It’s looking like another brutally hot weekend, with temperatures expected to hit 90 degrees in Asheville Saturday and Sunday. Looking for an easy escape? Here’s a look at some of the spots within an easy drive of town to cool down in mountain rivers, lakes and high-elevation forests.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
• World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains and its traces of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America’s most visited national park.
Headquarters is at 107 Park Headquarters Road
Blue Ridge Parkway
• The Blue Ridge Parkway is designed as a slow paced and relaxing drive, revealing the natural and cultural history here in the southern mountains. It also provides access to a wide variety of hiking trails and scenic attractions.
Headquarters is at 199 Hemphill Knob Road
Recorded Park Information
The Appalachian Trail
• The Appalachian Trail is a 2,175-mile public footpath that winds its way along the crest of some of WNC’s most beautiful mountains.
Car access at various locations, the closest to Asheville is Bridge Street in downtown Hot Springs.
Grandfather Mountain State Park
• This new state park holds 2,700 acres of rugged backcountry trails and campsites, including some of northwestern North Carolina’s most spectacular scenery and natural attractions.
US 221 & Blue Ridge Parkway
Gorges State Park
• Filled with waterfalls galore, this rugged area has one of the greatest concentrations of rare and unique plant and animal species in eastern United States. Extensive hiking trails, backpack camping, river and lake fishing are all available.
Lake James State Park
• This park features scenic vistas of surrounding mountains that overlook the man-made 6,510-acre lake. It includes two boat ramp areas, canoe rentals, fishing, swimming and camping areas.
Mount Mitchell State Park
• At 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi. North Carolina’s first state park includes great hiking trails and camping, as well as a restaurant and gift shop.
2388 State Highway 128, Burnsville
New River State Park
• Believed to be the oldest river in North America, the New River winds past scenic rock outcrops, farmlands, and woodlands, making it perfect for canoeing; the park also includes trails, camping and a picnic shelter.
358 New River State Park Road, Laurel Springs
South Mountain State Park
• The state park features an 80-foot waterfall as well as 40 miles of hiking trails and an 18-mile bicycling trail.
3001 South Mountain Park Ave. Connelly Springs
Stone Mountain State Park
• The main attraction here is a rock dome rising 700 feet above the valley floor, which holds amazing views for those who hike it. At the base there’s historic sites, exhibits, and interpretive programs, as well as tent camping and trailer camping.
3042 Frank Parkway, Roaring Gap
Photo by Jake Frankel