Summer Fun Planning Guide for Asheville, NC
Enjoying the Mountains of Western North Carolina all year long!
Western North Carolina is a special place to visit no matter the season, but traveling to the area in the summer opens you up to a multitude of exciting activities and we think you'll find that this is an area to which you'll want to return year after year. Read on for an introduction to some of our favorite ways to spend the long summer days!
Things to Do:
There is certainly no shortage of amazing hiking trails in the Western North Carolina/Southern Appalachian Region! Summer is one of the best seasons for exploring our area - the flowers are blooming, the tree canopies are thick and lush, the waters are icy, and the temperature is hot! We have so many favorites, we couldn't possibly list them all in one guide, but to help introduce visitors to some of what we consider to be the best, we've highlighted just a few below!
Devil's Courthouse is located at milepost 422.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The trail itself is short but quite strenuous - it climbs a half mile to the peak of the rock known as "Devil's Courthouse", and rewards hikers with astounding long range, panoramic views of the mountains and valleys in the distance. The trail is well manicured and mostly paved. This location is home to many rare and delicate high-altitude plants - to protect these delicate ecosystems, always stay on the trail.
To get to this hike from Downtown Asheville, head South on the Blue Ridge Parkway for about 40 miles to Milepost 422.4. The parking area for Devil's Courthouse is well marked and located on the Right.
Looking Glass Rock
This trail is a strenuous, 6.5 mile roundtrip hike and is suitable only for experienced hikers. The trail climbs about 1,700 feet in about 3 miles, so it is certainly a workout! Hikers are rewarded for their efforts with mountain laurel tunnels, babbling brooks, and ultimately, long range views of the mountains and valleys in the distance.
To get to this trail from Downtown Asheville, take I-240 West/ I-26 East to Exit 40. Take a Right off of the exit onto Highway 280 West and travel on for 16 more miles to Brevard. Just past the big shopping center, make a right onto US Highway 276 North to enter the Pisgah National Forest. Travel 5.3 miles, then turn Left at the sign for Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and the State Fish Hatchery. The parking area for Looking Glass Rock Trail Head is about 4/10ths of a miles ahead.
Hickory Nut Falls Trail
This 1.5 mile round trip trail is rated as "easy" and is considered to be accessible for hikers of all skill levels. The trail itself is a wide, rolling, manicured path that leads to the bottom of a 404 foot waterfall (you may recognize some of this scenery from The Last of the Mohicans - portions of the movie were filmed here!). This trail has heavy tree cover, so we absolutely love trekking it on a super hot summer day. Expect to see lots of wildflowers, songbirds, and native rhododendron bushes!
To get to this trail from Downtown Asheville, head over to Chimney Rock Park via I-240 East. Take Exit 9 for Highway 74 East and head toward Bat Cave. Follow signs for Chimney Rock Village - the Park entrance will be on your right.
Visitors travel from around the world to hike the trails of Western North Carolina. Our forests are attractive year round, but in the summer, the foliage goes wild and the flowers spring forth from the ground, making our woods a magical and dreamy place to explore. There are hundreds of miles of trails from which to choose, but one of the best ways to introduce yourself to the area is to choose a trail that ultimately leads to a waterfall (we're famous for those too!). We've highlighted three of our favorites below!
Sliding Rock is a natural water-slide located in Pisgah National Forest. The 60-foot sloping boulder ends in an eight-foot deep pool, making this one of the most popular summer attractions in Transylvania County. It's just a short eight miles from Downtown Brevard, so many visitors plan on spending an hour or two exploring the Historic Downtown before heading out to slip and slide in the woods! Lifeguards are on duty from May 28th - Late August, from 10 AM to 6 PM. Admission during the summer season is $2 a person and kids under 6 get in for free!
To get to Sliding Rock from Downtown Asheville, head east on I-26 to Exit 40. Take a Right off of the exit onto Highway 280 West and travel 16 miles toward Brevard. As you enter Brevard, you'll see a large shopping center on the Right. Just past that center, turn Right onto US Highway 276 North to enter the Pisgah National Forest. Continue on for 7.6 miles. The parking area for Sliding Rock is located on the Left.
