7 Best Asheville Day Trips + Best Time to Visit Asheville, NC

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Read this post if you’re looking for the best Asheville day trips!

You could easily spend days or weeks visiting Asheville, but sometimes it’s nice to take a few day trips. Asheville is close to many great attractions in North Carolina. The city is also a few hours’ drive from many state parks and outdoor adventures. 

The best Asheville day trips include exploring a state park or two, driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, and many more! 

Most of the day trips on this list are two hours or less away, so you can make them full-day trips or just half days! Asheville has warm weather in the spring and nice, crisp weather in the fall. If you can visit during one of these seasons, you can make the most of your trip. 

To make the most out of Asheville and the rest of the state, I recommend spending three days exploring Asheville and then two days on day trips. You can always get to Asheville before the evening and explore the breweries and nightlife. 

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Visiting Asheville + Top Day Trips

Asheville is one of the most visited cities in North Carolina, and I wrote a guide on all of the best things to do in Asheville. It’s home to many museums, breweries, and the famous Biltmore Estate. It’s one of the best places to visit in NC because it’s close to many hiking spots and stunning state parks. 

For great ideas for things to do in Asheville, check out these small-group tours!

Asheville is also much smaller than other NC cities like Charlotte and Raleigh. You can easily explore Asheville in one weekend or see more of the city in a week, plus a few day trips. 

Here are the top most popular day trips from Asheville you don’t want to miss:

night time in downtown asheville, office buildings

1. Pisgah National Forest 

Pisgah National Forest is just under an hour’s drive from Asheville. It’s a great spot for hiking, enjoying nature, and spotting wildlife. There are hundreds of miles of trails perfect for all skill levels. 

Many of the trails are short, so you’ll see tons of families and kids hiking as well. For the best places to hike, check out a few of these destinations:

  • More Cove Falls: This is an easy trail that ends at a 50-foot waterfall. You can’t swim in the water, but the waterfall is stunning and gives you fresh cool air in the summer. 
  • North Carolina Arboretum: There are over ten miles of forested trails in this area. It’s a great place to hike in the summer because there is ample shade. There are also many gardens around to explore. 
  • Graveyard Fields: There are both easy and moderate hiking trails here. Several of the trails end at waterfalls with small natural pools for swimming. 

Many people also have picnics in Pisgah National Forest. The park has tons of picnic shelters and tables where you can relax. You can also stop and eat along any of the hiking trails. Just make sure to clean up after yourself. 

Mountain biking is also a popular activity. Check out this map from AllTrails to find the best mountain biking trails. 

The land was donated by George Vanderbilt, who built Biltmore House. It’s truly beautiful and worth seeing, regardless of where you go!

Pisgah National Forest is located at 1600 Pisgah Hwy, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768. Check out the full map here to help you find your way around. 

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2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

If you only have time to visit one national or state park while in the area, head to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park is so big that it spans across North Carolina and Tennessee. 

It’s one of the top day trips from Asheville because of the endless hiking opportunities. It’s also one of the top destinations in the state for seeing plants and wildlife. Some people even encounter a black bear or two while hiking and camping in the national park. 

I only spent one day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and it was enough to get in some serious hiking. If you want to camp or do more than a few trails, though, you might want to consider staying a night before heading back to Asheville. 

If you have limited time, make sure to check out at least one of the most popular hikes:

  • Charles Bunion is 4 miles one way and is part of the Appalachian Trail. The top gives some of the best mountain views in the park. 
  • Andrew Balds is 1.8 miles one way. It’s a great trail through the forest, offering plenty of chances to see different plants and animals, including black bears, so be careful!
  • Chimney Tops is 4 miles round trip. It’s the only trail I did in the park, and it’s pretty steep. I loved the view of the mountains at the summit, but it’s probably not the best trail for new hikers or those hiking with kids. 
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3. Chimney Rock State Park 

Chimney Rock State Park is a popular hiking spot and a popular photo destination. You might have seen the photos of the giant rock jutting out over the NC mountains with the American Flag flying high. These photos were taken at the top of Chimney Rock. 

The main activity is to hike to the top of Chimney Rock and enjoy the incredible views below. If you want to do more than hiking, though, you’re in luck. 

Rock climbing is another popular activity, although I never got the chance to do it myself. The guides take all levels, so don’t worry if it’s your first time. It looks amazing here if you’re up for the challenge.

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There’s also the Animal Discovery Den, where you can learn more about the park’s rehabilitation program. Some animals that cannot be released back into the wild are also there for you to see! 

Some parts of Chimney Rock State Park are pet-friendly. If you want to bring along your dog, make sure you have a six-foot or less leash, as this is a park requirement. You might also want to pick easier hiking trails in the park if your dog is not used to hiking. 

