Loving the outdoors is about more than just enjoying our forests and waterways. It means being responsible stewards of the lands we love, and putting our money where our conscience is. We’re excited to be partnering with United by Blue – an awesome brand that cleans up a pound of trash from our waterways, for every item sold. The best part? Not only are their clothes well made and environmentally responsible – they’re also available at incredible prices. This week, you can snag them at 50% off. Check out our favorite styles below, and stop by either Frugal Backpacker location to shop these and many more stylish finds.

Martel Wool Vest

Was: $158  Now: $79

Garretson Relaxed Plaid

Was: $78 Now: $39

Nicholson Reversible Shirt Jack

Was: $138 Now: $69

Banff Colorblock Shirt

Was: $94 Now: $47

Spend less. Play more. Frugal Backpacker’s philosophy on outdoor gear sounds pretty appealing to price conscious shoppers, but there’s a lot more to this Asheville fixture than low prices. What makes Frugal so awesome? Here’s the deets as told by long time Frugal customer and staff member, Hannah.

Frugal finds – Yes, there’s more to Frugal Backpacker than the prices, but the truth is we all love to feel like we’re getting value for our money. From samples (more about those in a sec) to close outs, to really cool brands with accessible prices, we work really hard to make sure that our customers can find the product that they’re looking for at a reasonable price. Offering outdoor gear at good prices isn’t just about a bargain, it’s about working to make outdoor activities and high quality apparel accessible to everyone, regardless of age or income.

Seriously good customer service – My very first Frugal Backpacker experience was as a teenager, setting out for my first backpacking trip. I had a limited budget and zero idea what I was doing or what I was looking for, but a very helpful employee (thanks, Dan) set me up with a great fitting pack, boots, socks, and insoles for under $200. Everything performed well, and I’ve had serious love for backpacking and Frugal Backpacker ever since.

With the rise of discount websites, you can find a deal almost anywhere, but there’s no replacement for helpful advice from friendly outdoorspeople. Our staff includes thru-hikers, class V paddlers, and gear junkies who know and use our gear and can help you find exactly what you need for your next adventure.

High quality gear – Anyone who’s ever purchased outdoor gear from a big box retailer can tell you that there’s a lot of truth to the phrase “you get what you pay for”. At Frugal Backpacker, our goal isn’t just to get you “cheap” outdoor gear. We know that value comes from getting a great product at a price you can feel good about. We work with respected brands to get samples, closeouts, and items from previous seasons at discounted prices, and we pass the savings on to you. The result is high quality gear that we can stand behind, if you ever have a problem with your gear, let us know and we’ll work to make it right.

Cool stuff you can’t find anywhere else – Here’s where the gear head in me comes out – I love a cool piece of tech that no one else has. Want a sweet Arc’teryx jacket prototype that never made it into production? A Patagonia shell that has some really cool technology, but is only available online? A Mountain Hardwear suit for extreme mountaineering? A basecamp tent from The North Face? These are all examples of really cool items that I’ve seen come through Frugal over the years. At MSRP, they’re way too expensive for normal retailers to sell, so you’re not likely to find them in your local gear shop. Fortunately for you, when these pieces make it to us, they’re available at a discounted sample price, so you can snag an exceptional piece of gear for a song.

Lovin’ local – Did you know that 48% of every dollar spend at a locally owned business feeds back into the community, versus 14% of every dollar spent at a large national retailer? When you shop at Frugal Backpacker, you get to support your local community while snagging some sweet deals. What’s not to love?

The lush and timeless beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains has appealed to movie producers and location scouts for the last 90 years. In fact, North Carolina has more sound stages and production complexes than any other state outside of California. Many of the movies shot in Western North Carolina were filmed on public lands, and can be explored by hiking, mountain biking, and paddling. Unlike Hollywood studio tours, visiting these wild and remote locations requires no tickets or tour guides–but packing a box of sour patch kids is always a good idea.

Lake Fontana

Lake Fontana
Lake Fontana


The deep and placid waters of Lake Fontana lie on the southern border of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This reservoir and the surrounding forest was the location for the 1998 drama Nell , staring Jodi Foster as a feral young woman raised in isolation in rural North Carolina.

Much like the haunted and beautiful Nell, the landscape itself feels wild and secretive. The winding, seventeen mile lake is filled with hidden coves and tiny islands that provide a beautiful day of exploration by kayak or paddleboard. A motor boat ride can deliver you to the Hazel Creek Trailhead, one of the most remote areas in the Smoky Mountains National park.

Fishing is another popular activity on Lake Fontana. Because of its frigid temperature, the emerald waters are home to a number of species of fish more typical to Northern lakes.

One of the best ways to explore the area is to ride trails of Tsali, etched into the steep hillside that borders the lake. Two pairs of looping trails are open to mountain bikers on alternating days throughout the week. Rolling, smooth, and zippy, this flowing singletrack is guaranteed to unleash your inner wild child.