Hooker Falls is a smaller waterfall (just at 15 feet), but it is a beauty! One of the area favorites, it boasts a beautiful surrounding landscape and a large swimming pool at the base. In fact, this is the only waterfall in all of DuPont State Forest that is safe for swimming as the current is not very strong. The hike to the falls is considered to be easy, making it very accessible for hikers of all skill levels. There is a great trail that leads to a viewpoint at the top of the falls, then winds down a small hill to a restored area along the river.
To get to Hooker Falls from Downtown Asheville, head east on I-26 to Exit 40. Turn Right off of the exit onto 280 and travel about 16 miles. Turn Left onto US 64 as you enter Brevard and travel east for 3.7 miles to the gas station in Penrose. Make a Right onto Crab Creek Road and continue on for 4.3 miles before turning Right onto DuPont Road. After 3.1 miles, you'll find the Hooker Falls parking area on the Right just before the Little River Bridge. There is no admission fee for this waterfall!
Triple Falls is a really special area waterfall - visitors can actually stand in the middle of the waterfall on a level rock surface! There is plenty of room to have a picnic, lounge around, or even settle in to nap in the sun. The waterfall itself is 120 feet fall and is accessible from the Hooker Falls parking area, making this a popular destination for visitors beginning their adventure at the smaller waterfall. For an even longer adventure, continue on to High Falls - another gorgeous waterfall about a half mile hike from this stunner! Oh, and did we mention that the Hunger Games were filmed at this beautiful locale?
To get to Triple Falls from Downtown Asheville, follow the directions to Hooker Falls but instead of turning into the first parking area, continue on for another mile. A larger parking area for High Falls is located on the Right, near the visitors center. There is no admission fee for this waterfall!
Ah, the rivers of Western North Carolina! They are at the heart of our mountain culture. The French Broad River runs through the center of many communities in the area and our paddlesports rely on its alternating wild waves and calm stretches. There are many, many ways to enjoy the rivers of the area - recreational water sports, fishing, swimming, and lounging shore side are just a few of our favorites. In fact, Carolina Mornings is so passionate about these activities, we've teamed up with French Broad Rafting to offer our guests a complimentary rafting trip during their stay in the mountains! Click Here to learn more about our Mountain Discovery Pass!
There are so many jumping off points for exploring the area rivers - a few of our favorites are listed below:
The French Broad in Asheville
The French Broad River twines through the heart of our community and many of our outdoor activities revolve around it. When summer arrives, we know that it's time to head over to one of the many river tubing companies and get our float on! The River Arts District is the place to go to arrange for a day on the river. Consider making The Bywater your final destination! This is a local, family friendly hangout that boasts a large outdoor area with grills, games, and good people!
Lower French Broad River
Located in Madison County, near Hot Springs, NC, the Lower section of the French Broad River is a great spot for both anglers and water sport enthusiasts. A popular location for white water rafting and kayaking, this section of the french broad vacillates between choppy waves and calm flow.
Split into the Upper Nantahala and the Lower Nantahala, this river is one of the state's ten best spots for trout fishing. It's also a pristine water source nestled into the beautiful Nantahala National Forest. Bridal Veil Falls and Dry Falls are two popular waterfalls located along this river, and we definitely recommend exploring them.
For even more information about the area rivers, visit our Carolina Mornings Fishing Guide!
We're very lucky to live in a place where water is abundant - Western North Carolina is a treasure trove of natural resources and the lakes are just one of many beautiful attractions in our landscape. Summertime means swimming in the local lakes, fishing their waters, and paddling away the afternoon hours. There are many lakes in the surrounding area, and we've highlighted three of the most popular below!
