Summer is coming to an end in the mountains of Western North Carolina. What this means for Asheville residents, aside from the explosion of color and the introduction of cozy favorites like wool sweaters, corduroy pants, warm apple cider, and pumpkin-spiced treats, is a long, healthy list of fall festivities. There's nothing quite like fall in southern Appalachia — when the mountain air turns crisp and cool, the nostalgia returns in overwhelming waves of inexplicable sensation, and the banjos and fiddles slow their pace to something more fitting for the season. The only problem with this time of year is its impermanence. Autumn in Asheville is gone in the blink of an eye. Be sure to embrace the season for as long as you can by visiting these five festivals. There will be plenty of food, folk music, and flowing taps to help you celebrate one of this region's favorite times of year.

1. Brewgrass Festival, Memorial Stadium, Asheville

Brewgrass is an annual beer and bluegrass festival that showcases more than 100 beers from close to 40 American breweries, all to be enjoyed while listening to old-timey bluegrass. Past acts have included Foxfire, Blue Highway, Smoke from the Kitchen, Barry Waldrep, and Lost River Cavemen. Participating breweries include Asheville’s Altamont Brewing Company, Wicked Weed, and Hi-Wire Brewing companies (among others) as well as other North Carolina, Southeastern, and national breweries. Local food vendors will offer plenty of options and there are lots of non-beer beverages for the kids. The festival is free for children under the age of 7. Bring chairs, umbrellas, and backpacks, but no coolers.

2. Nantahala Outdoor Center Guest Appreciation Festival

A different kind of festival, NOC’s GAF, as it’s known, is more of a celebration of savings for gearhounds, with new and used gear going for big discounts, plus there are a lot of family-friendly activities, such as free face-painting, crafts, a raptor show, games, contests, and a bouncy house. There’s food and live music, plus bike trials and a pump track exhibition. Guests and non-profits can also sell their used gear or crafts (to sell more than one piece, you’ll need a vendor permit) and nonprofits can distribute promotional material. Ziplining and rafting are offered at special prices and shuttles are free for those taking part in the Cascades and Upper Nantahala recreational releases.

3. Asheville Oktoberfest

This 21-and-over festival is a great expression of Asheville’s beer culture and general wackiness. The German-inspired Asheville Oktoberfest will feature a lovely mix of Appalachia-infused Bavaria. Think yodeling, polka, traditional German lagers, and seasonal ales all from local and regional breweries in downtown Asheville's South Slope. Put on your lederhosen and enjoy the live German music.

4. LEAF, Black Mountain

The quintessential local festival, LEAF (formerly known as Lake Eden Arts Festival) is held twice a year (once in the fall and once in the spring) and revolves around a full weekend of live music, a crafts fair, camping, and kids’ activities in a gorgeous setting on Lake Eden, at the foot of the Black Mountains. LEAF typically brings in internationally known acts, which in the past have included Robert Randolph & the Family Band as well as Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn. Local and regional acts such as Rising Appalachia, David Wilcox and David LaMotte have also performed. LEAF is known for its socially conscious vibe, commitment to local nonprofits and family-friendly nature. Camping reservations fill up quickly, so check the LEAF website to see what’s available for a day or weekend pass.

Written by Joanne O'Sullivan for Matcha and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by flattop341

Intro

Looking Glass! We have to talk about Looking Glass! It’s located in the Davidson River area of the Pisgah National Forest and is one of the premier, if not the premier, multi-pitch traditional multi-route destinations in the south. It’s a huge, exposed granite dome with many many routes of multiple pitch lengths.

What Makes It Great

Classics include The Nose (5.8), which is extremely popular. There is extensive guide book coverage, and a lot of information in Selected Climbs of North Carolina. It’s about 45minutes to an hour from downtown, and you’re pretty much looking at a full day by virtue of the length of the routes.  

For those only interested in a hike, there’s a really great trail that leads to one of the most majestic views on the east coast. It climbs a steep 1,700 feet in just over three miles, taking hikers along a cascading mountain stream and through tunnels of rhododendron and mountain laurel, before beginning a series of switchbacks up the mountain. The views from the top are well worth the effort though; simply stunning!

Who is Going to Love It

The Looking Glass area has a ton of opportunities for climbers of all abilities. It’s also a great place to just go for a hike!

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Parking is pretty obvious, but the thing about Looking Glass is that there are two distinct sides. The road (Hwy 276) splits and branches toward the Pisgah center for wildlife education and the hatchery. Off that branch to the left is Looking Glass south access. Access to the north face is Forest Road 475b. 

Be sure to check in the posted guide books, because sections of the North Face are closed for several months out of the year for peregrine falcon breeding.

Written by Jordan Dowdy for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Jordan Dowdy

Although it feels as if just yesterday we were jumping into swimming holes and running through green mountain trails, somehow the trees are bare, the earth is hard with frost, and the holidays are again upon us.

With this time of year comes the ubiquitous reminders to celebrate the season and be thankful. And although our gratitude is never limited to just one season, those of us lucky enough to live in Western Carolina—encompassed by the beauty of the Blue Ridge and afloat on an endless variety of microbrews—should take this time as an opportunity to slow down and appreciate all that we have at our fingertips. Here are six wild and adventurous reasons to be thankful that we live in Western Carolina.

1. The Highest Highs

Sunrise at Mt. Mitchell.
Sunrise at Mt. Mitchell.

Kolin Toney

So we’re all aware that we live just 19 miles northeast of Mt. Mitchell , the highest mountain east of the Mississippi. But how often do we stop to consider how truly awesome it is to be able to stand on the observation deck, 6,684 feet above sea level and bask in the assurance that everyone on the East Coast is below us? How surreal it is that we can sit and enjoy a picnic atop the very throne of eastern North America? Then we ride back into town for coffee, or catch a movie, or continue with our backpacking trip on the Mountains to Sea Trail, knowing that for one moment we stood hundreds of feet above everything and everyone, even those in the highest skyscrapers in New York City.

Mt. Mitchell State was one of America’s very first state parks and it remains one of the most spectacular. It casually encompasses Mt. Craig, the second highest peak on the East Coast, and several other peaks that reach over 6,000 feet. The trail options range from short summit jaunts to challenging ridge-line treks to drive by vistas and the views are sensational.