Lake Lure

A recreation of the iconic 'dramatic lift' scene from Dirty Dancing.
A recreation of the iconic ‘dramatic lift’ scene from Dirty Dancing.

Ken Heine

With its venerated soundtrack and dance moves that started a nation-wide craze, Dirty Dancing is one of the most beloved and enduring cult hits of all time. Everybody knows you don’t put Baby in the corner, but did you know that the movie was filmed on Lake Lure in Rutherford County, in the shadow of Chimney Rock State Park ?

All 80’s pop and overwrought romance aside, this is one of the best natural areas to explore in the Southeast. Lake Lure and Chimney Rock are situated in the Hickory Nut Gorge Wilderness, which features hundreds of trail miles winding through one of the most biodiverse regions in the nation. Climbers can have the time of their life, pun intended, by tackling some of the hundreds of high quality bouldering lines at Rumbling Bald. To cool off, The Beach at Lake Lure offers all types of summer fun, including side by side waterslides that will deposit you right into the lake.

Fanatics of the film can attend the weekend long Dirty Dancing Festival at Lake Lure, where you can participate in such movie-inspired events as ballroom dancing, a watermelon toss, walking tours, and even a “dramatic lift competition” to recreate the iconic dance scene.

DuPont State Forest

DuPont State Recreational Forest is an expansive, 10,000 acre tract of wooded land, famous for its abundance of spectacular waterfalls. Many scenes from the 1992 historical epic The Last of the Mohicans were filmed here, as well as portions of the 2012 smash hit The Hunger Games . Both movies are renowned for the eerie and evocative beauty of their natural setting, which you can explore via 80 miles of multi use trails that zig-zag through the forest.

Hike an easy half mile to the base of Triple Falls to see where Peeta Mellark disguised himself as part of the murky landscape of the fearsome Arena. (Visit on a dark and rainy day to experience the full effect.)

Behind the veil at Bridal Veil Falls
Behind the veil at Bridal Veil Falls

David Clarke

One of the most famous scenes in Last of the Mohicans was filmed at the top of Bridal Veil Falls. It was behind the ten-foot free fall of pounding water that Hawkeye begs Cora to surrender should she be caught, promising to return and find her, “No matter how long it takes, no matter how far.”

You can relive this impossibly dramatic scene by ducking behind the falls and exploring the cave for yourself. Just don’t try leaping out the way Daniel Day Lewis did–that famous plunge was shot in a studio.

Henry River Mill Village

The historical Henry River Mill Village was the location for The Hunger Game ‘s impoverished coal mining hamlet of District 12. The poorest district in Panem is actually the remains of a tiny textile village in Burke County. The houses are decaying but remain otherwise unaltered, creating a haunting vision of the past, and, if we are to believe the movie, our apocalyptic future.

Although the town is now under private ownership, you can see it by driving the Henry River Road off the Hildebran exit on I-40. Die hard fans of the Hunger Games trilogy, and anyone with an interest in the state’s human and industrial history, will not want to miss this opportunity, a riveting addition to a day of exploring “The Arena” in DuPont State Forest.

Cold Mountain

The view from the summit of Cold Mountain.
The view from the summit of Cold Mountain.


In the 2003 epic war drama Cold Mountain , a beleaguered Jude Law journeys home through the Appalachian Mountains after deserting from the Confederate Army. Although it was filmed primarily in Romania with a handful of shots in the American Southeast, you can visit the movie’s namesake mountain, located in the Shining Rock Wilderness in the Pisgah National Forest.

Follow an 11-mile (roundtrip) section of the rugged Art Loeb Trail to the summit of Cold Mountain for an all day epic. This 2,800 foot climb through densely forested wilderness will give you a taste of the ubiquitous challenges that faced W.P Inman on his journey back to Ada. Make sure and bring a map and compass, and, if you’re striving to be authentic to the movie, a small herd of goats.

The Biltmore

The ornate grounds of the venerable Biltmore Estate has been the setting for an enormous of array of movies. Ritchie Ritch, Patch Adams, Forest Gump, The Swan, Being There, Mr. Destiny, and Hannibal are only a few of the films that made use of the anachronistic grandeur of the Biltmore Mansion and the 8,000 acres of sprawling, manicured landscape that surround it.


Written by Melina Coogan for RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Fran Trudeau

High above the High Country.

Autumn has reached its peak here in Asheville, and we have the traffic to prove it. Our small city has been jam-packed with leaf-peepers, weekend-warriors, festival-goers, and tourists in search of pumpkin ale from Wicked Weed and mountain vistas from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Yes, fall is a truly spectacular time to live in the Blue Ridge…but you can also find yourself waiting a long time for a table on a Friday night.

For locals, this season of bright leaves and brisk days might be the best time to hit the road and explore some of the remarkable outdoor destinations that can be found just an hour or two outside of Asheville.

