Though known as a vibrant, bustling center for arts, culture, fantastic food, and craft brews, Asheville is also the perfect spot for visitors to get a taste of the great outdoors. Nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this scenic North Carolina city is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts everywhere. With everything from casual nature lovers to fans of more extreme adventures, Asheville has something for everyone looking to get outdoors and breathe the fresh mountain air—and get a glimpse of the awe-inspiring scenery.
Lace-Up Those Boots And Get Your Hike On
From scenic strolls to more challenging climbs and everything in-between, there are plenty of spots in Asheville and the surrounding areas for the intrepid wanderer to explore. The Biltmore Estate Trails are located on the grounds of the historic Biltmore Estate. Purchase a ticket and get access to more than 20 miles of hiking and biking trails that take you through Biltmore’s 8,000-acre scenic backyard. Explore the estate’s meadows; its verdant surrounding forests, or take a stroll along the French Broad River. Go at your own pace, or partake in one of the many guided hikes and outdoor activities on the property. There’s truly something for everyone at Biltmore—bird lovers, bikers, and nature lovers everywhere can find their Zen on these gorgeous grounds.
Less than 2 miles from downtown is the Asheville Botanical Gardens at the University of North Carolina’s Asheville campus. An easy 1/2 mile loop, this trail is the perfect nature escape in the center of the city’s urban sprawl. Highlighting the area’s lush mountain landscape and native plant life, this trail is ideal for the casual hiker looking for a more relaxed stroll filled with scenic sightseeing. Explore the Garden’s Trail Map here.
Another nearby trail is the Hard Times Loop Trail, located approximately 15 minutes from downtown. Situated in the lovely Pisgah National Forest, this trail offers stunning views of many of Asheville’s most iconic spots, including the North Carolina Arboretum and the Biltmore House. Also on display are some of the area’s signature mountain ridges and expansive tree-filled woodlands like the Bent Creek Experimental Forest—a spot also famous for its plethora of bike trails. Another popular local hangout, The Riverside Cemetery Hike is a paved, accessible trail located in the Montford neighborhood of Asheville. Take a trip through the past on this scenic trail that meanders its way through Riverside Cemetery’s shady, peaceful landscape.
Want a bit of a challenge? The Mountains-To-Sea-Trail at Craven Gap is just a short 15 minutes away from Asheville; off the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway is the Mountains-To-Sea-Trail at Craven Gap. This family-friendly hike is part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) that runs across the state of North Carolina, and though it is considered moderate, it is still mostly flat with few small climbs and downhill areas. A perfect place to explore some of Asheville’s surrounding forests, this scenic trail is a local favorite for the area’s hikers and runners. Another nearby moderate trail is the Lunch Rocks Trail, also part of the MST system. A quick jaunt away from downtown, this 4.9-mile roundtrip hike is a great place to bring a picnic lunch and soak up the surrounding views of the Haw Creek Valley from the trail’s scenic overlook.
Adventure On Two Wheels: Conquering Asheville By Bike
Road bikers and mountain bikers alike will find plenty of super cycling spots in Asheville to keep the adrenaline pumping. Bring your own two wheels; rent an e-bike; take a guided tour, or cycle through the city—the options are endless in a city known for its bike-friendly vibes and scenic bike trails.
Didn’t travel with your own wheels? Then stop in at YoungBlood Bicycles to gear up for some epic bike adventures. YoungBlood offers bike repairs and tune-up packages, too—so don’t forget to bring in your own wheels for an appointment with one of the shop’s knowledgeable and friendly staff members before hitting the road.
Cycling your way through Asheville is both fun and easy as the city is known for its bike lanes that are safe and accessible. Riverside Drive is one spot known for its flat, scenic rides that begin in downtown Asheville in the River Arts District. Take a trip out of town along the French Broad River, where there are many stops along the way that allow you to customize a leisurely afternoon of cycling adventures.
West Asheville’s French Broad River Park is a paved greenway ideal for hitting the road. Meandering through a wooded area that links the scenic Hominy Creek and Carrier Parks, this 2.8-mile trail is lovely and relaxing. For other bike-friendly greenways throughout the city, check out the Asheville Greenways Story Map here. The Farm Heritage Trail is another fun Asheville trail; incredibly scenic, this route takes cyclists through agricultural communities in the surrounding area. Many local farms along the way are also open to the public, so stop in, take a look, and meet some of the farmers that help to make the Asheville culinary scene so stupendous.
