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Posts Tagged ‘Outdoor Activities in Asheville’

Beat the Summertime Heat in the Mountains of Western North Carolina

June 20th, 2015 by abedofroses

Picnic at Craggy Gardens

Picnic at Craggy Gardens

Summertime in Asheville offers so many ways to enjoy your stay, from Summer Festivals and concerts to Shakespeare under the stars. It also has some wonderful ways to beat the heat! Slip down the chilly mountain waters of Sliding Rock, go whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River or take a picnic to Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway, like we did the other day. A short and scenic drive took us from 89 degrees to 72 degrees with a refreshing breeze. The main picnic area has rolling hills and stone picnic tables, with the mountains just over the trees. But a short hike up the Craggy Pinnacle trail takes you to much more dramatic views.

Mountains for as far as you can see

Mountains for as far as you can see

There you will be treated to a 360 degree view of mountain peaks that seem to go on forever. The visitors center, just past the main picnic area, right on the Blue Ridge Parkway has a panoramic view as well, with the peaks you are looking at labeled on an open guide book just below the window, which I just loved.

Asheville’s elevation is about 2,200 feet but we are surrounded by the mountains of the Blue Ridge as well as the Black Mountain Range. An hour north of Asheville along the Blue Ridge Parkway is Mount Mitchell. At 6,600 feet above sea level it is the highest point east of the Mississippi and can easily be 20 degrees cooler that downtown Asheville. An hour to the south of us is Mount Pisgah at 5,721 feet.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

The waterfalls of Dupont State Forest are just 40 miles from downtown Asheville. Four entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are within 60 miles from downtown Asheville. We are surrounded by incredible natural beauty and refreshing mountain streams. At the end of the day you can explore our vibrant restaurant/music and theater scene rejuvenated. But save room for our gourmet breakfast in the morning!

The Best Waterfalls at DuPont State Forest

September 9th, 2013 by abedofroses

High Falls at DuPont State Forest

High Falls at DuPont State Forest

Right now is the perfect time to tour the waterfalls of Western North Carolina. This summer’s wet weather has cleared so we’re having sunny warm days and cool nights, yet the water levels are still high enough to give us a great show cascading over the rocks. And everything is lush and green! Labor Day is over so the crowds have thinned as well. DuPont State Forest, usually very popular, was not very busy at all the other day and offers the most spectacular waterfalls just a short hike from the parking areas. Scenes from The Hunger Games were filmed here and several of the waterfalls were featured in the movie The Last of the Mohicans. You’ll see what attracts film-makers to this beautiful place!

New Pedestrian Bridge over the Little River

New Pedestrian Bridge over the Little River

The park has made several improvements this year. The High Falls Access Area is now home to the new Aleen Steinberg Visitors Center and new restroom facilities. A pretty new Pedestrian Bridge spanning the Little River now leads from the expanded Hooker Falls Parking area to the Hooker Falls and Triple Falls trails.

Main access is at the High Falls Access Area but if you park at the Hooker Falls lot you can take an easy hike that includes three waterfalls, Hooker Falls, Triple Falls and High Falls. Hooker Falls is only 15 feet high but pretty and is a short walk from the parking area.

Triple Falls

Triple Falls

Returning to the pedestrian bridge you can then hike about a half mile to Triple Falls for much more spectacular views. There are some great vantage points from the trail and from the picnic area above but you can also walk down the steps to the base of the middle falls. I think I counted 111 steps but it’s well worth it and the folks at Western Piedmont Community College, who build the steps along with DuPont Staff, mercifully built in benches along the way to rest on your way back up!

The full view of High Falls

The full view of High Falls

The trail continues to High Falls which is 150 feet high and almost as wide. This section of the trail is fairly level and it surprised me to see how calm the Little River is between these two large waterfalls. By the time you can hear the falls you’re almost there. There are good views from the trail and beyond the overlook is a set of stairs and an uphill path to another picnic shelter with views.

If you have more energy than we did that day, or if you access High Falls from the High Falls Access area and it’s new trail connector you can continue to the covered bridge above High Falls with a view of the water spilling over the falls. At the other side of the bridge is the way to Grassy Creek Falls via Buck Forest Road and the Lake Imaging trail. Lake Denise is beyond that with crystal clear waters and swimming allowed.

Bridal Veil Falls from the back on ncwaterfalls.com

Bridal Veil Falls from the back on ncwaterfalls.com

We didn’t make it to Bridal Veil Falls but it’s one of the few waterfalls that you can walk underneath and view from behind the water! The Last of the Mohicans showed the falls from this perspective. Bridal Veil Falls is the first of the waterfalls on the Little River.

The DuPont State Forest is a short drive from Asheville occupying over 10,000 gorgeous acres between Brevard and Hendersonville. For more information go to their website http://www.dupontforest.com. Don’t miss information on the Tour De Falls coming up October 12th and 13th.

For more photos of Waterfalls in the Asheville area go to our Photo Gallery!

