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Experience Nepali Food at Sherpa Night

Join us at Sherpa Night: Celebrate Nepal to experience authentic Nepali cuisine and culture. Receive free prayer flags with any $35 purchase of Sherpa Adventure Gear.

Nepali food is a dynamic mixture of cuisines from all over the world, as complex as the people who make up this wonderful and mysterious country. To better understand the food, we will first have to take a look at the people. Nepal is a landlocked central Himalayan country in South Asia with an approximate population of 26.7 million people. Nepal is bordered by India on three sides and China to the north. The citizens of Nepal are known as Nepali or Nepalese. Generally speaking, Nepalis do not equate their nationality with ethnicity, but with citizenship and allegiance.

Ordering Thali is a great way to try several curries, spices and flavors on one plate.

One of the most famous Nepali dishes is the Momo. From the Chinese pot sticker, to the Japanese gyoza and Taiwanese soup dumpling, it seems each Asian country has their version of this tasty and popular snack. It can be made with a wide variety of different fillings. Meats commonly used are pork, chicken, goat and even water buffalo. As with most dished in Nepal, a vegetarian options is almost always available and is generally made from chopped vegetables. Momos can be steamed or fried and are served with a dipping sauce, which is usually tomato based and a little spicy. You’ll find these tasty treats in the homes of the Nepali people, and at just about every restaurant you come by.

Nepalese traditional dumpling momos served with tomato chatni and fresh salad in restaurant

Another popular meal in Nepal is called Thali. However, Thali by name simply means plate. Thali is an Indian style meal made up of several dishes served on a platter, many times this is on a beautiful brass platter. Nepalese Thali can consist of Dal (a soup made of lentils and spices), rice, pickles – the variety of Nepali pickles is said to be in the thousands, and a curry (can be mutton, chicken or vegetable and is much lighter than it’s Indian counterpart). The traditional way of eating Thali is with your hand (right hand only, please!). Many restaurants serve their own variation of Thali – generally with a vegetarian and meat option.

Nepali food is surprisingly lighter than the food of its neighbor, India, but retains all of the flavor. Gone are the heavy cream sauces and most dairy in general. The robust spices and fiery chilis remain. Nepali food is an instant favorite for those looking for a fun change of pace.

Interested in trying Nepali food, but not heading to Nepal anytime soon? Join us forSherpa Night: Celebrate Nepal on Tuesday, October 17 at our store in South Asheville’s Parkway Center on 1378 Hendersonville Road.

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$20 for Every $100 When You Shop Women’s Clothing

We’re excited about the women’s clothing collection we’ve curated for fall. It’s time to see see these vests, pants, tops, dresses, and more adventure clothing on the trail and on the town. This includes hundreds of items from Prana, Marmot, Columbia, Patagonia, and other top brands. For every $100 in women’s clothing you purchase by October 17, you’ll receive a $20 cash card that can be redeemed October 22-October 29. It’s a great way to get what you need now and start shopping for holiday gifts in a few weeks.

You can start by heading to one of our stores (find locations and hours here) or browsing online. You can even hold items online for free and pick them up at the store with Free Store Pickup. Our expert team is ready to show off our new arrivals and get you outdoors because Adventure Is Local!

It’s never been better to be a female adventurer. Top players in the outdoor apparel market and niche companies new to the scene have taken notice that women like to get outdoors. They’ve spent time into specifically designing clothing, gear, packs, PFDs, and hiking boots to better fit women’s bodies. Gone are the days of just shrinking the size of something and pretending it addresses the needs of females in the outdoors.

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What You Need to Know About Attending the Asheville Outdoor Show

The Asheville Outdoor Show makes its annual appearance on September 17 from noon to 4:00 p.m. at Salvage Station. Since we’re at a new spot, we figured you might have some questions. We’ve got answers.

Location

Salvage Station is located at 466 Riverside Drive in Asheville’s River Arts District, in between Downtown and West Asheville.

Parking

There is limited parking at Salvage Station. PLEASE plan to carpool, bike, walk, or take an Uber or Lyft.

