As a North Carolina native, I grew up exploring each of these day trips from Asheville. From popular getaways to locations off the beaten path, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite Asheville day trips for all types of travelers.
Because of its central location, destinations near Asheville are endless! There are small towns, state and national parks, and several scenic drives. With so many things to do in Asheville and nearby, it is the perfect landing spot to experience all that Western North Carolina has to offer.
Table of Contents
- 21 Best Asheville Day Trips
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Blue Ridge Parkway
- Lake Lure & Chimney Rock State Park
- Black Mountain
- Nantahala National Forest
- Mount Mitchell State Park
- Gorges State Park
- Little Switzerland
- Banner Elk
- Bryson City
- Linville Gorge Wilderness
- Hot Springs
- Lake James State Park
- Greenville, SC
- Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN
- FAQs About Asheville Day Trips
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21 Best Asheville Day Trips
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Lush meadows, breathtaking views, and outdoor adventure—all within America’s most visited national park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not only one of the top North Carolina attractions, it’s actually one of the most visited national parks in the world.
So, of course, a day trip here should be a no-brainer! Full of outdoor adventure, Smoky Mountains National Park has fun for the whole family.
Popular things to do include hiking, camping, and picnicking, all accessible with a day pass or annual America the Beautiful pass.
The park features some of the most scenic beauty and biodiversity in the southern Appalachian Mountains. This makes it one of the most unique places to visit in North Carolina. Think native azalea and mountain laurel flowers, and animals like black bears, elk, and salamanders. Overall, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a mountain paradise your whole family will love.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Experience the magic and tranquility of “America’s favorite drive,” just minutes from downtown Asheville
🗺️ Distance from Asheville: 10 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Blue Ridge Parkway Website | 👉 Guided Horseback Ride through Blue Ridge Mountains
Entrances to the Blue Ridge Parkway are located just minutes from downtown Asheville. But driving the entire Blue Ridge Parkway is a must as far as day trips go. If you’re flying into Asheville, be sure to rent a car upon arrival, because you’ll need one to explore all that the parkway and region have to offer.
Here, you can meander the parkway and drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, choosing from an endless array of hiking and biking trails. There are also several waterfalls to visit and many mountain peaks to climb. Mount Mitchell State Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and towns like Brevard and Waynesville can all be accessed via the Blue Ridge Parkway.
🍂 Love Leaf-Peeping? Fall foliage is truly spectacular in the Blue Ridge Mountains. If you visit in autumn, this should be at the top of your list for day trips from Asheville.
Visit the Land of Waterfalls and relish in the charm of this small mountain town
As far as small towns go, Brevard is one of the best day trips from Asheville. Located only 45 short minutes south of downtown, it’s an easy drive. Brevard is where outdoor adventure meets small town charm. The balance makes it a perfect family destination with something for everyone.
Downtown Brevard is vibrant with a variety of small restaurants, local shops, and even a few breweries (Oskar Blues is a visitor favorite). Just outside of town is Pisgah National Forest, which is great for hikers, mountain bikers, and climbers. The French Broad River is here as well, which offers fun water attractions like tubing, swimming, fishing, and a trip down Sliding Rock.
A nearby town with a vibrant Main Street and endless activities for the whole family
Located half an hour from downtown Asheville is Hendersonville, a vibrant small town with activities for the whole family. Downtown Main Street is one long stretch of local shops, restaurants, and a few museums which are perfect for kids. Tons of downtown events and festivals take place throughout the year, too.
Outside of town, there are several apple orchards, vineyards, and scenic drives for visitors to explore. DuPont State Recreational Forest is a 20-30 minute drive from town and has fantastic trails for an outdoor adventure for all levels. The village of Flat Rock is also close to Hendersonville, which is home to the Flat Rock Playhouse and Carl Sandburg Home.
Lake Lure & Chimney Rock State Park
Scenic and captivating, this area’s cool history and breathtaking natural beauty are sure to blow you away
A visit to the town of Lake Lure and Chimney Rock State Park is one of the best day trips from Asheville. Chocked full of history, scenery, and outdoor adventure, this area has something for everyone.
