Asheville, North Carolina is a great home base for not only exploring Asheville, but also for various day or weekend trips. Below you’ll find some of my favorite spots within a few hours of Asheville as well as what to do in each area. Happy travels!
1 – Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina
Travel Time: 20 – 45 Minutes
Pisgah National Forest covers about half a million acres. About 100,000 of those acres actually used to be part of the Biltmore Estate (more on that below). There are so many waterfalls in the area right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and one of my favorites is Looking Glass Falls near Brevard. There’s also Daniel Ridge Falls, Log Hollow Falls, Cove Creek Falls, Slick Rock Falls, and Moore Cove Falls in the forest. You can also check out Sliding Rock which is a pretty flat, but large rock face you can truly slide down in the water.
There’s also great hiking in the area including trails like the Pink Beds Trail, South Toe River Loop, Catawba Falls, Harpers Creek Falls Trail and the Mount Mitchell Trail. For those looking to mountain bike, there’s an opportunity for that in the area as well. And for the individual who wants to check out the views from the car, driving the Blue Ridge Parkway gives great views without the hikes. Stop in the small towns during your trip like Brevard, Black Mountain, Little Switzerland, and Waynesville for breakfast, lunch, or some shopping.
2 – Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee
Travel Time: 2 Hours
There is so much to do in Smoky Mountains National Park as well as in the nearby towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. This is a good options for families who are looking for a variety of options in hotels and things to do. Personally, I love being in the park itself and hiking. My favorite things to do in the park which I mention in a blog post here include walking up Clingmans Dome, exploring Cade’s Cove, and driving the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. I also loved hiking Laurel Falls on our last trip to the Smokies.
Staying overnight in either Cherokee, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, or camping in the park at the best options. Each time I’ve visited, I’ve stayed overnight in Gatlinburg since there are plenty of options. My favorite was an Airbnb on the side of the mountain overlooking downtown. It had incredible views and is a pretty easy drive into the park in the morning.
3 – The Biltmore Estate In Tennessee
Travel Time: 10-15 Minutes
While this technically is right by Asheville, it would be great weekend staycation. The Biltmore is the largest home in the United States and sits on 8,000 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was built in the 1890s by George Vanderbilt.
There is so much to do here. You can stay overnight in the hotels, tour the grounds as well as the home, visit the gardens, do clay shooting, hiking, horseback riding, visit the spa, wine taste, and so much more. I would recommend spending at least a full day just at the Biltmore if you’re in the area, but a weekend would be even better.
4. Upstate Overlooks of South Carolina
Travel Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes
Just over an hour from Asheville are quite a few beautiful overlooks of the mountains. Sassafrass Mountain, the highest point in the state of South Carolina, has an overlook where you can stand in both South and North Carolina at the same time. Not far away is Caesars Head State Park where you can climb down into a narrow pathway through a rock called the Devil’s Den. Nearby here is Raven Cliff Falls and a suspension bridge that takes you over the falls after a few mile hike. Another beautiful view is called Pretty Place which is atop the mountain at the YMCA Camp Greenville. You can park and walk into the top that overlooks the mountain range.
In nearby Clemson, you can visit the college campus as well as stroll through the South Carolina Botanical Garden and stop at Spill the Beans for ice cream. There’s also opportunities for tours of the Fort Hill Plantation and the Hanover House. The town of Brevard is also not far away and gives the small town charm with a variety of restaurants and shops in the mountains. The town of Travelers Rest is also a great spot for hikers and outdoor adventure enthusiasts. There’s Wildcat Wayside Mountain which has great hiking and beautiful waterfalls. No matter where you stop, you’re sure to have scenic views with these towns tucked in along the mountainside.
5. Knoxville, Tennessee
Travel Time: 2 Hours
Knoxville will always have a special place in my heart. When I visited the Smoky Mountains, I spend a day in Knoxville. It didn’t go as I planned, but turned out better than I could have dreamed it to be. I was able to explore so much of the downtown. It looks like a city but feels like a small town.
Grab coffee at a local shop like Honeybee Coffee, K Brew, or Mahalo Coffee. Walk around downtown and visit the various murals and walk through the World’s Fair Park. Grab lunch at Tupelo Honey Cafe and explore the University of Tennessee Campus. Grab dinner downtown and enjoy your evening. The next day, check out the Urban Wilderness for a hike. Go on one of the trail loops like the Battlefield Trail or the South Loop. If you’re not much of a hiker, try your hand at disc golf or rock climbing. There’s also the Knoxville Museum of Art downtown as well as quite a few other museums. There’s so many options in the area, you’re sure to fill a weekend just with a few fun selections.
6. North Georgia Mountains
Travel Time: 2 Hours 25 Minutes
Visiting the mountain towns of northern Georgia was one of my favorite places to visit when I lived in Florida. On one trip I was able to visit the Bavarian Styled town of Helen and stay overnight nearby at the Unicoi Lodge in Unicoi State Park. I also loved my time in Blue Ridge and Elijay and staying overnight at the Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge. Some of the best view of the northern Georgia mountains can be seen from the porch of this hotel.
If you are into waterfalls, hiking, or outdoor activities there’s so much to do in the area. The Appalachian Trail goes right through the bottom of Amicalola State Park and there’s the popular Raven Cliff Falls as well as the Mount Yonah Trail nearby. Exploring the state parks and forests during the day and coming back to a room with a mountain view at night to watch the sunset truly can’t be beat.
7. Sumter National Forest in North Carolina and Georgia
Travel Time: 1 Hour 45 Minutes
The Sumter National Forest area is a great area for those wanting to disconnect. Yellow Branch Falls is in this National Forest which is one of my favorite hikes we have done in the area. It’s also not far from Isaqueena Falls and the Stumphouse Tunnel. There’s also other waterfalls in the area including Blue Hole Falls and Station Mountain Falls. Other stops in the area include the Buck Hill Recreation Area and Ellicott Rock Wilderness.
Check out these additional blogs for even more details on what to do in each spot!