Must-Do Mountain Adventures
Travel some of the same paths that held epic adventurers like Daniel Boone.
Nestled within the beauty of our mountains are amazing adventures just waiting for you to experience. From hiking the tallest peak in the East to exploring mysterious caverns within our mountains, the memories will be as unforgettable as the surroundings.
The North Carolina mountains boast more than 900 miles of trails
Climb to the top of Mount Mitchell
As the highest peak east of the Rockies, Mount Mitchell boasts numerous hiking trails, unmatched views and unique plants and animals. Whether you're interested in a day hike or a weekend camping excursion, Mount Mitchell has the hiking trail and campsite to accommodate you. At 6,684 feet high, the peak is surrounded by its iconic mist, and you can climb the trails to the summit to take in the exceptional views overlooking the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Hike the Mountains-to-Sea Trail
Ultimately stretching 1,000 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail is a unique hiking destination. Ultimately, the trail will link Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey's Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks. Today, there are 450 miles open to hikers and 284 of them are in the mountain region. So whether you want to experience a short section of the trail or a much longer one, you have many scenic options to choose from.
Kayak the Nantahala River
As the most popular whitewater river in the Southeast, the Nantahala River is an ideal spot for sport kayaking. In addition to serving as a training ground for the U.S. Olympic Kayaking Team, the Nantahala Gorge will host the 2013 International Canoe Federation’s (ICF) Canoe Freestyle World Championships. It also has sections of Class II rapids that are more suitable for families, so it’s an ideal destination for kayakers of all ages. Check out the National Geographic top-rated Nantahala Outdoor Center for more information.
Ride the Tail of the Dragon
The mountains of North Carolina provide some of the most scenic and challenging motorcycling roads anywhere. The Tail of the Dragon near Deals Gap is considered by many to be the best in the world and has been featured in National Geographic Adventure and numerous motorcycle magazines. This 11-mile stretch of road features 318 curves, some of which are so sharp they’ve earned names like Copperhead Corner, Wheelie Hell, Gravity Cavity, Beginner’s End and Brake or Bust Bend.
Adventure drive through our scenic mountains
America’s Favorite Drive is known for its breathtaking views and overlooks, but if you’re interested in a more adventuresome outing, our mountain roads are still your best bet. The Tail of the Dragon is an 11-mile stretch of road with 318 curves along U.S. Route 129 in Swain County. Some of the more famous curves along the drive have their own names such as Copperhead Corner, Beginner’s End and Brake or Bust Bend. Drive safely along this road, and note that the speed limit is 30 mph.
See the wonder of Linville Caverns
As North Carolina’s only show cavern, these limestone caves are at the base of Humpback Mountain in Linville Valley near Boone. Long hidden from the passing visitor, they were discovered by a fisherman in 1822. The caverns are filled with still-active stalactites and stalagmites and are open to the public for touring. You can see the rock formations and if you’re lucky, indigenous animal species such as the Easter Pipistrelle Bat, which hibernates there suspended from the ceiling of the cave. You can also take advantage of the natural air conditioning, as the cavern boasts a 50-degree temperature year round.
Cross the swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain
Suspended a mile above sea level, the swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain provides the most unique view of the Catawba River Valley and surrounding peaks which are home to 42 rare animal species. The legendary winds cause the bridge to truly swing, but the views make the trip worth it. With average temperatures of only 45 degrees, don’t forget to pack a jacket to stay warm. And the bridge is open to everyone as it is fully wheel chair accessible.
Catch a breeze on a zipline
A zipline is the perfect way to cool off on a warm day while also taking in the sights from a new perspective. Check out Navitat Canopy Adventures near Asheville for a three-hour course through 240 acres in Moody Cove or Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tours outside of Bryson City for views of the Nantahala National Forest. If you’re closer to Boone, try Screaming Ziplines, home to the first triple-wide 2,000 foot-line.
Fish the nation’s only fly fishing trail
North Carolina is home to the only fly fishing trail in the United States. The trail includes portions of 11 creeks and four rivers – the Tuckasegee, Chattooga and Whitewater rivers as well as the trail’s newest addition, Raven Fork. With this variety of water, the trail is ideal for the beginner and the expert alike.
Take the plunge at Sliding Rock
Just north of Brevard, nestled in the Pisgah National Forest, Sliding Rock is Mother Nature’s own version of a waterslide on Looking Glass Creek. While the incline is a gentle slope, don’t let that fool you – the water rarely gets warmer than 60 degrees. Best enjoyed without a raft and in sturdy shorts, cool off and take the plunge down Sliding Rock.
Experience BeerCity USA
In 2012, Asheville rose to the top of examiner.com’s BeerCity USA poll for the fourth consecutive year. Home to 11 breweries and three beer festivals, the Western North Carolina city also ranks among the “24 greatest cities in the world for drinking beer” according to Gadling, making it an ideal destination for any brewmaster-in-training. Head to Highland Brewing Company to start; it was Asheville’s first brewery and is still one of the largest. Next you can try out the Lexington Avenue Brewery, also known as LAB, with its 92-foot bar that showcases all the brewing equipment. Consult this more complete listing of breweries to help you plan your trip today.
Taste our moonshine and our history
Moonshine has a long history in North Carolina, even contributing to the birth of NASCAR. Few distillers exist today, but some, such as Troy & Sons in Asheville, are committed to maintaining the original corn-based recipe. Troy & Sons makes its moonshine with Crooked Creek Corn, only grown in North Carolina, and pure water from the Blue Ridge Mountains. With these ingredients, you can practically taste the history. Located in the old Southern Railway wheelhouse, Troy & Sons Distillers is open to the public for tours.
added: March 7, 2012
updated: July 1, 2012
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