Chimney Rock State Park is located at 431 Main St, Chimney Rock, NC 28720, United States. They’re open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The entrance fee is $17 per person. 

4. Grandfather Mountain State Park 

Grandfather Mountain State Park is one of the top places in the state for hiking and backpacking. Most of the hiking is much more challenging than what you’ll find in the other state parks near Asheville. 

If you like hiking alongside cliffs and having to climb up ladders, definitely go hiking in Grandfather Mountain State Park! 

Here are some of the best and most difficult trails to check out:

  • Grandfather Trail: This trail runs right along the mountain ridge and ends at Calloway Peak. It’s one of the best trails to get mountain views. There are some pretty steep sections where you will need to use the cables and ladder. It’s 2.4 miles roundtrip. 
  • Black Rock Trail: This is another trail where you must climb some ladders and cable up the main rock to reach the summit. It’s 2 miles round trip. The trail also takes you through an amazing part of the forest with beautiful spruce trees. 
  • Cragway Trail: Hike this trail to get views of Calloway Peak and the Boone Fork Area. The trail is narrow and steep but only 2 miles roundtrip. 

If you’re not into strenuous hiking, there are many other activities to check out. You can tour The Nature Museum or take a wildlife tour. 

Grandfather Mountain State Park is located at 9872 Highway 105 South, Banner Elk, NC 28604, United States. It’s open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It’s free to enter! 

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5. Lake Lure 

Lake Lure is one of my favorite places in North Carolina. It’s about a 45-minute drive from Asheville. My family rents a cabin near Lake Lure, usually around Christmas time. But I’ve also visited in the summer a few times as well. 

I love the city of Lake Lure because you have the lake and all the activities that come with it. It’s also in the mountains. You’ll get stunning scenery and fresh mountain air. 

If you’re there in the warm months, rent a kayak or take a boat ride around Lake Lure. The water is warm in the spring and summer, so it’s perfect for swimming. 

I also recommend visiting the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge. Despite the name, it’s much more than just a bridge, though the bridge is stunning. It’s a garden full of native plants. 

It’s small but very charming. The spring is the best time to visit to see the most amount of flowers blooming. 

summer in lake lure, green trees, asheville day trips

6. Charlotte 

Charlotte is just two hours away from Asheville. It’s another of the top-visited places in North Carolina due to endless museums, terrific breweries, and huge green spaces. 

Charlotte can be a trip all on its own, as there is enough to do for an entire weekend or week. Exploring Charlotte in one day is also possible, though. 

To see the best of the city on a day trip, I recommend checking out the following places:

Here are some great options if you’re looking for guided tours:

7. Linville Caverns 

Linville Caverns is inside Humpback Mountain, and it’s about an hour away from Asheville. The caves are made of natural limestone. There’s even an underground stream you can wade through to get a better look at the stalagmite formations. 

All tours are guided, so you will be able to hear about the history of the caverns. Some areas of the caverns can feel a little claustrophobic, so keep this in mind if you are fearful of small spaces. 

The temperature inside is 52 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. Make sure to wear layers so you don’t get too cold. 

Linville Caverns is located at 19929 US 221 North, Marion, NC 28752, United States. They’re closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but they’re open every other day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $12. 

How to Get to Asheville 

Asheville has a small regional airport. Flights can be expensive because there are not as many daily flights as you’ll find at other major airports. If you are flying, I recommend getting a flight to a nearby major airport like Greenville (GSP) or Charlotte (CLT). 

Then, rent a car to then drive to Asheville. Having a car rental is also the easiest way to check out all the day trips listed in this guide since public transportation between places can be sporadic and unreliable. 

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When to Visit Asheville 

Asheville has nice weather all year round. It can be a little chilly in the winter, though I never found the cold unbearable as long I was dressed properly. 

Summer can get hot and humid, as with any southeast state. If you plan to do a fair amount of hiking, consider visiting in the spring or fall. If you want to see the flowers bloom in the state parks, go in the spring. 

If your main goal is to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway and see the leaves changing in the parks, go in October or November. 

Don’t Miss These Incredible Day Trips From Asheville!

Asheville is one of the best places to visit in North Carolina! Whether you’re in the area for a weekend or a week, take a day trip or two to explore more of the state.

Since most of the day trips on this list are less than two hours away from Asheville, you can easily get to them! 

After spending a few days in the city, you’ll welcome all the hiking and nature opportunities these day trips provide. 

To get the most out of these day trips, the best time to visit is in spring or fall. Both seasons offer amazing weather. The scenery is also incredible, with fresh flowers in the spring and colorful leaves in the fall. 

Have you visited any of these day trips from Asheville? Which one was your favorite? 

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