The Ultimate Guide To Asheville and the Western North Carolina Mountains
The Ultimate Guide to Asheville & the Western North Carolina Mountains

The Online Version of the Best-selling Regional Guidebook
 

Susanna Pantas, Artist

Daytrips & Itineraries

Pen & Ink Drawings of Biltmore Estate, by Lee James Pantas

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Linn Cove Viaduct, Blue Ridge Parkway, pen & ink drawing by Lee James Pantas 

     For visitors new to an area, planning some day trips or itineraries can be a challenge, especially in an area as rich in interesting things to do as Western North Carolina. Considering the size and scope of the mountains, the task can seem overwhelming. In an attempt to make your visit easier, I have presented below a number of itineraries, both local and farther afield, from which you can choose. If your itinerary takes out way out into the mountains, or along the Blue Ridge Parkway, check out Planning A Gourmet Picnic for some recommended stores and markets to stock up your picnic basket.

Best places in Asheville to fill a picnic basket!   


Asheville NCDowntown Asheville The best way to experience downtown Asheville is by walking the Urban Trail. This self-guided tour takes a few hours and follows thematic markers. A wonderful way to see the city.



Biltmore Village, pen and ink drawing by Lee James PantasHistoric Asheville If you are interested in history and especially architecture, then there are a number of self-guided tours by car that you might be interested in doing. These self-guided tours visit four of Asheville’s historic districts: Montford, Chestnut Hill, Grove Park and Biltmore Village.


Historic Henderson County Courthouse, Hendersonville NCHistoric Hendersonville A self-guided walking tour of  historic Main Street in downtown Hendersonville. Includes the historic Henderson County Courthouse.
 


Flat Rock Playhouse, Flat Rock NCHistoric Flat Rock Self-guided tour by car of historic Flat Rock that includes stops at the Flat Rock Playhouse, St. John in the Wilderness Church
 

 

Biltmore House

Biltmore Estate A visit to Biltmore Estate is one of the high points of any visit to Asheville and highly recommended. You will want to allow a minimum of half a day to see the grounds and estate as well as allowing time to eat at one of the Biltmore Estate’s three fine restaurants. Afterwards, be sure and take some time to visit the historic Biltmore Village just outside the estate entrance.

High Country Adventure For this tour, allow a whole day. Start off by packing a gourmet picnic  and heading east on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Your first stop will be the Folk Art Center just east of Asheville at milepost 382; then continue north to Craggy Gardens at milepost 364. Here you will find nature trails, native rhododendron and magnificent views. Continue on to Mount Mitchell State Park at milepost 355  and hike the short distance to the tower on the summit. Mount Mitchell will be a great place to picnic. After lunch continue up the parkway to Grandfather Mountain at milepost 305.  After visiting Grandfather, if you have time, there are a couple of excellent options. You can visit Linville Caverns or take in Tweetsie Railroad. Return to Asheville by Highway 19 East through Burnsville.

Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Cherokee NCThe Land of the Cherokee
Allow one full day for this outing that will take you two hours west to Cherokee Indian Reservation. Take I-40 west from Asheville and get off at Exit 27. Follow 19/23 & 74 to Cherokee. At Cherokee you will want to also visit the Oconaluftee Indian Village. During the afternoon you may wish to drive south on U.S. 441 about 14 miles to Dillsboro and take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railway.

Looking Glass Falls, Pisgah National Forest, NCWaterfalls & Trout! This day trip is a great one for kids. Be sure and bring a picnic lunch. You will be visiting the Pisgah District of the Pisgah National Forest and seeing some spectacular waterfalls. Take the Blue Ridge Parkway south and stop at the Pisgah Inn for some wonderful views of the mountains. Just beyond, get on 276 south and follow this into the forest. Stop at the Cradle of Forestry and visit the Forest Discovery Center. Continue on and turn right on Forest Road 445 to the Fish Hatchery. The kids will really love this. They can hand-feed monster trout! After the fish hatchery, continue on to Sliding Rock, where they can put on their bathing suits and slide down a wonderful natural waterslide. After Sliding Rock, the nearby Looking Glass Falls is the perfect place for a picnic lunch. If you have time you may wish to see other waterfalls in the area.

Last of the Mohicans This day trip is also a great one for kids. It will take you from an historic site in Asheville to the exact spot where the famous trail scene in “The Last of the Mohicans” was filmed. Begin your tour in Asheville by taking Charlotte Street to #265, The Manor. This impressive historic building  was where the head-quarters scene in the movie “Last of the Mohicans” was filmed. Cast members of an earlier movie, “The Swan,” including Grace Kelly, also stayed here while filming. After visiting the Manor, return by way of Charlotte Street and get on I-240 east. Get off at exit 9  and take Scenic Byway 74A through beautiful Fairview to Hickory Nut Gap. While passing through Hickory Nut Gap, you will see the historic Sherrill’s Inn. Continue on 74A through Bat Cave (so named for the numerous bat caves in the area) and down into Chimney Rock. This will be your major destination  and at Chimney Rock you will be able to hike the wonderful trails with their unbelievable views. One of the trails, the Cliff Trail, takes you to the exact spot where the climactic fight between Chingachgook and Magua took place in the “The Last of the Mohicans.”

After Chimney Rock, which will take you two-three hours, return to your car and journey on 74A to Lake Lure. At the beginning of the lake is a public beach where the kids can swim. Finish out the day with a wonderful boat tour of Lake Lure. Lake Lure is one of the most beautiful man-made lakes in the world and this boat ride is a real treat. The boats are operated by Lake Lure Tours and are located at the Lake Lure Marina on Highway 64/74A. Return to Asheville by taking 74A west from Lake Lure through Chimney Rock and then turning left on Highway 64 towards Hendersonville. This will take you through  the Henderson County apple growing region  and to I-26, which you will take north to Asheville.

Thomas WolfeFamous Authors If the lives of famous writers interest you, this is the day trip for you. Begin by visiting the Thomas Wolfe Memorial  in the morning. After touring the historic boyhood home of Thomas Wolfe, travel to nearby Riverside Cemetery in the Montford Historic District, where Wolfe and author O. Henry (William Sidney Porter) are buried. From the Wolfe memorial get on I-240 heading west and get off at the next exit, Montford. Take Montford Avenue north into the Montford area and turn left onto Cullowee Street. Turn right onto Pearson Drive and then left onto Birch Street to the cemetery. After visiting the grave sites, drive to the famous Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa for lunch by retracing your steps to I-240 and going east to the Charlotte Street exit. Take Charlotte Street to Macon Avenue and then to the hotel. Many famous authors, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, have stayed at this historic resort. After lunch, travel to Hendersonville via I-240 west and I-26 south. Take exit 18 off I-26 onto 64 west. Follow 64 west to just beyond Hendersonville. Look for Oakdale Cemetery on your left and the State Historic Highway Marker indicating the Thomas Wolfe Angel.  You may park your car and get out and visit this lovely statue which Wolfe immortalized in his famous novel Look Homeward Angel. After viewing the statue return to Hendersonville by way of 64 east. Turn right on Main Street (Highway 25 south) and follow this through Hendersonville to Flat Rock, a few miles south. In Flat Rock, you will pass by the famous Flat Rock Playhouse , where the dramatic works of legendary authors are performed every summer. Turn right onto Little River Road just beyond the playhouse and visit the home of poet Carl Sandburg, “Connemara.” After touring the home and seeing the grounds, return to Asheville by Highway 25 north through Hendersonville and then on I-26.

 

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