The Best Day Trips from Asheville, NC
Attractions,  Family Friendly,  Surrounding Areas

5 Fun Day Trips from Asheville, NC

One of the things that makes Asheville so attractive is its beautiful surroundings and how quickly you can change the city’s urban vibe for breathtaking landscapes, charming small towns, and historical landmarks. Asheville’s strategic location offers scenic routes and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation and sightseeing, making it a perfect base for your excursions.

A simple drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway will give you some of the best day trips from Asheville. There are plenty of opportunities to picnic while enjoying astonishing views, chasing waterfalls, or spotting animals and wildflowers. The Appalachian Mountain towns of Western North Carolina have lovely downtowns with mom-and-pop shops, art galleries, and rich cultural heritage. Getting to know them will transport you to a different reality where life has a slower rhythm, and so will you!

Here are some of the best day trips from Asheville. I’ve included something for everyone, whether seeking outdoor adventure, artistic inspiration, learning opportunities, or simply a day to unwind and reconnect in a hot spring. Enjoy!

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5 Fun Day Trips from Asheville, NC

1. Take a One-Hour Drive to Cherokee

Best Day Trips from Asheville: Cherokee

The hour-long drive to Cherokee will lead you on a profound journey into the history of the Aniyunwiya-Cherokee people and the rich cultural heritage of these mountains. Located at one of the entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee is in the 56,000-acre Qualla Boundary, home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Nation. 

This is not a reservation since the tribal members purchased the property in the 1800s. Today, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is a sovereign nation with over 14,000 members.

Start by immersing yourself in the past by visiting the Oconaluaboftee Indian Village, a living history adventure that transports you to an Indian village from the 1760s. Led by a Cherokee cultural expert, this interactive experience is a fun way to learn. It’s a perfect family activity, and your kids will love it. The village is open from April to November. 

Fun Day Trips from Asheville: Cherokee

For a comprehensive overview of the Cherokee culture, spend a few hours at the Museum of the Cherokee Indians. This top-rated tribal museum, established in 1948, was voted a Top Ten Best Native American Experiences by USA TODAY. After your visit, stop by Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. to appreciate and purchase authentic Cherokee art, a perfect way to support the local community.

“Unto These Hills” is an outdoor drama that tells the story of the Cherokee people, focusing on their forced removal from their ancestral homeland in the 1830s, known as the Trail of Tears. Initially written by Kermit Hunter and actualized through the years, the play premiered in 1950 and has become one of the longest-running outdoor dramas in the United States.

Of course, since Cherokee is at the central North Carolina entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are many chances for outdoor fun, including visiting the park to watch elk, chase waterfalls, enjoy the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, and the Mountain Farm Museum. Not in the park, but if you love mountain biking, check out the free Fire Mountain Trails

Another beautiful but longer way to Cherokee is by the Blue Ridge Parkway. The three-hour scenic drive offers many exciting stops along the way such as the Pisgah Inn, Frying Pan Mountain Overview, Graveyard Fields (one of the best kid-friendly hikes in the area), and the park’s highest point at 6,053 feet. 

Suppose you decide to spend the night so you can explore Cherokee deeper. In that case, the Cherokee Casino Resort has fun for all ages, including an arcade for kids, a luxurious spa, and fine dining experiences.  

2. Take the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mount Mitchell

Asheville NC, Family Day Trips:  Blue Ridge Parkway

The scenic 29-mile journey from Asheville to Mount Mitchell State Park via the Blue Ridge Parkway is truly stunning and one of the best day trips from Asheville. I love doing it in the summer as the views are incredible, there are tons of wildflowers, and temperature is perfect.

The best part? You don’t even have to hike to get astonishing views – you can almost drive to the summit of the highest point east of the Mississippi River, standing at 6,684 feet. At the accessible observation deck, everyone can enjoy breathtaking 360-degree mountain vistas. The park boasts 40 miles of hiking trails, endless opportunities for picnicking, a gift shop, and educational activities for kids.

To extend your day trip from Asheville to Mount Mitchell, take the Mount Mitchell Scenic Drive Byway to Burnsville. This scenic driver spans 52 miles, begins at the park’s main parking lot, and follows N.C. Highway 128 before joining the Blue Ridge Parkway, descending into the Toe River Valley. Check out the map here (page 65).

As you approach Burnsville, the route provides panoramic views of the Yancey and Madison counties, dotted with art studios and quilt trails. In Burnsville, you can immerse yourself in the thriving arts and crafts scene of Downtown or embark on a self-guided quilt block trail. It’s a perfect way to end your day before returning to Asheville via I-26.

3. Soak at Hot Springs Resort and Spa

Best Day Trips from Asheville: Hot Springs Resort and Spa

Established in 1778 and located in the homonymous town by the French Broad River, a day at Hot Springs Resort and Spa is one of the best plans for a day trip from Asheville since it’s less than an hour away. The beautiful, winding drive to get there is a great start to your adventure.

