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Roadtrip guide to the mountains of North Carolina

What to see, do, and eat with your pup in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

By: Erin McGrady + Save to a List

Y'all ready for a little road trip in the mountains of North Carolina? We've got an adventurous weekend full of awesome trails to hike with your dog and of rad spots to quench your thirst for beer and coffee. Let's hit the road!

Visit Western North Carolina

Day one

9 a.m. Coffee at Malaprops Bookstore and Café

Our adventure starts at Malaprops Café. It's part of Malaprops Bookstore, downtown Asheville's dog-friendly independent bookstore that opened in 1982. And while you can order a hot mug inside and then browse their LGBTQIA section  -  as well as other well-known and obscure titles  -  what sets this spot apart from other bookstores is that it is a true LGBTQIA+ safe space. 

If the weather is too good for you to go indoors, there's a cute little walk-up window where you can order your drinks from the sidewalk. If Cali is working (that's Cali above in the window), you can count on a treat for your pup. Street parking in the mornings is usually pretty easy, but if you can't find a spot, head over to the Rankin Street Parking Garage and walk the .1 of a mile to the café.

10 a.m. Hike Bearwallow Mountain 

Bearwallow Mountain is one of several great hikes close to Asheville. It's only about 35 minutes outside of town. There are two ways up, and both are about a mile. Maggie, our dog, loves both routes because it's a beloved spot for dog owners (read: lots of cool smells.) The gravel road to the left of the gate is the easiest hike up, but the single-track trail to the right is also lovely. In the wintertime, you may encounter some ice on the last leg of the trail, so come prepared wearing footwear with adequate traction.

About a mile into the hike, you can reach a bald with panoramic views of nearby Mount Pisgah and Mount Mitchell. For those of you who've never heard of a bald, not to worry  -  they're pretty unique to the Southern Appalachians and are just mountain summits covered in grasses and low shrubs as opposed to dense woods.)  

Your four-legged friends are welcome here. They just need to be on a leash that's six feet or less in length. Also, there are no trash cans at Bearwallow Mountain (along the trail or at the parking lot). Follow Outdoor NC Leave No Trace principles and pack out trash and dog poop bags from your trek.

1 p.m. Hike Eagle Rock

Our climbing friends absolutely love this spot. Though Caroline and I love a good afternoon at the local climbing gym, trad climbers we are not. Maybe one day. Until then, though, we (Maggie, too) can still enjoy the incredible views from Eagle Rock, one of the most stunning spots in all of Western North Carolina. 

The parking lot is small and can fit roughly eight vehicles, so be sure to get there early or visit at the beginning of the week. Also, take caution on the drive in as the road is rocky and pot-holed. It's worth it. 

The hike to the overlook at Eagle Rock is .4 miles, and it's one of the most bang-for-your-buck trails in the area. We love to picnic out on the rock as it's in the sun most of the day. If you decide to do this, please keep your food to yourself. While it can be tempting to feed wildlife, human interaction (and food) can be dangerous. Interacting can condition the wildlife into no longer fearing humans, leading the wild animals to become aggressive, ultimately leading to their relocation or euthanization.

4 p.m. Visit Hillman Beer

There's a juicy burger and a perfect fried chicken sandwich, each with a side (we recommend the fries and the kale salad) with your name on 'em at the Hillman Beer location in Old Fort (they have two other locations in Asheville and Morganton!). The burgers are made with Hickory Nut Gap grass-fed beef (read: local and delicious), and many ingredients are sourced close to home. Gotta love it when a brewery takes pride in its food, too. 

Speaking of which, the beers are mighty fine. They've got a solid lineup, and if you get stuck on what to pick you can always opt for a flight. Non-alcoholic options are available, too. Well-behaved and leashed doggos are more than welcome at the brewery. While you may find a water bowl on the property, we recommend bringing your own just in case. Oh, and if you love easy parking, this is your spot. The parking lot is level, wide-open, and free which means it’s a great spot to caravan to if you’re traveling in a group or if you’re pulling a fifth-wheel travel trailer behind ya.

