Going wild in Asheville, North Carolina, doesn’t require calling a bail bondsman because this town is all about getting outside and close to nature. In just one weekend you can do it all – hike, bike, kayak, make some new animal friends – and earn a spa day complete with private hot tub and muscle-melting massages. Here’s a plan that will put you on the trail to outdoor fun in Asheville, North Carolina.
Arrive in Asheville midday, just in time to grab lunch and gear up for a weekend of outdoor adventure. Stop by Diamond Brand Outdoors for a new pack, handmade here in town since 1881 (these guys made the original packs for the Boy Scouts of America, so they know good gear). A set of hiking poles makes trails a bit easier and an extra water bottle never hurt; you’ll find both at Mast General Store in the heart of downtown. While you’re there, go ahead and hit the penny candy bins for some on-trail treats to help the miles go by a little easier tomorrow. If you’re looking for a bargain, be sure to hit Frugal Backpacker to see what’s available.
To familiarize yourself with the flora and fauna you’ll spot on your hike, make your way to the Western North Carolina Nature Center, a nature center focused on the creatures of this slice of the Appalachian Mountains. Here you’ll find river otters, black bears and cougars, river otters and hellbenders (what’s a hellbender? A giant salamander about two feet long, that’s what.), owls, deer, even red wolves and coyotes.
Do dinner and drinks on the South Slope, where you can have some of the best barbecue of your life at Buxton Hall Barbecue, before you stop in Catawba Brewing Company, Green Man Brewing or Tasty Beverage Co. – a great bottle shop where you can grab a few cans to enjoy on the trail or on the water when you get thirsty tomorrow.
Start with a big breakfast at Biscuit Head in West Asheville. They specialize in – you guessed it – biscuits, the biggest you’ll ever eat. Whether you go for fried chicken, fried eggs or just homemade honey butter and jam on yours, it’ll fuel you through most of the day.
Hit the trail at the North Carolina Arboretum, just a few minutes down the road. There are more than 10 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails here, as well as manicured gardens, so you can find a short, family-friendly stroll or a tough hike that connects with the adjoining Bent Creek Experimental Forest. Hike to your heart’s content but save some energy for the afternoon.
Make a lunch of trail snacks or swing by City Bakery for a sandwich (made with bread baked in house) on your way to see the folks at French Broad Outfitters. French Broad Outfitters will set you up for an active afternoon – think kayaking or standup paddleboarding – or a relaxing float down the French Broad River. If you’re tubing, be sure to bring some cans of local craft brew and rent a tube for your cooler, otherwise, tuck a can or two in your cargo pockets and start paddling.
Once you’re off the water, freshen up and hit the town. You can’t go wrong with a multi-course dinner at Rhubarb or Chestnut, a simple burrito from Urban Burrito, or a pint and burger from Lexington Avenue Brewery . Whatever you do, don’t skip on the ice cream as Kilwin’s where cones are a must.
Even after a night in a comfy bed you can feel the miles you put on the trail yesterday, so linger over breakfast at your inn, then head over to Shoji Spa & Lodge for that massage you earned. Shoji’s the perfect place post-hike relaxation. Their private hot tub cabanas give you room to stretch out and soak before a quick dip in their cold plunge pools (yes, it’s cold and yes, it’s invigorating) and a sauna session. Then it’s massage time. Close your eyes and sit back while the therapist works a little magic and gets you relaxed and ready to rejoin the world.
Where to Stay in Asheville if you have a weekend
Hit the hay at one of Asheville’s outstanding B&Bs. Asheville Bed and Breakfast Association members know how to treat guests right, so a stay at Pinecrest Bed and Breakfast (where the owners know trailsto suit every hiker) or Wildberry Lodge (nestled deep in the mountains just outside of town) will leave you rested for the trail. Sourwood Inn, perched in the mountains overlooking Asheville, keeps the adventure rolling with on-site hiking trails, as well as fly fishing and falconry packages.