of the Common Times Journal building (22 North Main St). It is the largest vertical sundial in North Carolina and the only quilt block sundial in the world!

One particular barn quilt building is in our guide to the coolest Airbnbs in North Carolina, too!

Outdoor Tours in Burnsville

With so many ways to explore the outdoors in Burnsville, there are a number of 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 or Burnsville Anglers for the best experience.

Snakeroot Ecotours

Snakeroot Ecotours guides you off-the-beaten-path to explore nature in a brand new 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.

NC Outdoor Adventures

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, 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.

Bucktown Stables

And our last tours to mention are the ones offered at Bucktown Stables! Start with a two-hour guided horseback ride through the quiet mountains of Yancey County.

You can even make it an entire weekend experience by staying at The Buck House Inn, which is within walking distance from the stables.

Bare Dark Sky Observatory

Located at the Mayland Earth-to-Sky Park, Bare Dark Sky Observatory is the largest public telescope in North Carolina open for the community to peer into the depths of our universe. Guided tours and viewings are available and the observatory is used by astronomy students to allow for real world experience and hands-on learning.

Sitting high above the mountains at 2,736 feet, the Bare Dark Sky Observatory gives 360-degree views of Yancey County. The “Sam Scope” telescope is custom-built with a 34-inch diameter mirror.

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

The Blue Ridge Parkway

We will mention the Yancey County highlights on the Blue Ridge Parkway shortly, but wanted to mention a few within an hour and 30 minutes of Burnsville.

To the south and toward Asheville on the Parkway is Craggy Gardens (MP 364), about an hour away from Burnsville. That’s the beginning of a fun section, which includes Graveyard Fields and the trail that leads to Skinny Dip Falls.

North of Burnsville, you’ll definitely want to visit Linville Falls (MP 316) at least once in your life. It’s about 40 minutes away and starts some of the best Parkway stops in the High Country. Our favorite places in that area include Beacon Heights (MP 306), Linn Cove Viaduct (MP 304), Rough Ridge Trail (MP 303), and Boone Fork Trail (MP 300).

Keep going and you’ll end up at Moses H Cone Memorial Park (MP 294), about an hour and 15 minutes away and just outside downtown Blowing Rock.

Hiking in Burnsville and Yancey County

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs through Yancey County, but more importantly, this is where you’ll find the Black Mountains. That’s why there are some awesome hikes throughout this area.

The folks at Explore Burnsville, in coordination with NC High Peaks, have created a couple of very useful maps that you can access here.

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.

Crabtree Falls

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 particularly beautiful in the summer, when there are plenty of rhododendrons and mountain laurels blooming along your hike to the falls.

Crabtree Falls is the first of a few Yancey County outdoor spots that we also included in our guide to hikes near Asheville!

Roaring Fork Falls

Roaring Fork Falls Burnsville 1

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

Reaching Roaring Fork Falls is actually 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 framed by rhododendrons and greenery.

Setrock Creek Falls

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.

Mount Mitchell State Park

Mt. Mitchell

At towering 6,684 feet in elevation, Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi. 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 there are 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.

Mount Mitchell Trails

The Black Mountain Crest Trail has been touted as one of the most difficult 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.

Deep Gap Trail Mt Mitchell

If you would like a great view of Mount Mitchell, the Deep Gap Trail offers great views of this magnificent mountain. Starting from Mount Craig, the second highest peak in the eastern United States, the hike 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 a great example of how diverse the geological features and flora of Mount Mitchell are compared to the rest of North Carolina’s mountains.

Restaurants in Burnsville

After all this exploring, driving, and hiking, you’re going to want something good to eat. And don’t worry because there are plenty of food options in Burnsville.

Snap Dragon Burnsville

There is no shortage of delicious restaurants in Burnsville! You can dig into incredible sandwiches at Ye Olde Country Store, enjoy a great beer selection and beautiful patio at Snap Dragon, and devour delicious elevated dishes at Mountain Chef Bistro!

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, 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. 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.

Garden Deli is next to Town Square and boasts beautiful outdoor seating for some of the most delicious sandwiches and entrees. You can even eat for a cause at Burnsville’s Rescue Dog Café, where a percentage of every coffee sold goes to animals in need.

Lauras Pizzeria Burnsville NC 1

And don’t forget the ever-popular Laura’s Pizzeria e Trattoria! Here, you’ll be treated to specialty wood-fired doughy pizzas and perfectly al dente pasta.

The food and the ambiance make for a wonderful evening meal. We highly recommend this Burnsville restaurant!

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

Ready For a Burnsville and Yancey County Getaway?

The bigger city of Asheville and High Country favorites Boone and Blowing Rock might be within a short drive, but we really think Burnsville makes quite a bit of noise in our mountains.

We really 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 things to do in Burnsville and Yancey County. Let us know in the comments section!

Places to Go Nearby

If you’re in the area for an extended time, there are a few more wonderful places in nearby counties to spend a day (or longer).


Distance from Burnsville: 18 miles (30 minutes)

Bakersville is first of three Mitchell County spots we’ll mention that are within a short drive from Burnsville. The county seat also hosts a wonderful art scene featured in the cooperative Mica Gallery.

Bakersville offers access to Roan Mountain and the Toe River. And if you want to visit during a specific time of year, June‘s Rhododendron Festival headlines the annual fun.

Little Switzerland

Distance from Burnsville: 21 miles (32 minutes)

Little Switzerland is one of our favorite small towns in North Carolina for quite a few reasons. The Switzerland Inn is a wonderful place to stay and beyond its collection of shops, we 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 most delicious smoked barbecue sandwiches!

That place is so good, that we included it in our guide to North Carolina barbecue.

Spruce Pine

Distance from Burnsville: 15 miles (21 minutes)

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.

For places to spend additional time, we love Bear Den Mountain Resort & Campground. It’s one of our favorite places to stay in North Carolina, thanks to well-maintained spots and cabins. There are even great hiking trails on the property.

We also included Bear Den among our favorite places to stay in North Carolina.

More Things to Do in Burnsville and Yancey County

More Things to Do in Western North Carolina

4 thoughts on “20 Awesome Things to Do in Burnsville and Yancey County”

  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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