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Wolf Ridge Ski Resort

Intro

 “Come Ski the Wolf.” Wolf Ridge Resort offers this enticing invitation. How could a skier or snowboarder turn down an invitation that sounds so cool? The greatest thing about coming on up to Ski the Wolf? It only involves a 35 minute scenic drive from Asheville!

What Makes It Great

Wolf Ridge Resorts stands five miles off of I-26 on a scenic highway. The Wolf is a favorite of locals looking for a quick trip to the ski slopes. The Wolf operates on 62 acres of enjoyable ski terrain that is covered in an average of 60-80 inches of snow per year. Skiers and snowboarders will enjoy Wolf Ridge’s recent terrain makeover which includes updates to the park and widened trails which provide better access to the lodge. Wolf Ridge’s Lower Lodge serves as a full service ski station for visitors, offering tickets, rental equipment, dining, and a gift shop. Wolf Ridge Resort has a variety of year-round accommodations available that provide a wonderful base camp.

Wolf Ridge is a family oriented resort. They help “share the stoke” with kids and beginners through their PSIA/AASI accredited Snow Sports School and their “magic carpet” serviced tube run.

  • Number if Slopes: 15
  • 40% Beginner
  • 40% Intermediate
  • 20% Advanced
  • Annual snow average 60-80 inches
  • Annual snow record: 148 inches

Download the Wolf Ridge Trail Map for an in-depth look at their terrain.

Who is Going to Love It

While it’s a primarily geared towards beginners and intermediate skiers and snowboarders, there are also deals for everyone!

  • 2 For Tuesday: Buy 1 Lift Ticket, Get 1 Free
  • Women’s Wednesday: ½ price lift tickets for all ladies
  • Thursday College Night: $15 lift tickets with student ID
  • Active Military: $15 off lift tickets with ID

Wolf Ridge is also open for night skiing.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Wolf Ridge is the closest ski resort to downtown Asheville. A 35 minute scenic drive up I-26 will bring you to the base of Wolf Ridge Resort.

Tickets are reasonably priced and start at $40 for adults. Visit Wolf Ridge’s website to purchase lift tickets in advance.

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Featured image provided by Photo Courtesy of Wolf Ridge Resort

7 Great Disc Golf Courses Near Asheville

Asheville continues to rank high on travel lists for outstanding food, beer, and popular outdoor activities such as hiking and biking, but hidden behind all of the hype are some of the best disc golf courses in the North Carolina. The goal of disc golf is the same as traditional golf: get the disc from the tee to the hole in the fewest strokes possible; however, instead of clubs, balls, and a decent chunk of cash, all you need is your arm and a disc to have a good time. Check out this list of the Asheville area’s top disc golf courses, all within a half hour drive or less.

Western North Carolina’s subtropical climate and moderate seasonality, these courses are accessible during most of the year. Barren trees may allow a better view of cages in the winter, but make sure you’re always prepared for the trail with the proper footwear. Stop by any Diamond Brand Outdoors location for a large selection of KEEN hiking shoes, boots, and sandals to ensure your time on the course is as enjoyable as possible.

Richmond Hill Disc Golf Course

Richmond Hill Disc Golf Course is an 18-hole course working its way through Richmond Hill Park just north of downtown Asheville. The course is hilly and heavily wooded (watch out for poison oak and poison ivy), making it one of the most challenging place to play in the country. However, it is one of the closer courses to downtown and has a dedicated community of golfers.

280 Richmond Hill Dr, Asheville, NC 28806

Black Mountain Disc Golf Course

Black Mountain Disc Golf Course is an 18-hole course just outside of this beautiful mountain village in Veterans Park. The course has short — yet difficult — holes that wind their way through moderate hills with scattered trees. Despite the difficulty of the course, it is one worth making a trip to for its beauty and the views of the surrounding area.

10 Veterans Park Dr, Black Mountain, NC 28711

Waynesville Disc Golf Course

Waynesville Disc Golf Course sits just outside of downtown Canton at the Waynesville Recreation Center. For the most part, it’s a wide open course comprised of long tee throws and beautiful views of the nearby mountains. A course map can be found in the recreation center office and main kiosk.

550 Vance St, Waynesville, NC 28786

Crookston Disc Golf Course

Crookston Golf Course is an incredibly accessible and flat 9-hole course in Fletcher Community Park for those days when you want to play a quick round after work or just don’t feel like walking a hilly course. Crookston is also a very good place for the beginner due to its numerous open and straightforward holes. Keep in mind, though, this is a flat course and it can often be a bit marshy after heavy rains.

85 Howard Gap Rd, Fletcher, NC 28732

Lake Julian Disc Golf Course

Lake Julian Disc Golf Course lies along the shores of South Asheville’s Lake Julian and now hosts a full 18-hole course following its August 2017 expansion. This course is relatively flat compared to the other courses in the area and has everything from water-front holes to holes that weave their way through the woods (again…watch out for poison oak and poison ivy).