The town of Lake Lure is probably best known for being the filming location of the iconic 1987 film, Dirty Dancing. Scenes were shot in the lake, surrounding areas, and historic inn, which tourists can visit or even stay at.
Less than 10 minutes from downtown Lake Lure is Chimney Rock State Park. This family-friendly nature park features a 535 million-year-old monolith. It towers over Lake Lure and surrounding areas, displaying one of the most incredible scenic overlooks.
Learn about the traditions of Western North Carolina’s indigenous people and their land
In case you didn’t know, the westernmost part of North Carolina is indigenous Cherokee land. And just an hour west of Asheville near the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains, you can visit the Western North Carolina town of Cherokee itself.
This area and the Cherokee people have a rich, storied history. Learning about their culture, arts, and tradition is one of the best ways to experience Cherokee. The Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Oconaluftee Indian Village, and Qualla Arts & Crafts are great places for doing just this.
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort is also quite an attraction for this area, so be sure to check it out if casinos are your thing. Lastly, Cherokee is home to Mingo Falls, a beautiful waterfall that cascades down 120 feet!
A quintessential mountain town known for its arts, crafts, and surprisingly abundant foodie scene
Only a 20-minute drive away, Black Mountain makes for one of the easiest day trips from Asheville. It’s sure to give you the mountain charm you’ve been looking for, while also offering a unique foodie scene.
This small town is not only full of great restaurants, though. There are also boutique shops that sell a beautiful selection of locally-made arts and crafts. For some outdoor adventure, take a walk along Lake Tomahawk, or visit nearby Catawba Falls.
👉 Read Next: Where to Stay in Asheville
The hidden gem you’ve been looking for—where charm, tranquility, and nature collide
The charming town of Saluda is one of western North Carolina’s hidden gems. Located a bit off the beaten path, it sits close to the North Carolina and South Carolina border and is surrounded by the Green River Gamelands. This old railroad town offers visitors a taste of what small, North Carolina mountain towns are all about.
Saluda’s main street is full of historic buildings that face the old railroad tracks, which will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Some of the businesses in downtown Saluda include a classic country store, a general store, as well as artisan shops and local restaurants. One of my personal favorite places is the Purple Onion restaurant, where they serve up an incredible berry cobbler for dessert.
Nantahala National Forest
The largest national forest in North Carolina with over 600 miles of trails and tons of rivers and waterfalls to explore
🗺️ Distance from Asheville: 2 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Nantahala National Forest Website | 👉 Carolina Waterfalls and Highlands Private VIP Boutique Tour
Out of the four national forests located in North Carolina, Nantahala National Forest is the largest. With more than 500,000 acres, there’s no shortage of nature to be explored. Hiking, biking, fishing, and climbing can all be enjoyed throughout the park, and it’s a fantastic place for whitewater rafting.
Nantahala National Forest is also home to Whitewater Falls, which is the highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains.
Depending on what part of Nantahala you visit, there are a variety of small towns you can stop in as well. If you’re driving from Asheville, I recommend taking the scenic Waterfall Byway past Brevard. From here, you can reach towns like Lake Toxaway, Sapphire, Franklin, Cashiers, and Highlands.
Mount Mitchell State Park
A family-friendly state park where everyone can climb to the highest peak east of the Mississippi River
Situated 30 miles northeast of Asheville, Mount Mitchell is an easy Asheville day trip to do in conjunction with a Blue Ridge Parkway drive.
This state park features hiking trails, places for picnicking, and a small museum and seasonal restaurant. The mountain pinnacle itself is accessible for visitors of all ages and abilities since there is a paved pathway to the observation deck. Here, you will find yourself 6,366 feet above sea level with breathtaking, panoramic views all around. It’s the highest peak east of the Mississippi River after all!
