The West coast may have hot springs and glacier-fed lakes, but here in the sultry Southeast we have our swimming holes — and we’re damn proud of them. Just listen to the Top 40 Country Countdown: people are always jumping into water, fishing in the holler, lying by the creek, and getting into trouble down by the river. A summer spent fully immersed in mountain-fed pools would be a fine summer indeed. Here are five of the coolest and coldest swimming holes within two hours of Asheville.

1. Sliding Rock

Jenn Deane

Just eight miles outside of Brevard, Sliding Rock  is Mother Nature’s answer to the slip n’ slide. You will shoot sixty feet down a perfectly smooth rock face, fueled by more than 11,000 gallons of cascading water, into a pool that is six feet deep and shockingly cold. This could be the perfect conclusion to a long day of mountain biking in the Pisgah National Forest.

As one might expect, this natural water park is extremely popular during the scorching Appalachian summers. A lifeguard is on duty between Memorial Day and Labor day, between the hours of 10am-6pm. If big crowds and long lines are not your cup of sweet iced tea, then make sure to visit Sliding Rock outside of these hours.

There is a $2 charge during lifeguard hours; bathrooms and showers available onsite.

2. Skinny Dip Falls

Jenn Deane

This may come as a disappointment for some and a relief to others, but Skinny Dip Falls is not actually a clothing-optional swimming hole. This rugged and serene pool is located at the headwaters of the Big East Fork of the Pigeon River. Waterfalls, jumping-off rocks, a deep plunge pool, and shallow areas for wading make it a very popular swimming spot. If you’re determined to go au naturel , there are plenty of secluded spots to be found by exploring upstream.

Located just a half mile off the Blue Ridge Parkway on the Mountains-to-Sea-Trail, Skinny Dip Falls is a great place to cool down after hiking in nearby Graveyard Fields, Black Balsam Knob, or the Shining Rock Wilderness.

A blazed spur trailhead is located at Milepost 417 near the Looking Glass Rock Overlook. 

3. Compression/Twisted Falls

Ry Glover

Some of the best cliff jumping in the Southeast can be found in Cherokee National Forest, not quite two hours outside of Asheville. A series of curving back roads and a steep, mile-long hike will lead you to the base of Compression Falls—also known as Twisted or Twisting Falls—a 40 foot curtain of cascading water on the beautiful Elk River.

Although this area is becoming increasingly popular, its remote setting and steep access trail keeps the massive summer crowds at bay. A wide pool beneath the falls is ideal for swimming and sun bathing, and there are plenty of cliffs and jumping rocks to keep you entertained. Thrill seekers can find quite the adrenaline rush (not to mention photo op) by sliding directly over the falls into the pool. (While lots of people do this, be aware that any time you willingly or unwillingly plunge off of a waterfall, you are risking bodily harm. There have been a few unfortunate incidents of severe injuries resulting from people going over the falls.)

Your best landmark is Elk Mills Store on Route 321 in Elk Mills, TN. Find a map here

4. Hooker Falls

DuPont State Forest's Hooker Falls
DuPont State Forest’s Hooker Falls

DuPont State Forest is a complete, all-in-one summertime destination. Hikers and mountain bikers will enjoy over one hundred miles of multi-use trails, including the sweet, soaring downhill of Ridgeline Trail, the exposed, sun-beaten Slick-Rock Trail, and the many spectacular waterfalls for which the forest is best known. No day of exploration is complete in this natural playground without taking a dip in the pool beneath Hooker Falls — the only waterfall in DuPont that is safe for swimming.

Explore the misty chasm behind the pounding veil of the fall, plunge off the rope swing, or float in the languid downstream waters. Because the pool is part of Cascade Lake, there is no current or downstream waterfalls to watch out for. Hooker Falls are a mere quarter mile from the parking lot, so bring a floaty, a cooler, and stay ’til your waterlogged.

Park in the Hooker Falls Parking Area. Port-a-johns available in the parking lot. The forest closes at 10pm. 

5. Midnight Hole

Melina Coogan

The mountain-chilled, emerald water of Midnight Hole provides a refreshing oasis from the oppressive humidity of a Carolina Summer. This swimming hole, studded with jump rocks and fed by a small waterfall, is one of the many natural treasures you can find hidden away in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is located on Big Creek on the Carolina/Tennessee State line, after an easy 1.4 mile hike on the Big Creek Trail.

Park at the Big Creek Campground Parking Lot.


Originally written by RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Melina Coogan

A voluminous network of trails spiderweb the mountains that surround Asheville. Soaring ridge lines, breathtaking views, and an epic array of terrain have long established this city as one of the hiking epicenters of the country.

The tireless efforts of such organization as  The Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and the Conservation Trust for North Carolina have not only protected the existing state parks and forests, but have been able to expand upon them by thousands of acres. From the heights of Mount Mitchell, the tallest peak on the East Coast, to the waterfall-studded trails of Dupont, to the sublime views of Max Patch, the outdoor opportunities in the Southern Appalachians are limitless.

Mount Mitchell

Robert Aberegg

Hikers, backpackers, trail runners, and naturalists flock to the summit of Mount Mitchell not only for the beauty of its surroundings, but also because it is the highest peak East of the Mississippi. Towering above the Black Mountains, the views from the top are truly exceptional.

One of the best ways to reach this acclaimed summit is to begin at Black Mountain Campground on the South Toe River in Burnsville. The steep, thickly wooded trail climbs 3,600 feet in just over 5.5 miles. The forest transforms as you quickly gain elevation, a welcome distraction to the grueling uphill hike. When you reach an alpine meadow abloom with wildflowers, allow yourself a well deserved break, as the rigorous pace of the trail soon picks up again. Even experienced hikers will find this a strenuous, all day excursion, but the the reward of heavenly views and pristine mountain air at the summit are worth the effort.

When you arrive, take a moment to pay tribute to Elisha Mitchell, for whom the mountain was named. This scientist, explorer, and professor was the first person to measure the mountain and declare it the highest in the East. She is buried on the summit.

