Western North Carolina is home to the Appalachian Mountains which consist of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains. Hiking, camping, and exploring charming small towns are the best activities that make this part of North Carolina so appealing.
Although there are many other things to do in Western North Carolina, below are just a handful of our favorites that made our time in the state special. The sweeping mountain views, stunning fall foliage, historical architecture, and cascading waterfalls make this area of North Carolina a must-see!
Disclaimer: This post is in no way sponsored. We paid for all the activities mentioned and all opinions are our own. This page may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission (at no extra charge to you) if you make a purchase after clicking my link. Thank you for being a loyal reader!
1. Visit Grandfather Mountain Nature Park
Although a fee is required to enter Grandfather Mountain Nature Park, there is much more to do besides hike! You can walk along the mile high swinging bridge, visit the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery, explore the wildlife habitats, and see the iconic film site of Forrest running across the country in Forrest Gump!
Daily rates fluctuate throughout the year (and by day of the week!). However, adult prices range from $20-$28 per person, senior prices are $18-$20 per person, and child prices are $10 per person. Reserve your tickets in advance online!
2. Watch the sunrise at the Linn Cove Viaduct
The Linn Cove Viaduct is a feat of structural engineering along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This 7 mile stretch of road is constructed in a way to flow with the curve of Grandfather Mountain and boasts truly incredible views.
Choose any spot along the drive that you’d like to watch sunrise! Pictured above is the Rough Ridge boardwalk. But, the Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor Center (as of 2023, closed temporarily due to repair work), Raven Rocks Overlook, or Calloway Peak Overlook are great stops too.
The best time, in our opinion, to drive the Linn Cove Viaduct (and Blue Ridge Parkway) is during the fall. Particularly, during mid to late October. Because of the stunning beauty of this area, it is definitely one of the most amazing things to do in Western North Carolina!
TIP: Visitors are not allowed to walk along the viaduct! So, choose several overlooks or trails prior to your visit in case parking is already full.
3. Explore the Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore is a classic and memorable thing to do in Western North Carolina. The Biltmore Estate is located just south of Asheville in western North Carolina. Touring the home is not quick or cheap, but it’s a once in a lifetime experience you’ll not want to miss!
The best time to visit, in our opinion, is at the beginning of November. Fall foliage is still fairly vibrant and the entire grounds are decorated for Christmas! It is truly magical.
To learn more about how to plan your trip to the Biltmore, check out my complete guide to visiting the Biltmore Estate.
4. Hike in Linville Gorge Wilderness
Linville Gorge Wilderness is often referred to as the “little grand canyon of the east”. It’s part of Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. If hiking isn’t your thing look into camping, rock climbing, fishing, or hunting.
A few of our favorite trails are:
5. Take a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway that runs through Virginia and North Carolina. It gives you an opportunity to see the rugged mountain landscape up close and personal. Picnicking, camping, hiking, cycling, and wildlife viewing are all popular activities along the route.
You can hope on and off the parkway at various locations. There are over 200 scenic overlooks along the drive, so practice patience when driving through heavy traffic! Delays are common during peak fall foliage and weekends.
Thanks to the expansive distance of the parkway and stunning mountain overlooks, this scenic drive has to be one of the most amazing things to do in Western North Carolina!
TIP: Check for road closures before planning a drive on the parkway (Especially in the winter months!)
6. Enjoy the view from the top of Mount Mitchell
Mount Mitchell, located at Mount Mitchell State Park, is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. Although, the park is open year round, during the winter there can be random and prolonged closures due to icy road conditions.
There are no fees required for day use. Spend the day hiking one of the 40 miles worth of trails and visiting the museum & gift shop, as well as a seasonal restaurant.
7. Hike to a waterfall in Western North Carolina
There are an endless amount of waterfall hikes to explore in western North Carolina! Below is a short list of our favorites.
8. Watch the Elk Rut in Cataloochee Valley
The elk rut in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is usually from mid-September to late October. The best time to view them are at sunrise or sunset.
The loud “bugle” can be heard by adult males that are vying for breeding rights with the females. Much to our delight, we witnessed a large bull elk actively protecting his herd and chasing off competition.
Elk Safety Tips in Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
- Stay away from the animals, they are on high alert and may display aggressive territorial behaviors!
- It is illegal to willfully approach wildlife within 50 yards (150 ft).
- If an elk approaches you, back away slowly to create space for the animal to pass.
9. Hit the trail in DuPont State Recreational Forest
DuPont State Recreational Forest offers some of the best hiking in western North Carolina. By far, the most popular trail is the iconic “four waterfalls trail” that takes you to (obviously) 4 waterfalls in one day hike!
TIP: Parking can get very crowded, especially on the weekend. So, it’s best to get an early start on your adventure in this park!
10. Camp at Gorges State Park
Camping at Gorges State Park is a fantastic experience! Reserve online in advance a cabin, RV site, or tent site. We loved how spaced out the tent sites were from other campers. In addition, the restroom and shower facilities were newer, clean, and felt like an added luxury.
The hikes in the park are the best way to fill up the day while camping for the weekend. Definitely don’t miss out on this amazing thing to do in western North Carolina!
11. Hike in two states at once at Roan Mountain
Roan Mountain straddles the Tennessee and North Carolina border. Near Carver’s Gap in the Cherokee National Forest are a few trails that take you to scenic knobs and “balds”.
Our favorite is Grassy Ridge Bald, which is traversed by the Appalachian Trail. This is a very popular area for backpacking and camping, so you may have a little trouble finding parking.
TIP: This area is home to the world’s largest natural rhododendron garden! It typically blooms from May to June.
12. Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Another breathtaking park that shares a border with Tennessee and North Carolina is Great Smoky Mountain National Park! Cycling, fishing, hiking, and exploring historic structures are only a handful of things to do in Great Smoky Mountains.
Here are a few of our favorite trails on the North Carolina side of the park:
TIP: Although, it is free to enter the park, parking tags are required for all vehicles parked for longer than 15 minutes. Check out the parking tag purchase options here.
13. Watch snow fall upside down at The Blowing Rock
The Blowing Rock is located in Blowing Rock, North Carolina (whoda thunkit!). The Blowing Rock got its name because of the strong wind that sweeps with such force up the walls of the gorge that plummet 3000 feet below. Thus, it was deemed “the only place in the world where snow falls upside down”.
Open daily, weather permitting; they are only closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Adults are $9 per person, seniors are $7 per person, children are $3 per person, and children under age 5 are free.
Not only can you visit the Blowing Rock, but you can also tour the observation tower, gardens and waterfall, and the photo gallery (including historical memorabilia). Don’t forget to grab a snack at the Gorge View Annex!
Amazing Things to do in Western North Carolina Conclusion
Which of these amazing things to do in Western North Carolina would you do first? If you love wildlife, the beautiful outdoors, and charming historical towns and structures then a trip to North Carolina should be on your bucket list!
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