Who To Expect

We’ve invited a mix of local gear makers, national innovators, and nonprofit organizations. Check out the full list!

Family Friendly

Bring the kids to the KEEN Family Adventure Zone for face painting, sidewalk chalk, and Camp Cedar Cliff‘s AH-MAZIN’ Climbing Wall.

Giveaways + Raffle

The first 1,000 folks through the door will receive exclusive discounts at Diamond Brand Outdoors and Frugal Backpacker including a $10 gear card to each store! Other booths will have stickers, keychains, and other fine schwag to collect. Everyone will have a shot at winning a handsome reward in the form of our raffle packages.

Contests

Stop by the Asheville Trails and Trailful tents for your shot at taking the top spot in a contest to pack a backpack the quickest. Marmot will also have contests that test your speed when it comes to pitching a tent and getting in and out of a sleeping bag.

Food and Drink

The venue has a full menu featuring eclectic Southern and Appalachian inspired choices and food trucks, as well as a full bar. Outside food and drink is not allowed.

Music

Local legends The Blue Dragons will be bringing positive vibes to the Osprey Outdoor Stage throughout the day.

Yoga

prAna is hosting 20-minute riverside yoga sessions at 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30. Just bring your own mat!

Pets

From Salvage Station’s website: “Service animals only. We have a large number of natural wildlife animals around our site that we are trying to be respectful of in the coming years. Also, we plan to have several high volume events that would not be conducive to having large groups of animals here. We apologize for the inconvenience in advance.”

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Want Our Fall Mailing?

Our customers are our guiding star. Based on your suggestions, we added free in-store pickup and are bringing several new brands into stores this season. Next on the list: DBO in your mailbox.

We haven't sent an outdoor guide direct mailer in awhile, but that's about to change. Our fall mailer will include awesome photos and highlight the gear, shoes, and clothing we're most excited about. Tell us where to send your copy! (Just to let you know, we'll never share, sell, or rent your information.)

Street Address or P.O. Box


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Support Houston on Wednesday

Hiking Biltmore

Intro

Famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed the grounds at Biltmore with visitors in mind. Flowers, shrubbery, and trees were his brush strokes as he intended the landscape to resemble a “walk through painting.” If you are looking for an upscale adventure close to town come play on the meticulously manicured grounds of Biltmore.

What Makes It Great

Construction of George Vanderbilt’s 250-room French Renaissance chateau began in 1889. An entire community of craftsmen came together, over a six year period, to construct this architectural marvel. It is a well-known fact that Biltmore is the largest private residence ever constructed in the United States. It may however surprise you to learn that Biltmore hosts a variety of outdoor activities available to all guests and season pass holders.

The intricate beauty of Biltmore grounds is something that is best enjoyed “one step at a time.” Take a stroll through the meadows at Deer Park, amongst the estate’s noble forests, or along the placid French Broad River on Biltmore’s 22 miles of hiking trails. If you find yourself visiting in the warmer months, explore the labyrinth of Garden Trails which lead you through a variety of gardens adorned with a worldly display of flora.

Who is Going to Love It

Biltmore has a variety of activities for anyone: hiking, biking, horse back riding, and a Land Rover Ride-Along.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Access to outdoor activities at Biltmore is limited to pass holders, plan your visit and get your passes here.

Here is a free tip; if you are visiting and want to make the most out of a one day pass, purchase your ticket after 3pm and it will grant you access to the grounds for the following day as well. If you live in the Asheville area, take the plunge, buy a season pass and have year-round access to the outdoor wonders of Biltmore!

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Featured image provided by Doug Letterman

10 Best Hikes in Asheville

You’re holed up at a coffee shop in downtown Asheville, sipping an espresso and pouring over a stack of trail guides. What would you like to do today—summit the East coast’s highest peak, or explore the East Coast’s deepest canyon? Scramble up the chutes and ladders of Grandfather Mountain, or weave gently through a verdant valley to reach a 70 foot waterfall? From this eclectic, craft-beer fueled city, nestled inside a lush basin in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the choice is yours. The peaks and forests of Western Carolina are brimming with a dazzling array of hiking adventures. Here, ten trails to cross off your Asheville hiking bucket list.