406 Overlook Road Ext, Arden, NC 28704

UNCA Disc Golf Course

UNC Asheville has established a 6-hole disc golf course for both students and the community to test out. The course is primarily hilly and wooded with a few holes in the open. Due to the course’s location on UNCA’s property and its limited holes, it is very accessible and a doesn’t take too much time to walk!

2500 University Heights, Asheville, NC 28804

Sandhill Nature Trail Disc Golf Course

Sandhill Disc Golf Course is part of Buncombe County Sports Park and hosts a full 18-holes that make their way through a hilly and wooded area. This course is not far from downtown and incredibly accessible due to Buncombe County Sports Park’s parking and facilities. However, remember to throw wisely because this park has so many facilities and there will be other people around.

58 Apac Dr, Candler, NC 28715

Whether you’ve never stepped on a disc golf course or you’re a seasoned professional, we hope that this short list of our favorite courses here at Frugal show you more of what Asheville has to offer and, ultimately, allow you Adventure is Local to spend less, and play more!

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Featured images provided by KEEN, Official Sponsor of Your Next Adventure.

Lake Julian image courtesy of The Night Canopy.

Ultimate Gift Guide for Hammocking

Hammocks have come a long way in recent years. Once a staple of beach houses and backyards, hammock camping has made its way into festivals and campsites due to increased comfort, easier setup and takedown, and an enjoyable time. ENO made its name as the definitive hammock maker early on and has branched out in recent years to include a stable of high-performance, lightweight year-round gear perfect for anyone on your gift list.

DoubleNest LED Hammock

ENO and festivals go together like waterfalls and summer. The ENO DoubleNest LED Hammock boasts the same features as the original ENO DoubleNest ($69.95), but with a fun and festive integrated light string — with bright, dim, and strobe functions — to inject a good time into any hammock session. When the party’s over, just tuck the DoubleNest LED away in its stuff sack and you’re ready for your next adventure. Don’t forget the straps!

Kanga Sling Bag

A plethora of pockets can accommodate all your hammock accessories when heading into the great outdoors. The main compartment is big enough to also fit your book and a few snacks, and a your water bottle in the side pocket. Padding on the back and strap make the ENO Kanga a comfortable companion on the trail or on the town, so pack it full of essentials for wherever daily Asheville adventures take you — from concerts to breweries and work to play.

(ECHO) Bluetooth Speaker

This Bluetooth-enabled portable speaker not only weighs next to nothing and fits conveniently in any pocket, purse, or festival pack, but its hammock-specific design and built-in hanging hook angles the speaker for an optimized listening experience. Bright, colorful, and packing a huge audio punch for such a little package, the rechargeable ENO (ECHO) comes with an included micro USB cable and will inject energy into any situation.

Lounger DL Chair (left)

The ENO Lounger DL is truly the king of comfort when it comes to camping chairs: padded arm rests, a pillow, two seating heights, and a cup holder. The feet offer a ton of floatation, so this chair works great in soft muddy or sandy conditions. This is the chair that your friends will be vying to steal from you around the campfire.

Nomad Hammock Stand (center)

Is your backyard lacking in trees? Do you wanna hammock at the lake right near the water? When posts are in short supply, bring along the ENO Nomad and set up anywhere. When you’re done, the ultra lightweight poles easily fit in the included carry case.

LaunchPad Blanket (right)

It’s the Cape Canaveral of pickup Frisbee games and the mission control of set-break hoagies; the ENO LaunchPad is the ultimate luxury in picnic and outdoor concert gear. The LaunchPad is topped with a layer of cushy fleece to keep you warm, but armored with a coated, ripstop nylon underneath to keep you dry. When the show’s over, just zip it up and sling it over your shoulder.

Twilight Camp Lights

Make your campsite glow with the ENO Twilights LED Camp String Lights. This string of 23 ultrabright LEDs illuminates a large area and features four different lighting modes for versatility. The lights can run for up to 72 hours on 3 AAA batteries and keep the party going long after the fire has gone out.

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One Day Sale

The Awesome 8 is back in 2017! The Awesome 8 offers a chance to grab stocking stuffers for everyone on your list (or get something spectacular for yourself). Each Tuesday and Thursday from Thanksgiving to Christmas, you’ll score major savings that last just one day and are available in stores while they last. Make sure you gran them before they vanish!

While your at the store, check out our free personal outfitting service, donate a coat to one of your neighbors (and save 20% off something new), or grab some gift cards (and score a gift for yourself).

Awesome 8 #5 — December 12: Kelty Riot Daypack for Just $40

Wide, stable shoulder straps and grooved back padding will make the Riot 15L your go-to pack for hiking, biking, and every day use. The modified vest suspension keeps the pack balanced and comfortable, and an external pop-out hydration sleeve (reservoir not included) keeps you hydrated all day. Supplies are easy to grab with the side access zippered pocket, front shove-it pocket, and stretch mesh shoulder strap pockets. Whether you prefer exploring the world on two feet or two wheels, the Riot is built to keep up with you. Regularly $69.95, you can grab a Kelty Riot 15L for just $40 on Tuesday, December 12. Kelty Riot available at our store in South Asheville’s Parkway Center (1378 Hendersonville Road) only.

