Explore the Outdoors: 7 Great Activities Near Asheville, NC
Surrounded by mountainous forests and national parks, Asheville serves as the gateway to many of North Carolina’s best outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, and whitewater rafting.
Surrounded by mountains and forest, Asheville, NC is one of the nation’s best destinations for outdoor enthusiasts. From hiking to mountain biking, it offers outdoor activities—often just minutes from downtown—for people of all ages and fitness levels. Here are the seven best outdoor activities you’ll want to experience on a visit to Asheville.
Best Hiking Near Asheville
Hundreds of hiking trails are just a short drive from Asheville. For an easy, family-friendly hike, try Laurel River Trail or the slightly more challenging hike to Bridal Veils Falls. Don’t be surprised if Bridal Veils Falls looks familiar; it served as a backdrop for scenes from “The Hunger Games.”
Hikers in reasonably good shape can retrace President and Mrs. Obama’s hike on the Mountains-To-Sea-Trail at Craven Gap while those looking to push themselves can set out on the Wildcat Rock Trail in Hickory Nut Gorge, a three-mile trail featuring a waterfall, caves, and wildflowers. Whichever trail you choose, pack sunscreen, water, and snacks—and pack more if you’re planning any long-distance hiking.
Mountain Biking Near Asheville
With elevation changes, creek crossings, and sometimes rocky terrain, the trails surrounding Asheville have become a mecca for mountain bikers. You can pack your own equipment, including your mountain bike, or rent one from local guides, like The Bike Farm in Pisgah National Forest.
If you don’t have a lot of mountain biking experience or want to take it easy, head to Bent Creek Experimental Forest, about 15 minutes from downtown Asheville. Thrill seekers, though, can drive an hour south to DuPont State Recreational Forest, where some of the 100 miles of trails have slick rock similar to those you’d find in Moab.
Cycling Near Asheville
Asheville attracts cyclists who can easily access the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the nation's most beautiful drives, or test themselves on the 60-mile Elk Mountain Scenic Highway. But the area has plenty of tamer cycling options, too. Riverside Drive is perfect for those who want to pedal through the River Arts District while the French Broad River Greenway is an easy, 2.8-mile trail along the river. You can even rent bikes at Biltmore Estate to use on the property’s 20 miles of trails.
Whether you set out on an epic cycling trip or an easy ride through the city, the Stash Neck Pouch is perfect for storing your ID, debit card, and other essentials while you ride.
Asheville Rafting Opportunities
The French Broad River—the third oldest river in the world, according to geologists—runs through Asheville, past Biltmore Estate, and continues south until it splits into three forks near the South Carolina border. Several companies offer half-day and full-day whitewater rafting trips, including French Broad Adventures in Asheville. Rapids range from rolling Class II waters to white-knuckling Class IV.
Kayaking and Paddle Boarding
Not up for rapids? You can kayak and stand-up paddle board on the calmer stretches of the river beginning in the city. Some outfitters even have canoes and rafts. Asheville Outdoor Center rents kayaks, paddle boards, canoes, rafts, and tubes for a seven-mile float trip suitable for ages four and up, while Wai Mauna specializes in paddle boarding, including guided tours. Since you’ll be getting wet, consider bringing a change of clothes in a water-repellent bag.
See the Blue Ridge Mountains from a whole new perspective as you zipline through 150-year-old trees. Asheville boasts several zipline courses, including three at The Adventure Center of Asheville. Its Asheville Treetops Adventure Park has more than 77 unique climbing, zipping, swinging, rappelling, and other challenges on seven aerial trials. Similarly, Navitat offers a treetop tour with tree-to-tree zipping, sky bridges, and rappelling to the forest floor.
Rock Climbing Around the Asheville Area
Western North Carolina, including the Pisgah National Forest near Asheville, offers some of the best rock-climbing opportunities in the United States. Unless you’re an experienced rock climber who has packed the necessary gear, you’ll want to hire a guide. A guide can provide equipment and teach kids as young as five how to climb and rappel. If you’re experienced, a guide can take you to the climbs that will challenge you (if you want) without pushing you past your abilities.
Looking for even more outdoor adventure ideas in Asheville? The area is also known for fishing, camping, foraging, golfing, and more—it’s essentially the perfect place to plan a weekend in nature away from the hustle and bustle. So pack your bags and get traveling.
While Eagle Creek is here to provide tips and insights on travel, we cannot accept any responsibility for any potential consequences arising from the use of this information. Always conduct your own research and use your best judgment.
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By Teresa Bitler on May 11, 2020
Teresa Bitler is an award-winning travel writer specializing in adventure, culture, and history. Her work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, American Way, Sherman’s Travel, and many other high-profile outlets. To learn more, visit teresatravelstheworld.com.