Shining Rock

Daniel Meacham

Luminous with bright white quartzite rock, the summit of Shining Rock is a veritable gem of the Appalachians. In the Shining Rock Wilderness, high in the Great Balsam Mountains, miles of soaring ridgeline string together grassy balds laced with wildflowers and surrounded by ethereal views. Perched high in the rugged and remote wilderness, the quartzite garden atop the summit is a popular spot for star gazing.

Although a collection of trails leads to Shining Rock, the most picturesque of these includes a section of the Art Loeb Trail. Park at Black Balsam Knob Trailhead on Road 816 off of the Blue Ridge Parkway; head North and follow the white blazes of the Art Loeb Trail. You will reach the top of rounded summits, traverse five miles of spectacular ridgeline, and drop down mountain passes before reaching Shining Rock Gap. From there, scramble up a network of unmarked trails to the summit and watch the sunlight bounce off crystalline rock formations.

Dogs are more than welcome, and no fees or permits are required to hike or camp at Shining Rock. However, it is a designated Wilderness Area, so be aware of the specific guidelines that come along with that.  

DuPont State Forest

Mark Stoffan

In 2012, DuPont State Forest gained notoriety as the hauntingly beautiful backdrop of the smash blockbuster hit The Hunger Games. Before then, this 10,000 acres of wooded wilderness was best known for its abundance of waterfalls. The Little River cascades through the forest, careening over Bridal Veil Falls, Triple Falls, High Falls, and more. Eighty miles of meandering, multi-use trails and five cold water mountain lakes makes DuPont a hiker’s oasis during the hot summer months.

For a mellow and scenic excursion, check out the 4.5 mile trail leading up to Cedar Rock. It awards sweeping views without much elevation gain. If you’re up for something a bit more strenuous, both routes to the top of Stone Mountain, the highest point in DuPont, are steep and demanding, but offer gorgeous and far reaching views (and a lot less people than the popular waterfall trails). At the end of the day, take a dip in the expansive, 99 acre Lake Julia.

Linville Gorge Wilderness

Weekend trip to Linville Gorge & Grandfather Mountain
Weekend trip to Linville Gorge & Grandfather Mountain
Michael Sprague

The 12,000 acres of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area are some of the most rugged and wild in all of North Carolina. Thirty nine hiking trails fan out from access points on the East and West Rims. Although the trails vary in length and intensity, with a few easier options on the rim, most carve their way steeply down to the bottom of the 1,400 foot canyon. Certain strenuous hikes will even cross the Linville River before marching sharply upwards again.

The beauty of this remote wilderness and its spectacular, long-reaching views cannot be overstated. Towering cliffs (often slung with ropes and dotted with rock climbers) and a thriving mixed hardwood forests surround you as you plunge deeper into the canyon. When the river is high, it is considered one of the best, albeit dangerous, class V whitewater kayaking runs in the Southeast. At lower volumes, you will have your pick of swimming holes, cliff jumping and small waterfalls to explore.

Backcountry camping is allowed in Linville Gorge. Between March 1st and October 31st, permits are required for weekends and holidays. You can find these at the Information Cabin on Kistler Memorial Highway or the Grandfather District ranger office in Marion.

Max Patch

Jarrod Doll

Roughly 20 minutes outside of Hot Springs, NC, Max Patch is one of the Southeast’s most acclaimed and spectacular viewpoints. This enormous, verdant meadow lies on the Appalachian Trail as it follows the crest along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. The exquisite, panoramic skyline includes the Great Smoky Mountains, the Great Balsam range, the Roans, and the Black Mountains. In the evening, the sun bleeds purple fire over the rolling, expansive view of Tennessee to the West.

‘The Patch’ is a versatile destination enjoyed by day hikers, backpackers, Appalachian thru-hikers, and sightseers alike. Most of the 4,600 foot climb is accomplished by driving the long and winding access road; from the parking lot, the summit is just half a mile away. For a longer hike, explore the 2.4 mile loop which circumnavigate the meadow. If you prefer a bit more distance, just point towards Maine or Georgia on the Appalachian Trail and wander for as long as you please. For an easy adventure with a huge payoff, camp in the forest that runs alongside the bald. Be sure and wake up in time for sunrise.


Organizations:   Carolina Mountain Club , Conservation Trust for North Carolina , Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy
Retailers:   Frugal Backpacker and Diamond Brand Outdoors


Originally written by RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Melina Coogan

Despite your alarm going off before it’s even light out, despite the relentless climbs and knee-shaking descents that seem to go on forever, you know it’s worth it. That moment when the sheltering forest gives way to soaring summit views is even more dazzling when you’ve been earning it for hours. Even the flattened peanut butter sandwich from the bottom of your pack tastes like a million bucks. And then there’s that weightless feeling when, at the end of the day, you’re finally off of your feet and savoring a cold beer. These are just some of the rewards of tackling an epic, all-day hike.

Here, four of our favorite trails near Asheville that will keep you moving from sunup to sundown.

1. Appalachian Trail to Roan Mountain

Carver's Gap wildflowers on Roan Mountain.
Carver’s Gap wildflowers on Roan Mountain.
Keith Callahan

There are plenty of ways to access the five mile long massif of Roan Mountain, one of the most picturesque landscapes in the Southeast, but the longest and most challenging (and thus, most gratifying) of these is the Appalachian Trail. ‘The Roan’ is located on the North Carolina/Tennessee State line, and is famous for its massive gardens of Catawba Rhododendron that bloom a brilliant purple in the early summer. You’ll definitely want to choose the long way through this heavenly stretch of mountains.

Beginning at Carver’s Gap in Roan Mountain State Park, the AT heads northeast and ambles 14 miles over a number of breathtaking balds, including Jane’s Bald, Little Hump, and Yellow Mountain. The glorious, non-stop views from this rolling ridgeline will make the miles melt away. This marathon of a day hike (also a gorgeous and highly recommended overnight) ends at the trailhead on Highway 19E in Tennessee, so remember to leave a shuttle vehicle.

