The 15 Best North Carolina Mountain Towns To Visit

North Carolina is nationally renowned for its scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and various mountain ranges to explore. Rich in local history and vast in outdoor pursuits, one will get an unforgettable sense of accomplishment upon paying a visit to one of these state's best mountain towns:

Asheville

Ashville, North Carolina
Ashville, North Carolina

Set in the embrace of the French Broad River, Asheville is the known dining, craft brew, and shopping mecca of the region, set against a scenic mountainous backdrop. Full of character and different personalities, it has been attracting visitors with elaborate interiors, exteriors, and gardens for decades. The music venues, street fairs, converted textile factories with artists strumming guitars, and displays of pottery, jewelry, and organic yoga apparel reveal its absorbing arts scene. Moreover, the River Arts District is a workshop and gallery space for state artists, while George Vanderbilt's house contains works by Renoir, prints dating back to 1500, and Ming Dynasty porcelain bowls. The Orange Peel is a famed spot for performers like Jack White, Bob Dylan, and Ice Cube. 

Banner Elk

Banner Elk, North Carolina
Banner Elk, North Carolina

Acting as a base in-between two ski destinations, Banner Elk is a small town with an impressive selection of quality restaurants and unique shopping opportunities. Back-dropped by the beautiful mountains, the downtown area features an art gallery, numerous wineries, and craft breweries. The town has a lush one-mile greenway extending from the Flat Top Brewing Company to the Lees-McRae College campus known for its historic buildings of native stone. The Grandfather Mountain, with a mile-high swing bridge, is a top North Carolina site for second-to-none views over the rolling mountains. The Watauga River is known among the anglers for the colorful rainbow trout, while the Linville Falls are some 30 minutes away. 

Beech Mountain

Beech Mountain, North Carolina
Beech Mountain, North Carolina

The quaint town of Beech Mountain comes with the famed Beech Mountain Resort for a classic wintertime getaway with ample snow-time fun. Set 5,506 above sea level, it comprises the highest town in the Eastern United States, ensuring full powder coverage and suitable temperatures for skiing and snowboarding. There are also wonderful trails for hiking and mountain biking in the summer. Under seven square miles in size, the town brims with character in its storybook-like buildings and personality, embracing each visitor as a long-time resident.

Blowing Rock

Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Blowing Rock, North Carolina

The all-time favorite mountain destination, set in the western part of the state, is known for its wealth of natural treasures, scenic hikes, and lovely homes lining the slopes overlooking ravines. The namesake geologic formation near the impressive Blue Ridge Parkway is a 2-in-1 scenic delight of forested mountains vistas and the Blowing Rock. The downtown area possesses a true mountain town look and complementing atmosphere made by the number of restored historical buildings among modern structures. The outdoor cafe patios beneath huge leafy trees along the Main Street are perfect for a day out in the views, following a visit to The Blowing Rock Art & History Museum with works by local artists.

Boone

Boone, North Carolina
Aerial view of Boone, North Carolina.

Boone is a popular base for the nearby outdoor pursuits with the Grandfather Mountain and its suspension bridge, along with the Appalachian Ski Resort as a top destination for snowboarders and skiers. Set just off the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, the lively university town has its own fair share of attractions to extend the stay, such as catching the long-running outdoor drama, Horn in the West, famously performing the story of Daniel Boone's local adventures, since 1952. The restored downtown area is filled with dining and shopping options, including the Mast General Store with a fun selection of candy and eclectic souvenirs.

Brevard

Brevard, North Carolina
High Falls of Dupont Forest in Brevard.

Ideally situated at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the small town of Brevard is best known for its proximity to the Pisgah National Forest. The 500,000 acres with myriad trails can be explored via hiking, biking, and horseback riding in the wilderness area surrounded by majestic peaks and some of North Carolina's most spectacular waterfalls to explore. There are many restored buildings and interesting shops in town, including the homey Rocky's Grill and Soda Shop, the freshly-baked smell emanating from Bracken Mountain Bakery, and dinner at MARCO Trattoria. With a throwback cinema and a weekly farmers' market, the Main Street is filled with student and artist crowds from the Brevard College and the Brevard Music Center for a lively town vibe. 

Bryson City

Bryson City
Great Smoky Mountains Train ride city scenes in Bryson City. Editorial credit: digidreamgrafix / Shutterstock.com

A hamlet with easy access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bryson City, embraces its outdoorsy roots with the downtown area of full outfitters, fly-fishing shops, and laid-back cafes to relax in-between adventures. The Tuckasegee River courses right through town, with the park's Deep Creek unit just a few miles off. Trekked for its three waterfalls carved out by Mother Nature as a waterpark, there are tube rentals for cruising the riffles and cascades of 3-foot drop. The Recreation Area, with 40 miles of trails through steep forest ridges and the shore of Fontana Lake, is thoroughly enjoyed by mountain bikers and equestrians. 