2. The Lowest Lows

If on Saturday you stood atop the highest point on the East Coast, then why not round out the weekend by spending Sunday exploring the lowest?  The Linville Gorge, the deepest canyon in the east, is an adventurer’s paradise. The Linville Gorge Wilderness is the third largest swath of wilderness in North Carolina and boasts 11,786 acres of hiking, top-roping, multi-pitches, bouldering, backpacking, backcountry camping, swimming holes, extremely difficult whitewater, and phenomenal views.

Catch a sunset at Wiseman’s View, one of the most breathtaking vistas in the Southeast, then be home in time to make dinner and watch a little Netflix before bed. That’s just a typical day for the Ashevillian. If you need just one reason to feel thankful this season, let it be the Linville Gorge, the “Grand Canyon of the East,” just over an hour away.

3. You Never Have to Leave

A winter ride through Richmond Hill City Park.
A winter ride through Richmond Hill City Park.

Melina Coogan

Those of us who live in the mountains of Western Carolina never need to know the agony of the glacial, day-by-day countdown toward that one coveted vacation each year, nor the bleak return to work after your one week of freedom has passed. There are swimming holes in the summer. Foliage in the autumn. Skiing (and paddling, and bouldering) in the winter. Hiking in the spring . Asheville is a year-round vacation destination for those inclined toward joyful pursuits in the wilderness.

Certainly we have our share of dreary February days, but if you know where to look for it, there’s never a shortage of adventure. Why plan a pricey tropical trip when the rivers are pumping, the mountains are sparkling in white and the cold holds at Rumbling Bald are grippy as ever? And if you do find yourself in need of a weekend away, just hop in the car and drive an hour to these nearby adventurous vacation towns, or burrow away in a farm cabin or country cottage for a few nights.

4. Variety

If variety is the spice of life then Asheville has a five-star rating. We can barely keep track of all our ranks, ratings and raves. Singletrack.com calls Asheville “A Beer Town with a Mountainbike Problem,” while  Outside  magazine voted us one of “America’s Best River Towns,” and look, there we are included in Yoga Journal’s “Top 10 most Yoga Friendly Cities in the Country!”

Start your day with a brisk trail run through Bent Creek, sneak in a little afternoon SUP on your lunch break and hit the nearby boulders for a post-work session. As for weekends, the broad range of adventurous opportunities is simply overwhelming, whether you’re hoping fora relaxing float and a casual loop at Tsali, or the white-knuckled gory glory of Kitsuma singletrackor the off-the charts pucker factor of the Green River Narrows.

This Holiday season, every time we see yet another Subaru Outback loaded down with a creek boat and a mountain bike, the trunk overflowing with ropes and harnesses, let’s be take a moment to be grateful that as adventure loving "multi-potentialites" in Western Carolina, we can have it all.

5. Our Commute is in a National Park

The Blue Ridge Parkway in Autumn.
The Blue Ridge Parkway in Autumn.

Brian Leon

There’s nothing quite so frustrating as being trapped in traffic on the way out to the mountains. The irony of being stuck in gridlock when you’re trying to get off the grid is enough to make some city dwellers forgo their weekend plans all together. Asheville is the biggest city in Western Carolina and, sure, we see a bit of stop-and-go at rush hour. But we never have to wallow in traffic too long. In fact, many of our favorite outdoor destinations are found alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway, America’s longest national park. Orbitz Travel blog ranked taking a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway as number one on their list of “Seven Things You Absolutely Must Try in a National Park.” No big deal, that’s just our daily commute.

6. Romance

It doesn't get more romantic than Black Balsam Knob.
It doesn't get more romantic than Black Balsam Knob.

Melina Coogan

Can we all take a moment and be grateful of how completely effortless it is to find wild and adventurous romance in the Blue Ridge Mountains? Nothing is more beautiful than watching the morning mist rise over the Shining Rock Wilderness, or viewing the lights of the city from Elk Mountain. There’s no quarrel that can’t be cured by sharing a sunset somewhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway, no deal that can’t be sealed by a box of French Broad Chocolate Truffles and a picnic at Max Patch. From active dates in the great outdoors to funky neighborhoods filled with breweries, love is always in the air in Western Carolina. Love and gratitude—the two essential ingredients to a life well-lived.

Written by Melina Coogan for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Melina Coogan

Across Great Smoky Mountains National Park, miles of interconnected trails meander through lush, green valleys, hug the banks of moss-laden, rocky creeks, and climb through thickets of mountain laurel and rhododendron to the blue-tinged mountain peaks.

You could spend weeks backpacking through this rich landscape, but a weekend trip will also allow you to experience the best of the Smokies. To help you plan your visit, we’ve highlighted three backpacking loops that give you the Appalachian Trail, streamside and ridgeline campsites, killer views, and enough distance and elevation to satisfy your inner weekend warrior.

Big Creek Loop

Combining the best of frontcountry and backcountry camping, the Big Creek area on the northeastern tip of the park off I-40 offers something for every level of hiker. Tackle a 21.5-mile loop over big peaks or lower your mileage and elevation with a night at one of the sweetest creekside campsites in the park. Either way, you’ll hike the AT through some of the most scenic terrain in the Smokies.

3MMdsyK2BGEumu8MUay6oq
You will be in constant awe of the beauty on Big Creek Loop.

Rock/Creek

Roll into Big Creek Friday night to enjoy campground amenities like restrooms, dinner at a picnic table, and campsites with fire rings. You’ll be up early on Saturday to climb the Chestnut Branch Trail 2 miles to the Appalachian Trail. One of the shortest AT access points, the trail passes the remains of homesteads that pre-date the national park.

Turn south on the AT and continue climbing 3.3 miles to the 0.6-mile Mt. Cammerer fire tower spur trail. At 4,928 feet, the tower overlooks the Pigeon River Gorge to the north and Mt. Sterling to the south. From the fire tower, it’s a moderate descent 2.1 miles to the Low Gap Trail. Take Low Gap 2.5 miles to campsite #37 at the Big Creek Trail junction. Right on the banks of Big Creek, you’d be hard pressed to find a more spacious backcountry site in the park.

On Sunday, you can go big or go home, as they say. Going big means a hike up the Swallow Falls Trail 4 miles to the Mt. Sterling Ridge Trail. It’s another 1.4 miles and more climbing to an elevation of 5,842 feet on Mt. Sterling. Climb Sterling’s 60-foot steel fire tower for panoramic views of Cataloochee Valley, the Black Mountains, and the Southern Appalachians. Now, the downhill endurance test begins, with a 4,000-foot elevation loss over 6 miles on the Baxter Creek Trail. If you opt to go home, you can sleep in, savor your coffee by the campfire, and still have plenty of time to hike the moderate, 5-mile descent along Big Creek back to the campground, passing two stunning waterfalls and plenty of swimming holes along the way.