2. Old Butt Knob Trail to Shining Rock

Daniel Meacham

After you’ve thoroughly soaked in the views and are ready to turn for home, unwind with a more gentle and scenic descent on the Shining Creek Trail. The path begins with a steep plunge, but don’t despair; it soon mellows out and follows a creek for the next three miles. Take a breather at one of the many small trailside waterfalls, and treat your feet to a well-deserved soak.

The Old Butt Knob to Shining Creek linkup is an 8.5 mile loop. Park at the Big East Fork Trailhead off US 276. Begin on the Shining Creek Trail, and look for the northwest turnoff onto Old Butt Knob Trail approximately 1 mile in. Pay close attention, as trails are notoriously easy to miss within the Shining Rock Creek wilderness. The trail will be on your right and begin with an immediate steep climb. 

3. Big East Fork

The Art Loeb section of the Big East Fork Trail
The Art Loeb section of the Big East Fork Trail
Patrick Mueller

If you’re in the mood for a lengthy hike, but you’re not necessarily jonesing for a punishing climb, this 11 mile loop on The Big East Fork of the Pigeon River will be just the ticket. This lovely and meandering route stitches together sections of the Shining Creek, Art Loeb, Graveyard Ridge, and Big East Fork trails for a dynamic day of rock hopping, river fording, and switchbacks. You will follow the pristine water of the Big East Fork as it tumbles through lush forest, and take in panoramic mountain views at Ivestor Gap. With deep pools for swimming and ample spots for picking wild blueberries and blackberries, the Big East Fork provides the perfect summer escape.

4. Black Mountain Campground to Mount Mitchell

The tallest peak east of the Mississippi.
The tallest peak east of the Mississippi.
David B. Gleason

Earn your bragging rights by summiting the highest peak on the east coast on the most direct and difficult trail. Who needs switchbacks when you can reach the towering, 6,682 foot summit of  Mt. Mitchell by climbing straight up? Begin in the early morning at the Black Mountain Campground, and prepare for a sensational suffer-fest as you climb 3,600 feet in 5.5 miles. (You may also want to mentally prepare yourself for the trail runners who will dart by, speedy and light, as this trail is popular amongst the most gnarly and super fit athletes in the east.)

As you gain in elevation, the shifting landscape may distract you from the burning in your legs: you will come across new species of plants and animals every 500 feet. The summit of Mount Mitchell has an ecosystem that is otherwise only found in Canada, including Saw-whet owls and northern flying squirrels. From this mighty peak, the sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains are unparalleled. If you decide to plunge down on the same trail that you came up, you will have completed a truly grueling 11 mile day. But the views from the top (and the beer at the bottom) make it all worth it.


Originally written by RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Rachel Titiriga


Chimney Rock State Park is one of the most iconic outdoor destinations in the state of North Carolina. From the top of the ancient rock face for which the park is named, visitors can witness amazing views of Lake Lure and the sweeping valley below, and there are also plenty of recreational opportunities, ranging from hiking to rock climbing.

What Makes It Great

As for hiking, there are a number of excellent trails in the park. The wildly popular Outcroppings takes hikers up a challenging 26 story staircase to Chimney Rock. The Hickory Nut Falls Trails leads to an impressive 400-foot tall waterfall. And the Skyline Trail leads to Exclamation Point, which is the highest point in the park.

Not only is Chimney Rock known for its wonderful family hiking opportunities, but it also offers excellent climbing, for everyone from beginners to more advanced mountaineers. On sheer rock faces with long range views of the Hickory Nut Gap Gorge, anyone from 6 year old children to 60 year old seniors can enjoy top-roping these single and multi-pitch climbs for a fee that is pretty minimal. The park’s instructional partners, Fox Mountain Guides, are great at what they do, supplying climbers with all the equipment and requisite knowledge and support needed to have a successful day on the rock.   For beginners, there is a 60-100′ route that is single pitch and features good holds. Once to the top, climbers can rappel down for a just reward.

Intermediate and slightly more advanced climbers have the option of a multi-pitch route where an instructor will lead, place bolts and anchors, and belay from above. This route is closer to the 200-400′ range.

Who is Going to Love It

There are climbing routes for everyone from beginners to more advanced mountaineers. If top-roping isn’t your thing, experienced climbers can bring their own equipment and use the non-fee access to Rumbling Bald and its massive boulder field (with roughly 1500 boulders and some of the best routes in the southeast, if not the entire country).

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Chimney Rock State Park is located at 431 Main St. in Chimney Rock, NC 28720.


Featured image provided by Doug Letterman


One of the closest hikes to Asheville with the best long-range views is Craggy Gardens at Milemarker 364.1 off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Because of its easy access, this is a popular spot and although its never exactly ‘crowded,’ you won’t be alone during the summer or fall. Come at sunset for unobstructed views over the Black Mountains.

Craggy Gardens is the go-to spot for a quick weekend hike that’s accessible and generally pretty easy, if a bit steep. But it’s only a 1.4-mile loop, so it’s a moderate hike even for families with children.

What Makes It Great

If you’re coming from downtown Asheville, the first thing you’ll notice is that the temperature here is usually at least 5 degrees cooler than it is at lower elevations (and sometimes as much as 20 degrees cooler), so be prepared and bring warm clothing, even if its summer. There’s a slight lag in the seasons at this elevation, too, so you may not see leaves on the trees until May.

The Craggy trail is carved through a rhododendron thicket, so its especially beautiful around mid-June when the flowers are in bloom. The trail is a little steep, but shouldn’t prove too challenging even for children. There are several overlook spots along the trail.

In the summer, slabs of slate gray rock and bright pink rhododendron blooms create a vivid landscape, surrounded by panoramic 360 views of Asheville, Mt. Mitchell, and the endlessly undulating Blue Ridge Mountains.

Who is Going to Love It

This is a great starter trail for kids: quick, steep without being overly demanding, with a dramatic mountain top finale that’s perfect for picnics. This hike could be combined with other attractions on the Blue Ridge Parkway such as Graveyard Fields and Skinny Dip Falls for a full day of warm weather exploration.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway only about 30 minutes from downtown Asheville, the Craggy Gardens Trail starts at the Craggy Pinnacle parking lot at milemarker 364.1 (just beyond the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center at 364.6).