Gorges State Park
Hike to cascading waterfalls on trails suited for all skill levels
Dare I say Gorges State Park is… GORGEous?
With cascading waterfalls that plunge over rocky terrain, this state park is a fun and adventurous Asheville day trip.
There are hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous, which makes it a suitable park for visitors of all ages and abilities. The hike to Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls, two of the top waterfalls around Asheville, is a popular option for more experienced hikers. If you don’t mind a more difficult trek, be sure to check it out! If you’re interested in mountain biking and horseback riding, this is a great park for that as well!
👉 Pro Tip: For more difficult hikes near Asheville, be sure to wear proper gear like good hiking shoes. For more ideas on what to pack for your day trips from Asheville, check out our North Carolina packing list!
Enjoy a peaceful and refreshing afternoon in this nostalgic mountain town
Charming and nostalgic is how I’d describe the small town of Waynesville. The downtown scene is cozy and kind of old school, but still vibrant. Surrounding the town are the Blue Ridge Mountains, which add an overall sense of calm. It’s a great place to go for families and those who want a peaceful, yet fun afternoon.
As far as things to do, take a stroll through Main Street to enjoy a variety of local antique and artisan shops, galleries, and restaurants. I recommend visiting local joints like Frog Level Brewing and Panacea Coffee Shop, which sit along Richland Creek. Waynesville is also close to Lake Junaluska, as well as a variety of farms and orchards.
Experience magical views, outdoor adventure, and real gem mines all in this off-the-beaten-path village
Little Switzerland is a peaceful retreat with breathtaking scenery. Normally, I’d recommend this destination for couples seeking a quiet mountain getaway. But for a day trip, Little Switzerland is suitable for couples and families alike.
A day in Little Switzerland can be spent hiking at the numerous trailheads located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Be sure to stop and see the historic mines at Emerald Village. When you’re ready to slow it down for the day, grab some dinner at Chalet Restaurant located at The Switzerland Inn. Here, you’ll be greeted with views that’ll make you see where the town gets its name.
One of the best day trips from Asheville for family-friendly fun!
Banner Elk is located in the High Country of Western North Carolina. It’s the kind of destination where your family can unwind, but also have a blast with activities and attractions galore.
Like many places in WNC, Banner Elk has tons of outdoor adventure spots. These include Grandfather Mountain (with Grandfather Trail), Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster, and Tweetsie Railroads. There are also ski resorts like Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain.
Banner Elk doesn’t stop here, though. No matter if you’re looking to go hiking, biking, rafting, ziplining, and more, you can find it here. Popular destinations like Boone and Blowing Rock are also nearby.
Climb all aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in this outdoor haven of a town
A little over an hour from downtown Asheville is an outdoor adventure haven, Bryson City. Known as a gateway town to the Great Smokies, the town has six access points to Smoky Mountains National Park.
What Bryson City is especially known for, however, is the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. This historic train takes visitors through the Smoky Mountains’ stunning scenery and countryside. In the winter, they even do a Polar Express-themed ride! No matter when you go, a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is sure to be a memorable experience for visitors of all ages.
In addition, Bryson City has numerous hiking trails to explore and waterfalls to see. Clingmans Dome Observation Tower is also nearby.
Linville Gorge Wilderness
Experience the “Grand Canyon of Eastern USA” at this rocky and dramatic wilderness area
If you’re a more experienced hiker and outdoor enthusiast, listen up! Linville Gorge, which is part of Pisgah National Forest, is a steep, rugged, and rocky wilderness area. Its dramatic terrain makes it one of the most scenic gorges in the east, even dubbing it the “Grand Canyon of Eastern USA.”
A visit to Linville Gorge definitely falls into the outdoorsy category of day trips from Asheville. Here, the main thing to do is hike and take in the stunning natural beauty. Table Rock Mountain and Hawksbill Mountain are among the popular trails here. I also recommend visiting the famously photographed Linville Falls.