5SbUMhpDnUKIQs2OGIUoSY
Big Creek loop ends with a 4,000-foot elevation loss over 6 miles on the Baxter Creek Trail.

virgntn2011

Big Creek Campground is open from April through October and makes a great base camp for groups by serving a wide variety of abilities and interests. On your way home, make sure you leave enough time to refuel at Carver’s Apple Orchard in Cosby, Tenn. At Carver’s you can shop for fresh produce at the farmers market, nab awesome treats at an old-time candy shop, and feast at a homestyle restaurant, where the apple fritters are not to be missed.

Twentymile Loop

In the southwest corner of the Smokies you’ll find a lesser-used trailhead that leads to the AT and one of the most scenic balds in the park. From this trailhead, you’ll log 17.6 miles on the way to Gregory Bald, sleeping one night on the AT and camping the other night on the bald.

Start off Friday afternoon at the Twentymile Ranger Station off Highway 28 near the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. A non-technical climb takes you 4.5 miles to meet the AT at Sassafras Gap. Campsite #113, at Birch Spring Gap, is less than 1 mile north of the trail junction. If time allows late Friday or early Saturday morning, head south on the AT for 360-degree views at sunset or sunrise from the top of Shuckstack Fire Tower. The historic lookout isn’t regularly maintained, so watch your step on the 200-foot climb to the top.

4YYSe2BqNWOsWOwGyiOU4u
In the southwest corner of the Smokies you’ll find the lesser-used Twentymile Loop trailhead.

Chris M Morris

You’ll resume your northward journey on the AT, traveling 2 miles over Doe Knob to the next trail junction. Next, take Gregory Bald Trail west a little more than 3 miles to campsite #13 on the bald. Known for spectacular flame azalea blooms each year in mid to late June, the grassy high-elevation meadow offers stunning views of Cades Cove, Fontana Lake, and Clingmans Dome.

On Sunday, make the final 6.3-mile descent to the trailhead on the wide, non-technical Wolf Ridge Trail. Refuel at Fontana Village, just over 6 miles down Highway 28, before heading home. Burgers and brews will hit the spot at Wildwood Grill, while the Mountainview Restaurant highlights seasonal produce, along with fresh, local rainbow trout.

Deep Creek Loop

1Z268voz8wkYg8CicAkMWy
Along Deep Creek loop you’ll pass Indian Creek Falls.

Alan Cressler

Enjoy the streams and waterfalls of the Deep Creek area in the south-central region of the Smokies on this 28.2-mile loop. You’ll also spend a night in an AT shelter and exit on one of the longest continuously descending trails in the Smokies.

You’ve barely left the Deep Creek Ranger Station before you come across Tom Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls. Once you pass these Instagram-worthy stops, it’s a slight uphill grade for 4 miles along the moderately rocky Deep Creek Trail to campsites 54-59. Claim a site for Friday evening (note that an advanced reservation is required) to enjoy the refreshing waters of Deep Creek and thickly wooded campsites.

Creek crossings and easy bushwacking are on the agenda Saturday, as you hike another 4 miles to the Fork Ridge Trail. Fork Ridge ascends 5 miles to Clingmans Dome Road and the AT. A short hike north takes you to the Mount Collins shelter, where you’ll spend the night in a high-elevation spruce-fir forest and dramatically cooler, drier conditions. Enjoy the shelter amenities, like cozy bunks and a fireplace inside.

4Sn9sT6IrSuOiWMGguQ0oE
Hike down from Clingmans Dome Road to start your final 11.4-mile descent.

Kevin Stewart Photography

The pre-dawn hike south to Clingmans Dome is highly recommended for 360 degrees of sunrise from the highest point in the Smokies. Hike 2 miles down Clingmans Dome Road to the Noland Divide Trailhead to start your final 11.4-mile descent. The trail slopes gently for the first 5 miles before making a steeper drop into Deep Creek, but there are few roots and rocks to slow you down. Make sure you stop to enjoy the views at Lonesome Pine Overlook along the way.

After logging all those miles, nothing’s going to taste more satisfying than a meal and craft beer at The Warehouse at Nantahala Brewing Co. Wrap up your Smokies adventure on the outdoor patio in downtown Bryson City with specialties like the slow-cooked brisket noodle bowl, apple bourbon pork chops, or Bryson City Brown Ale chicken along with a flagship or seasonal draft.

Written by Ann Gibson for RootsRated in partnership with OrthoCarolina and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Kevin Stewart Photography

Winding, twisting, curving and carving through the landscape, the Blue Ridge Parkway travels some of western North Carolina’s most scenic terrain. This 469-mile, all-American road meanders through Asheville, offering access to some exceptional high-elevation views from the overlooks peppered along its path.

But if you’ve only experienced the Parkway for the drive, you’re missing out: scattered along the parkway, trailheads lead to some seriously great hiking and running trails. Grab a hike or trail run to rushing waterfalls, through rolling forest, to lofty summits with see-forever views, and through grassy meadows filled with endless wildflowers and wild berries in the summertime months. Thanks to its already-high elevation, most Blue Ridge Parkway hikes don’t have to venture far – making many of these hikes beginner-hiker-friendly.

The Parkway follows a lofty ridge for much of its drive. Elevations along the road are often much cooler than nearby Asheville, so pack a jacket, even in summertime, and dress in layers to stay comfortable on your hike. And before you go, check the official Blue Ridge Parkway website for road closures, especially in snowy winter months.

Grab your hiking boots (or running shoes), hit the Parkway and get ready for an adventure – and enjoy the spectacular drive to the trailhead, too.

Deep Gap Trail to Mount Craig

Hike the two tallest peaks east of the Mississippi River on the Deep Gap Trail at Mount Mitchell State Park, catching stunning high-altitude views along a ridgeline from Mount Mitchell to Mount Craig and Big Tom Mountain.

Craggy Gardens Trail

It’s a can’t-miss hike just north of Asheville: hike the Craggy Gardens Trail through a beautifully surreal, gnarled forest of rhododendron and blueberries to an idyllic, grassy mountaintop.

Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain Loop

Climb two summits, hike five miles and catch many epic views. This loop hike is one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most scenic, trailing over the grassy bald mountaintops of Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain.