Awesome 8 #4 — December 7: Bridgedale Merino Wool Gloves for $19.99

Super soft and comfy, Bridgedale merino wool gloves will become your best friend during winter for both everyday use and casual trail hikes. MerinoFusion® technology ensures you’re not only kept warm, but any excess moisture is quickly wicked away. An everyday winter essential, don’t leave home without them. Great for gifting or for your own personal use, grab as many as you like for just $19.99 per pair on Thursday, December 7 (reg. $33.95).

Awesome 8 #3 — December 5: 50% OFF Columbia Fleece

Columbia’s pure, clean fleece lends warmth and rugged style to these versatile pullovers. The ultimate three-season layering piece for warding off the chill during cool morning commutes, showing style at concerts, and keeping out the draft during outdoor adventures. Available in a variety of colors, snag the Glacial III for $25 (reg. $50) or the Harborside for $30 (reg. $60) on Tuesday, December 5. Columbia fleece available at our store in South Asheville’s Parkway Center (1378 Hendersonville Road) only.

Awesome 8 #2 — November 30: 1/2 OFF White Sierra Cozy Blankets

White Sierra’s Cozy Blanket is made from their softest fleece to keep you nice and toasty from watching a Friday night football game to camping in the woods to cozying up in front of the fireplace. The blanket is a perfect for two (60″ x 60″ square) and folds up into a pillow. Available in purple, pink, and brown, the Cozy Blanket is a great stocking stuffer, teacher’s gift, or addition to your snuggly collection of throws. Regularly $40, snag as many as you like for $20 each on Thursday, November 30.

Awesome 8 #1 — November 28: 40% OFF Luci Solar Powered Inflatable Lights

The Luci light was created as an inflatable solar light with the goal of making an affordable clean energy product that can be used in any situation — from outdoor camping adventures to backyard parties to everyday living for people in developing countries without electricity. By tapping into a source of light that’s limitless and readily available to everyone, Luci lights put the power of the sun into a device that fits in the palm of your hand. Life doesn’t stop when the sun goes down and there’s no reason it should. Get one for everyone on your list for 40% OFF (limit 8 per customer).

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  • Awesome 8 #6 — December 14
  • Awesome 8 #7 — December 19
  • Awesome 8 #8 — December 721

In-stock items only. Color and selection may vary by location. Select styles, sizes, and colors apply.

Hide a Boat

Hide A Boat isn’t just a fun way to sound Canadian. It’s an easy way to purchase an awesome gift and keep it hidden even if you’re personally at a loss for space. It’s a service we offer all year, but comes in especially handy during the holiday season.

Just stop in our flagship store located in South Asheville’s Parkway Center on 1378 Hendersonville Road. Our team of experts will help you choose the perfect recreational, whitewater, or fishing kayak or SUP from LiquidLogic, Native Watercraft, NRS, Perception, or Wilderness Systems. You’ll even get 20% OFF all paddling accessories and free installation of any Thule rack system purchased at the store ($75+ value).

We’ll store your purchase for free until you’re ready to pick it up. Or, better yet, we’ll deliver it for free within 20 miles of our store! Let us do the work while you wait to collect your hugs.

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See any team member for complete details.

Lake Julian Festival of Lights

Time spent with family creating lasting memories is what the holiday season is all about. Lake Julian’s 17th annual Festival of Lights is a local favorite with games, crafts, s’mores, and an impressive collections of 50 animated light displays. Drive through tickets are $10 per passenger vehicle at the gate, but stop in any Diamond Brand Outdoors location or Frugal Backpacker to purchase advance tickets for just $7 per vehicle (excludes large vans, motor coaches, and buses). The park is open nightly from 6:00-9:00 p.m. through December 23.

Your ticket purchase also helps the community. 20% of proceeds are donated to Buncombe County Special Olympics, while the remaining income is reinvested by Buncombe County Recreation Services to enhance the Festival of Lights for the following year. Be sure to add this magical journey to your holiday bucket list. Watch the lights twinkle over the lake and turn on your favorite yuletide tunes!

More about Lake Julian (from Romantic Asheville)
Lake Julian Park is a family recreational facility located on the banks of 300 acre Lake Julian in Arden. The park offers picnicking, boating, fishing, a playground, outdoor games, and special events. Lake Julian has an abundance of bass, catfish, brim, crappie, and imported Tilapia. Because Lake Julian is used as a cooling agent for Progress Energy the lake is “thermal.” Some of the best fishing occurs from October through March. Six picnic shelters are available for rent at Lake Julian Park. In addition to the shelters, many tables and grills are available at no charge on a first-come first-served basis.

