The North Carolina Mountains: Places to Explore


  • Asheville

    Asheville is the hippest city in the South. At least that's the claim of Asheville's fans, who are legion. Visitors flock to Asheville to experience the arts and culture scene, which rivals that of Santa... Read more

  • Banner Elk

    Banner Elk is a ski-resort town, which bills itself as the "highest town in the East," surrounded by the lofty peaks of Grandfather, Hanging Rock, Beech, and Sugar mountains. The massively ugly condo tower... Read more

  • Black Mountain

    Black Mountain is a small town that has played a disproportionately large role in American cultural history because it's the site of Black Mountain College. For more than 20 years in the middle of the... Read more

  • Blowing Rock

    Blowing Rock, a draw for mountain visitors since the 1880s, has retained the flavor of a quiet New England village, with stone walls and buildings with wood shakes or bark siding. About 1,200 people are... Read more

  • Blue Ridge Parkway

    The Blue Ridge Parkway's 252 miles within North Carolina wind down the High Country through Asheville, ending near the entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Highlights on and near the parkway... Read more

  • Boone

    A fast-growing college town, Boone is home to Appalachian State University and its 17,500 students. Suburban sprawl has arrived, especially along U.S. 321 with its clusters of fast-food restaurants, chain... Read more

  • Brevard

    With its friendly, highly walkable downtown, Brevard is Mayberry RFD transported to the Pisgah National Forest. In fact, a popular toy store in town is called O.P. Taylor's—get it?... In summer, more than... Read more

  • Bryson City

    Bryson City is a little mountain town on the Nantahala River, one of the lesser-known gateways to the Great Smokies. The town's most striking feature is a city hall with a four-sided clock. Since becoming... Read more

  • Cashiers

    Cashiers (pronounced CASH-ers) is not a quite a town. Until recently, it was just a crossroads, with a store or two, a summer getaway for wealthy South Carolinians escaping the heat. But with the building... Read more

  • Cherokee

    The 56,000-acre Cherokee reservation is known as the Qualla Boundary, and the town of Cherokee is its capital. Truth be told, there are two Cherokees. There's the Cherokee with the often tacky pop culture... Read more

  • Chimney Rock and Lake Lure

    Chimney Rock and neighboring Lake Lure—both popular day trips from Asheville—were the dream projects of a single man, Dr. Lucius Morse. In the early 1900s he bought and began developing Chimney Rock, and... Read more

  • Dillsboro

    Dillsboro, a tiny town with a group of craft and gift shops, is a destination on some excursions of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Nearby Sylva has a classic small-town Main Street with stores selling... Read more

  • Flat Rock

    Flat Rock has been a summer resort since the early 19th century. It was a favorite of wealthy planters from Charleston eager to escape the Lowcountry heat. The trip from Charleston to Flat Rock by horse... Read more

  • Hendersonville

    With about 14,000 residents, Hendersonville has one of the most engaging downtowns of any small city in the South. Historic Main Street, as it's called, extends 10 serpentine blocks, lined with about 40... Read more

  • Highlands

    Highlands is a tony town of only 900 people, but the surrounding area swells to 10,000 or more in summer and fall, when those with summer homes here flock back, like wealthy swallows of Capistrano. Once... Read more

  • Hot Springs

    This little village is a way station for hikers on the Appalachian Trail, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2012. Since the early 1800s, Hot Springs, not far from the Tennessee border in Madison... Read more

  • Lake Toxaway

    A century ago a group called the Lake Toxaway Company created a 640-acre lake in the high mountains between Brevard and Cashiers. Nearby, a grand 500-room hotel built with the finest materials, providing... Read more

  • Robbinsville

    If you truly want to get away from everything, head to the area around Robbinsville in the far southwest corner of North Carolina, a little south of the southern edge of the Great Smokies. The town of... Read more

  • Valle Crucis

    This tiny mountain town has the state's first rural historic district; vintage stores line the downtown streets.... Read more

  • Waynesville

    This is where the Blue Ridge Parkway meets the Great Smokies. Waynesville is the seat of Haywood County. About 40% of the county is occupied by Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pisgah National Forest... Read more