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
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.
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:
Grove Park and
A self-guided walking tour of historic Main Street in downtown
Hendersonville. Includes the historic Henderson County Courthouse.
Historic 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
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
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
Linville Caverns or take in
Tweetsie Railroad. Return to Asheville
by Highway 19 East through Burnsville.
The Land of the Cherokee
Allow one full day for this outing that will take you two hours west
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
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.
Waterfalls & 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
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
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
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
region and to I-26, which you will
take north to Asheville.
Famous 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
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.