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Feature image provided by Buncombe County Recreation Services

Bent Creek Experimental Forest

What Makes It Great

Nestled between The North Carolina Arboretum and Pisgah National Forest, Bent Creek Experimental Forest hosts a fun and convenient network of trails on the southern flank of Asheville.

Generally, Green’s Lick is regarded as the best downhill at Bent Creek. We won’t necessarily disagree, as Green’s Lick is definitely a fun descent (especially its wide-open lower half). There is a lot more to Bent Creek than just Green’s Lick Trail, though. Advanced riders may find others they prefer, such as Ingle’s Field Gap and Wolf Branch.

Recommended routes:

The Bent Creek trail map can be slightly intimidating, with its dense snarl of at least 24 named trails intersecting dozens of forest roads. Really, how many offshoots of FSR 479 can there be? These trails are well-maintained and well-signed, however, and it’s hard to get too lost as long as you have a map. Here are some of the best loops to help maximize your time on the Bent Creek trails.

Green’s Lick Loop (intermediate, 11-15 miles, +2,000 feet of climbing): Park at Rice Pinnacle trailhead and start at the bottom of Wolf Branch (TR 666). You may also park at either Ledford or Hard Times and take the Deer Lake Lodge connector over to the same spot. Climb the Wolf Branch and Ingles Field Gap (TR 150) trails, then continue up North Boundary Rd, following signs that read, “To Green’s Lick.” The full climb gains about 1,200 feet in just under 4.5 miles. Take a left onto Green’s Lick (TR 139) and enjoy the descent.

From the bottom of Green’s Lick trail, you have options:

Option A: If you’re short on time but want more climbing and another high-speed descent (who wouldn’t?), hang a left onto Sidehill (TR 145), then climb Little Hickory Top (TR 136) back up to Five Points. From Five Points,  you can descend Ingles Field Gap and Wolf branch back down to your car. This downhill is a little steeper and a little trickier than Green’s Lick, and you’ll need to watch out for climbing riders. This ride will finish in the 11-12 mile range, depending on which trailhead you’ve started from, with nearly as much climbing as the longer option.

Option B: If you’d prefer something longer and perhaps slightly less grueling, take a right and follow 479G down through the gate, then take a left and climb up Bent Creek Gap Rd (479). From here, it’s a short climb up to the bench on Lower Sidehill (TR 137A), then a sweet downhill back to 479G. Some other guides paradoxically suggest climbing Lower Sidehill to descend the gravel, but trust us: this way is much better, and since the FS 479 gravel has vehicle traffic on it it’s not very fun to descend. If you take gravel back to your car from here, the full ride will be 14-15 miles (depending on parking area). If you want more, you can easily add on the Explorer Loop and Pine Tree Loop trails detailed in the beginner ride below.

Intro to Bent Creek (beginner/intermediate, 11 miles, +1,400 feet): Starting at the Rice Pinnacle trailhead, climb Wolf Branch (TR 666) and Ingles Field Gap (TR 150), as above, but take Little Hickory Top (TR 136) down from the Five Points Junction.  Bear right onto Sidehill (TR 145) and follow it down to Laurel Branch Rd (FS 479G). Ride down the gravel a bit, then take a right onto Lower Sidehill (TR 137A) and a quick left onto the Lower Sidehill Connector trail (145A). Take a right onto Bent Creek Gap Rd (FS 479), then a left and through the gate onto Cold Knob Rd (FS 479H). Take the first left onto the Explorer Loop trail (TR 337), then right at the fork and left onto the Pine Tree Connector (TR 336A). From this point, turn right onto the Pine Tree Loop (TR 336) and climb up to the Deerfield Loop (TR 335). Go left on Small Creek (TR 334), then right on Homestead (TR 333) and follow the gravel roads back to Hard Times, then over to Ledford parking area. At Ledford, pick up Deer Lake Lodge (TR 664) and follow back to Rice Pinnacle.

Bent Creek beginner’s ride (beginner, 7 miles, +900 feet): This loop makes a nice figure eight and is suitable for beginning mountain bikers. From the Hard Times parking area, take Homestead (TR 333) over to Small Creek (TR 334) and climb Small Creek to Deerfield Loop (TR 3335). At the end of Deerfield, go left on the Pine Tree loop (TR 336) and follow it to the 336A connector, then take a right onto the lower portion of the Explorer Loop Trail (TR 337). Follow the Explorer Loop trail until it dead-ends at Cold Knob Road (FS 479H), then take a left and climb the gravel. If you’re riding with kids or need to cut your ride short, you can skip this climb and upper parts of the Explorer Loop by going left on Alt Explorer (337A); otherwise, continue up the road until you see 337 and climb to the very top of the Explorer Loop. Follow this back down until you reach 336A again, then take a right onto the connector and a left onto the lower part of the Pine Tree loop. Ride Pine Tree back to Bent Creek Gap Rd (FS 479), then take a left and follow the gravel back to your car.

