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Asheville is an outdoors-loving mountain town, so there’s no shortage of fun activities to balance out some of those beer and breakfast calories. The best part? Whatever you’re doing, you’ll be in spectacular surroundings.
There are countless hiking opportunities in the forested mountains around Asheville, from the 10.6-mile round-trip Cold Mountain summit to a segment of the Appalachian Trail—which passes through nearby Hot Springs—to a two-mile stroll through the Biltmore’s manicured gardens, part of the estate’s hiking network of some 22 miles.
One particularly lovely way, especially for the time-pressed, to get out into some of the best nature in the area is to drive along the truly scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, which connects with myriad hikes (see complete list here). Heading north from Asheville, you can hike a quick 1.5-mile return on the Craggy Pinacle trail (milepost 364.2) for panoramic views, and then do another two miles or so to pretty Crabtree Falls (milepost 340), along a wooded loop trail. If you drive south of Asheville, as we did, you might climb 5,721-foot Mt. Pisgah (a strenuous 1.5 miles up) at milepost 407.6, scale Fryingpan Tower at milepost 408.5 (for what some say is a better view than that afforded by Mt. Pisgah), or head to milepost 418.8 for Graveyard Fields (pictured), with about two miles of loop trail among waterfalls, streams, and wildflowers in a high valley. The options are really endless. We like this site for its detailed descriptions of these and other area hikes.
Around town, you can bike the 1.2-mile French Broad River Greenway, a scenic ride along the river’s north bank that connects French Broad River Park to Carrier Park (with paved biking tracks) and Hominy Creek Park, with striking views of the Biltmore Estate along the way (the Greenway is part of the ongoing 17-mile Wilma Dykeman RiverWay Plan, a major urban waterfront redevelopment project). A more strenuous paved path near town is the Point Lookout Greenway Bike Trail, climbing 900 feet in 3.6 miles (one way) among scenic Pisgah National Forest. If you’re looking to hit the mountains, head to the network of beginner-to-intermediate trails at Bent Creek in Pisgah National Forest.
You can pick up wheels at Liberty Bicycle (1378 Hendersonville Rd., map), from $45 per day. For shorter spurts of time, the Biltmore Estate rents out bikes as well (from $10 for one hour) and has its own network of paved and woodland trails.
If, while hiking and biking around leafy Asheville, you start wishing you could get closer to the trees, you can! Navitat Canopy Adventures (242 Poverty Branch Rd., Barnardsville, map) offers 3.5-hour tours—comprising 10 ziplines, two bridges, two rappels, and three short hikes—through the beautiful canopy in the Blue Ridge Mountains just north of town ($89 for adults). The course is thoughtfully designed and sustainably constructed, fitting seamlessly into its stunning natural environment with minimal impact; the guides are experts not only on the course but also on the forest itself (ask them about foraging, a popular Asheville activity, and you’ll get a quick lesson on what’s edible around you). But really it’s all about soaring among—and high above—these gorgeous trees, with nothing but forest and mountains as far as the eye can see.
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