Central Mountains: Breathtaking Beauty
You don’t have to look far to discover what has drawn artists, writers and nature lovers to this region for decades. The beauty of North Carolina’s central mountain region is breathtaking. From Mount Mitchell, (elevation 6,684 feet) the highest point east of the Mississippi River, to Linville Caverns deep in the base of Humpback Mountain, to the beach at Lake Lure, film location site for the movie Dirty Dancing, there is much here to capture your imagination.
The Blue Ridge Parkway meanders through the heart of the region along the crests of the mountains, brushing the city of Asheville and allowing visitor access to places like Black Mountain, Chimney Rock Park, the Cradle of Forestry Natural History Area, Sliding Rock and Looking Glass Rock Scenic Area. Hiking trails with roaring waterfalls and quiet forest glades can be found in state parks or just off the highway, wherever you spot a trail marker. The area is also great for winter skiing and snowboarding with a number of ski resorts offering top-notch accommodations and dining.
A great place to make your “base camp” is Asheville, but there’s nothing rough about this campsite. Urbane and artsy, Asheville’s upscale downtown is filled with gourmet and organic restaurants, wine bars, galleries, lots of antiques shops, romantic bed and breakfast inns and luxurious spas to pamper you. The popular Pack Place Education, Arts and Science Center houses the Asheville Art Museum and the Colburn Earth Science Museum and the Diana Wortham Theatre, offering live performances of music, theatre and dance by nationally touring artists and local and regional professionals. Not far from downtown is Biltmore Village, its quaint cottages filled with unique shops and restaurants. The village sits at the entrance to the Biltmore, American’s largest home and a self-sustaining working estate that also houses the country’s most visited winery.
Other Asheville area attractions include the North Carolina Arboretum with its extensive bonsai collection, the Western North Carolina Nature Center, a living museum of plants and animals native to the Appalachian region, the Southern Highlands Craft Guild’s Folk Art Center, featuring traditional and contemporary crafts of the Southern Appalachians, and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial state historic site honoring one of North Carolina’s most famous writers and the author of Look Homeward Angel.
After visiting Wolfe’s home, travel south of Asheville to the state’s apple capital, Hendersonville, and look in Oakdale Cemetery to find Wolfe’s angel, then explore Hendersonville’s historic downtown for quaint shops and restaurants and plenty of apple cider. Nearby Flat Rock is home to the Flat Rock Playhouse, the state theater of North Carolina and Connemara and poet Carl Sandburg’s home. The towns of Saluda and Tryon offer a glimpse into the history and heritage of the area while Brevard brings you to Transylvania County’s land of waterfalls and the wilds of the Pisgah National Forest.
From the urban scene to fabulous scenery, North Carolina’s central mountains offer a wide variety of indoor and outdoor activities that are sure to capture your imagination and perhaps even the artist in you. The only problem is deciding where to begin.
By Pam Watson
By Pam Watson
added: December 29, 2008
updated: May 4, 2009