Intro

Bent Creek Experimental Forest is, without question, the most popular destination for Asheville mountain biking. With about 30 miles of mountain bike trail (and many more miles of gravel forest road) a mere 20 minutes from downtown Asheville, it’s a great in-town alternative for cyclists without the time to travel far. Bent Creek is also relatively beginner-friendly, unlike many of the classic trails in nearby Pisgah National Forest, with trails to suit a wide range of rider abilities.

Who is Going to Love It

On the whole, Bent Creek will be enjoyed by mountain bikers with an intermediate skill level with primarily non-technical trails that don’t include much of the rocks and roots you’ll find strewn liberally throughout Pisgah. It’s a great place for newer riders to build skills and fitness before venturing onto more difficult terrain. Even if you prefer technical riding, though, the proximity of this trail system to Asheville means it’s your best bet for after-work singletrack therapy or, say, lunchtime rides on business trips.

Directions, Parking, + Regulations

This is a multi-use trail system, and none of the trails are directional. It’s also frequented by hikers and trail runners, so please remain aware of your surroundings and be prepared to yield to both climbing riders and other trail users, especially near Lake Powhatan campground.

It’s important to tread lightly here, as the primary focus of Bent Creek is forestry research and study, not recreation; continued recreational trail access is contingent upon our stewardship. Likewise, please do not ride these trails when they are soft from precipitation or freeze-thaw.

The Hard Times trailhead is the most popular and often fills up completely. Luckily, the Rice Pinnacle and Ledford Branch trailheads are very close. If you need a water bottle refill, a fountain is available at the Lake Powhatan Recreation Area campground.

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Featured image provided by Jeff Bartlett

7 Short Hikes with Spectacular Views Near Asheville

If it seems too good to be true, than it probably is. These are wise words to live by, yet living in Asheville is the rare exception to this rule. In the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can find wild, rolling meadows, exposed peaks of bare rock, and views of heart-melting beauty — and all reachable by trails so short, you’ll barely break a sweat.

1. Devil’s Courthouse

Devil's Courthouse sunrise
The hike to Devil’s Courthouse is short, strenuous, and well worth every step.
Frank Merenda

According to Cherokee legend, the sinister, bare-rock profile of Devil’s Courthouse is the dwelling place of Judaculla, the slant-eyed giant that dances in the caves below the summit. And while there’s no telling what sort of apparition you might see lurking in those mysterious hollows of rock, the view from the top is guaranteed to leave you breathless. Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and North Carolina unfurl in every direction in a rippling expanse of mountains. The journey to this ominous 5,720-foot peak is a mere half-mile from the parking lot. Remain on the trail to protect the abundance of fragile, high-altitude plants that cling to the rock and ensure that the giant lurking beneath you remains undisturbed.

2. Max Patch

Purple mountains at Max Patch.
Purple mountain majesty from the summit of Max Patch on an early morning.
Marcos Gasc

The greatest reward awaiting you from the airy summit of Max Patch is the deepest breath you’ve been able to draw in a long, long time. The feeling of tranquility and expansiveness that this rolling Appalachian meadow will instill in you is similar to that inspired by the ocean. Layer upon layer of mountains unfold into the distance in a 360-degree panorama, and the sky above you is a perfect blue dome. The road to Max Patch is long and winding, but the hike is short and sweet: a half-mile trek to the top, where you’ll find the Appalachian Trail cutting a neat path along the ridgeline.

3.Waterrock Knob

The Blue Ridge Mountains at Waterrock Knob.
From the summit of Waterrock Knob, ethereal blue layers of mountain fold into the distance.
Doug Waldron

The summit of Waterrock Knob is best enjoyed on the first morning after a rain, when the atmosphere is clean and polished. Waterrock Knob is located in the Plott Balsam Range, the chain of mountains that connects the Smokies to the Great Balsams. From its soaring peak 6,292 feet above sea level, the view stretches for more than 50 miles across Maggie Valley and into the Smokies beyond, including some of the tallest peaks within that range. The trail is just half a mile from the parking area (which also yields extraordinary views, and is a lovely destination if you are not ambulatory.) The trail includes many overlooks and opportunities to wander off and claim a few moments of solitude.

4. Linville Falls

A view of Linville Falls.
Linville Falls is a powerful spectacle in every season.
Stephen

The power of water—ancient, patient, and unyielding—may be the most moving and humbling force on the planet. Linville Falls, a 90-foot cascade that drops into the  Linville Gorge, is a spectacular example of such power. From the visitor center, a stair-cut, three-quarter mile trail leads to the base of the falls, where the pounding of whitewater drowns out all other sound, and the riverside boulders beg you to climb and explore. Swimming is not allowed, as the current could quickly sweep you over Lower Falls and into the canyon. The two trails that begin at the visitor center lead to five separate viewpoints, including Plunge Basin Overlook, which allows for a bird’s-eye-view of Lower Falls and Chimney Tops.