Lake Julian is a great area resource for those based in and around Buncombe County. Located in South Asheville, Lake Julian boasts 300 acres of crystal clear thermal water. The lake is also home to an abundance of bass, catfish, brim, crappie, and imported tilapia! Lake Julian Park sits on the banks of the lake and offers prime picnicking locations, boating, fishing, playgrounds, and plenty of space for outdoor games and special events.
To get to Lake Julian from Asheville, head East on I-26 to Exit 37. Turn Left off of the exit onto Long Shoals Road. Travel 1.1 miles to the Overlook Road traffic light. Turn Right onto Overlook Road Extension. Continue on a brief 0.1 miles - the Park entrance will be located on your Left!
Lake Lure is a huge area staple for outdoor activity and we look forward all year to the summer fun that we know we'll have on it's waters, shores, and surrounding Chimney Rock Park. The lake itself is about 720 acres and the shoreline stretches for about 21 miles - making full days of exploration not just possible but expected! Situated in the heart of Hickory Nut Gorge (just East of Asheville), Lake Lure offers convenient access to other area amenities like Downtown Asheville, the River Arts District, The Biltmore Estate, and more. Best of all? Lake Lure lies in a "Thermal Belt" - meaning the climate is considered to be unusually good! Oh, and Dirty Dancing fans will recognize this area as the setting for the hugely popular 1987 film! Dirty Dancing 2 is currently being filmed here, so the area is alive with activity!
To get to Lake Lure from Downtown Asheville, head East on I-240 for 4 miles. I-240 E turns into US-74 Alt East - continue on that highway for 23.5 miles.
Lake James is situated between the towns of Marion and Morganton and is the most recent addition to the North Carolina State Parks system. It sits 1,200 feet above sea level and was created in the early 1900's. The surrounding park is a fantastic destination for families and friends looking to spend a day hiking around. Boating, swimming, and picnicking are made very accessible to visitors and the Lake is a busy place in the summer months!
To get to Lake James from Downtown Asheville, head East on I-240. Merge onto I-40 East toward Statesville. Continue on I-40 E for 37.4 miles, then take Exit 90 toward Nebo/Lake James. Turn Right off of the exit onto Harmony Grove Road. After 3.2 miles, turn Right onto NC-126 East. Lake James State Park will be located on the Left.
Ah, the Blue Ridge Parkway - the jewel of the Appalachians. We are so blessed to have this beautiful scenic byway wind through our backyard and to honor what it gives us, we try to experience all that it has to offer with each passing season. Visitors to the area will find themselves captivated with its summer beauty. From any of hundreds of vista points, long range views of the mountains and valleys in the distance can be enjoyed. Roadside picnics, hiking trails of all skill levels, a break from the hustle and bustle of city life - all of this and more is made supremely accessible on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Access points to the Parkway are conveniently located all around Asheville and the surrounding communities. For some destination suggestions, visit our Favorite Scenic Drives page!
The Biltmore Estate is a vast and beloved area resource. It offers exciting events with every new season, but it is the summer to which we look forward all year! The gardens are lush, vibrant, and alive with new blooms. The trails are manicured, the sun dapples the ground through the thick overhead foliage of healthy, well cared for trees. The courtyards invite you to have a picnic, a snooze in the sun, or play a classic outdoor game like catch or Frisbee.
To experience all of what the Estate has to offer, we recommend setting aside two days to explore - one for touring the home and catching a bite in one or several of the many restaurants on property, and the other for hiking around, paddling the lake, going horseback riding or renting a bike to spend the day cycling.
To help our guests experience the best of the Biltmore, we've paired up with the Estate to offer a complimentary adult pass to the grounds as part of our Mountain Discovery Pass! Traveling with a larger group? Our guests are also able to purchase additional tickets to the Estate through our reservation process. Best of all, if you purchase your additional tickets to the Biltmore through us, our Concierge Team will set everything up so that you can focus on the important stuff - like enjoying your vacation!
Click Here to learn more about the Biltmore Estate!
