What outdoorsy activity should we do in Asheville, NC?
June 3, 2013 7:22 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are going to Asheville, NC this weekend. We plan to spend most of our time relaxing, shopping, eating out, and chilling at the spa (we're staying at the Grove Park Inn - best spa ever). We would like to plan one or two outdoorsy activities for one day - maybe 5 hours maximum. We need some advice on what to do and where to do it.

We are not particularly outdoorsy - I enjoy hiking, whitewater rafting, picnicking, etc, although I don't think I could handle anything too strenuous. I don't think I've gone on a hike in a decade. My wife doesn't typically enjoy outdoor activities, but hasn't done any in years and is open to giving something a try since this region seems to be known for outdoorsy things (as long as it doesn't take too much time away from the spa!).

So - what should we do? Some options I've considered so far:

Max Patch
Craggy Gardens
Chimney Rock Park
Graveyard Fields
Gorges State Park

Swimming Hole?
Hooker Halls
South Toe River
Sliding Rock (looks touristy)

Whitewater Rafting?
How is the rafting in this area? Is it known for rafting?
Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC)
French Broad Rafting

I think we would enjoy either whitewater rafting or a hike, especially if the hike requires a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway to get there. We'd plan a picnic for after either one of these activities and hope to find a pretty spot to eat.

If there's another activity that you'd recommend, please tell me.

There are just too many choices and I'm confusing myself looking at all the options - distance, cost, photos, how popular, how strenuous, etc. Thanks for any advice!

Map with all locations mentioned.
posted by kdern to Travel & Transportation around Asheville, NC (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you want a decently strenuous hike with good views, I can recommend John Rock in the Pisgah National Forest.
posted by tau_ceti at 7:27 PM on June 3, 2013

Go to the Biltmore and walk around the garden and grounds. It's touristy as all hell, but the guy built something pretty amazing in a very beautiful place.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:40 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It takes an hour or two of driving through the forest (which is real pretty), but go to the Linville Gorge area and do some hiking, it's a really nice area and not too strenuous. Also make sure to check out the Linn Cove Viaduct (part of the parkway), which is an impressive/expensive piece of road that offers great views of Grandfather Mtn. to boot.

Mt. Pisgah is also a good hike; the article mentions this, but the trailhead for Mt. Pisgah has another trail that is not mountainous, very pretty, and leads to the remains a hunting lodge owned by a Vanderbilt, so that's worth checking out, too.

As for Sliding Rock—it's not really very touristy, I went there all the time as a kid. But it's not the most exciting thing, it's just a giant piece of rock you can slide down (which was great as a kid). Also that water is cold, even in the middle of summer.

The best water-experience I had was on the Green River. Granted, that was in canoes rather than rafts, but I think it's transferrable. The Nantahala and French Broad aren't bad, either.

Also seconding the Biltmore.
posted by Maecenas at 7:44 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My family did the Craggy Gardens hike last summer. Nice and cool, lots of shade, and a beautiful 360 degree view at the top!
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 7:46 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Sandburg house.
posted by brujita at 7:56 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Biltmore; the landscaping was done by Frederick Law Olmsted, pretty much the father of landscape architecture. He had to take a break in the middle to do the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. He also co-designed a couple of parks in New York City that you've probably heard of.

Also, good winery.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:14 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Linville Gorge / Grandfather Mountain is actually a bit of a trek, especially if traffic gets backed up.

I'd go with Mt Pisgah or Graveyard Fields, then down 276 to Brevard for a choice of waterfalls and rafting and a straightish run back to Asheville.

Another option might be Hot Springs, which is a very different kind of spa from the Grove Park Inn. 40 minutes on the not-so-scenic route, an hour or so if you go back along the French Broad through Marshall. Rafting there at various points.

It's a cliché of sorts to be meh about Six Flags Over Biltmore, but the GPI will provide all the Gilded Age decadence you need in one visit.
posted by holgate at 9:24 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

You'll be a 2-hour drive from the Tennessee border and Great Smoky Mountains Nat'l Park, and the Appalachian Trail is on the border-- there's a big parking lot with some nice views there in the mountains, and you can hike from there if you'd like.

On the way in or out, you can get cheap cigarettes-- cheap for a tobacco state, even-- as there is the Cherokee Indian reservation on the NC side of the park.

There's also Bat Cave, NC near there to the SE, so keep an eye out for Batman.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:42 PM on June 3, 2013

Thirding the Biltmore Estate and gardens.
posted by rmmcclay at 3:15 AM on June 4, 2013

Best answer: The Biltmore was lovely and decadent. Chimney Rock State Park had several very low key trails to stroll on.
posted by mmascolino at 5:52 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Near Sliding rock you can see the Cradle of Forestry, which has a number of outdoor exhibits as well as a picnic area; when I went to summer camp way back when the highlight of the session was always the 3-day backpacking trip in Pisgah with a stop by the Cradle of Forestry on the way up and Sliding Rock on the way back.
posted by TedW at 6:13 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

You'll be close to the Chattooga which has excellent river rafting (it's the river where Deliverance was set). I've rafted there once with the Nantahala Outdoor Center and thoroughly enjoyed it even though the rapids were not at their height. It's also a beautiful place for a walk / picnic along the river.
posted by centerweight at 9:51 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Seems like Mt. Pisgeh or Graveyard Fields might be the best hike option. Thanks for the advice.
posted by kdern at 12:03 PM on June 4, 2013

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