5. Green Knob Fire Tower 

View from the Green Knob Fire Tower.
Quite fittingly, the summertime view from Green Knob Fire Tower is one of innumerable shades of green.
Michael Sprague

There’s a beatnik romance to fire towers, an undeniable lure to these mountain structures that have become, if not completely anachronistic, then at least an aging relic of Americana. Half a mile on an overgrown and nearly hidden trail will lead you from the Blue Ridge Parkway to the summit of Green Knob Mountain, where the fire tower is perched along the Eastern Continental Divide. Although the cab has recently been closed to visitors, the vista at the top of the staircase is worth the rickety climb. A grab-bag of the Carolinas’ most impressive peaks, the view includes the Black Mountain Range, Mt. Mitchell, the Great Craggy Mountains, and the distinguished profiles of Table Rock and Grandfather Mountain.

6. Black Balsam Knob

Take a stroll through the goldenrod on the summit of Black Balsam Knob.
Take a stroll through the goldenrod on the summit of Black Balsam Knob.
Melina Coogan

Black Balsam Knob is nothing short of heavenly. This grassy bald lies atop the Great Balsam Mountains, drenched in open sky, with a 360-degree panoramic view. A short, switchbacking trail leads from the parking lot to the summit, where it intersects with the 30-mile Art Loeb Trail. For an easy overnight, settle in at an established campsite on the summit, taking care to Leave No Trace. On a clear evening, you will be treated to a water-color sunset and a dome of shooting stars. Just don’t be surprised if, in the morning, the mountains beckon and you find yourself following the Art Loeb Trail toward the Shining Rock Wilderness. The landscape of high mountain balds is utterly irresistible.

7. Rough Ridge

The view from Rough Ridge.
The boulders alongside the Rough Ridge provide easy opportunities for stunning photography.
David Clarke

Life can be exhausting. Some days, you simply need to find the edge of the world, sit with your legs dangling into the ether, and just breathe. Luckily for the explorers of Western Carolina, there is a trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway, just outside of Blowing Rock, where you can do just that. Rough Ridge is a dazzling, one-mile section of both the Tanawha and Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The splendor begins only a third of a mile from the parking area, when the boardwalk trail emerges from the forest into an alpine, rock-studded landscape. Continue for another half mile to the 4,773-foot summit, a steep rock fang with views of Grandfather Mountain, Linville Gorge, and the lights of the Piedmont glimmering in the distance. Make sure and scramble to the top of boulders along the way, and savor the dizzying sensations of elevation and exposure.

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Featured image provided by Erich Burton

10 Reasons to Wake Before Dawn in WNC

Dawn patrol is the practice of heading out before sunrise and beginning the day with a paddle, run, ski, hike, or whatever form of outdoor adventure you most crave. Crawling out of bed into the cold and making your way to the trailhead in darkness requires deep motivation, commitment and prior planning — but the payoff is enormous. Soet the alarm, ready your things the night before, and see for yourself how dawn patrol sets the stage for a fulfilling and invigorating lifestyle. Here are ten reasons for Asheville explorers to head for the hills before daybreak.

1. You Don’t Have to Travel Far

One of Asheville’s greatest assets is its proximity to the wilderness. Your morning mission could take you as far away as Cataloochee Ski Area or as nearby as Richmond Hill Park. Ease yourself into the realm of dawn patrol with a sunrise run on a greenway, work your way up to a trail run at Bent Creek, or take an illuminated ride at Pisgah. When the Blue Ridge Parkway is shut down in the winter, it creates a beautiful track of clean snow (469 miles long) for hiking and cross-country skiing. Whatever gets your heart beating and fills your lungs with fresh air makes a suitable morning conquest.

2. Achieve the Coveted Work/Life Balance

Asheville sparkles in predawn light.
Asheville sparkles in predawn light.
Pulaw

Achieving a healthy work/life balance is very possible in a small city such as Asheville. When your life is partly defined by outdoor adventure, however, the limited daylight of winter does present a challenge. Practice alarm clock discipline, arm yourself with warm layers and a headlamp, and fearlessly face the pre-dawn darkness to infuse each day with outdoor endeavors before you even clock in.

3. Appreciate the Comforts of the Office

There’s nothing like coming in from the cold to help you appreciate everyday luxuries so often taken for granted. Those first few lungfuls of frigid mountain air might feel harsh, but dawn patrol will help you revel in the comforts of office life as you never have before: placid temperatures, hot water, your lumbar-supporting office chair. Even that brown bag lunch you brought from home will be a source of gleeful anticipation to your stoked appetite.