Featured image provided by Selena N. B. H.

The color experts predict our warm, dry winter and wet, temperate summer have set ideal conditions for a bright and healthy 2017 fall color show in the North Carolina mountains. Dr. Howard S. Neufeld, professor of biology and the “fall color guy” at Appalachian State University in Boone, says healthy trees will add to bright yellows joining the familiar orange and purple hues that mark autumn in the Asheville area. The Blue Ridge Mountains put on a show that spans six to eight weeks thanks to the variation in elevation throughout the region, according to

There’s nothing quite like fall in Western Carolina — when the mountain air turns crisp and cool, the nostalgia comes flooding back with overwhelming waves of inexplicable sensation. Here are 30 reasons why autumn in Asheville is the most spectacular time of year.

1. Months of Foliage

The mountains of Western Carolina donning their fiery October red.
The mountains of Western Carolina donning their fiery October red.
Sarah Zucca

Due to early frost, warm weather, and a dramatic variance in elevation, the Blue Ridge boasts one of the most brilliant and long-lasting displays of foliage in the country. What a spectacular season to wander through the mountains, from high up in Craggy Gardens and Graveyard Fields, which are the first to turn, to the relative low country of Lake Lure and Chimney Rock, which are the last to peak in early November.

2. Sleep Soundly

It's more comfortable than it looks!
It’s more comfortable than it looks!
David Clarke

Say goodbye to the restless, muggy nights of summer. A slight drop in body temperature is actually conducive to falling asleep and waking up refreshed, so curl up in your down sleeping bag and enjoy a chilly fall night under the stars. Check out Mt. Pisgah Campground, perched high in the Pisgah National Forest. Or, just sleep with the windows open!

3. Fall Festival Season is Back

Asheville Outdoor Show at Salvage Station.

Festival season never really stops in the North Carolina mountains, but there’s an ah-mazin’ run from the Asheville Outdoor Show in September to the Asheville Holiday Parade in November. Fall also plays host to Goombay, Autumn at Oz, LEAF, and more. Head out to Franklin for PumpkinFest, an iconic mountain celebration featuring the World Famous Pumpkin Roll.

4. Happy Dogs

Happiest dog ever.
Happiest dog ever.
Peter Laurent

Dogs across the Southeast are breathing a sigh of relief now that the temperatures are finally dropping. With her fur coat no longer a burden, your dog is happily anticipating a brisk season of chasing balls, rolling in dead leaves, and accompanying you on those long, refreshing hikes.

5. Seasonal Brews

One of the most compelling reasons to get outside this season is what’s waiting for you when you return: lots of seasonal craft favorites like Asheville Brewing Company‘s Carolina Mountain Monster Imperial Stout, Catawba Brewing Company‘s King Don’s Pumpkin Ale, and Hi-Wire Brewing‘s Apricot Sour Ale. Spend some time exploring the stunning landscapes of Linville Gorge Wilderness or Pantertown Valley, then put your feet up and indulge with a sensational season brew. If a day of tasting is more of your thing, Asheville Oktoberfest can’t be beat.

6. Invigoration

Feeling inspired to go for a long hike? Not surprising.
Feeling inspired to go for a long hike? Not surprising.
Rachel Titiriga

Is it the snap in the air, the sweet relief from August’s humidity, or the backdrop of orange and gold that makes us feel so alive and and alert? Autumn breathes new life into the soul and the landscape, painting the mountains burgundy, turning cheeks pink, and instilling a craving for hard work and adventure. Channel this burst of energy by tackling some of the best trail running spots in the area.

7. Crunchy Leaves

Don't you want to crunch it?
Don’t you want to crunch it?
Nana B Agyei

There’s something so satisfying and quintessentially autumn about crunching your heal down on a dry, brittle leaf. It adds yet another element of tactile delight to the endless hiking trails that surround Asheville.

8. No More Pests
The air is clear of pollen, mosquitos are no longer swarming, and poison ivy has lost its summer potency. Overall, the wilderness is a more friendly, comfortable, and inviting place to lose yourself for the weekend.

9. Cooler Races

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s folks in Asheville keeping things weird!
Asheville Running Experience

Weekend warriors, get ready! Not only is the temperature cooler, but the races have more spunk and personality. The Asheville Running Experience offers five events over three days: ARX Happening, ARX Half Marathon, Asheville Brewing Super Hero 5K & Fun Run, Asheville Urban Odyssey presented by Frugal Backpacker, and Chasing Trail 8K. The cooler season also sees Asheville’s oldest running event, the Thomas Wolfe 8K; the Shut-In Ridge Trail Race; and the Asheville Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving.

10. Empty Swimming Holes 

So cold. But so worth it.
So cold. But so worth it.
Melina Coogan

September still has its fair share of 80+ degree days and there is a major perk to taking an early fall dip: with the kids back in school and the holidays over, you might find some peaceful solitude at the region’s best swimming holes and have swimmable waterfalls all to yourself!

11. Whitewater Races

Kayaking racing season in full force
Kayak racing season in full force.
Melina Coogan

Kayakers, take your marks! The Green Race — one of the greatest spectacles in outdoor sports — takes place on the first Saturday of November.

12. Apple Orchards 

This dog seriously loves apples
This dog seriously loves apples.
Melina Coogan

In terms of classic fall adventure, nothing compares to the endless delights of an apple orchard. Go for a hay ride, hang out with a scarecrow, sip on warm cider. Picking apples under bright cobalt skies is the perfect excuse to get the whole family outside for the day.

13. Stock Up On Gear

We kick off the fall season with an awesome Labor Day Sale and keep the local love coming throughout the season to ensure everyone has the “Asheville uniform:” plaid shirt, vest, and beanie or trucker hat. Perfect for days spent on the trail and nights spent on the town.

14. Driving with the windows down

Ahhh, yes.
Ahhh, yes!

For the past four months, driving has been either sweltering hot or artificially freezing. Fall brings the immense pleasure of driving with the windows down, making your commute to the trailhead downright enjoyable. Blast the radio and cruise The Blue Ridge Parkway (America’s longest linear park!) with fresh air rushing in and your hair flying in the breeze.