1. The Grandfather Trail

Black bears on Grandfather Mountain.
Black bears on Grandfather Mountain.
Kolin Toney

At times, the Grandfather Trail may feel more like an obstacle course than a hiking path. An intricate series of ladders, walkways, and steel cables zig-zag up and across the three separate peaks of Grandfather Mountain. This is an out-and-back trail, featuring 2.4 miles of hoisting, scrambling, and hand-over-hand climbing each direction. The route edges along the crest of the mountain, ducking through stunted spruce trees and skirting across exposed rock faces.  The views from the first two peaks are astonishing, but the true reward lies at the top of the third and tallest summit, 5,946 ft Calloway Peak. Come and see why John Muir once described Grandfather Mountain as “the face of all heaven come to earth.”

2. Crabtree Falls

Crabtree Falls on a crisp fall day
Crabtree Falls on a crisp fall day
Matthew Blouir

Even before coming in site of the waterfall, visitors to Crabtree Meadows are captivated by the lush carpet of wildflowers that bloom in spring and early summer. The forest floor is awash with over forty varieties of flowers, creating a bejeweled background for the popular Crabtree Falls Trail. This 2.4 mile loop begins with a series of switchbacks, gently descending to the base of its namesake falls: a wispy white curtain of water cascading over a 70 foot beehive of dark rock. The remaining 1.5 miles climb out of the enchanted forest through creeks and over split-log bridges.

3. Looking Glass Rock

Looking Glass Rock in autumn.
Looking Glass Rock in autumn.
Jeff Gunn

Looking Glass Rock  is a steep granite monolith, rising like a cargo ship from the rolling waves of Pisgah National Forest. The trail to the top, however, is surprisingly benign; while certainly a challenge, the constant switchbacks really take the edge of the steep gradient. The single trail etched into the mountainside is an out-and-back that makes for a journey totaling 6.4 miles. The summit of Looking Glass is an anomaly in the Blue Ridge: 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. It is the exposure factor, the thrill of standing on the edge of a sheer vertical drop off, that make this one of the most thrilling and popular hikes in the region.

4. Old Mitchell Trail

Sunrise in Mt. Mitchell State Park.
Sunrise in Mt. Mitchell State Park.
Kolin Toney

The Old Mitchell Trail leads you to the summit of Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak East of the Mississippi River. From that lofty perch, surrounded by sky, immersed in chilled mountain air, allow yourself ample time to sit back and observe the world from one and a quarter miles above sea level. There are many options that lead to the top, and Old Mitchell is a classic: a four-mile loop with an out and back extension to the summit, and every step is above 6,000 feet! You’ll encounter the typical backcountry obstacles: a relentless climb gnarled with roots, rocks, and raspberry cane. However, to reach the top and be engulfed in a world of rippled Appalachian peaks, standing high above them all, is an experience that no hiker should miss.

5. Shining Rock

A sunset at Shining Rock Gap
A sunset at Shining Rock Gap
Daniel Meacham

Perched high in the Great Balsam Range, the glittering quartz formations at the summit of  Shining Rock make for a gorgeous and unusual spectacle. The bright swirling rock, emerging like frozen ocean waves from a dark coniferous forest and surrounded by soaring mountain views, creates a scene so lovely and dramatic it appears almost otherworldly. A section of the Art Loeb Trail, beginning at the Black Balsam parking area and meandering over a series of grassy balds is particularly exquisite way to reach “the crystalline cliffs.”