4. Catch a Blue Ridge Sunrise

The sun rises over Graveyard Fields, a popular hiking destination along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The sun rises over Graveyard Fields, a popular hiking destination along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Jenn Deane

Greeting the dawn is one of the healthiest rituals you can incorporate into your life, and the ethereal Blue Ridge Mountain range puts on a truly spectacular sunrise. Catch the show from Mt. Mitchell State Park, Sam’s Knob, the Blue Ridge Parkway, or any place where you can glimpse those first rays. The tranquility, awe, and invigoration you experience will fuel you straight through your 9 to 5.

5. Shoot Stunning Photos

Perfecting the camera settings to catch those elusive moments of daybreak.
Perfecting the camera settings to catch those elusive moments of daybreak.
Matt Paish

Western North Carolina is photogenic. But Western North Carolina at sunrise is really, really photogenic. Dawn patrol can yield some breathtaking captures: silhouettes and sun rays, the delicate colors of dawn seeping through the forest or brightening the streets, and you (in a glorious selfie), looking burly and alive in the first light of day.

6. Stick to Your Exercise Plan

Experts agree that the most effective way to stick to a workout plan is to exercise first thing in the morning. So while you’re outside, being uplifted by nature and extolling in the many virtues of dawn patrol, you’re turning this healthy practice into part of your daily routine and upping the chances of meeting your fitness goals.

7. Avoid a Congested Commute

Don’t hit that snooze button: the earlier you’re up and at ’em, the emptier the roads. Asheville’s growing traffic issues are never as apparent as they are during peak commuting hours. By heading into the mountains before dawn, not only will you skip the morning commute, you’ll also save yourself from battling post-work traffic as you try to make it to Bent Creek before nightfall.

8. Coffee in the Mountains…

Coffee in the mountains sure beats the drive-through line at Starbucks.
Coffee in the mountains sure beats the drive-through line at Starbucks.
Martin Cathrae

Coffee tastes better on the side of a mountain or sipped from a thermos as you stroll alongside the French Broad river. That pleasant caffeinated buzz hits you harder when mixed with fresh air and exercise endorphins. Simply put, dawn patrol coffee is one of life’s most amazing offerings. Enjoy it as often as possible.

9. …Espresso in the City

Enjoy your second round of coffee at one of Asheville's many cafes.
Enjoy your second round of coffee at one of Asheville’s many cafes.
Unsplash

You’re back in town and ready to start the work day….but not until you’ve finished a second cup, this one purveyed at one of Asheville’s many coffee shops.  Treat yourself to an espresso and a glazed twist; after all, it’s 9 a.m. and you’ve already earned it.

10. The Breakfast Beer

Once in a while, your morning conquest might just turn into a ”mental health“ day.
Once in a while, your morning conquest might just turn into a ”mental health“ day.
Jay Johnson

If your morning conquest somehow turns into a full blown snow day, this is the perfect time to try out a “breakfast brew.”

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Featured image provided by Caleb Morris

4 Frozen Waterfall Hikes in Western North Carolina

While subzero temperatures and dwindling daylight can really put a damper on our motivation to hit the trail, the Blue Ridge Mountains are never quite as dramatic and ethereal as they are in the depths of winter. Familiar trails are transformed as bare trees unlock long-range views, the balds sparkle under a thick feathering of frost, and visitors are few and far between. But perhaps the most powerful offering of the winter landscape are the waterfalls: sheaths of ice, rainbows suspended in frozen mist, the cascade slowed or suspended entirely. See for yourself at these four waterfalls in the North Carolina mountains to explore this winter. (Check out Frugal Backpacker’s Winter Hiking Basics.)

1. Trashcan Falls

Waterfalls in Asheville, Trashcan falls
Trashcan Falls is more beautiful than the name may suggest.
Justin Fincher

No WNC outdoor enthusiast should let a winter pass them by without spending a weekend in the High Country. Between skiing, cold-weather bouldering, and endless miles of pristine hiking trails, there is no shortage of frozen adventure to be found just two hours north of Asheville. Boone’s old fashioned downtown has enough pubs, college eateries, and cozy cafes to keep you warm and dry after a day out in the snow.

Located on Laurel Creek, a tributary of the Watauga River, Trashcan Falls is a beautiful place to explore. Don’t be put off by its mysterious name — this 15 foot cascade is perfectly pristine. Just a quick dash down a wooded trail from the parking area, this waterfall is quickly and easily accessible. Allow yourself plenty of daylight to explore because the falls and the gorge downstream are irresistibly wild and alluring in the winter. Ice swirls in the eddies, flowers in patterns on the boulders, and chokes the current where the creek narrows. Winter offers a striking new perspective on this pocket of wilderness that is often crowded with swimmers and sunbathers during the summer.

2. Looking Glass Falls

Waterfalls in Asheville, Looking Glass Falls.
Looking Glass Falls in winter is a dazzling landscape.
Sarah Zucca

Looking Glass Rock, the pluton dome that rises from within Pisgah National Forest to an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet, got its name because of the way sunshine reflects off its shining granite face. In the wintertime, this “looking-glass effect” is sharply enhanced as a sheen of ice coats the sides of the rock. A visit to Looking Glass as it lies sparkling under the winter sun should be on the top of every hiker’s cold-weather bucket list.