15. Bouldering Season

It's bouldering season again.
It’s bouldering season again.
Melina Coogan

September kicks off the start of bouldering season in Western Carolina; the air is snappy and the holds are grippy! Throw on your wool beanie, chalk up, and get thee to Rumbling Bald.

16. Pumpkin Seeds

One of the best ways to spend a fall evening with friends
One of the best ways to spend a fall evening with friends
Melina Coogan

As if you needed another reason to carve a pumpkin: those pepitas (or pumpkin seeds) are chalk full of magnesium, manganese, and protein. Roast them with a little sea salt and bring them along on your next hiking session for a healthy, locally grown snack. Churches, schools, and civic organizations all sell pumpkins as fundraisers, so you can feel even better about your new orange purchase.

17. Cozy Dates

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

It’s only natural that we’re all looking for love before winter sets in. That, combined with the inherent coziness of shorter days and blustery weather, makes autumn the optimal season for dating. Check out these romantic fall outings for you and your sweetie.

18. Scarf Season

Apparently, scarf season isn't just for humans.
Apparently, scarf season isn’t just for humans.
Melina Coogan

Be it chunky knit cowl or fine wool wrap, we all appreciate the little boost of being bundled up in a bright scarf. Part fashion and part good sense, it’s the perfect accessory for heading outdoors, out with friends, or to the office.

19. Leaf Piles

At the intersection of household chores and childhood delights, enormous leaf piles are autumn’s answer to the swimming hole. Rake one up and dive right in — you know you want to.

20. Bonfires

There's nothing quite like the smell of campfires in autumn
There’s nothing quite like the smell of campfires in autumn.
Melina Coogan

Stave off brisk evenings and impending darkness with the warmth and glow of a backyard bonfire. Invite some friends, toast a marshmallow, and crack open some cheer. For many people, wood smoke is one of the most pleasant and nostalgic smells out there. Kick back, breathe deep, and enjoy!

21. Afternoon Light

Taking a break to lounge in the autumnal glow
Taking a break to lounge in the autumnal glow.
Melina Coogan

By mid-October, the foliage has reached the height of its splendor. When late afternoon sunlight filters through the deciduous canopy, the forest is transformed into a shifting kaleidoscope of gold, amber, and scarlet. Even the most focused and dialed-in adventurer will take a moment to pause and moved by this display of mountain glory.

22. Photography

With such an exuberant spectrum of color and texture, fall is a dynamic season for anyone with an eye for photography. Capture every radiant detail from a single copper leaf to a whole sweeping landscape. (We recommend visiting these particularly photogenic places during peak foliage.)

23. Foggy Morning Trail Runs

Rising early with the fog to enjoy a trail run is about as good as it gets
Rising early with the fog to enjoy a trail run is about as good as it gets.
Beau B

What could be a better start to your day than a trail run through the still-quiet fog of an October morning? Perhaps you’ll even see the silver of the season’s first frost feathering the grass and leaves before the warmth of the daylight melts it away.

24. Race Bikes at Oskar Blues 

The sublimely named Dirt Diggler Gravel Grinder will be held in September at the Oskar Blue REEB Ranch. This hybrid bike race is a 50/50 blend of gravel and pavement, capped off with 2 miles of sweet single track. If it’s not your thing, biking through the meandering roads of Transylvania County is great or you can also experience DuPont National Forest‘s autumn finery by foot.

25. Hot Coffee on Cold Mountain Mornings

Toboggans and piping hot coffee: two surefire signs that fall is in the air.
Toboggans and piping hot coffee: two surefire signs that fall is in the air.
Melina Coogan

Simply put, waking up in the mountains on a cold fall morning, preparing a hot cup of coffee, and watching the steam rise against the brightening sky is one of the greatest pleasures on earth. If you prefer a barista to craft your cup o’ joe, High Five‘s Riverside Drive location on the French Broad River in Woodfin has a great view.

26. Petrichor

Fall brings the possibility of passing tropical storms, bringing strong winds and heavy precipitation to the Blue Ridge. Rivers rise, gardens thrive, and we get to experience petrichor — that wonderful earthy scent that occurs after a hard rain falls on dry earth. For a rejuvenating adventure, check out a riverside hike such as the Laurel River Trail after a rainstorm and breathe deep.

27. Corn Mazes

Getting lost in a corn maze is one of the most quintessentially autumn things you can do.
Getting lost in a corn maze is one of the most quintessentially autumn things you can do.
Kevin Zamani

Getting lost amongst the stalks: it’s an autumnal right of passage. Check out the Eliada Corn Maze, just five minutes from Downtown Asheville. One hundred percent of proceeds go directly to Eliada Children’s Home.

28. Sunny Days on the Rock

Autumn is the most enjoyable time of year to explore the local crags. The rock is no longer sweating in the summer sun and the views from the top are more beautiful than ever. Tie onto the sharp end and tackle the iconic multi-pitches at Looking Glass Rock in the cool breeze, without fear of burning up.

29. Cider Season

There are a lot of cozy things about fall, but cider might just be the coziest of all.
There are a lot of cozy things about fall, but cider might just be the coziest of all.
Melina Coogan

We may not fully understand the difference between apple juice and apple cider, but we know that cider is by far the more delicious way to rehydrate after a long ride, especially when it’s fresh pressed from the orchards of Western Carolina. For the hard stuff, be sure to check out CiderFest NC in October to taste some of the region’s finest.

30. The First Dusting of Snow

The faintest of dustings near Black Balsam Knob
The faintest of dustings near Black Balsam Knob
Melina Coogan

Sometime in late October, we’ll wake up and catch our first glimpse of the Blue Ridge Mountains dusted in snow. Then we’ll enjoy a brief and vibrant few weeks of frosty mornings coupled with warm days before winter takes its hold on the land. For outdoor enthusiasts, this means only one thing — ski season is just around the corner.


Originally written by RootsRated.