Ziplining Through Summer
Ziplining is one of the most popular of our many outdoor summer activities - soaring among the trees and above the valleys and forest floors is incredibly invigorating and empowering. This is a fantastic activity for groups of friends, families on vacation, or even corporate retreats! We just love sharing this activity with newcomers to the area as a sort of introduction to our stunning landscape. In fact, we're so passionate about it, we've teamed up with French Broad Rafting and Ziplining to offer our guests a complimentary adult pass for a ziplining trip! Click Here to learn more about our Mountain Discovery Pass!
Asheville is a foodie heaven and there is no better time to enjoy it than in the summer! Our downtown restaurants open up the terraces, put out the hanging plants, source their ingredients from local farms, and prepare mouthwatering, sumptuous fare for locals and visitors alike. Our breweries, too, get excited about the summer season! Rotating seasonal brews grace the taps at all of our over 20 small breweries and most of our local restaurants. Oh, and don't forget about our food trucks! Gourmet, adventurous dishes come out of these small vehicles and they're becoming quite famous in their own right.
A popular moniker for Asheville is "Beer City" - and for good reason! We have over 20 local breweries, each one unique and genius in its own right. The beer lists change with the seasons as the Brew Masters pull from local, seasonal goods to create their masterpieces! The summer brews tend to be crisp, cool, hoppy, and super refreshing. While we have a few summer brew staples that return year after year, these small batch concoctions can change with the wind. The best way to experience the seasonal goodness is to visit the breweries themselves and talk to the professionals!
We love every single brewery in our dear mountain city - visitors to the area should make a point of visiting all of them over time - but to help introduce newcomers to our vibrant beer scene, we've highlighted a few of the most popular below:
Highland Brewing Company
Highland Brewing Company has been an Asheville Area staple since 1994. The Brew Masters at this company are super talented and every year they create a new batch of something extraordinary. The Summer Seasonal brews are our favorites - crisp, hoppy, light - everything we want on a hot summer day! We recommend swinging by the tasting room to try the Lost Cove Kolsch. This German-style Kolsch is crisp, dry, and delicious.. the perfect accompaniment to a hot summer afternoon!
Pisgah Brewing Company
Pisgah Brewing Company is not just one of our favorite breweries - they have an out-of-this-world outdoor stage for summer music events! We love whittling away summer evenings on the greens at this brewery, and even more so because the Brew Masters here concoct delicious seasonal beverages! We suggest heading over to catch a performance and sip on a half pint of the Pisgah Double IPA. The tropical notes of pineapple and grapefruit will root you firmly in the joy of summer!
Wicked Weed is located in Downtown Asheville and is home to some truly remarkable brews. The space itself is funky, fun, and perfectly set up to host your summer evening fun. Every year, Wicked Weed comes out with a new and exciting summer seasonal. For the beer aficionados out there, we recommend heading over to sip on the Golden Angel - a Barrel-Aged American Sour brewed with apricots.
Music is a central vein of Ashevillean culture - we love it, we live off of it, we make is a central tenet of our summer season. Fantastic musicians grace the stages of The Grey Eagle, The Orange Peel, New Mountain, and Isis. Our pubs, cafes, and restaurants are alive with the performances of local and traveling musicians. Buskers grace the streets playing music you love and music you'll fall in love with. One of the best ways to learn about upcoming shows and performances is to check out our local culture publication, Mountain Xpress. There are also a few staples that you can count on for delivering great events and we've highlighted them below:
Biltmore Summer Concert Series
The Biltmore Summer Concert Series is a heavily anticipated event in the communities surrounding the Estate. Popular artists travel to the Estate to perform on the South Terrace under the beautiful Western North Carolina night sky. The sunset over the mountains is your backdrop at these events, and it's worth it to catch at least one. Click Here to see the Biltmore Estate Summer Concert Series Lineup!
Pisgah Brewing Company
With the arrival of the warm weather, Pisgah Brewing Company begins their summer outdoor shows in earnest. Food trucks line the greens, locals and visitors alike gather in front of the stage to dance, to sing, to lay on blankets in the grass, or just in general enjoy the evening air. An ever rotating line up of musicians from all different genres will grace the stage over the course of the summer. Click Here to see the Calendar of Events!
