“Mountains are the soul’s fuel”.
Decided to trade in my Gatlinburg and Smoky mountains adventures this year for a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, and the Blue Ridge mountains.
I pass through Asheville yearly on my way to Gatlinburg but my only time in the area was for a gas stop and to get snacks. I have several friends who swear by Asheville, so my task was to shake up my annual mountain getaway and see what the Asheville area had to offer.
Happy to report Asheville is exactly how everyone describes it: lots of adventure, shopping, dining, and a bit of a funky, eclectic downtown area.
My first stop in the Asheville area was to the outlet mall. Yes, I drove from Florida to North Carolina and made a run to the outlet mall—sue me. LOL. I am always looking for a deal and there were a few different brands available in Asheville. I made a few rounds to ensure I did not leave any deals here before getting down to business of finding some hiking trails to explore while in the area.
I am very familiar with the hiking available in Gatlinburg since I am a frequent traveler there.
The Asheville area trails took a little more research and time to get to them. Asheville is a much larger area with things a bit more spread out. A quick Google search gave me several options to explore, and I mapped out my hikes to maximize my time in the mountains.
The temperatures were in the 30s during my visit to Asheville, but it was not a major factor for me since I seemed to warm up as I moved my way further up into the mountains.
My first hike was in the Bent Creek portion of the Pisgah National Forest.
The Hardtimes Trailhead was described as an easy to moderate trail so decided to tackle it to warm up to the Blue Ridge mountains. The trail did not have a ton of obstacles (rocks, down trees, etc.) but it goes straight up from the very beginning. The inclines are gradual, but they are inclines. The trail has multiple side trails, but I decided to stay on the main trail and see where it would end up. There were some great views on the way up the mountain and I made a point to get some shots in when I took a break heading up. I made it to the top of this trail after a 3-mile hike and decided to turn around and head back down. Got a chance to see several joggers coming down the trail so this area is popular with runners and folks on mountains bikes.
My next adventure took me to Looking Glass Falls. Everything I read described this water fall as a great place for pictures and feel the power of nature. The waterfall is a short drive from the Hardtimes Trailhead, but it was difficult to park since there were a lot of people trying to experience the waterfall. I had to turn around twice before I could find a place to park and then make the short walk down to view the waterfall. I helped a family and took their picture with the falls in the background and then had them return the favor for me as well. People are friendly in the mountains. Made my way down to the falls to get some shots closer to the water and enjoy the energy of the water coming down the mountain.
My next adventure was to explore downtown Asheville since I heard great things about the area. Again, the temperatures were in the 30s and felt colder once the sun went down. Decided to just explore downtown and get a feel for it and hopefully find some live music.
Turns out Asheville is known more for the arts and food than music. Found a lot of creative places to eat but did not hear music, live or DJ. No worries discovered Highland Brewing and Buxton Chicken Palace within the S&W Market. The chicken sandwich and craft beer were great and there was a small band playing live music. A funky little vibe all around but it was worth the trip downtown.
One of my best friends owns a store in the small town, Black Mountain.
Ventured over on Day 2 to check out the town and get some hiking in over there. Again, Google gave me some hiking options and I headed towards Graybeard Trail for more adventure. The trailhead had a very small parking lot and it was full when I arrived. Parked a bit down the road and made my way onto the bridge that led to the trail. I read about the trail beforehand, but the descriptions did not do this trail justice. It was rocky, scenic, uphill from the start and crossed flowing streams multiple times. Sounds like I’m complaining but I’m not! The views on top rivaled the views I get in the Smoky Mountains and the waterfall at the top was the cherry on top. I wanted to sit up there for a bit longer, but the temperature started to drop once the sun went behind the mountain. Also, didn’t want to get caught in the mountains in the dark so made my way back down to ensure I still had light to guide me.
Made a quick trip to visit my friend’s store before it closed:
Cute little place if you are ever in Black Mountain!
Explored the downtown area a bit and came across the mural of Roberta Flack. I remember her music from the 70s but did not know she was from Black Mountain, North Carolina. Hit a small downtown brewery to experience more local flavor and spend some time with the locals at the Black Mountain Brewing Company. Great spot with a good selection of beers.
Nice trip to the Asheville area and happy I had a chance to explore. Recommend if you are looking for a place for adventure and culture.
FYI, will head back to Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains next year. 😊
“The best views come after the hardest climbs”.