When you think of visiting North Carolina what comes to mind? Probably the sand and surf, right? Well it’s beautiful, but get ready to go beyond the beaches to the North Carolina mountains.
Whether you’re looking to hike the Appalachian Trail, rent a cabin in a secluded camping spot, stay at a spa or even craving a zip lining adventure, it’s all in this spectacular state. And when you want to explore, you trust Wit Tuttle, Executive Director of Visit North Carolina, to be your guide.
Where History Comes Alive
Ancient and vast, these majestic mountains are filled with a rich, diverse history. From Black Mountain College, which inspired The Longest Ride to Fontana Dam’s military efforts in World War II to the tragic, yet heroic story of the Cherokee which casts a shadow across the Smokies, “you can always find something that captures your attention, whether it’s the landscapes themselves or the events that ripple across the centuries,” says Wit.
Explore Asheville & the Foothills
Buckle up for a trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway to discover the quirky, artistic charm of this area. According to Wit, you can drive it but it’s also a road that connects you to opportunities to explore on foot, like Stone Mountain, Mount Mitchell or Linville Falls. And nestled in the mountains you’ll find Asheville, “I love taking a LaZoom tour there because it reflects the city’s creative vibe along with its actual history—and with humor,” says Wit.
You can take a dip in natural mineral pools in Hot Spring or even go ghost hunting on Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington, at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville and at Korner’s Folly in Kernersville. He also adds that Chimney Rock in the Foothills are incredible, “it takes your breath away with scenic views while offering endless opportunities for a close-up look at our natural wonders.”
Hang in High Country
Known as year-round outdoor playground, the High Country is the ultimate spot for every season. Here you’ll enjoy some of the best camping, biking and fishing around. But if you want to pack light, leave your equipment at home and simply hike, “our trails cover a full range in terms of difficulty, so travelers can set their own pace,” says Wit.
Love rock climbing and mountain biking? You need to check out Grandfather Mountain for stunning views and so much more. In the summer season, check out the Highland Games annual Scottish festival in July, then ski and snowboard the highest peaks in the east come wintertime. And whenever you travel through these mountain regions, Wit says, “you can count on discovering great, one-of-a-kind mountain towns, like Boone.”
Marvel at the Smoky Mountains
Known by the Cherokee Indians as the “land of the blue mist,” Great Smoky Mountains National Park is truly one of our country’s treasures. Home to hardwood forests, waterfalls and a unbelievable assortment of wildflowers and wildlife, like black bears, elk and salamanders, you’ll also find the nation’s first fly fishing trail. The park also preserves some pretty important history, such as the beautiful chapel in the Cataloochee Valley and the mill and farm buildings at Oconaluftee.
And don’t miss the Land of the Waterfalls in Transylvania County. With at least 250 falls, you’ll find some famous ones there. The Hunger Games and Max used DuPont State Recreational Forest’s fall as a backdrop for those blockbuster films, but Wit’s personal favorite is in Pisgah National Forest: Sliding Rock, a 60-foot natural waterslide with a fantastic splashdown!
Go Beyond Guidebooks
As a local, Wit reveals the inside scoop on North Carolina’s must-see stops that may not appear on a visitor’s typical itinerary. Stop in the town of Franklin for unbelievable French cuisine at Caffé Rel—just keep a lookout, from the outside it looks like a gas station. Then hit the Battery Park Book Exchange in Asheville, it has an incredible selection of used books, nooks to sit down and read in, plus champagne by the glass. He also loves shopping at the Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, whose history goes back further than the Esso sign out front. And lastly, he’s likely to grab a beer at the 5506′ Skybar at Beech Mountain Resort―5506’ refers to the elevation, making it the highest ski pub in the east!
You also may want to make time for Blue Ridge Music Trail, it highlights where to hear traditional North Carolina music. Wit recommends the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby, “but I also love dropping by the Orchard at Altapass for live music.” He goes on to say, “In the summer, Waynesville’s Friday night dances on Main Street are awesome, and seeing Grammy winner Bobby Hicks at the Zuma Coffee jam in Marshall is truly special. And who can resist a chance to attend the Saturday jam at the Drexel Barbershop?”
Now that you’re set to travel, check out visitnc.com to plan your getaway to the North Carolina mountains. Wit advises, “no matter where you go, you can soak up something special about these places and remain forever connected.”
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