Downtown After Five
Downtown After Five is a well loved event that takes place in the heart of Downtown Asheville, on Lexington Avenue. On the 3rd Friday of each month, local musicians grace a stage that has been set up under the bridge at the base of Lexington Avenue. The entire street is closed to traffic and people of all ages and tastes gather to enjoy the live performances and to sample the local goods. Click Here to review the line up!
Here in Western North Carolina, we jump on any and every excuse to celebrate and throw a party! We have festivals for all seasons, but it is the summer events that take the cake. Dozens of outdoor summer celebrations are scheduled, and there are several that show us a good time year after year. We've highlighted just a few of them below!
Asheville Art in the Park
Asheville Art in the Park provides a great opportunity for locals and visitors alike to become familiar with local artists and the work that they produce. For three weeks in June and three weeks in October, the artists of our mountain communities gather in Pack Square Park in Downtown Asheville to present and sell their work. It is a hugely important event for local artists, and shoppers can leave with the satisfaction of knowing that they've done their part to support local area culture. Click Here for more information about this event!
Shindig on the Green
Shindig on the Green has been a basic tenet of Asheville culture for 50 years and one of the very best things about the summer is that it heralds the Shindig's return! Beginning in July and running through until September, Shindig on the Green is an event that supports and promotes traditional mountain music and dance. Bluegrass, Folk, Old-Time Country, Clogging, and more can be experienced by attendees. Based at Pack Square Park, Shindig on the Green is a sight to see and an event to attend! Click Here for more information about this event!
LEAF Downtown Asheville
2015 was the first year for LEAF Downtown Asheville, and it was an enormous success. Many, many local businesses and artists come together to create the program and basis of this event. It is at its core a supportive and creative festival that promotes the ideas of local and global community togetherness, diversity, and family. It's also a heap of fun for families, locals, and visitors to attend! Click Here to learn more about this sensational festival!
Summer is an astoundingly special season in the mountains - hundreds of blooms peek out from vast expanses of green, the North Carolina sky is vibrant and full of depth, and the long, warm days are perfect for relaxing and taking in the local sights. Being fully prepared for your planned excursions will make all the difference to your vacation in the mountains. When hiking, consider carrying sunscreen and bug spray - Western North Carolina is a temperate rain forest, which means you can count on humidity, vacillating high and low temperatures, and plenty of wildlife. We also recommend tall socks, sturdy shoes, and a brimmed hat to help protect your face from the powerful Southern sun. Having plenty of water in the summer months is vital, particularly in the Blue Ridge Mountains where a good hike can take you miles and miles away from your car, camp, or home-away-from-home.
Brushing up on the native plants in the area and the native North Carolina species will not only bring your experience to the next level of fun, it can protect you from interacting with potentially irritating native plants. When exploring these mountains, it's common to see a wide array of flora and fauna, all of which is beautiful, and many guests make a game of plant or species spotting while they're here with the kids!
Finally, it's important to remember that in the summer, everyone is out trying to enjoy the season. Watch for cyclists, runners, pedestrians, and motorcycles - our winding mountain roads are beautiful and exciting, and shared by many.
Where to Stay
Staying in a home away from home in the mountains is key to fully enjoying all of these Western North Carolina summer activities. Having a comfortable, well appointed home base to which to return after a day of adventuring brings your vacation to the next level of special. Carolina Mornings has dozens of amazing homes in and around the Asheville area - each one unique and beautiful. Our dedicated and knowledgeable Vacation Planners will work with you to tailor the ultimate summer getaway that fits all of your needs. To learn more about renting a home in the mountains, contact Carolina Mornings at (844) 412-6881. Be sure to ask about our Mountain Discovery Pass, included with every Carolina Mornings Rental!
Enjoy your stay in the mountains!