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Our guide to outdoor adventure near Asheville, North Carolina

With a bustling downtown and wide variety of outdoor opportunities, Asheville has a lot to offer for adventure enthusiasts!

By: Aurora Slaughter + Save to a List

With easy access to the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountain ranges, Pisgah National Forest, and DuPont State Forest, it is no wonder Asheville is considered an outdoor adventurer’s playground.

Planning a trip to Asheville? Use this guide for a chance to get outside and experience the stunning natural beauty North Carolina has to offer.

Hiking

There are miles upon miles of trails within several hours of Asheville with a variety of difficulty levels and amazing views. Some of the most popular hiking destinations are the Pisgah National Forest and Blue Ridge Parkway. Here are a few ideas to help with your hiking plans. 

1. Summit Mount Mitchell via the Old Mitchell Trail

Panoramic views of pine trees and mountain peaks
Photo by Brett Kelly

Distance: 4.5 miles
Elevation: 484 ft
Type: Out-and-Back

Standing at 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. This trail winds through a stunning Southern Appalachian alpine forest and culminates in panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

2. Hike Catawba Falls

A waterfall cascades over moss-covered rocks
Photo by Justin Costner

Distance: 2.19 miles
Elevation: 394 ft
Type: Out-and-Back

Trek through a sun-dappled valley filled with lush greenery and marvel at the sight of a 100-foot waterfall on this relatively short and easy hike.

Note: this trail is temporarily closed from May 2022 through Spring 2023 for trail maintenance to improve visitor safety and accessibility.


3. Moore Cove Falls

a waterfall tumbles out of a hole in the cliff and splatters the ground
Photo by Erin McGrady

Distance: 1.28 miles
Elevation: 223 ft
Type: Out-and-Back

This short hike is a great option for the whole family. It crosses a foot bridge and follows a smooth, flat trail though thickly blanketed forest toward a 50-foot waterfall. You can even walk behind the falls! There are well-placed yellow blazes to mark where to go on this minimal-elevation trail.

Biking

Whether you want to leisurely pedal down a smooth path or kick up the adrenaline with some mountain biking, there are many great options around Asheville.

1. Mountain Biking Bent Creek 

A mountain biker takes a jump on the trail
Photo by Rob Giersch

Bent Creek is considered one of the best places to go mountain biking in North Carolina. With a variety of trails offering everything from loops and downhill runs to tunnels and creek crossings, there is something for every mountain biking enthusiast and skill level to enjoy.

2. Hominy Creek Greenway

This fairly flat and smooth trail is within Asheville’s city limits. Take a leisurely bike next to the creek or use this trail as a connector to some of the other city bike paths like the French Broad River Greenway. This trail will make you feel as though you have escaped the hustle and bustle of the city without having to drive too far away.

3. Big Rock, Cedar Rock, Little River and Corn Mill Shoals Trail

Distance: 3.67 miles
Elevation: 535 ft
Type: Loop

Enjoy the beauty of exposed granite rock, lush vegetation, and stunning wildflowers during a ride along this trail. This is a moderate route that is great for any bikers looking for a bit of a challenge.

Climbing

With numerous mountain ranges filled with impressive granite slabs, North Carolina has some world-class climbing opportunities. Whether you are just starting out or a seasoned expert, there are climbing adventures awaiting you near Asheville.

1. Looking Glass Rock

A valley covered in lush vegetation
Photo by Justin Costner

Distance: 4.53 miles
Elevation: 1572 ft
Type: Out-and-back

After a stunning hike through the forest, you will arrive at one of the most popular climbing locations in North Carolina. This area offers 164 routes, including the world-famous route The Nose, perfect for whatever style of climbing you like best. From trad and top rope, to bouldering and sport climbing this destination has it all.

2. Boulder at Rumbling Bald

A person boulders up a rock face
Photo by Blake Rouse

Distance: 1.5 miles
Type: Loop

This is a great spot for all levels. As one of the largest bouldering locations in Southeastern United States, visitors can try their hand at over 882 documented climbing routes. Enjoy long slab routes, overhung roof cracks, and everything in between.

3. Hike to and Climb Pickens Nose

A rock climber looks down the crack
Photo by Dwayne Parton

Distance: 1.5 miles
Elevation: 200 ft
Type: Out-and-back

Take a short hike to this rock outcropping for some beautiful views and fun climbing opportunities. Offering trad, sport, and top rope climbing, visitors can enjoy challenging themselves on these granite walls.