Featured image provided by flattop341

Repeat after me: traveling light is very important. Why, especially if your destination allows you to check bags for free, is it worth the effort to pack light? Packing light can be the difference between a great vacation and a lot of bag schlepping.  When you bring more bags you limit your ability to experience your destination like a local. Have you ever tried packing on to a crowded bus loaded down with bags? It’s not a simple or safe idea. And, of course, the less you bring, the more flexible you can be with your plans. Here are a few of my top tips for lightening your load.

Organize Your Travel

A simple, but often overlooked, truth is that you can’t pack effectively until you know what you’re packing for. Ask yourself what activities you will really want to participate in, how you’ll be getting around, and what you will realistically want to carry. If you will be taking public transit, think about what you can move quickly and keep safe.

In most cases, one bag should be the goal. If you need a personal item, I recommend choosing a bag that can slip securely over the handle of your roller bag or one that zips on, like these options from Deuter and Osprey.

Once you’ve selected a great bag, think about the best way to organize it. I’m a huge fan of packing cubes that offer compression features, like the ones made by Grand Trunk (currently available at DBO). These are a great way to fit a little more in your bag. As a bonus, they’ll also keep your items organized and easy to access on the road. Alternatively, try rolling items and organizing them by category into gallon size zip top bags.

Bring Items That Do Double Duty

Look for items that fill multiple needs. If you plan your wardrobe right, there is no reason to bring two wardrobes for day and night. I’m a huge fan of sleek technical pants and relaxed dresses from brands like Prana, that are comfortable for all day wear, but can be dressed up for dinner. Rather than bring multiple jackets, I try to stick with a lightweight rain jacket for most destinations. It hardly takes up any room and since it’s also windproof, it keeps me plenty warm in most conditions.

Match Your Items

Lay out the items that you’re thinking of bringing and nix anything that doesn’t match the rest of your clothing. When you can mix and match your outfit options increase exponentially. Including a couple of well chosen accessories is an excellent way to avoid outfit fatigue.

Follow the Rule of Threes

When it comes to packing light three is the magic number. It’s the right amount of items to have for wash one, wear one, dry one, convenience. Follow this rule for shirts, socks, and underwear, and bring a little powder detergent and a Scrubba bag, and you’ll reap benefits in the form of a fantastically light bag. Picking clothing in quick drying technical materials will make this even easier.

Only Bring It If You Can’t Buy It

It’s good to be prepared, but the world is not as unfamiliar of a place as you might think. It’s easy to weigh down your bag with toiletries, food, and things that you “might need”, but pretty much anything that you leave at home can be purchased at your destination. I’d rather make a quick stop for an essential that I left behind, than lug something around that I never wind up using.

Get Tough

Do you really need it? Does it fill a purpose that nothing else in your bag can? Will your trip really be better because you brought it with you? If you can’t answer “yes” to these questions, leave it behind.

Get Better Every Time

These tips will get you a great start with packing light, but experience is an excellent teacher. When you return from your travels, take note of what you wound up using and what stayed in the bag. Use your insights to lighten up your bag on your next excursion.


Your opportunity to experience a rare total solar eclipse in western North Carolina arrives on Monday, August 21. To make sure you’re prepared and packed for totality, the experts at Diamond Brand Outdoors have assembled this helpful checklist. For more on what to expect, check out Everything You Need to Know About August’s Total Solar Eclipse.

Click here for a printer-friendly PDF version of this checklist.

What to Do Now for the Total Solar Eclipse

  • Select the best location and route for viewing the eclipse based on accessibility, weather forecast, and the time of day the path of totality will pass through the area. Many prime viewing spots require tickets or have a capacity cap in place for the day, so do your homework.
  • Select an alternate location and route. 64,000 tourists are expected to visit the mountains for the eclipse.
  • Book lodging close to your primary viewing location. Hotel rooms, campsites, and cabins are going fast!
  • Build your total solar eclipse viewing kit. (See the bottom of this post for a checklist.)
  • Purchase your eclipse viewing glasses at Diamond Brand Outdoors. We’ve ordered a lot, but they’re going fast!
  • Use an app, website, or book to find out which bright stars and planets you can expect to see during the totality, impressing your friends and kids!

What to Do the Week of the Total Solar Eclipse

  • Test all of your equipment by doing a “dry run.” Nothing’s worse than having a faulty camera when the big event gets underway!
  • Pack your total solar eclipse viewing kit and camping kit.
  • Review the eclipse timing and weather forecasts for your primary and alternate viewing locations.

What to Do the Day of the Total Solar Eclipse

  • Check the weather forecast.
  • Leave early for your viewing location.
  • Claim your spot by setting up chairs and viewing equipment, but remember to be a good neighbor so others may enjoy the experience.
  • Test your equipment.
  • Enjoy the day with your friends and family. The time of totality will be brief, but the experience leading up and following the first total solar eclipse in western North Carolina since 1506 will lead to storied memories for years to come.

Total Solar Eclipse Viewing Kit Checklist

  • WNC + NATIONAL PARK MAPS: Cell towers will likely be overloaded, so don’t rely on an app.
  • ECLIPSE VIEWING GLASSES: You must have these for direct solar viewing.
  • HAT: To protect your head from the sun while you wait for the main event.
  • SUNGLASSES: NOT to look at the sun, but to cut down on the glare when you’re looking everywhere else.
  • PORTABLE PHONE CHARGER: Make sure you’ll be able to document the day through photos and videos.
  • CAMPING CHAIRS + TABLES: Get yourself a chance to stake your claim to watch and rest after the excitement!
  • BLANKETS: No matter where you’re watching, blankets keep things cleaner. Bring more than you think you need.
  • COOLER: You’ll likely get to your viewing area hours before the eclipse. Drinks, lunch, and snacks are a must!
  • DRINKWARE + WATER BOTTLES: Insulated cups and tumblers keep your drinks cold (or hot), don’t sweat, and are reusable.
  • HEADLAMP OR FLASHLIGHT: Since you’ll be looking up, this is primarily for emergencies. Use the red setting instead of white.
  • COMPASS: There’s plenty of information online that will tell you exactly where to look as totality begins.
  • CAMERA: This is one of the times you may want a nicer camera than you’ll find on your phone.
  • CELL PHONE: Coverage may be too spotty for weather and GPS, but your clock and camera will still work.
  • WATER: Always stay hydrated, whether the sun is shining or not.
  • SUNSCREEN: Always a good idea when you’ll be outside for any period of time.
  • INSECT REPELLENT: Another good idea anytime you’re heading into the outdoors.
  • OUTDOOR GAMES: Help pass the time and enjoy some relaxation with friends and family.
  • HAMMOCK: If you’ve got space to set up an ENO hammock or WindPouch, laying down is a great way to watch.
  • ELECTRICAL TAPE: Some folks don’t know how to turn off their camera’s flash. Be prepared to help them out.
  • CAMPING KIT (OPTIONAL): Traveling the day before or staying overnight after the eclipse helps avoid traffic and can be fun!
    • TENT
    • TARPS
    • STOVE + FUEL
    • BEAR KEG
    • ICE


