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Need info on western North Carolina
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Jeff Hollis
(hyperslug) - MLife
Need info on western North Carolina on 02/03/2011 09:53:17 MST Print View

Next September I am planning a trip to the North Carolina mountains. This will be to celebrate my Mom's birthday and we will spend a weekend at a fancy hotel in Asheville. After that I am in charge of finding cabins for 5 small families somewhere in the mountains.

My first questions is I need to narrow down the area so any suggestions of towns or locations especially cool, pretty etc. Not really interested in over crowded tourist traps.

Second is my brother and I will slip away to do a little backpacking while there so could use some thoughts on that. I have hiked in NC most in college but also Citico Creek Wilderness more recently. I have some books coming.

Thanks for any help!

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Need info on western North Carolina on 02/03/2011 10:33:09 MST Print View

For cabins, I suggest Caroling Mornings. I used them several times before buying a home in Asheville.

For backpacking, I'd suggest the Shining Rock Wilderness area and if you have time, a thru-hike of the Art Loeb.

Jeff Hollis
(hyperslug) - MLife
Cabins off the beaten path? on 02/03/2011 12:32:01 MST Print View

Thanks Chris!

A section or two of The Art Loeb trail sounds good!

We will probably look for cabins outside of Asheville, since we will already have spent the weekend there, maybe something a little deeper in the woods/mountains.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Cabins off the beaten path? on 02/03/2011 12:38:51 MST Print View

Most of what they offer is outside of town. The one I stayed in several times was in Weaverville pretty deep in the woods.

Jacob Linton

Locale: Western NC
Hot Springs on 02/03/2011 16:38:52 MST Print View

Im not super familiar with the cabins around here (havent lived here that long), but Im in Hot Springs and there are quite a few rental cabins in the immediate area. There are some along the river, and several I know of located more in the woods.

Off the top of my head I dont know the info, but would be glad to get it for you.
If youre wanting to get the families out, theres easy road access to really nice places (Max Patch, Mill Ridge) and tons of scenic drives.
The AT runs right through town, and theres lots of great hiking nearby.
Guess it just depends on what youre looking for.

Hope that helps.

Edited by gardenhead on 02/03/2011 16:44:26 MST.

obx hiker
(obxcola) - MLife

Locale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
Western North Carolina on 02/03/2011 21:19:47 MST Print View

Hello Jeff,

Maybe I can help you with a trip to beautiful western North Carolina. The NC mountains are a large and diverse region with several subregions divided by geography. Speaking subjectively ( who could possibly disagree?) they are the worlds greatest temperate mountains for ruggedness and height COMBINED with botanical and biological diversity. And why not....... Everything from near subtropical to Canadian Arctic plant life. They are just the right latitude, elevation and with the generous, regular (some would say nearly continuous) and yet not too intense rainfall. It's the kingdom of plant life and sub-kingdom of water on mountains that if any taller would run above the tree-line. If there are mountains that are any wetter and greener with a more diverse flora in a temperate zone.........

Western NC some areas that are hardly developed at all and relatively sparsely populated that might be great for hiking and maybe rafting etc but don't have much in the way of "shopping" of "dining" or cultural/historical sites. Others are REALLY touristy in a sort of roadside attraction, kitschy sort of way or touristy in a Palm Beach behind the hedges, out of sight, "summer people" , random tourists need not apply unless you can blend with "society" Old Money way. Then are some smaller towns not directly touristy,sometimes geographically associated with a small college or maybe the county seat and getting a commercial boost from being the location of Court (to go along with the mountain environment). Whatever the reason(s) These are really nice smaller towns in a kind of kicked up Mayberry way. They also really seem to have an extra edge of youthful energy and civic and entrepreneurial enthusiasm. Unexpectedly and counter to prevailing trends many of these towns are developing interesting, attractive, diverse and vibrant little downtowns.

And then there's Asheville! Got to be one of the most interesting small cities in the USA.

Where you pick to vacation might depend to a great degree on what the non-hiking members of the group want to do for entertainment.

As far as hiking or even touring around I mentally divide the mountainous part of western NC into sections with the idea of keeping the drive to the trailhead or outdoor attraction under 2 hours.

There's the northern part from Virginia all the way down to the Blacks. ( Mt. Mitchell) This entire region including the Roan Highlands, Grandfather Mt/Wilson Creek, Linville Gorge and the Blacks can be accessed from the towns around Avery and Watauga counties like Boone, Blowing Rock, Linville, Banner Elk, Crossnore, Altamont or Spruce Pine though from the Boone/Blowing Rock area the Blacks can be a bit of a haul. The towns and development in the "northern" area have a tendency towards the tourist, gated second home, golf course retirement type. Blowing Rock, Linville and Banner Elk especially tend towards an understated but expensive "Old Money" kind of atmosphere.Boone is a diverse and relatively booming college town and in September; especially if the Mountaineers are home at the Rock (Just ask Michigan about Mountaineer football!), Boone will be a zoo.

Then there's the central or I-40 corridor with Asheville as the center. From this area you have reasonable access to the Blacks, the Pisgah Forest/Eastern High Great Balsam Ridge/Range which is the name for the very high mountain ridge stretching from Mount Pisgah all the way to Tri-Corner Knob. The town of Black Mountain also has a vibe but unfortunately, despite resting at the foot of it's namesake range; highest east of the Black Hills of South Dakota, you can't get there from there. So for hiking access Black Mountain has a degree of disadvantage though you can hit 1-40 and gain the Pisgah, Great Balsam and Black Mountains and possibly the near NE Smokies in the 2 hour limit. Weaverville also has very easy access to Asheville and reasonable access to a variety of hiking. While I haven't visited; the small main-street is getting a rep as being fun and interesting.