One of the few roadside waterfalls in the Blue Ridge, the 60-foot Looking Glass Falls can gather some crowds during the summer months. In the winter, however, you’ll most likely be exploring the cascade alone. The ice formations that bloom alongside the veil and the rugged landscape of whipped, frozen whitewater that lays just downstream is a spectacular site. The sounds of falling water and cracking ice ring throughout the still, bare forest.

If you’re looking to make a day of exploring the marvelous ice formations around Looking Glass, nearby waterfalls nearby include Daniel Ridge Falls, Cove Creek Falls and Sliding Rock, just to name a few.

3. Crabtree Falls

Icicle collects in a curtain beneath Crabtree Falls, one of Asheville's waterfalls.
Icicle collects in a curtain beneath Crabtree Falls.
Jdshepard

Thick with wildflowers in the spring and blazing with color in the fall, Crabtree Falls is a lovely site in any season. The diamond clear water of Big Crabtree Creek sifts 70 feet down mottled black rock, creating a gauzy veil as thin and fine as white lace. When the temperature dips below zero, ice glazes the edges of the rock and daggers of icicles cling to every surface in the dark emerald pool below. With the striking atmosphere of a leafless hardwood forest and the quiet solitude of the freezing mountains, this waterfall may be most enchanting in the winter. Just 45 minutes outside of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway, this moderate 3.5-mile (roundtrip) hike is the perfect remedy for a case of cabin fever.

4. Dry Falls

Waterfalls around Asheville, Dry Falls.
Ice feathers the rocks at Dry Falls.
Jenjazzygeek

Just about 80 miles outside of Asheville, the vast wilderness of Jackson County, North Carolina, makes for an epic winter day trip. The rivers become a maze of ice and rock with the current coursing beneath the surface, and the steep, cliff-studded hillsides are bright and quiet after a snowfall. Driving the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway, which twists and turns past several waterfalls in Cullasaja Gorge, is a particularly dramatic experience in winter.

One of the most famous sites in the region, 75-foot Dry Falls, can be viewed from the byway. In the summer, it’s possible to explore behind the veil without a single drop of water landing on you. This becomes a decidedly dicier mission during the winter months, as that space is slick with frozen spray and decorated with icicles that could break off at any moment. Still, it’s worth descending the staircase that leads from the viewing platform and examining the walls of ice and frost formations up close.

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Featured image provided by Justin Fincher

Events

Winter Wonderland of Birds

While some species head to warmer climates during winter, there are plenty of birds that stick around through the cold WNC winter. These birds have many adaptations to stay warm during the winter months, including a high fat density. In order to maintain that, birds spend the bulk of their days searching for food, which is scarce in the winter.

International birding experts Kevin Burke and Emilie Travis provide a rundown of birds you can expect to see during winter adventures and suggestions of where to go. They’ll also share ideas for turning your backyard into a winter bird sanctuary with plants that can provide food and shelter.

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Well-behaved kids and pets with owner on leash are welcome at this free event.

Spirit of the Holidays Celebration

December in Western North Carolina can swing from snowy and cold to sunny and warm from year to year (or week to week). However, the spirit of our community — which shines brightly throughout the year — is always on display during this special time. We’re celebrating this positive spirit with a day of joy and cheer at our flagship store in South Asheville’s Parkway Center.

What to expect?

Be sure to arrive on time for these fun experiences!

  • 11:00-12:00 — Winter Hiking + Camping Workshop with Graham
  • 11:00-2:00 — Ornament Making with LEAF Easel Rider Mobile Arts Lab
  • 1:00 — Ugly Sweater Pageant
  • 2:00-4:00 — Kids’ Clif Bar Decorating Party

Special Buys + Deals

  • 20% OFF The North Face clothing, hats, + gloves
  • 30% OFF ENO hammock accessories, speakers, + lights
  • 25% OFF Stanley cups, mugs, + coolers
  • 30% OFF select Nemo sleeping bags
  • 50% OFF all ornaments
  • 30% OFF all vendor samples
  • Up to $50 OFF Osprey packs
  • 50% OFF Grand Trunk travel gear
  • Buy 2 Sili Pints, Get 1 FREE
  • $10 OFF Flyshacker pajama bottoms
  • Buy 2 Pairs of Echoview Fiber Mills alpaca wool socks, Get 2 FREE
  • 25% OFF Marmot tents
  • 40% OFF North River Outditters shirts + fleece
  • Buy 3 Pairs of Socks, Get 1 Pair FREE (excludes Pudu + Socksmith)
  • Buy One Hydro Flask tumbler, Get Another for 60% OFF
  • 20% OFF an item with coat donation
  • $25 for White Sierra Cozy Blanket (was $40) — a great stocking stuffer

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Bring your friends, family, kids, and four-legged friends!