6. Waterrock Knob

Sunrise from the parking area of Waterrock Knob
Sunrise from the parking area of Waterrock Knob
Patrick Mueller

The picturesque summit of Waterrock Knob is a mere half mile from the parking area, but don’t even dream of writing it off as a roadside attraction. With breathtaking views and readily accessible ridge hiking unspooling in both directions, Watterrock is the perfect jumping off point for exploring the Plott Balsam Range. The wide, grassy meadow at the start of the summit hike may be the most dramatic locale for a family picnic on the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway. To claim the best view possible, sneak past the summit onto a rock outcropping on the Southern side of the peak, and behold the lush Tuckasegee River Valley and the Nantahala National Forest spread out below, the Great Smoky Mountains unfurling into the distance.

7. Craggy Gardens

The Craggy Pinnacle is an incredibly photogenic destination.
The Craggy Pinnacle is an incredibly photogenic destination.
Sarath Kuchi

The Blue Ridge Parkway delivers you nearly to the pinnacle of Craggy Gardens, a heath bald of grey rock and pink-blooming rhododendron that soars 5,892 feet above sea level. At the summit, high-mountain grasses wave placidly in the foreground, set against panoramic mountain views. The trail is 1.4 miles round-trip and climbs only 252 feet in elevation: a huge payoff for minimal exertion. Cool tunnels of mountain laurel, twisted birch trees, and the occasional lookout make for an enjoyable journey as you meander to the top.

8. Hawksbill Mountain

Sunset from Hawksbill Mountain in the Linville Gorge.
Sunset from Hawksbill Mountain in the Linville Gorge.
JenjazzyGeek

The rocky summit of Hawksbill Mountain affords one of the most spectacular views in all of North Carolina. Two thousand feet below you, the Linville River threads through the bottom of the canyon, enveloped by nearly 12,000 acres of unadulterated wilderness. Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock, and Shortoff Mountain cut stately profiles against the peak-rippled horizon. This three-mile loop features a steep climb on the way up and a gentler, more gradual descent. The trail is accessible from Forest Service Road 1264 in Pisgah National Forest. Be aware that this road is closed from January-March.

9. Max Patch

The heavenly view from Max Patch.
The heavenly view from Max Patch.
Jim R Rogers

It’s no wonder that Max Patch Meadow is considered the most gorgeous section of the entire Appalachian Trail. The summit is rounded and soft with grass, surrounded by rolling woods and pastureland that gradually swell into mountains, eventually becoming the sharp peaks of the Black Mountain Range, Blue Ridge, and the Smokies in the distance. Although the summit is only a few minutes walk from the parking area, jump on the Appalachian Trail for a day trip to Lemon Gap—or hike all the way to Maine, for that matter!

10. Lookout Mountain

The summit of Lookout Mountain in autumn.
The summit of Lookout Mountain in autumn.
David Clarke

Just fifteen minutes east of Asheville, the Lookout Trail swoops up the side of Lookout Mountain in a short and punchy half mile of rock scrambling and wide stairs hacked into the hillside. The view from up top is more intimate than the typical Appalachian vista. A series of peaks affectionately known as The Seven Sisters of the Black Mountain Range feel so close, it’s as if you could reach out and touch them. To add an extra hour to your hike, and to escape the crowds that can converge on the small rocky summit, descend via the East Ridge Trail. This leads to the Blue Gap Trail, which will bring you back to the parking lot.

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Originally written by RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Barry Peters

Hiking Black Balsam Knob

Intro

Bald is beautiful. Especially when referring to the grassy bald known as Black Balsam. A short ramble through a fragrant forest of Balsam Fir trees leads you to panoramic views atop the Great Balsam Mountains on this high country adventure. A picturesque drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway climbs from the fertile French Broad River Valley up into the highlands of the Pisgah National Forest for stunning 360 degree views. Ease of access, endless views and a short summit hike of less than a mile make this a mountain worth visiting.

What Makes It Great

Heading north along the Art Loeb,the trail meanders through a short stretch of evergreen forest before a dramatic panoramic vista and view of the summit suddenly appears. The beauty of the area and the high mountain experience will drench your senses from here on, as every step offers uninterrupted Appalachian views.

Follow the well-defined trail the rest of the way to the summit. Drink in the views and take your time on top; make sure to never rush a summit experience!

