The North Carolina Mountains are a place of endless wonders, mystery and majesty. The mountains of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge are calling and you must go.
Today I wanted to share a list of Amazing Mountain Towns in the heart of NC’s mountain country, from Franklin to Blowing Rock…
Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park and TN Border
Bryson City: One of North Carolina’s gateway towns to the gorgeous Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Bryson City is the perfect spot for a family vacation…with quick access to The Smokies and less than an hour to Asheville and The Blue Ridge Parkway you’ll enjoy endless scenic beauty.
- The town of Bryson City is charming and has lots of fun things to do including The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. At Christmas the railroad is transformed into a magical journey of the Polar Express to the North Pole.
For your travel official Bryson City travel guide click here.
Only 16 miles from Bryson City, Cherokee is the heart of The Smokies…The town of Cherokee is on the tribal lands of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Tribe. This extraordinary people have a deep connection with the Smokies and have called this land home for generations. Sadly many Cherokee were forcibly removed from North Carolina-to-Georgia during Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears. However this resilient Eastern Band continued to hide out in their mountain home and remain today.
- Must see in Cherokee:
- Fontana Village:
- Just off the Appalachian Trail, this secluded paradise will cast a spell on you.
- Check into Fontana Village’s cabins or campground rentals for relaxing lakeside lodging.
- Take advantage of fishing and boating
- Hike the AT and into the backcountry of The Smoky Mountains.
- For road warriors – spin your wheels and switch your gears on one of America’s curviest roads – The Tail of the Dragon.
- Fun fact – my mom and I got on this road wihout realizing it was a road for professional drivers to test their skills and my only comment was ‘this is one curvy road.’ – I guess my mountain driving over the years paid off.
Maggie Valley: A laidback town surrounded by the glory of The Blue Ridge Mountains.
Sylva: Historic town with fun shops and gorgeous archicture. Sylva’s country courthouse is one of the most beautiful in the country. (Also check out next door neighbor Dillsboro)
Cullowhee: A college town (home to Western Carolina University) with amazing scenery and ancient history…respectfully check out archaelogical wonder – Judculla Rock on the outskirts of town.
Southwestern NC – Off Highway 64 (The Waterfall to Foothills Byway)
Franklin: The heart of Southwestern NC, this city on the clouds invites guests to its charming downtown and history – from pre-Cherokee Indian Mounds to Revolutionary War and Civil War History. Franklin is right off the Applachian Trail and is a popular stop for a pint of freshly brewed hard cider or beer at one of the local breweries. If you want a good meal and local brews check out The Lazy Hiker
- Franklin is also the gateway to NC’s ‘Waterfall Byway’ aka – The Cullasaja Gorge which winds through steep canyons and forests en route to Highlands NC. This road is one of the my favorite NC scenic drives, featuring popular road side waterfalls ‘Bridal Veil Falls’ and ‘Dry Falls.’
Highlands: Enjoy the high life in this upscale but laid back resort town, lined with restaurants and high end dress shops and fun souvenir stores.
Cashiers: Just down the Road from Highlands off scenic-US Highway 64, Cashiers is home to numerous resorts, hiking trails and delicious coffee shops.
Sapphire Valley: This resort town is relaxed luxury – enjoy the beauty of Old Baldy or play a game of golf…
Funky. cool. artsy – mountain town…Brevard is helmed by the artistic Brevard College (known for its music school) and is in the center of North Carolina’s Waterfall Wonderland. Hundreds of waterfalls can be found with a thirty mile radius of Brevard. I enjoy visiting usually stay at The Hampton Inn…or you can consider the campy cool Sunset Motel (motor inn) – a popular hit for travelers looking for vintage charm.
- Pro Tip – treat yourself to a milkshake at Rocky’s!
A cultural hub in the thriving greater-Asheville arts scene. Home to the renowned Flat Rock Playhouse as well as poet Carl Sandburg’s Home.
Culture, a bit of rugged charm and lots of breweries define this popular town for moutain lovers looking to hit the trails, raft the waters and explore the unknown.
One of North Carolina’s Original Mountain Resorts…Lake Lure was created in the early 1920s (dammed lake) near Hickory Nut Gorge and Chimney Rock. The resorts, including the Lake Lure (1927) Inn became a hit with legends like F. Scott Fitzgerald, FDR and the cast of Dirty Dancing.
