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Why the Blue Ridge Mountains are America's Favorite Drive, Hike and Ride

by Champion Hills| January 16th, 2020 | Location

The Blue Ridge Mountains stretch more than 550 miles starting in Pennsylvania and crossing through 7 other states before ending in Georgia. The towering peaks and rolling foothills are covered in lush temperate forests, many of which remain unspoiled wilderness. In the valleys, you'll find unique towns and even a few sprawling cities, each brimming with Appalachian culture. 

While the Blue Ridge Mountains are a wonderful place to call home for their natural beauty alone, you'll also find no shortage of things to see and do once you're here. Keep reading to learn just a few things to do in Blue Ridge Mountains, NC.

Take a Day Trip to Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate is America's largest private home. Built in the late 1800s, this magnificent structure boasts 250 rooms, each more ornately decorated than the last. While the property is still owned by descendants of the man who built it, the family has opened the home to visitors and kept the decor original. Today, you can wander the vast halls on a self-guided tour, with the option of an audio tour. During the winter holiday season, the Biltmore Estate is decorated and visitors can enjoy a popular candle-lit tour each evening.

Located in Asheville, North Carolina, the Biltmore Estate is far from the only attraction. On property, you can explore the Estate's gardens, enjoy a free wine tasting at their on-site winery, shop, and more. In Asheville, you'll find plenty of boutique hotels, restaurants, shopping, and more, all settled into the lush hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Hike to the top of Chimney Rock

If a leisurely estate tour isn't your thing, this next day trip may be a better choice. Nature lovers, hikers, and anyone with an appreciation for stunning natural views will enjoy a visit to Chimney Rock State Park in Lake Lure, North Carolina. And no visit to the park would be complete without a hike to the park's namesake.

Chimney Rock is a bare monolith that rises more than 1,200 feet above the valley floor far below. While the park is home to plenty of hiking trails, you actually have options to reach the top of this trail. If hiking is not your fancy, simply drive three miles up the winding road to the parking lot. From there, you'll either need to climb 500 steep steps to the top or hop on the elevator and then climb just a few stairs to get to the overlook. When the weather is clear, you'll be able to see for miles into the surrounding mountains and forests.

Another popular trail in the park is the one that leads to Hickory Nut Falls, a 404-foot falls and one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River.

DuPont State Forest

You don't need to travel the 45 minutes to Chimney Rock State Park to enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, and other outdoor activities. DuPont State Forest is just 20 minutes away from Hendersonville, NC and is home to more than 10,000 acres of unspoiled wilderness. 

It's perhaps best known for its many waterfalls and the beautiful hikes that will take you to them. During the fall, the park comes alive with color, making it the perfect place for some stunning photography or perhaps a leisurely Sunday drive.

Camping Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

If you want to get a bit closer to nature, you'll have plenty of options in the area. The Blue Ridge Parkway is home to 8 campgrounds, each of which is open from May to October. Some are more rugged than others; while all 8 allow you to camp in comfort in your RV, only two offer shower facilities on-site.

If you’re hoping for a deeper experience with nature, you can also enjoy backcountry camping at 3 designated sites along the parkway. These include Rock Castle Gorge near Rocky Knob, Basin Cover near Doughton Park, and Johns River Road near Julian Price Park.

Cherokee Indian Reservation

The Blue Ridge Mountains were once home to several Native American tribes. The largest and most prominent were the Cherokee. You'll still find traces of their heritage throughout the region. But if you want to learn more about the people who called these hills and mountains home hundreds of years before you moved here, plan a trip to Cherokee Indian Reservation.

While the reservation is home to some classic tourist attractions, like a small seasonal theme park and plenty of gift shops, perhaps its biggest attraction is the Ocanaluftee Indian Village. This living history museum takes visitors back in time to a 1750 Native American village. Watch villagers carve canoes, weave baskets, dance, or prepare food. The staff at the museum are Cherokee themselves; many of the guides giving tours are students from nearby Cherokee High School.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

No matter how you choose to explore the Blue Ridge Mountains, it would take more than a lifetime to cover it all. A leisurely drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway can help you see a bit more than your average hike. So can a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

Starting in Bryson City, North Carolina, you can hop aboard the train at the historic depot and enjoy a ride through the countryside. Take it all in on an open-air gondola, or book a dinner excursion in a First Class Car. The train runs from April to December each year.

Whether you enjoy hiking and biking, leisurely drives, or learning about the history of your new home, you'll find no shortage of things to do in Blue Ridge Mountains, NC.

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