A camera is a must have for this hike! Black Balsam rises high above its surroundings and offers clear lines of sight for spectacular sunrise and sunset views. Consistent morning fog in the river valleys below creates the feeling of being on an island in the sky and blankets the foreground for spectacular photo-ops in the mornings.

The National Forest service requests visitors follow Leave No Trace principles to protect the fragile ecosystem atop Black Balsam. A wide variety of established campsites lie on the slopes and summit plateau of Black Balsam. Bring plenty of water since none will be available on the top and leave the place cleaner than it was when you arrived!

Recommendations

  1. Show up early, stay late and head out on a weekday to beat the crowds which can grow quite large on weekends.
  2. The Alpine summit of Black Balsam is one of the premier areas in the southeast for a moonlight ramble. Gather your headlamps, a group of friends and a light up Frisbee for some real fun in the dark.
  3. Early fall is peak season for wild blueberries atop the Great Balsams. You won’t find any on the summit itself but venture out to nearby areas where you can pick handfuls in stride.
  4. Get there early and pick a campsite sheltered from the wind; face your vestibule eastward and enjoy a gloriously warm sunrise and warm beverage from your sleeping bag.

Who is Going to Love It

Bring the family and friends along for this adventure. This trail is suitable for all ages and ability levels, and the bonds we make on a mountain live with us forever so bring your crew to share the experience.

Make your day even more memorable by bringing some quality food along to enjoy a scenic picnic on the summit. Don’t skimp on your menu items for this picnic; with the proximity of the trailhead, it’s easy to carry all the goods to the top.

Expect temperatures to be 10-15 degrees cooler than in Asheville. Weather conditions can change rapidly on top of a mountain; come prepared for cooler temperatures and varying weather conditions.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From Asheville, catch the Blue Ridge Parkway near the North Carolina Arboretum and head south for 25 miles.

The drive will wind up a beautiful mountain grade until the Parkway begins to parallel a towering ridgeline with expansive views of the Pisgah National Forest below. Just after mile marker 420 there will be a sign on your right for the Black Balsam area. Take a right on this road (816) and follow it upwards for nearly 1 mile until the road levels out amongst a stately grove of Evergreens. Park your vehicle here and look for the white blaze of the Art Loeb Trail (right hand side of road).Spring, summer, and fall are all wonderful times to visit the Great Balsams. Spring and summer provide the opportunity to see the blooms of native wildflowers and Mountain Laurel. Fall brings wild blueberries and even wilder color schemes to the surrounding landscape. Black Balsam is also beautiful in the winter but access can be difficult with the Blue Ridge Parkway closing frequently for snow and ice. Access in winter is possible via the Flat Laurel Creek trail off of road 215. Check road conditions on the parkway before you go.

Featured image provided by Abby Crahan

5 Most Photogenic Landscapes Near Asheville

What are the Blue Ridge Mountains besides an immense exhibition of natural beauty: wide-open vistas overlooking an ocean of rolling mountain peaks, rivers of whitewater and clear pools with wildflowers clustered at the banks, sunlight catching rainbows on the curtain of  a waterfall. You could wander this wilderness for season after season, camera at the ready, and never get a disappointing shot. But if you’re looking to stand amidst the most dramatic and picturesque landscapes that Western North Carolina has to offer, here are our top five—the best of the best, the cream that rises to the top—a photographer’s paradise.

1. Hawksbill Mountain

The views from the summit of Hawksbill Mountain are as stunning as anything you will find this side of the Mississippi.
The views from the summit of Hawksbill Mountain are as stunning as anything you will find this side of the Mississippi.
James Lautzenheiser

At an elevation just above 4,000 feet, the panoramic views from the summit of Hawksbill Mountain are as stunning as anything you will find this side of the Mississippi. A steep and strenuous 1.5-mile hike through the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area culminates in a tremendous reward: a jutting outcrop of rock where you can perch and shoot photos of the granite-rippled summits of Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock and Shortoff Peak, and beyond them a rolling mountainscape so far reaching that, on certain clear evenings, the glittering lights of Charlotte are visible. Peer below into the canyon of the gorge and you will see the powerful Linville river cutting through the valley floor some 2,000 feet below you.

