1. Hike the Triple Falls trail at Dupont State Forest
89 Buck Forest Road, , 28718
While there are many waterfalls in the region, Triple Falls really stands out (as its' name implies) as you get to see 3 wonderful waterfalls via a moderate hike of just over 3 miles roundtrip. The 2 taller waterfalls, High Falls and Triple Falls, are powerful 125 foot wonders.
Also, movie fans will probably be interested to learn that The Hunger Games" was filmed here. If that isn't enough, there is a short detour to a beautiful covered bridge. Add in some lovely fall foliage, and the Triple Falls hike is easily one of the best hiking experiences you can have in the WNC region. Note - this one is busy, so you will want to arrive earlier in the morning to ensure parking.
2. Cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway
Various, , 28806
"America's Favorite Drive" travels a beautiful winding course through 29 counties in North Carolina and Virginia, for a total distance of 469 miles. The uninterrupted natural views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and access to hikes, scenic overlooks, picnicking areas, museums, and more make it a great choice for the nature lover, history buff, and adventurous hiker.
The Pisgah section in WNC is one of the most exciting sections of the drive. Covering a large range of land from Milepost 339 to 469, there's much to do and see here. Must-dos include hiking the summits of Craggy Pinnacle and Devil's Courthouse, visiting Mt. Mitchell State Park (the highest peak east of the Mississippi), exploring the Folk Art Center (southern Appalachia arts and crafts museum), hiking to the highest point on the Parkway (Richard Balsam), and waterfall viewing (Graveyard Fields, Crabtree).
3. View a roadside waterfall
Various, , 28712
One of the state's prettiest waterfalls, 60 foot tall Looking Glass Falls, is easily accessible to everyone as it is located right off the Hwy. Unfortunately, the convenient location also means big crowds. During the hot & humid summer months, the waterfall doubles as a swimming hole.
Visiting during the winter months will ensure less tourist traffic. At this time, you will also see why the waterfall was named as so. When the water freezes on the rock in winter, it glistens in the sun, thus creating a mirror like appearance. Since Looking Glass Falls will not take up much of your time, you may want to combine your visit with an area hike (check out Moore Cove Falls - an easy hike to a 50 foot waterfall you can stand underneath!).
Other roadside beauties include Dry Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Soco Falls.
4. Climb to the top of Chimney Rock
Highway 64/74A, , 28720
One of the treasures of North Carolina, Chimney Rock State Park, is well worth a spot on your bucket list. First off, you will want to challenge your legs to the exhausting 499 step climb up to this ancient 500+ million year old monolith. In return for all your foot pounding, you will be rewarded with the most amazing panoramic vista of the mountains and Lake Lure. Really, it is one of the most stunning viewpoints in the entire state. Note - an elevator ride is available as an alternative, although 40 steps are still required.
While you are here, you will also want to check out Hickory Nut Falls, the state's 2nd tallest waterfall at a whopping 404 feet! This wonder of nature was featured in The Last of the Mohicans. You can get really up close and personal to this one, even feeling the mist, and all it requires is a moderate hike of just under 2 miles round-trip. Strolling this easy, mostly flat trail will feel like a complete breeze after hiking up Chimney Rock.
5. Leaf peep at Catawba Falls
3074 Catawba River Road, , 28762
Not only is Catawba Falls one of the most photogenic waterfalls in the WNC region, it is also a leaf peeping hotspot - the colors are gorgeous during the entire fall season. The 100 foot multi cascade waterfall is quite a mesmerizing sight, and thus, attracts plenty of foot traffic. The convenient half hour drive from Asheville doesn't hurt either.
This one will require a little bit of effort via a moderately steep 1.5 mile out-and-back hike, although nothing too strenuous/ out of the ordinary for any regular hiker/gym goer. Do visit during the peak of autumn to enjoy the lovely foliage that WNC is so famous for.
6. Visit Asheville
Page Avenue, , 28801
Asheville is the gateway to exploring all the wonders of Western North Carolina. Due to its' central location, it's easy to plan a daytrip to just about anywhere in WNC. Most of the grandest waterfalls/hikes are located within an hour and a half drive. Even better, the city is a destination in and of itself. It's been rated one of the best food cities in the South and has been nicknamed the "San Francisco of the East" for its' strong arts culture.