Shining Rock Mountain via the Art Loeb Trail

Hike the Art Loeb Trail from Black Balsam Knob, rolling elevation over grassy, wildflower-covered balds into the Shining Rock Wilderness. The final destination: the summit of Shining Rock, which offers stunning views from enormous, white quartz boulders and rock outcrops.

Linville Gorge: hiking the Plunge Basin Trail

Hike this just-off-Parkway trail to up-close views of the Linville Falls waterfall, trekking to the Plunge Basin Overlook and the floor of Linville Gorge.

Mount Mitchell Summit and Balsam Nature Trail

Hike a two-trail duo to the summit of Mount Mitchell, the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, and through a gorgeous, shady forest filled with sweet-scented balsam fir.

Graveyard Ridge and Graveyard Fields Loop

Hike a loop at Graveyard Fields, one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most popular hiking destinations, to ridgeline views, two waterfalls and through fields of wildflowers, wild blueberries and blackberries.

Craggy Gardens: Hiking the Craggy Pinnacle Trail

Our favorite Craggy Gardens hike climbs to gorgeous 360-degree views on the Craggy Pinnacle Trail, hiking through a mossy, lush, green forest of gnarly-branched rhododendron.

Art Loeb Trail to Black Balsam Knob

It’s one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s best: hike the Art Loeb Trail to the sun-drenched, grassy summit of Black Balsam Knob, climbing through a forest of sweet-scented black balsam fir.

Linville Falls Trail

Hike to exceptional views of some of the best waterfalls near Asheville, trekking to three overlooks with views of upper and lower Linville Falls and some beautiful views into Linville Gorge.

Sam Knob Trail

Hike the Sam Knob Trail to some exceptional summit views, trekking through a wide, open meadow filled with wildflowers, from a trailhead off the Parkway near Black Balsam Knob.

Skinny Dip Falls Trail

Hike to a popular summertime swimming hole south of Asheville, where a multi-tiered waterfall spills into deep, crystal-clear pools in a beautiful, shady cove at Skinny Dip Falls.

Mt Pisgah Trail

It’s a moderately difficult climb, but the views are well worth the effort: hike to the Mount Pisgah summit south of Asheville to catch some stunning long-range views.

Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail

Just south of Mount Pisgah, the Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail summits a mountain and climbs a historic steel fire tower, catching some stunning 360-degree panoramas.

Devil’s Courthouse Trail

It’s a short climb from the Blue Ridge Parkway, but so worth the effort. Hike to the towering, jagged Devil’s Courthouse summit through a beautiful high-elevation forest to catch some stunning summit views from the top.

Graveyard Fields Trail

Two waterfalls, beautiful views from the trailhead and miles and miles of rolling terrain filled with wild blueberries and blackberries: it’s no wonder that the Graveyard Fields Trail is one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most popular hikes.

Written by Eric Champlin for Asheville Trails and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Asheville Trails

Intro

Art Loeb was a man who “deeply loved these mountains.” If you travel to the highest point on the trail bearing his namesake you will see a weathered plaque commemorating these words. On a clear day, from this high point, you will also see picturesque, long-range Appalachian views in all directions. The 30.1 mile trail takes you through the wonders of the Pisgah National Forest before traversing the iconic crest of the Great Balsam Mountains to the crown jewel of the Shining Rock Wilderness. Easy access to both end points, multiple campsites, two shelters, plentiful water and epic views make the Art Loeb a must do on the life list of all Appalachian hikers.

What Makes It Great

This acclaimed trail connects the Davidson River Campground in Brevard to Camp Daniel Boone in Haywood County, NC. The Pisgah National Forest divides the Art Loeb Trail into four sections. The trail’s southern terminus can be found off of highway 276 on the Davidson River Campground Access Road. The first section of trail begins here and takes you to Gloucester Gap. Highlights along this section of trail include an up close view of Cedar Rock and a shelter at Butter Gap. 

From Gloucester Gap hikers begin their climb upwards towards the crest of the Pisgah Ledge. If you are a glutton for punishment you will enjoy every steep step up Pilot Mountain. Eventually you will reach the top and a grand reward, paid with awe-inspiring views, lies on the narrow summit ridge of Pilot Mountain. After you descend the backside of Pilot rest your weary legs and quench your thirst at the Deep Gap shelter. The trail continues upwards, crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway, and ascends a series of steep switchbacks to finally gain the ridge line, and briefly merge with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Once atop the ridge line, a traverse along a pathway cut through a coniferous forest, which lines the airy edge of the Pisgah Ledge, leads hikers to Black Balsam Knob.

Section 3, the reward for your massive uphill climb, starts here. A majestic chain of Appalachian Balds reveals itself atop the summit of Black Balsam. Your next 5 miles of trail will take you up and over a string of lush peaks with panoramic views in every direction. If you goal is a through hike we recommend a campsite within this section of trail. Chances are you will be rewarded with a heavenly sunrise or sunset, and a close up view of starry skies. Shining Rock stands tall and shimmering at the end of the this string of Balds. Quartzite cliffs on Shining Rock’s summit allow some incredibly fun scrambles onto exposed sections with long range views. Shining Rock gap has access to water and rhododendron-canopied camp sites perfect for tents and hammocks.  From Shining Rock the trail crosses a section known as “The Narrows” on its way to Deep Gap, another aptly named, Deep Gap in the ridge line. At Deep Gap a spur trail on your right leads to the summit of Cold Mountain, made famous by a book of the same name. 

The fourth section of trail (3.8 miles) descends steadily along the flanks of Cold Mountain towards the Camp Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp and the northern terminus of The Art Loeb trail. Trailhead information and parking for a shuttle vehicle are available here as well as a lovely creek to cool off in after a completed thru hike.

Who is Going to Love It

Whether you are practicing for a longer trail or rekindling your love for backpacking The Art Loeb Trail is the perfect choice for a 3-4 day trip. Both trailheads are easily accessible and the Blue Ridge Parkway bisects the trail making for easy shuttle and resupply opportunities.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From the trail website: “Starting at the Davidson River near the Davidson River Campground, near Brevard, NC, Section 1 of the trail climbs Shut-In Ridge and travels generally west-southwest.”

Written by Steven Reinhold for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Steven Reinhold

The rolling, mountainous terrain of western North Carolina near Asheville is simply gorgeous. Tree-covered mountain summits and grassy balds fill the horizon. And deep cut river valleys and gorges slice through the landscape, spilling and tumbling and diving in scores of majestic waterfalls.