2. Crabtree Falls

The beautiful Crabtree Falls.
The beautiful Crabtree Falls.
Forest Wander

Forty-five miles north of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Crabtree Falls is a study in contrast: a gauzy white veil of water spilling over 70 feet of black rock, nestled inside an emerald forest. Photographing water is an art form in and of itself, and this unique aquatic feature, which some say resembles a massive, dark beehive, is an impressive subject. From the bridge that spans the creek directly in front of the falls, you can shoot the spectacle in any number of ways, from a close-up snap of water droplets, sharp and suspended, to a wide angle, slow shutter-speed capture of swirls and soft curtains.

You can access the base by a 3 mile out-and-back trail, or climb to the ridge just above the falls via a slightly more strenuous 3.5-mile loop.

3. Roan Mountain

A rhododendron garden atop Roan Mountain.
A rhododendron garden atop Roan Mountain.
discutant

In the summertime, Roan Mountain becomes so spectacular with blooming Catawba Rhododendrons that an annual festival is held on its grassy summit each June, celebrating the rare beauty of these natural gardens. Bright fuchsia and deep purple blossoms set against a background of dark green spruce-fir forest and an entire spectrum of blue rolling off into the distance creates a pallet so rich and resplendent it would be impossible to take a mediocre photo.

The ridge line that compiles Roan Mountain—the longest continuous stretch of grassy balds in the Appalachians—remains one of the South’s most picturesque landscapes in every season. Flame azalea light up the mountains in spring, in autumn the forests are ablaze with wildfire foliage, and in winter the pristine balds sparkle under smooth blankets of heavy snow. The best day hiking begins at Carver’s gap and traverses five miles over Round Bald, Jane Knob and Grassy Ridge. The Appalachian trail runs through these mountains, offering a wealth of options for overnight backpacking. Whether you’re out for the day or out for a week, in the heat of summer or the tangy cool of autumn, just remember to pack your camera.

4. Max Patch

Jason A G

With all the hype surrounding Max Patch , you may be tempted to believe that this pastoral Appalachian destination is overrated. That notion, however, will vanish the moment you arrive, and realize that it would be impossible to oversell the sheer beauty and scale of the place. Located on the western fringe of the Appalachians, the meadow remains one of the most photographed and iconic landscapes in the Southeast and beyond, and holds the title as the prettiest spot on the Appalachian Trail.

“The Patch” itself is lovely and vast, acres of rolling green hills dotted with wildflowers that spread out in all directions, creating a bucolic setting for hikers, picnickers, kite-fliers, star-gazers and, of course, photographers. However it’s the views—soaring, panoramic, and seemingly endless—that award this field its fame. The Great Smoky Mountains and the formidable Black Mountain range dominate much of the skyline, but the lush Tennessee flatlands to the west allows for a brilliant and unparalleled sunset view. A tripod will help you to capture all the delicate and elusive layers of color from the sun’s last rays.

5. Black Balsam Knob

At the fire pit on the summit of Black Balsam Knob.
At the fire pit on the summit of Black Balsam Knob.
Melina Coogan

Never have you seen colors so bright and saturated as you will on the alpine summit of Black Balsam Knob. The weather changes fast up there during the summer months, with frequent thunderstorms sweeping in, dark clouds gathering and then dissipating just as quickly, unveiling cobalt blue skies. Sitting on a rocky outcrop on the Art Loeb Trail and watching clouds of mist swirl up the mountainside, temporarily obscuring the view of the Blue Ridge, the highlands of the Pisgah National Forest, and the fertile French broad valley down below, enveloping you in a cooling mist, is one of the more memorable experiences you will have in this wilderness.

Black Balsam Knob features spectacular sunsets.
Black Balsam Knob features spectacular sunsets.
Mary Anne Baker

The ribbon of trail winding over the ridge that connects Black Balsam and Sam’s Knob endows the enormous, dramatic mountain-scape with a sense of depth and scale, as well as a leading line that will add story and purpose to your photos. Easily accessible via a half-mile hike on the Art Loeb Spur trail, Black Balsam Knob may be the most popular spot for shooting sunsets in the entire region.