The little town that ROCKS…
One of my favorite mountain towns in NC…a perfect spot to access the Asheville area sights, but far more affordable. Black Mountain has a thriving arts and crafts scene, great restaurants and is not far from area icons like Mt. Mitchell and The Blue Ridge Parkway. I recommend The Hampton Inn here (50% less than the one in Asheville when I visited in 2020)
Montreat: A sweet community run by The Presbyterian Church (all are welcome however). I attended summer camp here as a child and those wonderful memories stay with me. Montreat is a sort of fairy tale village with a few local shops you can walk to to grab ice cream by Lake Susan, access to hiking trails, a weekly barn dance (during my youth), a formidable stone hotel that looks like The Grove Park Inn.
Montreat offers spiritual retreats all year. It is also the home to Montreat College.
Mars Hill – a college town with history and a big heart…learn more here about this often overlooked mountain gem.
Linville Gorge Area:
Morganton: A great alternative to Asheville if you want outdoor access and a cool mountain city without the crowds. Not far from Linville Gorge, Morganton is also near gorgeous South Mountain State Park (known for beautiful waterfalls and hiking trails) and Lake James State Park.
- I recommend The Hampton Inn (I stayed there in a socially distanced trip in 2020), right off I-40 in Morganton.
Marion: Gorgeous views and great access to the Parkway and Mt. Mitchell State Park (the highest peak on the east coast)
Linville Falls: Near the Linville Gorge and also off The Blue Ridge Parkway THIS is a MUST STOP in your NC adventures.
- Linville Gorge is a mini Grand Canyon of the East. Access the Gorge here via:
- Wiseman’s Overlook (just make sure to have all wheel drive and large tires – otherwise you might not get back down)
- Hike gorgeous Linville Falls and Crabtree Falls (in the area)
- Tour NC’s only cave open to the public – Linville Caverns
- Eat at Famous Louise’s – This amazing restaurant straddles three counties!
Off the Blue Ridge Parkway:
- Get your parkway map here.
Weaverville: Funky, cool and packed with history, Weaverville is only a few miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Click here to learn more.
Burnsville: This mountain town is known for its arts and culture and laid back vibe…just off the parkway near Mount Mitchell State Park
Spruce Pine: Quaint town not far from Marion and Little Switzerland. Home of the Museum of North Carolina Minerals
Linville/Grandfather Mountain Nature
Not to be confused with Linville Falls…the town of Linville is near Grandfather Mountain and is home to the NC Highlands Festival every year. A gateway to a place where wonders never cease – Grandfather Mountain
Blowing Rock: The perfect mountain village – walkable, full of history, amazing restaurants, funky shops and gorgous views…I return every year…
Boone: Home to Applachian State University – Boone’s App State provides an anchor of amazing arts, culture and science and a strong football fandom. Learn more here.Boone is the gateway to North Carolina’s Ski Country and ski towns like:
- Banner Elk: Access Sugar and Beech Mountain Ski Area, grab a coffee and bit to eat in quaint downtown, meander around Lee-McRae College
- Beech Mountain – highest elevation town on the East Coast at 5,506 – this is a go to spot of skiing on the East Coast
Learn more at Explore Boone.
West Jefferson: Not as busy as Boone and Blowing Rock but equally charming…Located on The New River (the oldest river in the world) and Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area. This is cheese and Christmas tree territory.
- Must see: Ashe County Cheese Factory– hands down the best cheese I’ve every eaten (well it’s tied with Wisconsin – I don’t want to get into a dairy war here). You can also purchase the cheese in Blowing Rock Market
Sparta: Quaint mountain town not far from The Mabry Mill and plenty of outdoor fun. They host the Mountain Heritage Festival the third Saturday in September.
- Mt. Airy: A little off the beaten path and technically in the foothills – The Sauratown Mountains, Mt. Airy is only a stone’s throw from The Blue Ridge Parkway and a gem to visit. Home of Andy Griffith, NC Wine Trail and Sonker (popular area dessert) – Mt. Airy is one of my favorite haunts in NC.
Need vacation advice for your NC Trip? Feel free to comment below and I’ll offer help.
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