When river meets towering rock, something seemingly magical happens, as water begins to tumble and spill into a pool below. Waterfalls are simply beautiful. They’re strikingly photo-worthy. And those tumbling tendrils of water somehow stir remarkable emotion in the soul.

In Asheville’s mountainous and river-filled terrain, waterfalls are plentiful: there’s no shortage of great waterfall hikes to be found near the city. We’ve hiked many, exploring the area’s towering and thundering falls to the more gentle cascades set in stunningly beautiful forest. With so many amazing falls, it was tough to choose ten, but we’ve carefully hand-picked our favorites, all under a two hour drive from the metro Asheville area. Pack a picnic and hit the road: it’s time to chase some classically gorgeous North Carolina waterfalls.

Hike the Rainbow Falls Trail at Gorges State Park.
Hike the Rainbow Falls Trail at Gorges State Park.

Asheville Trails

1.Rainbow Falls Trail

Rainbow Falls is a stunner, tumbling down over a towering, 150-foot cliff in a single, dramatic drop. Hike theRainbow Falls Trail from Gorges State Park near Cashiers, NC to a series of spilling falls on the Horsepasture River and abundant summertime wildflowers.

Hike DuPont State Forest to Triple Falls, Hooker Falls and High Falls.
Hike DuPont State Forest to Triple Falls, Hooker Falls and High Falls.

Asheville Trails
  1. Triple Falls, Hooker Falls & High Falls

Three incredibly beautiful waterfalls, in less than five miles: it’s a falls-filled adventure. Hike a three-trail combo at DuPont State Forest near Brevard tothree of western North Carolina’s most beautiful and popular waterfalls.

Hike to the Linville Falls waterfalls at Linville Gorge, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Hike to the Linville Falls waterfalls at Linville Gorge, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Asheville Trails

3.Linville Falls Trail

The Linville River makes a dramatic entrance into Linville Gorge, spilling down through a steep-walled rocky wonderland in a multi-tiered waterfall. Hike theLinville Falls Trail to three overlooks of the falls, or the nearbyPlunge Basin Trail to an up-close view of the waterfall on the gorge floor.

Hike the High Falls Trail at Lake Glenville near Cashiers, NC to a stunning double-drop waterfall.
Hike the High Falls Trail at Lake Glenville near Cashiers, NC to a stunning double-drop waterfall.

Asheville Trails

4.High Falls Trail at Lake Glenville

Drop from the shores of Lake Glenville through a lush, green forest into a steep-walled gorge on theHigh Falls Trail, catching views of High Falls as it tumbles in a double-tiered waterfall.

Hike to the Graveyard Fields waterfalls off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Hike to the Graveyard Fields waterfalls off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Asheville Trails

5.Graveyard Fields Waterfalls Trail

Graveyard Fields, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville, is a land of rolling meadows filled with wildflowers, wild blueberries and blackberries, and stunning waterfalls. Hike a relatively easy 3-miler on theGraveyard Fields Trail to the upper and lower waterfalls, and trek through some incredibly beautiful terrain.

Hike the Skinny Dip Falls Trail from the Blue Ridge Parkway to this multi-tiered waterfall and popular summertime swimming hole.
Hike the Skinny Dip Falls Trail from the Blue Ridge Parkway to this multi-tiered waterfall and popular summertime swimming hole.

Asheville Trails

6.Skinny Dip Falls Trail

Hike toSkinny Dip Falls, a multi-tiered waterfall that cascades into deep pools of crystal clear, chilly water. Framed in steep, angled rock and rhododendron, the falls are gorgeous, and it’s one of the most popular summertime swimming holes near Asheville.

Hike to Dry Falls, a towering walk-behind waterfall near Highlands.
Hike to Dry Falls, a towering walk-behind waterfall near Highlands.

Asheville Trails

7.Dry Falls Trail

At barely a quarter mile, roundtrip, it’s more of a roadside attraction than our typical definition of a hike. But it’s really, incredibly beautiful. TheDry Falls Trail wraps behind the 65′ waterfall, offering a unique behind-the-falls waterfall view.

Hike to Moore Cove Falls, a 50-foot waterfall that spills into a beautiful, forested cove near Brevard, NC.
Hike to Moore Cove Falls, a 50-foot waterfall that spills into a beautiful, forested cove near Brevard, NC.

Asheville Trails

8.Moore Cove Falls Trail

Between Brevard, NC and the Blue Ridge Parkway,Moore Cove Falls tumbles dramatically in a single sheet from a tall rock outcrop in a beautifully forested cove. It’s a great, family-friendly hike nearLooking Glass Falls.

Hike to Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi River, near Cashiers.
Hike to Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi River, near Cashiers.

Asheville Trails

9.Whitewater Falls Trail

At just over a half mile, roundtrip, this hike packs a ton of scenic beauty into a short stretch of trail. Hike to two overlooks on theWhitewater Falls Trail to catch views of upper Whitewater Falls as it tumbles and cascades more than 400 feet, the highest waterfall in North Carolina.

Hike the Catawba Falls Trail near Old Fort, east of Asheville, through a waterfall-filled river valley.
Hike the Catawba Falls Trail near Old Fort, east of Asheville, through a waterfall-filled river valley.

Asheville Trails

10.Catawba Falls Trail

One of ourfavorite waterfall hikes near Asheville, the Catawba Falls Trail crosses several shallow river fords and treks through a waterfall-filled, shady valley to a century-old hydroelectric dam and several exceptionally beautiful waterfalls.

**Waterfall photography

Love taking waterfall photos, but struggle to get that great, wispy whitewater look? You’ll need to increase your camera’s exposure time, so your camera doesn’t freeze the action and suspend the waterfall’s water droplets in mid-air.

Mount your DSLR, mirrorless camera or point-and-shoot camera with exposure controls on a sturdy, lightweight tripod. Hike to a waterfall. Frame the waterfall in your viewfinder, switch to aperture priority mode, and then set a small aperture (f/16, f/22 or smaller) and a low ISO (100). This will help force your camera into a longer exposure, slowing waterfall to a blur, and the tripod will keep the other landscape details crisp.

For the best results, don’t shoot mid-day, or on sunny days. Shooting on cloudy days, at dawn or dusk, or adding a polarizing filter or neutral density filter to your lens will reduce the amount of available light, slowing the shutter speed and increasing the wispy-water effect.

**Waterfall hiking: safety

Hike safely: since the rocks surrounding a waterfall are often wet, they’re usually slippery too, so don’t climb, swim or hike on, around or over a waterfall. Falls can be fatal. And the best time to hike is usually not after a recent rain: a high-volume waterfall can be dangerous (and when raging, usually loses some of its magical, photo-worthy beauty).