 

 

A Section of Blue Ridge Parkway North of Asheville Closed Due to a Large Crack. Parkway South from Asheville to Cherokee Still Open.

July 19th, 2013 by abedofroses

View from the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway North of Asheville

On July 12th a Park Ranger made a stunning discovery. A large crack, 150 feet long, 4 inches wide and in some places 6 feet deep had developed right down the center line of the The Blue Ridge Parkway just north of Asheville. Since that time the crack has grown to 200 feet long and 8 inches wide forcing the closure of a 20 mile stretch of the scenic highway to cars. Apparently the ground below the crack has been saturated with the heavy rains that have left our area lush and green this summer. Cars traveling from Asheville to Mount Mitchell, the highest mountain peak in the eastern US, are being detoured to I40 and US221 through Spruce Pine. Cyclists and hikers can still access the road, at least until repairs begin. July and October are the busiest months of the year for visitors to the Asheville area and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah National Forest

Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah National Forest

Luckily there is still access to all areas of the Parkway from Asheville south to Cherokee which includes The Folk Art Center and the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitors Center. This section of the Parkway offers beautiful views, plenty of hiking trails, Mount Pisgah and the Pisgah National Forest, Graveyard Fields, Devil’s Courthouse and the Cradle of Forestry Overlook. Asheville is ideally located to provide easy access to outdoor activities and beautiful scenery, from the waterfalls of Dupont State Forest to rafting along the French Broad River or a visit to the North Carolina Arboretum with beautiful gardens as well as wooded trails. Chimney Rock and Lake Lure are close as well.

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock Park

There is still plenty to see and do in the area. Asheville itself has beautiful views and hosts events all summer long. The Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, with over 300 exhibitors is here this weekend and Bele Cher, the largest free music and arts street festival in the Southeast is here next weekend. Folkmoot USA, a two week celebration of world cultures with international folk music and dance is going on right now. Just a few of the other festivals this summer include the Mountain Dance & Folk Festival August 1-3,  The Village Art & Craft Fair on the Grounds of the All Souls Cathedral in Biltmore Village on Aug. 3-4 and the LAAFF music and arts street fair on Labor Day weekend. A great place to get information on summer festivals as well as the many outdoor activities in the Asheville area is www.romanticasheville.com.

How to Beat the Heat – A Scenic Picnic on Mount Mitchell

July 28th, 2012 by abedofroses

Riding along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway

The highest mountain peak this side of the Mississippi is a quick drive from Asheville. On a fun day-trip the other day the temperature dropped from an unusually steamy 88° in Asheville to a pleasant 66° on the mountaintop. The scenic “slow” route up the Blue Ridge Parkway takes about an hour with spectacular views, woods and scenic overlooks along the way.

Craggy Gardensare definitely worth a stop with scenic trails, picnic areas and a Visitor’s Center. In June and July the rhododendrons are blooming and form a blazing tunnel of flowers along the Craggy Pinnacle trail. The gnarly trees are sweet birch I think- striking in the wintertime.

View from Craggy Gardens Visitor Center

The view from Craggy Gardens Visitor Center

Mount Mitchellis not that far beyond Craggy Gardens. A left on NC Highway 128 from the Parkway takes you right to the summit. Well not exactly. From the parking lot there is a steep little hike along a paved trail to the observation deck, so you can truly say you “climbed Mount Mitchell”! The views from the observation deck are well worth the little climb. At 6,684 feet above sea level you’re likely to see clouds below you and weather forming miles away. The climate at the peak is more like Canada than North Carolina and the vegetation and even the birds are different than just 35 miles away in Asheville.

Climbing to the summit of Mount Mitchell

Climbing the path to the summit of Mount Mitchell

A shaded picnic area at the lower summit parking area was a lovely place to have lunch. There were shelters there as well as picnic tables and grills.

Originally it was thought that Grandfather Mountainwas the highest peak in the area, but in 1835 Dr. Elisha Mitchell, a professor at University of North Carolina calculated the elevation using barometric pressure readings and mathematical formulas to prove that the Black Mountains, the range that Mount Mitchell is a part of, were higher.

Coud moving in over the mountain

A cloud creeps in over the mountain

Of course there was controversy and on a subsequent visit to verify his measurements in 1857 Dr. Mitchell fell from a cliff above a 40 ft waterfall and drowned in the water below. The peak was named in honor of his work in 1858 and he was reburied on top of Mount Mitchell a year after his death.

Until this time the Black Mountain Range was referred to as a single mountain since it’s ridgeline has such an even elevation. Although the elevation of the range is higher, its length is just 15 miles, much smaller than the Blue Ridge Mountains or the Great Smokies. As early as 1787 botanists prized the area for it’s diverse specimens of trees, shrubs and plants. They would bring samples back to Europe to cultivate on royal plantations.

