A 36-Hour Itinerary for Nature Lovers & Outdoor Enthusiasts
WRITTEN BY JENNIFER PHARR DAVIS, FOUNDER OF BLUE RIDGE HIKING CO
As a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, I’ve had the good fortune to hike all over the world. But there’s nowhere I’ve found or fallen in love with quite like my home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southern Appalachia.
To adventure here, you’re going to need some serious sustenance, hence, the hearty breakfasts, tasty dinners and delicious pints on my itinerary below.
If you have any trail questions, swing by my Blue Ridge Hiking Co. shop in downtown Asheville. We’re a friendly bunch and always happy to provide additional recommendations. With more than a million acres of national forest in Western North Carolina, there’s no limit to the places you can explore. Happy trails!
5:00 PM – A Pre-Dinner Pint
What better way to kick off your time in Asheville (aka Beer City USA) than with a local pint? Visit one of a dozen breweries in the South Slope. If you don’t know where to begin, start with a Surf Wax IPA at Burial Beer Co., a Bed of Nails brown ale at Hi-Wire Brewing or a porter at Green Man Brewery’s Green Mansion rooftop bar.
7:00 PM – Dinner and Dessert
From the South Slope, it’s a 10-minute stroll to downtown for dinner at The Market Place, Asheville’s original farm-to-table restaurant. If you’re not already stuffed, shuffle on over to Pack Square for a decadent dessert at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.
8:00 AM – Breakfast
Fuel up for a big day on the trail with breakfast tacos and coffee at West Asheville’s Taco Billy. Try the Migas Taco (an Asheville favorite) or Mama’s Favorite with egg, cheese, spinach, sweet potato and goat cheese on a house-made plantain tortilla.
10:00 AM – Picnic Lunch and Souvenir Shopping
Grab a picnic lunch from Green Sage Cafe or Loretta’s Cafe and then head to the Folk Art Center, where you can stock up on local pottery and textiles for the folks back home. There are picnic tables at the Folk Art Center or you can enjoy lunch at one of the scenic views on your upcoming drive.
12:00 PM – Mt. Mitchell and Black Mountain Crest Trail
Drive north on the Blue Ridge Parkway, taking in sweeping views at the overlooks and the Craggy Gardens Visitors Center before arriving at Mt. Mitchell. At 6,684 feet, it’s North Carolina’s first state park and the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River.
After taking in the 360-degree view from the summit, hike the legendary Black Mountain Crest Trail, climbing over and around the tallest mountains this side of the Rockies. And when you’ve had all the epic views you can handle, “flip it” and head back to the car.
4:00 PM – Visit to Burnsville
Continue north along the Parkway to Burnsville, an adorable little mountain town where you can window shop, grab an afternoon jolt at Appalachian Java or find a park bench and people watch on the town square.
5:00 PM – Dinner
Burnsville’s Homeplace Beer Co. has you covered for dinner with delicious wood-fired pizzas. For a beverage, try the Mustang Oil milk stout, the Biscuits ’n Gravy ESB or our personal favorite beer name, Myrtle Beach in the Mountains IPA.
7:00 PM – Evening Concert
If the weather’s nice, Homeplace will have music on its outdoor stage. If not, head back to Asheville and see who’s playing at The Grey Eagle Music Hall, The Orange Peel or the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium.
8:00 AM – Breakfast
“Put Some South in Your Mouth” with breakfast at Biscuit Head. Get there a few minutes before it opens to avoid the lines. And consider making that mouthful “open faced” so you can sample more than a dozen preserves, butters and spreads at the jam bar.
10:00 AM – Hike to Waterfalls in DuPont
Head to the DuPont Recreational State Forest for a leisurely out and back hike to Hooker, Triple and Upper Falls, some of the Southeast’s prettiest waterfalls, featured in movies like Hunger Games and The Last of the Mohicans. On your way back, regain caloric equilibrium with a late lunch and a beer at Sierra Nevada, one of the prettiest breweries you’ll ever see and affectionately known by locals as “Malt Disney.”