Notable attractions in the city include the Biltmore Estate, the North Carolina Arboretum, the Asheville Pinball Museum, Grovewood Village, as well as numerous galleries and breweries (the city is home to the most breweries per capita). Take a stroll around downtown, check out the local coffee scene (High Five is great!) and be sure to feast at a local restaurant (Blue Dream Curry House, Chai Pani, Pack's Tavern - all fantastic).
Outside of downtown, Andaaz (upscale Indian buffet), Vinnie's (authentic NY style Italian), and White Duck (tasty a la carte tacos) are all worthy of a visit.
7. Take a cruise on Lake Lure
2930 Memorial Highway, , 28746
Lake Lure has been rated one of the "15 most beautiful lakes in the world" by National Geographic. As soon as you arrive, you will have no problem seeing why this North Carolina beauty earned a place on this prestigious list. The gorgeous Blue Ridge mountains create a picture-perfect backdrop. This lake is heavily visited by tourists, not only for its' immense beauty, but also because it is a famous movie filming site. The dazzling Blue Ridge Mountains were a perfect stand in for the equally beautiful Catskill mountains in NY where Dirty Dancing took place.
During your boat tour, your narrator will point out notable Dirty Dancing filming locations including the steps Baby danced on and the famous Swazye/Grey water lift scenes. There's a small museum to explore, an annual Dirty Dancing festival, and you can even book a night at the same resort the cast stayed in during filming (1927 Lake Lure Inn).
8. Dine, spa, and/or stay at the Omni Grove Park Inn
290 Macon Avenue, , 28804
Western North Carolina's premier resort, the 4 star Omni Grove Park Inn, is the best place to stay in the region, hands down. The beautiful Blue Ridge mountains create a dramatic backdrop. Every restaurant and amenity is surrounded by pristine natural beauty. The subterranean spa (voted one of the best by Conde Nast) is a true oasis and quite possibly one of the best in the US. Also, the Daniel Ross designed golf course is the best in the region.
While the resort is quite pricey, you can plan a daytrip to enjoy the amenities. The Blue Ridge Artisanal Buffet features floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the mountains. It's by far the most scenic restaurant in the state.
During the holidays, you will want to stop by to marvel at the incredible National Gingerbread House Competition. The prestigious competition is judged by industry experts. Winning houses are on display in what has become Asheville's premier holiday tradition. Also, the entire resort looks gorgeous for Christmas! Do treat yourself to a salted caramel hot cocoa by the massive lobby fireplace!
9. Hike to the summit of Devil's Courthouse
Milepost 422.4, , 28716
Fabulous views, a little bit of mystery, and a great workout are all rolled into one on the Parkway's best short hike. This summit hike offers one of the best viewpoints of the mountains on the entire drive. The hike is a very steep half mile climb, but worth it for the tremendous Blue Ridge mountain vistas which await you at the top at 5720 feet. A great alternative to a boring gym workout any day! This is one of those awe inspiring views that you have to see for yourself to believe. Legend says that the Devil lives in a cave under the sinister looking rock formation.
Fortunately, the tourists seem to skip this one over, so enjoy the rare opportunity to soak in the tremendous mountain scenery all to yourself. Tip - visit at sunset for the most incredible experience. While you are in the vicinity, consider the short walk to Graveyard Fields, an incredible waterfall which really sparkles during the colorful fall season.
10. Hike to a rare treeless grassy bald
Milepost 420, , 28716
Black Balsam Knob is possibly one of the most rewarding hikes in all of North Carolina. The trek up to this unique grassy bald offers views which are not commonly seen in this area due to the hefty tree coverage. Grassy balds are basically treeless meadows of unknown origin. As you can imagine, the views are out-of-this-world, with a true alpine feeling as you gaze at the towering mountains surrounding you in every direction.
This trail begins on the Art Loeb trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway. After a hike of about a mile and a half, you will be rewarded with the most amazing 360 degree views of the mountains. This one is a real hassle to find parking, but worth it in the end for endless one-of-a-kind bird's eye vistas of the beautiful Blue Ridge area.