The mountains are generally separated into four distinct zones or regions. The Western Mountains extend from Andrews and Murphy in the far western corner to Waynesville. The Central Mountains from Waynesville through Asheville to the Burnsville area, the Northern Mountains from Burnsville to Sparta, and the Foothills extend along the full length of the mountains from Columbus to North Wilkesboro.
The major cities with populations over 10,000 are Asheville, Boone, Hendersonville, Hickory, Lenoir, Morganton, Newton, and Waynesville.
Asheville is the hub city, home to the famous Biltmore Estate, America's largest private residence, and the major tourist attraction. The other major cultural attraction in western North Carolina, in terms of visitors, is Harrah's Cherokee Casino, located on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in the western part of the mountains.
Western North Carolina Summer Activities
Tourism is a major industry in western North Carolina. This region of the state is blessed with a multitude of recreational opportunities, cultural and historical sites, and scheduled fairs and events across the entire region.
The area includes the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest, the Great Smoky National Park, numerous state parks, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Cultural and historical sites, including major sites such as the Biltmore Estate and Cherokee Indian Reservation, plus a multitude of museums, art galleries, folk art centers, and music venues.
The summer is a great time to visit this region of the state because you can experience grand outdoor adventures, small-town festivals, and historical and cultural sites while experiencing the refreshing, cool mountain air in contrast to the higher temperatures in the low country.
There are a multitude of family summer activities across western North Carolina. From one-day excursions to a full summer vacation, the region can quickly fill a family's summer calendar.
Here Are a Few Excursions to Try in Western North Carolina This Summer
1. Visit West Jefferson for a day
West Jefferson is located in Ashe County, north of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The small mountain town is full of restaurants and shops located in a vibrant downtown full of restored, historic buildings.
See cheese made at Ashe County Cheese and go when the Christmas in July festival is in full swing for a fun-filled Saturday when the town comes even more alive with streets filled with crafts, food, music, and historical re-enactors.
2. Take a few days to explore Boone and the surrounding country
Boone is located in the high mountains of Watauga County and is home to Appalachian State University. Restaurants and shops line the downtown streets of Boone, including Mast General Store.
See history come alive at the Horn in the West outdoor drama and see the sites and ride a real historic steam engine train at the world-famous Tweetsie railroad just south of town.
3. Explore Grandfather Mountain State Park in Avery County
See the breathtaking views on top of Grandfather from the mile-high swinging bridge. Hike trails through the subalpine forest. Visit the beautiful Grandfather Mountain Zoo with its outdoor wildlife habitats for bears, mountain lions, and eagles, to name a few.
4. Take a few days to visit the Linville Gorge areas of Avery County
Linville Gorge has been nicknamed “the Grand Canyon of the East” and is located in the Linville Gorge wilderness area.
Linville Falls is easily accessible from the park office near the town of Linville on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
For those of you who love a true wilderness experience, there are miles of rugged and remote trails throughout the gorge that can take several days of overnight camping to experience.
5. Experience the full range of the famous Blue Ridge Parkway
Consider taking a few days to drive the entire Blue Ridge Parkway as it travels across the western portion of North Carolina. The easiest way to get to the parkway from the large cities in Piedmont is to travel up Highway 421 to Wilkesboro.
Take a stop in Wilkesboro to eat and gather supplies, and then drive a few more miles on the Parkway and head south. Or you can travel north on Interstate 77 to the Parkway exit at the Virginia state line and turn south for a longer trip. You can tour the parkway south all the way to near the Cherokee Indian reservation.
There are hundreds of overlooks, cultural sites, museums, and trails that align with the parkway for you to enjoy, so take your time. Be spontaneous. It can add to the adventure as you travel.
6. Take a mountain bike adventure
Western North Carolina is full of award-winning mountain bike trails. They are everywhere, and more are being constructed all the time.
You can go almost anywhere in the mountains and find well-conducted mountain bike trails, including Club Creek and Dark Mountain trails in Wilkesboro to Beech Mountain trails to Pisgah Forest and Bent Creek near Asheville, and Wilson's Creek in Caldwell County.
7. Spend a week in Cherokee and Maggie Valley
The Cherokee Indian Reservation offers a wide range of fun and exciting experiences for the entire family. Within the town of Cherokee are fully stocked trout streams for the fly fisherman that requires a reservation license to fish.
There are many cultural museums, including the Museum Of the Cherokee, Qualla Arts and Crafts, and Oconaluftee Indian Village.
See history through the eyes of the Cherokee in the outdoor drama, Unto These Hills.
For small children, SantaLand is a fun-filled day, and Maggie Valley offers a slower-paced village where you can find a place to sleep at night and food to eat.
8. Experience the grand wonder that is Biltmore Estate
The largest private residence in the United States is found just a few miles from Asheville and includes the majestic castle that is Biltmore along with thousands of acres of manicured gardens, forested trails, working estate farms, and on-site hotels, shops, and restaurants.
9. Visit The North Carolina Arboretum
Located near Asheville, you can enjoy one of the most botanically diverse natural settings in America on over 65 acres of cultivated gardens, with both hiking and biking trails.
10. Spend a day at the Cradle of Forestry
The Cradle of Forestry in America is nestled in the Pisgah National Forest along the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. The trails offer visitors a chance to explore seven historical buildings from the time of the Biltmore Forest School (1898-1914), climb aboard and ring the bell of a 1914 Climax logging train engine, and interact with historical interpreters through programs and special events.
Inside our Discovery Center, you’ll find our gift shop bursting with nature-themed books, clothing, toys, and crafts, a spacious theater playing a short film about the history of our site, and an interactive exhibit hall.
11. Explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Experience the wonders that are this premier national park through a one-day drive or a week-long backcountry hiking adventure. The park offers stunning vistas, trout fishing, day hikes, overnight hiking, several visitor centers, and cultural resource sites, including an entirely restored village within Cades Cove that can be visited via a loop car trail.
12. Rent a secluded cabin
Stay at a rental cabin anywhere in a secluded cove or mountain top or align a wild river and just enjoy the view. Sometimes less is more.
13. Ride a train
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad's historic train depot sits in the heart of Bryson City. A round-trip on the train is an ideal way to see extraordinary places you can’t get to by car. Get a front-row view of Fontana Lake, the historic Fontana Trestle, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the National Forest, the Nantahala and Tuckasegee Rivers, and historical structures.
There you have it, a full list of possible adventures that you can do in western North Carolina over the summer, but it is only a drop in the bucket compared to all the many adventures awaiting you. When you do one activity, you will see a hundred more places all around where you will want to come back to in the future.
Emmanuel Lutheran School
At Emmanuel Lutheran School, we believe in providing the tools needed to help equip our students to succeed in their academic pursuits and to become productive members of the church and society. If you live in the area and are looking for a school for your child, enrolling them in a private Christian school is one of the best choices you can make to improve their school experience.
Emmanuel Lutheran School is the only Christian parochial school in western North Carolina that uses a S.T.E.A.M.-based curriculum. That means your child will have a high-quality academic experience in a Christian setting.
For additional information about our private Christian school, contact us today.