6 p.m. Hike High Shoals Waterfall and HQ Loop Trail in South Mountain State Park

There's camping, and then there's camping at South Mountains State Park. And by this, we mean you can pitch your tent or park your van or RV near the beautiful Jacob Fork River. Be sure to get to camp before 7 p.m. as the gate closes for the night, and you're going to have to find another place to sleep if you're on the outside! You'll want to get there well before 7 p.m. regardless of the arrival cutoff because you'll want to enjoy the hiking, equestrian, and biking trails. 

Bonus: The state park bathroom facilities are really nice, with flush toilets and sinks. If you're new to camping (or just dig access to amenities), you won't quite feel like you're roughing it. And though it may be tempting to bring your pet into the bathroom, they are not allowed in state park buildings. Service animals are allowed everywhere humans can go.

Day two

11am Hike Hawksbill Mountain Trail in Linville Gorge 

You're in for a real treat at Hawksbill. This 1.87 mile out-and-back hike will take you to one of the most jaw-dropping sights in all of Western North Carolina. Though many people complete this route in less than half a day, you may want to pack extra water and snacks so you can stay at the summit for a bit to enjoy the views. They're some of the best in the state! 

Speaking of water, pack extra water and food for your dog (and you!) on this hike because it is fairly strenuous. Observe the Outdoor NC Leave No Trace tips for traveling with pets, and keep your pet on a leash. These simple steps can prevent pups from stepping off the trail and damaging fragile plants. Plus, the drop-off is severe, and it's easier to avoid falls and injuries when dogs are on-leash.

2 p.m. Hike Linville Falls Trail 

At the last stop, you peered down into Linville Gorge. Now, let's drop down into the gorge and get a closer look via Linville Falls Trail. There's a well marked and well traveled path leading down to the falls. Going off-trail to see some wildflowers and snap a photo for Instagram may be tempting, but please don't. Keep yourself and your dog on the trail to prevent erosion and reduce your impact. This hike is well loved. If visitors properly care for it, they can enjoy the trail (and area) for years. 

4 p.m. Visit Mount Mitchell State Park

Mount Mitchel is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. Since the views easily make it one of the most photographed spots in the area, you're likely to be met with a crowded summit almost every day of the week. Don't panic. If you go early or stay late, the crowds will be thinner. 

Plus, there are eight other trails that you can hike to get away from the crowds and still go home with a great photo or 10. Dogs are welcome, but be sure to have a backup plan/trail in case the parking lot (free) is crowded, and the summit is full of people. 

7 p.m. Hike Craggy Gardens Pinnacle

This is one of my favorite hikes of all time. In fact, it was one of the first hikes I ever did in the Asheville area. It's been a place that all three of us return to again and again. I'd say Maggie pretty much knows the way at this point. The parking lot is fairly big, and it's free. While you may be eager to speed to get here, we recommend taking your time leaving Mount Mitchell and driving slowly along the Blue Ridge Parkway to protect wildlife and people. Plus, you don't want to miss breathtaking views along the way. If you do happen to see a bear, please do not approach or feed it. Keep wildlife wild.

Day three

8 a.m. Breakfast at Yellow Mug Coffee Lounge

Pull up to Yellow Mug Coffee Lounge with an open heart because the staff at this LGBTQIA+ safe space are some of the nicest in town. You can get a tasty hot beverage or even a local craft beer from this spot. After a few days out in nature, coming back into the little mountain town of Weaverville is a nice transition. It doesn't have quite the busy-ness of Asheville. Instead, it offers more of a small-town feel (read: free street parallel parking as well as a small and also free parking lot next to the shop). 

Plus, Yellow Mug is a nice, sunny spot to scroll through trip photos and upload 'em to social media via Yellow Mug's wifi. Oh, and your fur babe? They're welcome here, too, and are likely to find a bowl of fresh water waiting for them.

Check out Outdoor NC for more road trip information and learn more ways to be a steward of NC's pet friendly trails.

Erin McGrady (she/her) and Caroline Whatley (she/her) are queer writers, photographers, and filmmakers. They're also the duo behind Authentic Asheville (Portfolio | Blog). Asheville, North Carolina is home base though they travel frequently with their rescue dog, Maggie, in their camper van. You can follow them online at Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

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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