Take a day to refresh the senses and indulge in a hot springs spa experience
Has the name “Hot Springs” caught your attention yet? Hopefully, it has! This small town, only 45 minutes from Asheville, sits along a stretch of the idyllic French Broad River and is perfect for couples.
If you haven’t already guessed, it’s known for its natural hot springs which are supposed to possess healing powers for those who indulge in them. To enjoy a mineral bath experience yourself, make reservations with Hot Springs Resort & Spa.
When you’re done soaking in the hot springs, head into town for dinner at Spring Creek Tavern or enjoy live music and craft beer at Big Pillow Brewing. If you’re into healing and wellness, add this to your list of day trips from Asheville!
Lake James State Park
An easily accessible, family-friendly summer swim destination
Only an hour’s drive from Asheville is this easily accessible lake that’s perfect for a summer day with the family. Entrance to Lake James is free; however, there is a small swim fee ($4 – $5), as well as a fee if you plan to rent a boat.
The lake itself is scenic and lush, with trees all around. It also has a wide beach, which is especially great for families with younger kids. If you’re looking to take part in water activities, kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddle boards are available to rent. So, load up the car, pack a picnic, and head to Lake James for a day filled with lake adventures!
👉 Pro Tip: For a long day at the lake, packing your food and drinks in a backpack cooler like this one is a good idea.
Get a taste of vibrant, Southern city life in North Carolina’s largest city!
Despite not being North Carolina’s capital, Charlotte is actually the largest city in the state! In recent years, Charlotte’s rapid growth has made it an increasingly popular destination. Combining the charm and hospitality of the south, with the amenities and feel of a larger city, Charlotte offers visitors the best of both worlds.
Some popular attractions include Carowinds, the U.S. National Whitewater Center, and a thriving arts and culture scene. Charlotte also has a diverse foodie scene and tons of cool neighborhoods and areas to explore. Check out NoDa, Plaza Midwood, Camp North End, and more! If you’re looking for some city fun, Charlotte is one of the most vibrant cities in the region.
A small, walkable city with an award-winning downtown scene
Just across the North Carolina/South Carolina border lies Greenville. This small, but fun city has a vibrant downtown scene with plenty of experiences, attractions, and arts and culture activities to take part in. It’s great for families as well as couples and younger travelers since there’s a little something for everyone.
Downtown Greenville has a river that runs through it, and Falls Park on the Reedy and Liberty Bridge makes for the crown jewel of the city. This area is beautiful all year round, and perfect for strolls with family and pets, picnicking, and enjoying events. Downtown also has a world-class performing arts center, and some amazing options for food and drinks, so don’t be afraid to indulge!
Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN
A city bursting with attractions, entertainment, and adventure for the whole family
If you’ve got kids or are simply looking for day trips from Asheville to check off that fun factor, spend a day in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. With a day to spare, I recommend planning a visit to the Dollywood theme park. You can jam-pack your afternoon with roller coasters, games, and even water park adventures.
Outside of Dollywood, the city has a variety of other family fun parks. Choose activities from mini golf, to obstacle courses, to theater shows. Also, if you have extra time to and from Pigeon Forge, be sure to take some detours and enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains!
🍂 Read Next: What is the best season to visit Asheville?
FAQs About Asheville Day Trips
What beach is closest to Asheville?
The beach closest to Asheville is Lake Powhatan Swim Area. If you’re looking for an ocean beach, Folly Beach and Isle of Palms in South Carolina are the closest. However, these are a bit far for day trips from Asheville.
How far are mountains from Asheville?
Mountains are not far from Asheville. The town is located in a valley, so mountains lay all around. From downtown Asheville, reaching the mountains via the Blue Ridge Parkway takes less than 15 minutes. This makes it one of the easiest nature day trips from Asheville.
Is Asheville a walkable city?
Asheville is a walkable city, with the downtown area being especially walkable. Though to get to other neighboring areas, you’ll need to drive.
I hope this guide helps you pick the best day trips from Asheville, NC. Next up, check out my 5 day Asheville itinerary. Safe travels!
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