More experienced bikers may want to take to the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway or Elk Ridge Parkway. Both offer stellar views and scenic overlooks for enjoying the beauty of the surrounding mountainside. The Elk Mountain Scenic Loop can be accessed at the Folk Art Center in downtown Asheville and is easily the more challenging of the two rides. At the same time, the section of Blue Ridge Parkway leads cyclists on a relatively flat route that includes one reasonably steep slope. Take the Blue Ridge Parkway route to get some epic panoramic views of the Pisgah National Forest, and be sure to stop at the Mt. Pisgah Overlook along the way
There are plenty of bike tours available in Asheville for those less comfortable with challenging treks and steeper terrains that are great ways to experience fun on two wheels. The Flying Bike is an opportunity for visitors to experience downtown Asheville on an electric bike tour that is ideal for people of all ages. A perfect way to explore Asheville’s historic sites and charming neighborhoods on tours led by the best local guides, Asheville Trails and Taps is another Asheville location to book a tour that’s right for you. With various tour options from mountain bike tours to urban bike tours, Trails and Taps offers beginner to expert tours that finish up at one of the city’s outstanding breweries as a post-ride treat.
Experienced mountain bikers looking for a complete mountain bike experience, Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures offers professionally guided trips in both nearby Pisgah National Forest and Dupont State Recreational Forest. With plenty of options, Pisgah has many customizable rides and adventures for truly epic mountain biking adventures.
Adrenaline-Packed Outdoor Adventures
Asheville is also home to plenty of activities that cater to vacationing adventure junkies looking for a rush. Want to leave the land behind and take to the water? Asheville has plenty of adventures for those looking for water sports that wow. The French Broad River flows through Asheville and is the beating heart of its aquatic sports scene. Explore the world’s third oldest river via tube, canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or simply wade right in. Whatever water sport strikes your fancy—The French Broad River has it.
Water sports can be relaxing too—and one of the best ways to experience the river is via a leisurely tube ride. Get your tube on at Zen Tubing, one of Asheville’s go-to spots for titanic tube adventures. With two convenient locations to choose from, you’ll be floating down the river in no time flat. Another way to float down the French Broad is the popular trip between the Hominy Creek and the Pearson Bridge. This self-guided stretch is relaxing and easily accessible—just stop in at French Broad Outfitters to get you started. They also offer kayak and bike rentals too. Want to try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding (SUP)? The head to Wai Mauna SUP Tours to take to the river with this unique group experience. Wai Mauna offers a variety of tours that showcase some of Asheville’s most iconic historical sights.
Are you looking to up the ante on a more extreme water adventure? Then be sure to check out the French Broad Gorge Whitewater Rafting Trip offered by the Asheville Adventure Company. This is the only whitewater rafting tour that departs from Asheville—making it a trendy and fun way to see the river’s scenic beauty, all while riding the rapids.
There are plenty of other heart-stopping activities in Asheville that offer visitors the chance to explore their inner adventurer. Navitat Canopy Adventures is conveniently located in Asheville’s Moody Cove and has a variety of tours available—zip from tree to tree on a journey through Moody Cove; get some thrills on the Mountaintop Tour, the fast and furious aerial zipline adventure; or have the ultimate adventure by getting the total package that includes everything Navitat has to offer. Zipline tours are perfect for those who want a double dose of scenery and adrenaline.
Is climbing more your thing? Then head to Climbmax Rock Climbing Gym to experience Asheville’s best bouldering. With an indoor facility designed to bring the mountains to you and ideal for climbers of all abilities; and an outdoor facility with over 1,500-square feet of bouldering terrain, built-in fun features, and a 40-foot outdoor wall with amazing views of the Asheville skyline, Climbmax has it all—from gear to instruction in lead climbing, bouldering, top-roping, and more. More experienced climbers will also want to check out Rumbling Bald, a short 21-mile trip from downtown. Known as one of the best climbing spots in western North Carolina, Rumbling Bald is known for its epic boulder field containing experiences for climbers of all levels.
Ideally situated in the heart of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is an ideal spot to unleash your inner adventurer. From hiking and biking to water sports and adrenaline-filled activities like bouldering and ziplining, this bustling, scenic North Carolina city has it all—whether you’re looking for a relaxing stroll through the woods or a hair-raising aerial flight over the treetops.
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