Are you ready for the Great American Total Solar Eclipse? It’s rapidly approaching, hitting us full force this coming August 21. Millions of people will be traveling to see the moon cover the sun and all the crazy extras that go along with the phenomenon. The last total solar eclipse crossed the mainland states in 1979, so make sure you get out to see this one, because the next one won’t happen until 2024. Here’s our unofficial guide to everything you need to know.

The Solar Science

The paths of 21st Century North American eclipses.  Michael Zeiler,

It sounds like sci-fi, right? “OK guys, one day in the future, the moon is going to completely blot out the sun. Day will turn into night! Stars will shine brighter than the sun! It’s going to be epic!”

So, sci-fi guy is right, but there’s some real science behind the eclipse. This is the time, celestially, when the Earth, moon, and sun are all in line together. The moon will rotate on its path around Earth and pass directly through the middle of our visual path to the sun. In this short period of time, the moon will completely cover the sun—at which point you will look up to see quite the spectacle. Day will have turned into twilight and the sun’s wispy atmosphere will extend around the moon. You’ll see stars in the daytime and colors streaking across the sky. That’s at full coverage. At partial coverage, the sky won’t darken much—but you will be able to get a clearer view of Venus.

Geometry plays an important role in this solar eclipse, too. The moon is about 239 thousand miles away from us here on Earth—which is oddly exactly the right distance to make it look the same size as the (much bigger and much farther away) sun, allowing it to completely cover the light during the eclipse.

Where to Catch a Glimpse

Gearing up to a seriously special celestial event—a time, when the Earth, moon, and sun are all in line together.  Thomas Lok

If you’re in the US, you’re lucky—you’ll be able to see anywhere from a total eclipse to 48 percent coverage. The path of totality (where you can see the sun completely covered by the moon) is a much smaller range, though. It goes through only 12 states: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. And the totality viewing in those states is limited to very specific 70-mile-wide sections.

NASA has put together a selection of interactive maps allowing you to zoom in on the exact spot you should head to if you want to see the whole shebang. Totality only lasts 2 minutes and 40 seconds at the max with this eclipse, and it’s predicted to be a massive traffic day full of people trying to get to that center line. So go early.

This chart, compiled by and NASA, outlines totality times in the best cities to see the eclipse, all in local time:

Totality times for each state in the best cities to see the eclipse. Data from NASA

Where to watch in North Carolina

Asheville’s got plenty of viewing parties planned for spots like Pack Square Park and UNC Asheville, but you’ll only get to see the path of totality if you head further west. Tickets for viewing at Clingmans Dome have already sold out and certain areas of Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be closed on August 21. However, if you can turn the once-in-a-lifetime viewing into a weekend, some campsites and hotel rooms may still be available near Sylva, Brevard, Cherokee, or Murphy. Romantic Asheville has rounded up a comprehensive list of spots to watch the eclipse in the mountains.

2017 solar eclipse racing over Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Michael Zeiler on Vimeo.

Tips to See the Best Show

August 21, 2017 is predicted to be one of the most highly-trafficked days ever, as millions of people will be traveling to the path of totality.  NASA HQ PHOTO

Two words: eye protection. This is the most important tip we can give you for viewing the eclipse. Don’t go thinking you’re going to look straight at the sun—even if it’s partially obscured by the moon—and come away unscathed. You could burn your retinas to tiny eyeball-shaped ash piles. You could go partially blind. In short: you’ll damage the heck out of your peepers.

The sad reality is that the majority of the country will be out of the narrow path of totality the eclipse takes. It’s only 70 miles wide stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. The only people who can look at the full eclipse unencumbered by equipment are those in the path of totality. Most of us won’t see the sun completely covered by the moon, so we’ll definitely need eye protection of some sort. According to NASA, that means “special-purpose solar filters” like eclipse glasses. Sunglasses or homemade filters won’t work. Apparently only four companies make the glasses to international standards: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17.

Another option? Pinhole projectors. But you won’t be able to look directly at the sun—it’s an indirect method of viewing. Sky and Telescope suggests this process: “Poke a small hole in an index card with a pencil point, face it toward the Sun, and hold a second card three or four feet behind it in its shadow. The hole will project a small image of the Sun’s disk onto the lower card. This image will go through all the phases of the eclipse, just as the real Sun does.”

Of course, if you’re super fancy you can just use a properly filtered telescope.


Originally written by RootsRated.

Chilly days, chillier nights and rain showers may deter you from planning a camping trip, but there’s no reason to stay at home. Whether you’re visiting from out of town or a local just looking to change up the scenery, a host of cozy cabins, charming cottages, and even yurts can help you create that perfect weekend in the wilderness. Spend the night in a restored barn on a working farm, in a rustic cabin on a private island, or relaxing on the side of a mountain with a view of the city spread out below you. Here are five places to get away from it all.