Cherokee

Cherokee, North Carolina
Cherokee, North Carolina

Set at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park's entrance, the small town of Cherokee is the headquarters of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. Aside from the great outdoor opportunities, it is known for a healthy choice of accommodation options and family-oriented attractions, including the top-summer favorite, the large Santa's Land Fun Park & Zoo amusement park with rides and animals. The charming main street with cute shops, galleries, and covered walkways, is geared to tourists. The relatively low 1,991 feet elevation means warmer spring nights for camping within the lush area in full bloom, with the Nantahala National Forest, the Mingo, and Soco Falls, just a short hike away. 

Franklin

Franklin, North Carolina
Franklin, North Carolina

Set in the west of the state, the Cherokee people referred to the mountainous area as "Nikiwasi," meaning "the center of activity." Known as one of the most affordable mountain towns in North Carolina, small Franklin has been growing rapidly, signaling a very well-developed tertiary industry. There are downtown museums and a performing arts center, while its local restaurants are some of the best around. The outdoor pursuits include great hikes on the Appalachian Trail and the Bartram Trail, while the Wayah Bald Lookout Tower offers wonderful views of the town and region. More hikes through the Nantahala National Forest nearby will bring one to several beautiful waterfalls.

Hendersonville

Hendersonville, North Carolina
Hendersonville, North Carolina

Half an hour from Asheville, the beautiful small town of Hendersonville boasts the second largest downtown area in Western North Carolina, with over 100 shops and 25 restaurants to hit. The quaint Main Street with an old-school charm is reminiscent of the bygone days' slower pace and laid-back attitude. The grand historic homes dating back to the 1800s complement the town's atmosphere. Having been transformed into bed and breakfasts, one can have an authentic night's rest traveling back in history. The angel statue right outside downtown is carved from Italian marble and was referred to in Thomas Wolfe's first novel, "Look Homeward, Angel."

Highlands

Highlands, North Carolina
Highlands, North Carolina

The beautiful small town with a scenic name sits in the far southwest corner of North Carolina, almost at the border with its southern neighbor. Known for the exceptional downtown with an upscale feel, the Old Edwards Inn and Spa is an incredible European-style luxury hotel and spa right in its heart. One can stroll along the tree-lined Main Street of charming stores, tourist shops, and many restaurants, while the Friday night concerts are held weekly from May to October in the square. The Mountain Fresh Grocery sells quick bites and fresh coffee, and Kilwins is known for its ice cream and fudge. The Dry Falls are only 10 minutes away for a spectacular natural show, where one can get a "behind the scenes" curtain of water pouring over an overhanging ledge.

Lake Lure

Lake Lure, North Carolina
Lake Lure North Carolina

Not surprisingly, the tiny town of Lake Lure is set within a beautiful lake landscape at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains that was featured in the world-renowned 80's movie, Dirty Dancing. Drawing tourists from across the nation for its fame, the water scene of the magnificent artificial lake comes complete with a boardwalk for atmospheric strolls. The 155-foot Flowering Bridge is a transformed highway bridge into a gorgeous garden for more scenic relaxation with vistas. The town boasts a wide range of shopping options, restaurant choices, and a nine-hole public golf course at its Chimney Rock Village.

Morganton

Sunset view of a North Carolina farm with hayrolls in the Piedmont Town of Morganton.

Located at North Carolina's eastern edge, bounded by mountains, Morganton is one of the state's best small mountain towns and is set on the Catawba River, flowing through the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The historic and walkable downtown area includes Union Street and Green Street, complete with charming cafes and a collection of breweries. The town is also famed for the mysterious occurrence of the Brown Mountain Lights that attract fleets of tourists each year for the spectacle. With the Lake James State Park, the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, and the Pisgah National Forest in the surroundings, the town is a great base for outdoor adventures and water-bound activities.

Saluda

The tiny town of some 700 residents is known for its grand charisma as the epitome of a small-town getaway. One can enjoy the concentrated attractions sans the crowds for some true solitude and R&R. The picturesque Main Street with a welcoming atmosphere includes the General Store from 1899 and a grill & deli running since 1892 for a throwback in time. The Purple Onion and the Newman's Restaurant are modern choices to unwind, following an active day-spent at the nearby Pearson's Falls and the Green River Gorge or hiking the area's trails.

Sylva

Jackson County Courthouse, Sylva, North Carolina
Jackson County Courthouse, Sylva, North Carolina

The sophisticated town of Sylva has been recognized for being clean, green, and distinctive while boasting the Jackson County Courthouse lording on the hill at the end of the Main Street. It is reachable via 107 stairs and offers panoramic views over the downtown and surrounding countryside, backdropped by the Blue Ridge Mountains. The bewitching downtown has been starred in three major Hollywood films, DeliveranceThe Fugitive, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Main Street is filled with restaurants, four outstanding breweries, and retail shops, including a surprising amount of bookstores. Free summer musicals take place on Fridays at the Bridge Park's Concerts on the Creek.

These towns have all taken full advantage of their ideal mountainous location by boasting some of the most hospitable environments for their visitors to relax in after their adventures. Just a short hike away into the great outdoors, the vibrant downtown areas with historic atmospheres come complete with cute cafes and local shops to make the memories last.

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