Although it’s open year-round, I love going in the winter to warm up and give my body a restorative experience during those gloomy, gray days. All jetted tubs are private and roofed, host up to 5/7 people, and get drained and sanitized after each use before being refilled with natural spring water. This is a family friendly resort and kids are welcome!  

If you decide to stay overnight, they have beautiful accommodations, including camping and luxury options. Please remember that dogs are welcome at the property but not at the spa area. The grounds are gorgeous, and you’ll love overlooking the French Broad River and Spring Creek.

Hot Springs Resort and Spa is surrounded by a wealth of outdoor activities. Hiking enthusiasts can explore the Appalachian Trail, which runs right through town! The 2-mile Lover’s Leap Loop trail offers breathtaking views of the French Broad River and the Pisgah National Forest. The Laurel River Trail is perfect for families and has a swimming hole. During the summer, you can go tubing and rafting in the French Broad River with Hot Springs Rafting.

The resort is within walking distance to Hot Springs (Madison County), a small town with a super friendly Southern vibe and a population of about 500 people. But don’t let the size of the town fool you. The shops are well-stocked, and you’ll likely leave town with a couple of unique souvenirs including locally made art and cool Appalachian Trail gifts.

There are plenty of places to eat, from cafés to breweries and dive bars. I suggest you end your adventure with a meal at Iron Horse Station. If you go during the winter you can enjoy their massive fireplace.

4. Explore Beautiful Waterfalls on the Way to Brevard

Best Day Trips from Asheville: Brevard

Brevard is one of the cutest towns in the area. It’s full of fun shops, places to eat, festivals, and is home to adorable white squirrels. In addition, Transylvania County, or “Land of Waterfalls,” has about  250 waterfalls, from the famous Looking Glass Falls, one of the most accessible and photographed in the area, to the summer-favorite Sliding Rock.

Located in the Pisgah National Forest and less than an hour from Asheville, Brevard is an awesome place to visit before or after exploring impressive waterfalls and hiking trails. There is so much to do in this area! 

You’ll have fun strolling the downtown shops, including an independent bookstore, a charming old-time toy store, a soda fountain, and eclectic antique shops. You’ll love encountering the real-sized white squirrels decorating every block. The diverse food scene offers international food, food trucks, and many coffee shops and breweries.  

The white squirrels are so sweet! The legend tells that a circus man brought the first pair in the 40s, and they’ve become one of the town’s landmarks. You can spot them anywhere, but the area of Brevard College never disappoints. The town even has a White Squirrel Festival on Memorial Day Weekend! 

The Best Day Trips from Asheville, NC: Brevard

You’ll have difficulty choosing between the 250 waterfalls in Transylvania County, but here are some of my favorites:

You can see Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls in the DuPont  Recreational State Forest all in one hike, or check them out independently. Hooker Falls drops only 12 feet, but it’s 75 feet wide, and it’s perfect for swimming. The 125-foot three-tier waterfall Triple Falls was featured in “The Hunger Games” (see the scene here). High Falls is the largest waterfall in DuPont Forest, dropping 150 feet! 

The famous Looking Glass Falls is easily accessible from the parking area or a short walk that will bring you closer to the water. During the warmer months, you can wade or, in winter, you can enjoy enchanting ice formations.

Sliding Rock is a kid’s favorite. It features a 60-foot natural water slide leading into an 8-foot-deep pool. Exciting, right?

5. Have Outdoor Adventures at the Nantahala Outdoor Center

Asheville NC, Family Day Trips: Nantahala Outdoor Center

Nestled on a 500-acre site in Bryson City on the banks of the Nantahala River, the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) is one of the nation’s largest outdoor recreation companies. The many offerings range from thrilling whitewater rafting, kayaking, zip-lining, and mountain biking experiences to team-building retreats, summer camps, and outdoor education courses. 

While the NOC offers services in various locations across the Southeast, visiting its headquarters is a top-notch day trip option for families with older kids (7+) coming from Asheville. The drive is only an hour and a half, and you’ll be greeted with riverside dining at two restaurants and cozy lodging by the Appalachian Trail if you wish to extend your adventure.

The guided whitewater rafting trip on the Nantahala River will take you to Class II-III rapids while enjoying astonishing views of the Nantahala Gorge. They also offer raft and ducky rentals.

If you’re looking for an adrenaline-fuelled adventure, Mountaintop Zip Line will take you over 350 feet above the Nantahala River, giving you 360-degree mountain views. You can even do this under the moonlight!

The NOC’s Zip Line Adventure Park features 16 aerial adventure elements that range from beginner to advanced, including an exhilarating 600-foot-long dual zip line closer to the ground.

There are also opportunities for kayaking, mountain biking, and tubing. You can plan your own activities that fit you at that moment, or you can pre-arrange and let their outdoor experts design an adventure-packed day trip for your family. Fun is always guaranteed! 

Born in Argentina, Laura is a journalist who's lived in Asheville for 10 years. She loves all things Asheville, from the vast business scene to the beautiful nonprofits, magical people, and marvelous nature. She loves being involved in projects that are the change she wants to see in the world.

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