I’ve found myself falling more in love with North Carolina every time I explore it.
As a travel blogger, I’ll be the first to admit that it grows harder and harder to be struck with ‘awe’. After exploring everywhere from the Swiss Alps to the Sierra Nevada’s, Fjords of Norway to the Fjords of New Zealand, I didn’t expect the slow rolling mountains of North Carolina to make a such a lasting impression.
But in these mountains I sense magic. Almost like my childhood wonder has returned. It may be because there are so many places to get lost down dusty dirt roads, or that some of the best views in the state are the hardest to find.
When you think of America’s Southeast, the word “adventure” may not be one of the first words to come to mind. But out of the nearly 50 states I’ve ventured to, North Carolina has to be among the most adventurous. I’ve put together some of my favorite North Carolina mountain secrets, and it’s likely I’ll be doing a second post (because yes, there are just that many places).
Table Rock Mountain
Although a prominent mountain in the features of North Carolina, Table Rock is anything but a quick tourist detour. In fact, in order to get access to the main trailhead, you must veer off paved roads and follow a steep and narrow dirt passage for nearly forty minutes.
But with grand adventures come great awards. From the trailhead, a small hike uncovers incredible views in every direction. The summit towers above surrounding valleys, displaying layers of blue ridge mountains as far as the eye can see.
There are backcountry campsites, used mainly by backpackers and rock climbers looking to conquer nearby crags. You’ll probably see a few families eating lunch at the picnic area, and a few overnight campers headed out on the trail.
On a hot day in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, nothing is as refreshing as a dip in a cool mountain river. What makes a river even better? A natural waterslide.
But surprisingly, the best time to visit North Carolina’s sliding rock is not in the dog days of summer. It’s a well-known secret, which means a lot of people will be escaping the southern humidity. If you really want to make the most of Sliding Rock, head there in the late spring or early fall, where the days are warm but the crowds minimal.
I’m considered to be an outdoor and adventure blogger, which means I don’t often recommend cities in a post like this. But yes, Asheville is as amazing as everyone says.
I describe Asheville’s as “Artistic Europe meets West Virginia Mountain Town”. It’s odd and not quite what you expect, but quirky and full of life. Nearly every local car is covered in bumper sticks encouraging an outdoor lifestyle and supporting local beer.
There are weird double-decker bus cafes and underground breweries. The cities most prominent art district is hidden within a mixture of abandoned warehouses, right next to a junkyard skatepark where spectators still gather around a fire made in a rusty barrel.
It’s the heart of North Carolina, along with one of my favorite cities in the country.
Pisgah National Forest
Within Pisgah National Forest is miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mount Mitchell State Park, dozens of unique waterfalls, and hundreds of miles of hiking trails.
The massive area gives endless amounts of options for places to explore, camp, and play.
You’ll need more than just a weekend. You can get lost in the mountains for a week, and come out wanting more. Whether you’re looking to hike in the mountains, swim in some waterfalls, climb a crag, or camp with no service, here you can do it all.
And in the fall when the colors are at their peak, you can’t miss the town of Little Switzerland. In the heart of Pisgah National Forest off the Blue Ridge Parkway sits the small town of chalets and mom-and-pop motels.
If there’s anything these mountains are known for it’s a stunning display each autumn, and Pisgah National Forest holds the grand finale.
Shalee Wanders is a female travel blog that focuses on encouraging young adults to explore the world and challenge themselves outside comfort zones. Born and raised in Michigan, she shares her tips of the Midwest, the United States, and beyond. You can follow her travels on Instagram at @shaleewanders.