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Originally written by RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Kenny Lex

5 Outdoor Dates to Enjoy in the Blue Ridge This Fall

It is a well-documented phenomenon that romance flourishes in the outdoors, particularly in autumn, when chilly temperatures flood us with relief from the sweltering summer. Maybe it’s the brisk wind that pinks the cheeks and sparkles the eye that fills us with a craving for coziness and companionship, or perhaps it’s our inborn desire to find love before the frozen winter. Grab your soul mate (or your tinder date) and spend every moment that you can out of doors during this crisp, bright season. Here are five outdoor dates perfect for autumn in the Blue Ridge.

1. Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower

The views from atop fire lookouts inspire romance.
The views from atop fire lookouts inspire romance.
Emily Poisel

Jack Kerouac loved lookout towers. The years he spent living in a remote fire tower on Desolation Peak altered the course of his life and his writings. But you don’t have to be a beat poet to enjoy the stark elegance or the sweeping mountain views of these lofty structures. The 70-foot lookout tower on the summit of Fryingpan Mountain is open to the public, although it remains a bit of a well-kept secret. There’s a good chance you’ll have the tower, and the mountaintop, all to yourself.

The top tower is locked, but five flights of steel stairs will bring you just below the platform, for a breath-taking view that includes the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the Shining Rock Wilderness. At such great height, be prepared for gusty winds and chilly temperatures; you may have to draw each other close. If Fryingpan isn’t your jam, we’ve got more lookout towers to explore.

Fryingpan Mountain is accessible by a quick hike up Forest Service Road 450, at milepost 409.6 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

2. Picnic at Black Balsam Knob

Catching the last of the sun's rays on Black Balsam Knob.
Catching the last of the sun’s rays on Black Balsam Knob.
Melina Coogan

You’ve come prepared with soft cheese, a baguette, a box of chocolates, and a wool blanket to spread upon the summit of Black Balsam Knob. After double-checking the forecast and meticulously timing your approach, you and your companion are basking in the rich and flattering light that briefly illuminates the world directly before sunset. You are 6,214 feet above the sea, yet the hike on the Art Loeb Spur trail was a mere quarter mile long. In short, you have orchestrated the best picnic date in the history of picnic dates.

Do not neglect to bring a pair of binoculars and a small notebook. Then, as you watch the sun drop over Shining Rock Wilderness, Looking Glass Rock, Cold Mountain, Mount Pisgah (and even Mt. Mitchell, but only on a day of astonishing clarity) jot down a plan to climb together up every peak that you can see. Many years later, when you look back on the rich and adventurous life that you have shared, you’ll  trace it back to this moment, this one sweet and windy picnic in the Great Balsam Range. Or at least, this is the hope.

From Asheville, catch the Blue Ridge Parkway near the North Carolina Arboretum and head south for 25 miles. Just after mile marker 420 there will be a sign on your right for the Black Balsam area.

3. Group Ride with Asheville on Bikes

Put a spin on the “group hang” with a community bike ride.
Put a spin on the “group hang” with a community bike ride.
Garry Knight

Sometimes, it’s best to keep things casual. If it’s more your style to get to know someone in a laid back and social atmosphere, check out the group rides hosted by  Asheville on Bikes , a local nonprofit dedicated to bicycle advocacy and education. A community bike ride puts an athletic spin on the ever popular “group hang,” a dating trend which avoids the potential pitfalls of a one-on-one engagement.

AOB offers scheduled group rides from May to October, as well as a number of bike related events, volunteer opportunities and social mixers throughout the year. Pedal through town at a relaxed pace that just might facilitate good conversation. At the end of the ride, all that fresh air and endorphins will have instilled in you the courage to ask her out to dinner, or maybe to the top of a fire tower.