Please help preserve North Carolina’s exceptional outdoor beauty. Pack out everything you pack in, and leave no trace. And don’t drink the water, as cool and refreshing as it may look: rivers and streams may may contain harmful bacteria and parasites. Some water sources may be safely filtered.

Written by Eric Champlin for Asheville Trails and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Asheville Trails

Nestled in the Pisgah National Forest, Looking Glass Rock is an iconic natural presence that beckons climbers and hikers from all over. For rock climbers, it's one of the premier multi-pitches in the South. For trail runners and hikers, it's one of the top 10 hikes around the city of Asheville (which is saying a lot considering the peaks and forests of Western Carolina are brimming with such a dazzling array of hiking adventures).

And for many, just photographing or driving past this prominent feature and witnessing it from other vantage points in the national forest area is satisfying and inspiring enough.

Everyday there are those who feel the call to summit and stand on the rounded granite face of Looking Glass Rock. And for those who do, they're rewarded with a fantastic, flat sitting picnic area and the company of commanding panoramas.

Beginning the hike to the summit of Looking Glass Rock.
Beginning the hike to the summit of Looking Glass Rock.

Jake Wheeler

Getting to the trailhead is pretty simple. Located only 5.5 miles outside of Brevard, NC on Forest Service Road 475, it's hard to miss the well-maintained and well-trodden path, not to mention the big, brown park sign showing you the way.

Not for those who are out of shape, this trail gains a total of 1,700 vertical feet in just over three miles on its way to the 4,000’ summit of Looking Glass. And a good thing to note when heading there is that this is one of the most popular hikes in Western North Carolina, so you'll want to arrive early because the parking lot can quickly fill up.

Following the yellow blazes, and getting lost in the lushness of the trail.
Following the yellow blazes, and getting lost in the lushness of the trail.

Jake Wheeler

The trail to the top is a singletrack path etched into the mountainside that switchbacks its way up the mountain for for an out-and-back journey totaling 6.4 miles.

You'll start with a comfortable stroll through thick virgin hardwoods and verdant fern gullies, following a creek up through a hollow, until the trail begins to start switching back and forth, winding its way up the backside of the mountain towards the granite dome summit. At times, this hike can be a little challenging, but the closer you get to the top, the less steep it becomes. And trust me, the views are worth the effort and energy.

Winding up one of the many switchbacks along this hike.
Winding up one of the many switchbacks along this hike.

Jake Wheeler
Towards the top, the hike begins to get a little rocky, foreshadowing the rock face summit to come.
Towards the top, the hike begins to get a little rocky, foreshadowing the rock face summit to come.

Jake Wheeler

Roughly two miles into the trail hikers will pass a relatively flat rock clearing with a large, painted “H.” From aerial heights, this “H” signals a landing pad for helicopter crews who come to rescue injured climbers. From the ground let this “H” stand as your reminder to watch your step during the rest of your journey! A spur trail leads from the back of the helicopter landing zone to the Lower Looking Glass Cliffs. Taking this short spur allows views of the main cliff face and a chance at solidarity from the crowds.

Otherwise, continue through a few open balds and scattered granite rock gardens that foreshadow the future sights ahead. You'll pass through wooded areas that have a few scattered campsites amongst them, and then you'll pass through a canopy of trees that create a rather welcoming tunnel for you to walk through as you make your way to the top of Looking Glass Rock.

The summit of Looking Glass is jaw-dropping. Just make sure you don't make it cell phone, lunch, or hiker friend dropping. Be careful.
The summit of Looking Glass is jaw-dropping. Just make sure you don't make it cell phone, lunch, or hiker friend dropping. Be careful.

Jake Wheeler
Enjoying the views from Looking Glass Rock.
Enjoying the views from Looking Glass Rock.

Jake Wheeler

The summit of Looking Glass is a somewhat of an anomaly in the Blue Ridge: it's flat-topped, thickly forested, and not particularly tall. In fact, you'll be gazing up at the mountains that engulf you, not down upon them. If you continue past the actual summit, that's where you'll reach the good stuff: the views from Upper Looking Glass Cliffs are simply good for the soul.

We recommended packing a small daypack with water, some granola bars, a camera, lunch for the summit, and a light pullover if it's windy on top. If you're thinking about hiking to the top of Looking Glass Rock, share your adventures with us by tagging #RootsRated. And remember to always Leave No Trace.

Written by Jake Wheeler for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Jake Wheeler

Home of majestic mountains, immense national forests, and seemingly infinite stretches of pristine coastline, North Carolina is not only laden with stunning natural landscape, it is also full of gritty and grueling outdoors adventures. Take your pick: churning whitewater, storm swollen Atlantic swells, high peaks of the southern Appalachians—if you can dream it, you can do it in North Carolina. These are just a few of the Tar Heel State’s most thrilling outdoor adventures.

1. Thru-Hike the Mountains-to-Sea Trail

The 1,150-mile Mountains to Sea Trail offers stunning vistas throughout the state.
The 1,150-mile Mountains to Sea Trail offers stunning vistas throughout the state.

Joe Giordano

Stretching 1,150-miles from the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains to the sand dunes of Jockey’s Ridge in the Outer Banks, North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail is nearly half the length of the Appalachian Trail. Winding past rolling blue-tinged peaks, tannin-stained swamps, and mixed hardwood forests all the way to the coast, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail is also arguably one of the country’s most unique thru-hikes, rambling over both the loftiest peak (Mount Mitchell 6,684 feet), the highest sand dunes on the East Coast, and past the country’s tallest lighthouse (Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, 207 feet).

2. Paddle the Intracoastal Waterway

The Intracoastal Waterway offers a wide variety of paddling options in North Carolina.
The Intracoastal Waterway offers a wide variety of paddling options in North Carolina.

US Army/Pamela Spaugy

Running 3,000-miles along the Atlantic coast, the Intracoastal Waterway was once a major trade artery, offering vessels a sheltered route protected from the perils of the open ocean. Today, the extensive thoroughfare offers excellent recreational paddling, especially along North Carolina’s coast. Sometimes offering up vast stretches of open water, in other places reduced to a narrow channel fringed by tracts of maritime forest, the Intracoastal Waterway passes everything from biodiversity-rich wildlife refuges to historic coastal towns like Beaufort, the 17th-century haunt of the pirate Blackbeard.

