7 of the Best Mountain Towns for Day Trips from Asheville
Many of us dream of being in a place like Asheville—a city so lauded for having a little bit of everything—but if you need to get away, a treasure trove of great North Carolina towns lie at (and above) the city’s doorstep. Ranging from just a few minutes to a few hours away, expect plenty of high-mountain charm, incredible scenic views, quiet hikes, charming eateries, and historic downtowns abuzz with life at any and all of the below spots.
101 miles (163 kilometers) from Asheville
You might know North Wilkesboro as the birthplace of stock-car racing—the North Wilkesboro Speedway was the first NASCAR-sanctioned track in the country. But beyond the burning rubber, the small town (about 4,000 locals) sports a surprisingly robust arts and dining scene, with cute farmers markets, art galleries, live outdoor music, and Southern comfort–style bistros. And then there’s the beer. Stop by Copper Barrel for their Premium Distillery Tour and Tasting—nab a guided tour to skip the lines—and don’t sleep on the moonshine-infused snacks.
90 miles (145 kilometers) from Asheville
With some of the best views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and a cozy-but-upscale downtown, Blowing Rock rakes in the leisure-seeking visitors. Known as the “Crown of the Blue Ridge,” you’ll find the can’t-miss Linn Cove Viaduct—one of the most photographed spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway—a short drive away. Be sure to also drop by the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, a preserved country estate with a circa-1900 mansion; snap a photo of the craggy “Blowing Rock” on the aptly named The Rock Road; and pair a visit to the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum with drinks at the Town Tavern.
52 miles (84 kilometers) from Asheville
Head an hour west of Asheville, and you’ll find yourself in Cherokee—entering Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Stop by the Oconaluftee Visitor Center (keep an eye out for curious elk), continue to the Mountain Farm Museum, walk to the top of the 6,643-foot (2,025-meter) Clingmans Dome, and check out the Graveyard Fields for an unforgettable hike through a stream-filled valley. When hunger strikes, head back to town and beeline for the Native Brews Tap & Grill—it’s Indigenous-owned, woman-owned, and has a fantastic menu of craft cocktails and upscale-but-approachable dishes.
Insider tip: A guided tour makes parking and transportation easier, as this is America’s most-visited national park.
75 miles (120 kilometers) from Asheville
Banner Elk’s main claim-to-fame is Grandfather Mountain State Park, arguably one of the state’s best. Cross the mile-high swinging bridge—bring a jacket for all that wind; hike the challenging mountain trails; or take a self-driving audio tour as you scale up the slopes of the grandfather himself. And if you’re visiting in winter, you’ll find different slopes up here in Banner Elk: ski slopes. Just a few minutes from town, Sugar Mountain Resort and Beech Mountain Resort offer some of the South’s best skiing and snowboarding. Go après at Kettell Beerworks or Banner Elk Winery.
85 miles (137 kilometers) from Asheville
Some say the Blue Ridge Parkway is at its finest near Boone, so hop on the winding drag from town and go for an afternoon forest-peeping drive. You can also go under those North Carolina ridges at the stalactite-rich Linville Caverns, or traverse the landscape by rail on the Tweetsie Railroad. Then, stop by the original Mast General Store—dating from 1882—for a modern-meets-pioneer shopping experience before heading downtown to scout for finds at the galleries, boutiques, and stops on and off King Street. Finally, grab some family-style Southern comfort food at the Daniel Boone Inn, toasting to the town’s namesake.
Related article: 8 Places You Must Visit on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Linville Falls / Marion
55 miles (89 kilometers) from Asheville
Sitting just off the Blue Ridge Parkway—about an hour from Asheville—hides a stunning Mother Nature masterpiece: Linville Falls. The tiny community claims the same name as the beloved 3-tiered waterfall, a thundering cascade spilling into the massive Linville Gorge, the “Grand Canyon of the Southern Appalachians.” Three fantastic viewpoints sit at various elevations for totally different views—the longest trail to the vistas is a 1.8-mile (2.9-kilometer) round-trip; see them all, if time allows, starting from the visitor center in nearby Marion.
16 miles (26 kilometers) from Asheville
According to TripAdvisor reviewers, Black Mountain is the “Prettiest Small Town in America.” Walk downtown’s historic district and grab an alfresco rocking chair—they’re scattered about town—to sit, relax, and take in the view. (It might inspire you to go out for a hike, maybe on the Graybeard or Lookout trails.) Or stay put, and visit the Black Mountain Ciderworks + Meadery—which uses locally sourced apples and honey—My Father’s Pizza, and the Blue Ridge Biscuit Company, where you can sample a true, buttery Southern classic. Or two.