North Carolina is the 20th most visited state in the US, but most tourists will stick to Charlotte, Raleigh, or Greensboro. Some may even venture to Concord. However, it’s rare that tourists take the time to see the following hidden gems in Western North Carolina, and it’s a shame.
Why Western North Carolina is Sometimes Overlooked
The Western North Carolina region is blessed with flower-filled coves, untouched forests, gentle valleys, verdant mountains, and crystal clear rivers and streams. There are so many remote communities to explore here, from Andrews and Murphy to Waynesville and Burnsville.
However, the largest city, Asheville, has less than 100,000 people, which may lead others to think there’s nothing special about the west. But they couldn’t be more wrong.
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Precious Hidden Gems in the Heart of Western North Carolina
Western North Carolina is home to 23 counties, half of which have the Great Smoky Mountains National Park running through them. Here are five hidden gems we think you should see right away.
1. Hendersonville, Henderson County
Hendersonville is the biggest hidden gem on this list, population-wise. Nearing a total population of 15,000, Hendersonville has a long commercial strip with plenty of things to do. They are known for their museums and historical sites, like the Mineral and Lapidary Museum.
If you’re the adventurous type, paddle down the French Broad River or hike in DuPont State Recreational Forest. Or, if you like pinball, check out the Appalachian Pinball Museum. Then, eat out at restaurants and diners like West First for pasta and Dandelion for some tomato pie.
2. Lake Lure, Rutherford County
Lake Lure is a sleepy town with a population of fewer than 2,000 people. It was a primary filming location for Dirty Dancing and hosts a fun festival every year honoring the movie.
You can also see Pine Gables, a historic inn added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, and The Rocky Broad River Bridge, later renamed the Flowering Bridge. The Flowering Bridge, in particular, is an incredible sight thanks to its gorgeous flower beds and green trees.
Be sure to check out The Right Track Toy Train Museum, which features a huge display of toy train memorabilia that previously belonged to Larry Keyes. You can find the small towns of Chimney Rock and Bat Cave nearby, which have picturesque landscapes filled with granite summits.
3. Brevard, Transylvania County
Brevard is the country seat of Transylvania County, home to almost 8,000 residents, and is located at the entrance of Pisgah National Forest. They’re known for their white squirrels and their celebration of them, as the White Squirrel Weekend takes place around Memorial Day each year.
While they have many festivals, like Independence Day, Halloweenfest, and Twilight Tour, Brevard also has plenty of waterfalls, mines, and parks. The Transylvania Farmers Market and Whistlestop Market knock it out of the park with their amazing pastries and cheeses.
4. Mars Hill, Madison County
Mars Hill is the biggest town in Madison County, with a population of a little over 2,000. It’s located 15 miles from Asheville and features beautiful hills and a seemingly endless sky.
In Mars Hill, you’ll find Mars Hill University, a private, coed, liberal arts college. It’s the oldest college or university in Western North Carolina. Thanks to this school, Mars Hill experiences a large variety of intellectual, entertainment, and cultural offerings that are rare for towns.
There are plenty of things to do here, whether it’s summer or winter. Check out the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre to watch a performance, or go sledding or skiing at Wolf Ridge Ski Resort. When you get hungry, try a brisket at the Stack House or a pizza at Papa Nicks.
5. Swannanoa, Buncombe County
Buncombe County is best known for Asheville, but if you travel five miles east of town, you’ll find this hidden gem. Two of the most visited attractions in the area are Alexander Inn, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and Ol’ Everbear Farm.
But there are plenty of other things to explore around the area outside of Swannanoa. The Blue Ridge Parkway has a “wow”-worthy view, Greybeard Trailhead offers some challenges for hikers, and White Horse Black Mountain is a great venue that showcases unique performances.
This is an unpaid guest post. Jasen Edwards is a sought-after sales expert, performance coach, and motivational speaker. With over 25 years of real estate experience, Jasen has mastered everything from production to coaching. As a coach, Jasen loves showing agents how to negotiate commissions as high as 10% and live the life of a top producer.