1. East Fork Farm Cottages

The Mill House is a small and creative two-story cabin complete with a working waterwheel.
The Mill House is a small and creative two-story cabin complete with a working waterwheel.
Courtesy of East Fork Farm Cottages

Imagine yourself rising early, surrounded by farmland, mist rising off the pastures as you sip a cup of hot coffee out on the deck. As the sky brightens, you consider the day that lies ahead of you: Maybe you’ll take a hike up to nearby Max Patch, a rolling meadow that many consider to be the most beautiful section in all the 2,168 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Or perhaps you’ll find yourself navigating the bouncy, Class III rapids on Section 9 of the French Broad River. In the evening, you will return to your cabin for a soak the fragrant, Japanese-style cedar hot tub and an excellent night’s sleep, submerged in the quiet of the countryside.

This will be your experience when you steal away to East Fork Farm for a couple days to unwind and recharge. The farm is family-owned and fully operational, located in the small mountain town of Marshall, NC, 25 miles outside of Asheville. There are three cottages on the premises: Meadow Branch is a quaint, cedar-shake getaway that is artfully furnished, with a view of the entire farm visible from the patio. The East Fork, cozy but modern, is an elegantly refurbished utility barn surrounded on three sides by meadows and grazing sheep. The uniquely charming Mill House is brand new addition to the farm, a small and creative two-story cabin complete with a working waterwheel and spacious patio.

As if pastoral serenity and quick access to wilderness isn’t enough, your stay at East Fork Farm will include complimentary farm products:  fresh eggs, stone-ground cornmeal, Highlander Farm jelly, Wild Mountain Apiaries honey, 4 ounces of Biltmore Coffee Traders coffee, and locally made soap.

2. Riverside Escapes

Enjoy an escape on the only private island on the French Broad River.
Enjoy an escape on the only private island on the French Broad River.
Courtesy of Riverside Escapes

Book a stay at the Riverside Escapes  and you won’t just be reserving a private cabin for the weekend, you’ll be reserving your own island. The rustic Americana Cabin is situated on the only privately owned island on the French Broad River , accessible by a 100-foot swinging bridge. Return to the simple delights in life by stepping off the river into an outdoor shower, cooking dinner over an open fire, and falling asleep inside a clean cabin, warmed by the glow of a wood stove.

If you’re looking for something a bit more plush, a brand-new cabin directly overlooking the river features the Riverview Retreat on the first floor and Treetop Suite on the second. Each luxe hideout features private hot tubs, a fully stocked kitchen, and a washer/dryer, nestled in 3 acres of wooded property.

The cabins are located in Alexander, just 20 minutes outside downtown Asheville. This would be the ideal getaway for anyone seeking to spend a calming weekend on the water, SUPing, fishing, floating, or just kicking back with a beer on the front porch.

3. The Pines Cottages

The Pines Cottages are close to fun nightlife, but still isolated for privacy.
The Pines Cottages are close to fun nightlife, but still isolated for privacy.
Courtesy of The Pines Cottages

Stand in Pack Square on a Friday night and you’ll find yourself encompassed by small city revelry: The line from the French Broad Chocolate Company winds around the block, a string band plays boisterous bluegrass on the street corner, and tourists, college kids, artists, river guides and young professionals dart between breweries and file into the Orange Peel to catch a show.

It’s hard to believe that from such a crowded and lively vantage point, a place as quiet and tranquil as The Pines Cottages lies only six miles away. These vintage cabins and studio cottages sit on 4.5 acres of enormous pines and tidy gardens, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Asheville, but close enough to take full advantage of the city’s nightlife and renowned culinary and craft-beer scene. Six of cottages feature wood burning fireplaces, and all of them are pet friendly.

Board games are available for checkout, as are guide books if you’re hoping to venture into the Blue Ridge Mountains and hop on some of the country’s most beautiful hiking trails.

4. Bittersweet Cottage and Suite

This expertly designed cottage and suite on Elk Mountain is a great home base for exploring Asheville.
This expertly designed cottage and suite on Elk Mountain is a great home base for exploring Asheville.
Courtesy of Bittersweet Cottage and Suite

Perched on the slopes of Elk Mountain, the Bittersweet Cottage and Suite make for an ideal romantic retreat. The cottage features a cozy and inviting interior, with warm light, custom wood paneling and a glass block bath. The suite was designed with an Asian influence, soothing and clean with a fully stocked luxury kitchen. This modern mountain oasis is truly out of the ordinary. Both cottage and suite are impeccably decorated and offer an unparalleled view of city lights sparkling between rolling Appalachian peaks.

In fact, such a dazzling view might inspire you to spend the whole weekend wandering through town, immersing yourself in Asheville’s abundance of art and culture.  If that’s the case, check out these in-town adventures. Work up an appetite and get a taste of the outdoor activities for which Asheville is famous, without even leaving the city limits.

5. Wildwater Yurt Village at Nantahala

Luxurious simplicity inside the Yurt.
Luxurious simplicity inside the Yurt.
Courtesy of the Nantahala Yurt Village

Within the steep canyon walls of the Nantahala Gorge lie some of the most wild and pristine wilderness in the south. Whether you’re riding the ribbony trails at Tsali , zip-lining through the canopy or whitewater rafting with the Nantahala Outdoor Center , you will never exhaust the opportunities for exploration and adventure found here.

For an experience that’s off the beaten path—but directly on the hiking trails—reserve one of the eight coveted Yurts at Wildwater Village. These elegant domed structures of insulated canvas and exposed framing are where rugged meets boutique, creating a unique experience that will appeal to campers and  hotel aficionados alike. The yurts come complete with a queen bed, folding double futon, mini fridge, ceiling fan and space heater. Communal charcoal grills and a separate bathhouse with four private bathrooms (including private showers and sinks) are just down the path.

The Nantahala Yurts sit on the banks of two small ponds and above Lake Fontana.
The Nantahala Yurts sit on the banks of two small ponds and above Lake Fontana.
Courtesy of the Nantahala Yurt Village

The Yurt Village is perched above Lake Fontana on 22 acres of mountain wilderness. Hiking trails wind from the property into the Nantahala Forest, a robust half a million acres of hardwoods studded with waterfalls and scenic overlooks atop exposed cliffs. With all that wildness at your fingertips, coupled with the plush comforts of the yurts, you may find yourself booking next year’s retreat to the Nantahala before you even pack up.


Originally written by RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Courtesy of East Fork Farm


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