3. Navigate the Narrows

Whitewater on the Green River will challenge any paddler. 
    Angela Greenwell
Whitewater on the Green River will challenge any paddler.
Angela Greenwell

Featuring rapids with names like “Pincushion,” “Nutcracker,” and “Go Left and Die,” the Narrows section of the Green River is no float trip. The Class V run’s most notorious stretch is undoubtedly a section known as “The Gorilla.” This segment requires paddlers to thread a narrow, 4-foot-wide slot called The Notch before taking on not one but two waterfalls, including the 18-foot Flume and the 10-foot Scream Machine. The churning, whitewater obstacle course is celebrated every November as gutsy paddlers from all over the globe make the annual pilgrimage for the Green River Race, one of the most treacherous and technical kayak races in the country.

4. Cycle 100 Miles in the Piedmont

Savor the stunning landscapes of North Carolina’s Piedmont with an extensive ride in one the state’s most eclectic regions. Cycle past groves of towering pines, sprawling horse farms, historic tobacco towns, culture-loaded colleges, and some of the country’s most legendary fairways. Cover some serious mileage on the nearly 200-mile Piedmont Spur, stretching from the edge of the Blue Ridge to the outskirts of Charlotte. Concoct an iconic century loop linking Southern Pines and Pinehurst, known as the home of golf in America, or cycle a circuit on the 30-miles of bike-able roadway in the 7,000-acre Duke Forest.

5. Climb the Biggest, Baddest Cliff on the East Coast

Whiteside Mountain is one of the East Coast's most difficult climbs.
Whiteside Mountain is one of the East Coast's most difficult climbs.

Thomson20192

Rising 4,930 feet above the massive Nantahala National Forest, Whiteside Mountain is one of North Carolina’s most iconic summits—and one of the East Coast’s gnarliest climbs. Streaked with shimmering slivers of quartz and feldspar, the stunning slab of rock is also laced with formidable climbs, from the long routes on the southeast face to the less frequented approaches of the northwest face. If the mountain’s sheer cliffs are a little too foreboding, hit the two-mile hiking trail leading to the summit and admire the weather-warped tangle of red oak trunks crowning the summit.

6. Mount Mitchell Challenge and Black Mountain Marathon

The Black Mountain Range is home to one of the toughest races in the U.S.
The Black Mountain Range is home to one of the toughest races in the U.S.

Kolin Toney

Tackle some of the toughest terrain in in the Tar Heel State with western North Carolina’s most arduous duo of adventure races. The Black Mountain Marathon and Mount Mitchell Challenge both begin together, in the mountain-framed town of Black Mountain. For a stretch, both races follow the same route, but while the marathoners turn around at Black Mountain Gap overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the challengers continue to the 6,684-foot summit of Mount Mitchell, covering a total of 40-miles with a staggering 4,324-foot elevation gain in the first half of the race.

7. Blowing Rock Fall Classic

Cyclists can choose from three races—or do them all—in the Triple Crown of Carolina.
Cyclists can choose from three races—or do them all—in the Triple Crown of Carolina.

Brampton Cyclist

Featuring a 72-mile loop circling the massive Pisgah National Forest—and 6,000-feet of elevation gain—the Blowing Rock Fall Classic is no Sunday afternoon ride in the park. The late September bike race is a part of the Triple Crown of Carolina cycling, which in addition to the Blowing Rock Fall Classic, includes the 90-mile Blood, Sweat, and Gears loop in late June, beginning just outside Boone, and the Beech Mountain Metric in May, which features 8,000-feet of climbing, culminating at the summit of Beech Mountain.

8. Surf a Stormy Swell

Surfing at North Carolina's Outer Banks.
Surfing at North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Heidi

North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a slender string of nearshore barrier islands, offer not only seemingly endless stretches of pristine Atlantic beaches, but they also serve up some of the premier swells on the East Coast. The combination of exposure and location, and merging forces like the chilly Labrador Current and warm Gulf Stream, make the Outer Banks, and especially Hatteras Island, consistently surf-able any time of year (wetsuits sometimes required). Even better, with an off-road (4X4) vehicle and a little wanderlust, it’s legal to drive along the Hatteras Island National Seashore until you find your own secret surf spot.

9. Slickrock Singletrack

Fall is a great time for mountain biking in North Carolina.
Fall is a great time for mountain biking in North Carolina.

Jeff Bartlett

Ride the rugged, view-laden ridgelines of the sprawling, 10,400-acre DuPont State Forest. Aside from the quad-burning climbs and technical, white-knuckle descents, both the Big Rock and Cedar trails include expansive stretches of granite slickrock dappled with plenty of dips, divots, drop offs, and sweeping Blue Ridge vistas. Craft your ideal singletrack expedition on the forest’s 80-plus miles of rideable roads and trails.

10. Bag a Brag-Worthy Day Hike

The Slickrock Creek Trail in the Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness is one of the toughest day hikes in the state.
The Slickrock Creek Trail in the Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness is one of the toughest day hikes in the state.

Chris M Morris

Take on one of the most challenging hikes in North America, the 13-mile Slickrock Creek Trail in the Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness, spread between North Carolina and Tennessee. Fondly nicknamed “The Ballbuster” by intrepid locals, the trail includes more than a dozen stream crossings and a total of 3,700-feet of elevation gain. Besides earning bragging rights, hardy hikers are rewarding with stunning vistas of untouched wilderness.

Written by Malee Baker Oot for RootsRated in partnership with Visit North Carolina and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Jeff Bartlett

Home of majestic mountains, immense national forests, and seemingly infinite stretches of pristine coastline, North Carolina is not only laden with stunning natural landscape, it is also full of gritty and grueling outdoors adventures. Take your pick: churning whitewater, storm swollen Atlantic swells, high peaks of the southern Appalachians—if you can dream it, you can do it in North Carolina. These are just a few of the Tar Heel State’s most thrilling outdoor adventures.

1. Thru-Hike the Mountains-to-Sea Trail

The 1,150-mile Mountains to Sea Trail offers stunning vistas throughout the state.
The 1,150-mile Mountains to Sea Trail offers stunning vistas throughout the state.

Joe Giordano

Stretching 1,150-miles from the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains to the sand dunes of Jockey’s Ridge in the Outer Banks, North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail is nearly half the length of the Appalachian Trail. Winding past rolling blue-tinged peaks, tannin-stained swamps, and mixed hardwood forests all the way to the coast, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail is also arguably one of the country’s most unique thru-hikes, rambling over both the loftiest peak (Mount Mitchell 6,684 feet), the highest sand dunes on the East Coast, and past the country’s tallest lighthouse (Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, 207 feet).