4. Trails and Wine Tasting at the Biltmore Estate

The Biltmore in autumn.
The Biltmore in autumn.
Leonard Silver

Biltmore is the largest privately owned home in the United States, lavishly adorned and preserved in the splendor of its railroad-moneyed heyday. This may sound like an unlikely attraction for the outdoor enthusiast, until one considers the 8,000 acres of forest, ornate gardens, trails, and broad meadows across which a pack of horses can occasionally be seen galloping.

Treat your companion to an unusual date of outdoor opulence, one which delights all of the senses. Hike through fragrant orchards of ripe grapes and apples, savor the autumn foliage of dogwoods, sourwoods, maples, gums, sassafras and oak. Explore the vibrant chrysanthemums and salvias inside the Walled Gardens and study the delicate orchards in a glass-roofed greenhouse.

After you’ve worked up an appetite on the trails, duck inside the Biltmore Winery at Antler Hill Village. A guided tour and complimentary wine tasting are included in the price of admission. (The price of admission is steep, so drink up!)

5. Visit an Apple Orchard

An apple orchard is an idyllic place to fall in love.
An apple orchard is an idyllic place to fall in love.
Tabitha Blue

Nothing on earth will get you into the spirit and festivities of the season more than an apple orchard. The future holds plenty of opportunity to barrel down steep creeks and stand atop rugged summits with your love interest by your side; for now, allow yourself to relax and bask in the campy pleasures of hayrides, scarecrows, and corn mazes.

Perched high in the mountains of Flat Rock, North Carolina, Sky Top Orchard offers 22 varieties of apples, pumpkins and gourds, freshly made doughnuts and gallons of cold cider. The farther you stroll from the barn, the more solitude you’ll find amongst the fruit trees. Cap it off with a pizza at the Flat Rock Village Bakery or a plate of wood-fired BBQ at the Hubba Hubba Smokehouse. After this day, you’ll wish it were harvest all year round.

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Originally written by RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Melina Coogan

Events

DB Outdoors for More: Food Connection

Each month, we donate 10% of a day’s sales to support a local nonprofit’s work. Shop on Tuesday, October 24, to support Food Connection.

Call it civic pride or mountain spirit, but we think supporting the work of those maintaining trails, cleaning waterways, connecting youth to outdoors, and doing other awesome things to keep WNC a place we can all enjoy…well, it’s the right thing to do. As the area’s first outdoor store, we’ve enjoyed the support of our friends and neighbors since 1964.

Food Connection rescues surplus freshly prepared meals from events, caterers and restaurants via Asheville Taxi and delivers it to nonprofits who feed the hungry. Recipients include BeLoved House, Trinity Place Shelter for Runaway Youth, East Asheville Welcome Table, MusicWorks After School program and more. Fresh items such as beef brisket, crab cakes, roasted local veggies, kale and quinoa salad are now staying out of the compost and trash, and instead going to those in our community who need it the most. In two and a half years over 50,000 meals have been rescued and delivered. More at FoodConnection.co.

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Sherpa Night: Celebrate Nepal

Sherpa Adventure Gear weaves together the latest designs and technology with the rich heritage and time-honored beliefs of Nepal. The company was founded by Tashi Sherpa as a living memorial to the unsung heroes of Mt. Everest. For decades, climbers have always been grateful for having a Sherpa companion on the treacherous slopes of the Himalayas. It is the Sherpa who makes the route, carries the load, and sets the ropes to the top and back.

Join us to experience Nepalese culture through sight and taste. We’ll show a short documentary focusing on Nepalese culture and enjoy authentic food samples and traditional tea. Mark Johnson of Hobnail Trekking Company will present information about expeditions from the USA to Nepal. You might be inspired to experience it firsthand!

We’ll have some giveaways for all and a special gift with any Sherpa Adventure Gear purchase that evening. For every piece of Sherpa Adventure Gear’s purchased, a donation is made to provide scholarships to children who grow up in remote Himalayan villages, bringing the spirit of the Sherpa full circle.

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This free event is open to the public. Kids and well-behaved pets with owner on leash are welcome.