Camping

Whether you're looking for a way to kick back and reset in nature or want to camp closer to hiking, biking, and climbing locations, there are great campground options in all of the best outdoor destinations near Asheville. Find the spot perfect for your adventure needs and start setting up camp.

1. Camp at Mt. Pisgah

A car has a tent set up on top of it and a hammock attached to it
Photo by Noah Twining

Offering 74 first-come first-serve sites, Mt. Pisgah is a premier campground for experiencing the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Whether you are looking to kick back and relax for a couple of days out in nature or want to do some day hikes (summit Mt. Pisgah?) and the Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower, this campsite will meet all of your adventure needs.

2. Camp at the Chimneys in the Linville Wilderness

Two tents are lit up against the night
Photo by Merritt McKinney

If you are looking for a bit of solitude with stunning views, this is the spot for you. Hike a mile into the Linville Wilderness and be greeted with peace, quiet, and unobstructed views of Table Rock and Linville Gorge. This area also offers some nearby adventures such as hiking trails and awesome climbing spots.

3. Explore Lake Powhatan

A glimpse of the lake through the leaves in fall
Photo by Erin McGrady

Enjoy some peace and quiet while resting on a sandy beach when you camp at Lake Powhatan. Located minutes away from Asheville, this is a great way to escape the city without having to travel too far. Hike, bike, take a dip in the lake, and appreciate the stunning views during your stay.

Paddling

With a plethora of lakes and rivers, white and flat water, Asheville is a paddler’s paradise. Whether you kayak, canoe, or raft, you'll find fun adventure just around the corner.

1. Paddle on Lake Oolenoy

A kayak glides through a glassy, calm lake
Photo by Seth Berry

Take a calm paddle on this lake and marvel at the stunning views of Table Rock State Park. With 67 acres of water, kayaks, canoes, and small boats are all welcome on the lake. Start in the early morning to catch beautiful views of fog rolling across the water.

2. Paddling the Slab and Eternity Hole

Two kayakers maneuver through the river rapids
Photo by Rob Giersch

Located on the East Fork of the Tuckasegee River, these sets are two of Western North Carolina’s best play spots for kayakers of all levels. The slab offers glassy waves perfect for surfing and Eternity Hole allows kayakers to practice loops and aerial moves.

3. Paddle the Cheoah River

A group of kayakers maneuver the rapids
Photo by Rob Giersch


This big water run has become one of the “bucket runs” for Western North Carolina. The Class IV whitewater offers endless adventure and adrenaline-pumping fun for advanced and experienced paddlers. Although there are numerous put-in spots, the most popular one is O’Henry’s. If you are looking for something calmer and easier, head a short distance farther and paddle on Lake Santeetlah.

Eat/Drink

After a long day of epic adventures, kick back and relax at some of the best restaurants and eateries Asheville has to offer.

1. White Duck Taco Shop

A wood cutout of a white duck is propped up in front of a grassy area with colorful picnic tables and umbrellas.
Image from White Duck Taco Shop's Instagram

This popular taco shop often has a line out the door. If you want a casual meal to refuel after your adventures, this is the place for you. With a unique and diverse selection of flavors and toppings to choose from (think seasonal ingredients), everyone will be able to find the perfect, mouthwatering taco to dig into.

2. Burial Beer Co. 

Five people are seated on a bench in front of a building. They are drinking beer and enjoying the sunshine.
Image from the Burial Beer Co Facebook

With a great selection of beers to choose from, this is a favorite brewery in Asheville for locals and visitors alike. Enjoy sipping a cold one and munching on a dish from their full-service menu of Asheville-inspired American eats while taking in fresh air on the shaded outdoor patio.

3. Chestnut

A street view of the exterior of an eatery with a sign that says,
Image from the Chestnut Facebook

If you would rather get dressed up and have a sit-down meal after your adventures, this popular Asheville restaurant may be right for you. With a menu that changes monthly to feature seasonal and local produce and proteins, you never know what will be in store for you at Chestnut. Located in the heart of downtown, you can watch the hustle and bustle of the streets outside while enjoying menu favorites like bacon-wrapped scallops or pistachio lamb crusted "lollipops."

4. Izzy's Coffee Den

The exterior of a coffee shop. It has blue wood paneling and yellow window trim around a window that shows a menu and some drink options inside. A neon open sign is lit up above the window and the door has a window that opens to provide service to customers outside.
Image from the Izzy's Coffee Den Instagram.

If you need a little pick-me-up after your adventures, head to downtown Asheville to visit Izzy’s for a caffeine kick. Order one of their unique lattes (cardamom rose? Mexican mocha?) and a pastry to refuel.


Cover photo by: Dwayne Parton

    We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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