2. Paddle the Intracoastal Waterway

The Intracoastal Waterway offers a wide variety of paddling options in North Carolina.
The Intracoastal Waterway offers a wide variety of paddling options in North Carolina.

US Army/Pamela Spaugy

Running 3,000-miles along the Atlantic coast, the Intracoastal Waterway was once a major trade artery, offering vessels a sheltered route protected from the perils of the open ocean. Today, the extensive thoroughfare offers excellent recreational paddling, especially along North Carolina’s coast. Sometimes offering up vast stretches of open water, in other places reduced to a narrow channel fringed by tracts of maritime forest, the Intracoastal Waterway passes everything from biodiversity-rich wildlife refuges to historic coastal towns like Beaufort, the 17th-century haunt of the pirate Blackbeard.

3. Navigate the Narrows

Whitewater on the Green River will challenge any paddler. 
    Angela Greenwell
Whitewater on the Green River will challenge any paddler.
Angela Greenwell

Featuring rapids with names like “Pincushion,” “Nutcracker,” and “Go Left and Die,” the Narrows section of the Green River is no float trip. The Class V run’s most notorious stretch is undoubtedly a section known as “The Gorilla.” This segment requires paddlers to thread a narrow, 4-foot-wide slot called The Notch before taking on not one but two waterfalls, including the 18-foot Flume and the 10-foot Scream Machine. The churning, whitewater obstacle course is celebrated every November as gutsy paddlers from all over the globe make the annual pilgrimage for the Green River Race, one of the most treacherous and technical kayak races in the country.

4. Cycle 100 Miles in the Piedmont

Savor the stunning landscapes of North Carolina’s Piedmont with an extensive ride in one the state’s most eclectic regions. Cycle past groves of towering pines, sprawling horse farms, historic tobacco towns, culture-loaded colleges, and some of the country’s most legendary fairways. Cover some serious mileage on the nearly 200-mile Piedmont Spur, stretching from the edge of the Blue Ridge to the outskirts of Charlotte. Concoct an iconic century loop linking Southern Pines and Pinehurst, known as the home of golf in America, or cycle a circuit on the 30-miles of bike-able roadway in the 7,000-acre Duke Forest.

5. Climb the Biggest, Baddest Cliff on the East Coast

Whiteside Mountain is one of the East Coast's most difficult climbs.
Whiteside Mountain is one of the East Coast's most difficult climbs.

Thomson20192

Rising 4,930 feet above the massive Nantahala National Forest, Whiteside Mountain is one of North Carolina’s most iconic summits—and one of the East Coast’s gnarliest climbs. Streaked with shimmering slivers of quartz and feldspar, the stunning slab of rock is also laced with formidable climbs, from the long routes on the southeast face to the less frequented approaches of the northwest face. If the mountain’s sheer cliffs are a little too foreboding, hit the two-mile hiking trail leading to the summit and admire the weather-warped tangle of red oak trunks crowning the summit.

6. Mount Mitchell Challenge and Black Mountain Marathon

The Black Mountain Range is home to one of the toughest races in the U.S.
The Black Mountain Range is home to one of the toughest races in the U.S.

Kolin Toney

Tackle some of the toughest terrain in in the Tar Heel State with western North Carolina’s most arduous duo of adventure races. The Black Mountain Marathon and Mount Mitchell Challenge both begin together, in the mountain-framed town of Black Mountain. For a stretch, both races follow the same route, but while the marathoners turn around at Black Mountain Gap overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the challengers continue to the 6,684-foot summit of Mount Mitchell, covering a total of 40-miles with a staggering 4,324-foot elevation gain in the first half of the race.

7. Blowing Rock Fall Classic

Cyclists can choose from three races—or do them all—in the Triple Crown of Carolina.
Cyclists can choose from three races—or do them all—in the Triple Crown of Carolina.

Brampton Cyclist

Featuring a 72-mile loop circling the massive Pisgah National Forest—and 6,000-feet of elevation gain—the Blowing Rock Fall Classic is no Sunday afternoon ride in the park. The late September bike race is a part of the Triple Crown of Carolina cycling, which in addition to the Blowing Rock Fall Classic, includes the 90-mile Blood, Sweat, and Gears loop in late June, beginning just outside Boone, and the Beech Mountain Metric in May, which features 8,000-feet of climbing, culminating at the summit of Beech Mountain.

8. Surf a Stormy Swell

Surfing at North Carolina's Outer Banks.
Surfing at North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Heidi

North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a slender string of nearshore barrier islands, offer not only seemingly endless stretches of pristine Atlantic beaches, but they also serve up some of the premier swells on the East Coast. The combination of exposure and location, and merging forces like the chilly Labrador Current and warm Gulf Stream, make the Outer Banks, and especially Hatteras Island, consistently surf-able any time of year (wetsuits sometimes required). Even better, with an off-road (4X4) vehicle and a little wanderlust, it’s legal to drive along the Hatteras Island National Seashore until you find your own secret surf spot.

9. Slickrock Singletrack

Fall is a great time for mountain biking in North Carolina.
Fall is a great time for mountain biking in North Carolina.

Jeff Bartlett

Ride the rugged, view-laden ridgelines of the sprawling, 10,400-acre DuPont State Forest. Aside from the quad-burning climbs and technical, white-knuckle descents, both the Big Rock and Cedar trails include expansive stretches of granite slickrock dappled with plenty of dips, divots, drop offs, and sweeping Blue Ridge vistas. Craft your ideal singletrack expedition on the forest’s 80-plus miles of rideable roads and trails.

10. Bag a Brag-Worthy Day Hike

The Slickrock Creek Trail in the Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness is one of the toughest day hikes in the state.
The Slickrock Creek Trail in the Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness is one of the toughest day hikes in the state.

Chris M Morris

Take on one of the most challenging hikes in North America, the 13-mile Slickrock Creek Trail in the Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness, spread between North Carolina and Tennessee. Fondly nicknamed “The Ballbuster” by intrepid locals, the trail includes more than a dozen stream crossings and a total of 3,700-feet of elevation gain. Besides earning bragging rights, hardy hikers are rewarding with stunning vistas of untouched wilderness.

Written by Malee Baker Oot for RootsRated in partnership with Visit North Carolina and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Jeff Bartlett