The best areas to get a great mountain cabin experience, have access to hiking, and at least some access to groceries, restaurants and Asheville might be the east and west slopes of the main ridge topped by the Blue Ridge Parkway running south from Asheville towards the Black Balsam, Sam's Knob, Shining Rock area. In this area on the eastern slope Brevard is the gateway to the Pisgah Forest and Art Loeb/Shining Rock, Black Balsam area from the east and is one of those cool smaller towns, with Asheville in striking distance for the non-hikers craving some more urban diversion. On the west slope the highways leading up to and over that ridge from the Canton/Waynesville area, 276 and 215 have some mom/pop cabin cluster rentals and likely also have some agency managed rental houses/cabins. Waynesville is also striving to develop a small-town downtown vibe.

Then there's the more confusing Southern section over the Great Balsam, Plott Balsam ridge which runs from Tri-Corner Knob in the Smokies all the way to Mt. Pisgah. Once you cross that ridge it is more or less practical to access the areas of the Smokies from Newfound Gap road south at least on the NC side and Heintooga Ridge, The Kilmer Slickrock area, The Nantahala area, Standing Indian, Fires Creek and that same Great Balsam Ridge. It's confusing because there are at least 3 main more or less east/west ranges dividing the area into different river basins, but the various hiking areas are all still pretty accessible because these river valleys offer connecting routes for relatively good highways. Franklin is probably the big town in this area and there are rentals in the country around Franklin. Webster/Sylva/Dillsboro, especially "downtown" Sylva is another great smalltown downtown with easy access to the Smokies and all the High Balsams. Further south Hayesville, Andrews, Murphy and Robbinsville are all nice small towns but you are getting out there and kind of isolated to the immediate area of each town.

There are 2 other areas that are kind of off in their own corners, at least relative to the other mountains, due to difficult terrain/poor road connections. The Highlands/Cashiers/Translyvania area, and the Hot Springs area. Highlands Cashiers is the play-ground for the Charleston Low-Country planters; riddled with Golf Courses and gated subdivisions and home to amazing waterfalls and granite monadnock mountains
(check out last of the Mohicans) but US-64, the main highway connecting this area with other areas in the NC mountains is ummm a difficult connection to the rest of the NC mountain area from this area. Hot Springs is a great small town with the French Broad River, some great eats, real hot springs and the AT running down main street but it is also hard to get anywhere else from there.

There will be real estate agencies managing weekly rentals for privately owned mountain cabins/homes in all these areas. Various local tourist bureaus or agencies for the particular counties or maybe for some regional multi county promotional agency can refer you to these. There will also be a variety of basically Mom/Pop individually owned/operated cabin groups in these areas. Ask the receptionist at the tourist bureau who runs a clean well-kept operation. Chris Wallace's link looked like a typical and reputable management agency for private owners and seemed to be centered on the greater Asheville area but there will be MANY others representing a basically similar type variety of individually owned ( by absentee owners), agency managed properties in a particular area. A handful of these in each area will be the "go-to" agencies but bigger doesn't always mean better! Ask the reservationist at the agency to recommend cabins with owners that do a good job keeping the place in shape, are the attentive and actively involved in keeping their property in good, well-equipped condition. I operate the same sort of agency on the Outer banks and while we won't "steer" or speak negatively about a property we are only too happy to recommend the property of active involved conscientious owners when asked to do so.

I've left out the 3 main towns along the east slope of the Smokies; Maggie Valley, Cherokee and Bryson City. The only thing positive I can say about Cherokee other than it ain't Gatlinburg (a really frightening place) is it is right at the edge of the middle of the park. Maggie and Bryson City both seem like they are almost OK but the pervasive influence of catering to all the visitors to the park is just too much to overcome. I can enjoy all 3 in the winter but it's hard to find a decent sit-down restaurant meal in Cherokee. We often stay there in the winter and drive up to Sylva/Dillsboro to eat dinner. More motels in Cherokee, decent restaurant or 2 in Sylva.

Your overall best bet might be the Brevard area. There is such a variety of trails in the Pisgah Forest area on that Eastern slope at every elevation up to the 6000 foot balds up around Black Balsam; the waterfalls, swimming holes, granite monadnocks like Looking Glass Rock, access to "civilzation" That area has it all and it wouldn't be some big relocation from your weekend at the Grove Park (guessing).

Finally here's a link for you to try to get the inside scoop on the places, people and things in every part of North Carolina that we are proud of as Tar Heels. Try for example picking a particular topic like food or restaurants and enter Asheville or Brevard in the search engine.

Congratulations to your mom and hope you have a great visit to the Old North State.

PS on thinking it over I guess the main ridges and side ridges from Mt.Hardy to Chestnut Knob, Silvermine, Little and Big Sam, Black Balsam, Tennant, Grassy Top, Shining Rock and out to Cold Mountain is probably my favourite stretch of ridge in the state for overall diversity and beauty.

Edited by obxcola on 02/03/2011 21:27:16 MST.

Jeff Hollis
(hyperslug) - MLife
Brevard on 02/04/2011 09:04:03 MST Print View

Thanks again Chris as well to Jacob. Cola, super great info.

I have been checking out all the little towns and Brevard certainly stands out so far. I remember passing through that town on my way to shining Rock Wilderness while in college at Va Tech, this would have been the late 70's. There was a ranch of miniature horses, the first time I had ever seen any that small.

Great group of people here and very thankful for everyone's contribution.

Jacob, I looked at Hot Springs and was impressed.

I am putting out an email to family to firm things up but suspect we would want a cluster of 3-4 cabins close together, in the mountains and with a view. We will need to reserve in the next month or 2. I have enough to go from here but if anybody else has any additional thoughts please add them.