View from Mount Mitchell

View from the summit of Mount Mitchell

The Fraser Fir is named after one such explorer, Englishman John Fraser. The Fraser fir is the most abundant tree along the mountain crest and unfortunately, it has been hit hard by the Wooly Adelgids. An unwelcome visitor that made the trip to the US from Europe around 1900, this tiny insect has destroyed forests throughout the east as well as the northwest. Mount Mitchell was the first place in the southern Appalachians to be invaded by the pest beginning back in 1957, probably because of the high elevation.

Luckily for us the views are still pristine in spite of the Adelgids and the woods are filled with a great variety of trees and shrubs as well as wildflowers. We returned to Asheville refreshed, full from our picnic and a whole lot cooler.

See our Photo Gallery for more pictures!

The Waterfalls of Western North Carolina: First of a Series

September 24th, 2011 by abedofroses

Chimney Rock Hickory Nut Falls

Hickory Nut Falls at Chimney Rock

The Tour de Falls is today and tomorrow, September 24th and 25th!  Western North Carolina’s geography makes it treasure trove of awe-inspiring waterfalls and this tour looks like a good start to appreciating them all. The Tour de Falls is a 12 mile shuttle bus tour of DuPont Forest’s most popular falls. They will tour Triple Falls, High Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Julia. Friends of DuPont Forest are putting this on and no reservations are required. Just show up in the parking area near 1300 Staton Road, Cedar Mountain, NC. Buses will leave at regular intervals between 9AM and 2:30PM. There’s still time to catch the tour tomorrow!

But the Tour de Falls highlights are just the beginning of the waterfalls our area has to offer! Transylvania County, the “Land of Waterfalls”, is a short drive from Asheville. Within the county waterfalls can be found in the Pisgah National Forest, DuPont State Forest and Gorges State Park. Chimney Rock, 25 miles from Asheville in Rutherford County is also home to 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls.

Hickory Nut Falls from below

Hickory Nut Falls from below

Bill and I are on a quest to visit them all and we’ll be sharing our photos with you! We started our quest at Chimney Rock a few weeks ago, a short day trip from Asheville. The hike to Hickory Nut Falls was an easy walk through the woods, with lots of interesting exposed tree roots along the way, the result of natural erosion. You can hear the falls long before you can see them, heightening your anticipation. Our visit came at the end of a dry, hot summer and when we finally got to our destination the volume of water coming over the rocks was less than expected, but the falls were still very impressive. There is something so peaceful about the sounds of a waterfall. Portions of the movie “Last of the Mohicans” were filmed at Chimney Rock and you may recognize this lovely spot from the movie.

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock

The added bonus of coming to see this waterfall is that you get to see Chimney Rock itself and the spectacular views of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure from the top. The elevator is temporarily out of service, so be forewarned, there are about 500 steps to get to the top of the rock! We preferred to hike the trails and enjoy the views from the base of the rock.

Last week we continued the search in the Pisgah National Forest with a short stop in nearby Brevard. Our next in the Waterfall series will highlight the Falls there!

See our Photo Gallery for more photos of Chimney Rock and Hickory Nut Falls.

A Perfect Day for a Stroll in the North Carolina Arboretum

August 24th, 2011 by abedofroses

North Carolina Arboretum LogoThe weather has been gorgeous this week and we took advantage of the sunny skies and warm, dry temperatures to hike some of the woodland trails at the North Carolina Arboretum. It’s been just cool enough to make a hike perfectly pleasant.

Tree lined trail

Tree lined trails

The Arboretum is celebrating 25 years of serving as a resource for natural beauty and connection with the outdoors in western North Carolina. The dream of an arboretum here in Asheville started with Frederick Law Olmsted in the late 1800s. He had intended to establish an arboretum on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate, his last major landscaping project. For many years we were lucky enough to enjoy the Arnold Arboretum in Boston that Olmsted designed in 1872, so when the Arboretum was established here in the 1980s, inspired by Olmsted’s work, we made sure to make a visit there a part of every family visit we made to Asheville.

Potted plants at building entrance

Flowers near the Exhibit Center

Usually those trips would involve exploring the beautiful gardens and exhibits. Now that we live here we’re getting to explore even more of the trails and gardens than ever! Walking along the well marked and intelligently designed trails it is easy to let go of the noise and stress of everyday life and just let the quiet and the beauty of nature envelope you.

Bent Brook

Trickling Bent Brook

Bent Creek flows gently through the trees and the shaded paths take you through a mix of hardwood, pines, ferns and wildflowers. The trails go from pedestrian only paths to naturally surfaced roads that allow bicycle traffic.

The mission of The North Carolina Arboretum includes promoting the stewardship and enjoyment of the wealth of plant life within the Southern Appalachians through their world-renowned gardens as well as demonstrating cultivated and natural landscapes. It provides an easy mix of trails and gardens, well marked with educational information.  Several gardens provide inspiration as well as enjoyment. We’re so lucky to have this resource available and a beautiful late August day to enjoy it!

Mountain through the trees

A glimpse of the mountains through the trees

 

 

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