So gas up the car and switch up the scene: tackle a new hike, explore an unfamiliar wilderness, or get lost in a boulder field full of brand new problems. It’s tourist season after all, so why not be a tourist for the weekend? Don’t worry—we’ll give you the insider’s guide. Here are four weekend escapes near Asheville that are definitely worth the trip.

1. The Nantahala Gorge

Nantahala National Forest in autumn.
Nantahala National Forest in autumn.

Dzmitry (Dima) Parul

The Nantahala Gorge  lies only 1.5 hours west of Asheville. Nantahala means “Land of the Noonday Sun” in Cherokee. The river runs through a chasm so steep and narrow that, in some areas, sunlight will only reach the forest floor at high noon. The gorge itself is wild and rugged, studded with waterfalls and sheer cliffs. If you are looking to disappear into the wilderness for the weekend, this is your destination.

For a hiking adventure, Whiteside Mountain is a landmark of the Nantahala National Forest. The mountain is banded by staggering 750-foot cliffs, making for a dramatic and dizzying summit experience. A two-mile loop trail will take you to the rocky outcrop at the top, where, on a clear day, you can see all the way to the Piedmont.

Mountain bikers should head directly to the smooth, soaring trails at Tsali. Two separate looping courses of single track (open to bikers on alternating days throughout the week) are etched into the shores of Lake Fontana in a series of tight turns and wide arcs, providing some of the fastest and certainly the most fun riding in the entire state.

A mid-November ride at Tsali
A mid-November ride at Tsali

Jeff Bartlett

Any trip to the gorge would be remiss without a stop at the Nantahala Outdoor Center . In the fall, after the summer fervor has died down, the NOC is just a cool place to relax and hang out. There’s a riverside restaurant, a gear shop, and always a handful of southbound Appalachian Trail thru-hikers swapping stories around the outside fireplace. The NOC hosts all sorts of outdoor events, classes, and workshops, guided rafting trips, zip-lining, river races, and more, so make sure and check out their schedule before you swing by.

In the evening, check out the Nantahala Brewing Company in Bryson City for a Little Tennessee Logger or a Chocolate Cherry Covered Stout. The taproom is complete with a stage, and on the weekends the brewery often boasts the best live music anywhere in the Smoky Mountains. When you’re ready to turn in, book one of the coveted yurts at the Nantahala Yurt Village, and enjoy the true meaning of the word “glamping.”

2. Boone, North Carolina

Sitting high above the High Country.
Sitting high above the High Country.

Caleb Forbes

If you were to look up the term “bustling mountain town” in the dictionary, you’d probably find a picture of Boone, North Carolina. Home of the Appalachian State University Mountaineers, Boone is chock-full of cafes, breweries, and farm-to-table restaurants, many of which sit side-by-side on a cozy, old-fashioned Main Street (called King Street). The town is named after the famous American explorer and pioneer Daniel Boone, and fittingly, there is a wealth of outdoor adventure to be found in its vicinity. The drive from Asheville is just under two hours.

When you’re ready to hit the trail, head in the direction of Julian Price Memorial Park, a gorgeous swath of wooded land nestled at the foot of Grandfather Mountain, directly off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Seven different trails wind through the forest and bend around a small lake, cutting across meadows and through streams. The 5-mile Boone Fork Loop Trail is the most challenging and the most popular hike inside the park.

The rugged, rocky slopes of Grandfather Mountain make for another hiking adventure that you won’t want to miss. The Grandfather Trail, also known as the “Chutes and Ladders” trail because of the network of walkways, stairs, and ropes that lead through boulder fields and across exposed rock faces, provides a rigorous full-body workout culminating in an unparalleled view from the 5,946-foot summit. Visitors to Grandfather Mountain also can enjoy more moderate trails, a nature museum, animal habitats, and the iconic mile-high swinging bridge.

Experienced whitewater kayakers can entertain themselves ad nauseam on the nonstop boofs of the Watauga River, the local Class IV/V run. Spectators might enjoy taking the trail down to Stateline Falls to watch the boaters drop over the waterfall, which sits just on the cusp of the North Carolina/Tennessee Border.

Pondering the next move at the Grandmother Boulders.
Pondering the next move at the Grandmother Boulders.

Melina Coogan

For climbers, the fun can be found at Grandmother Mountain. More than 400 established routes are scattered across twenty distinct areas on the mountainside in this beloved bouldering mecca- some quiet and secluded, others, like the Mighty Mouse boulder, are always hopping.

Round out your day in the High Country with a stop at Lost Province Brewing Company downtown. You’ll find live music in the evenings, wood-fired pizza, craft beer, and just about anything else you could desire after an active autumn day. There are plenty of campgrounds at Grandfather Mountain, Julian Price Park, and along the parkway. If you really want to live it up, spend the night in a rented cabin or teepee at Blue Bear Mountain Camp. 

3. Johnson City, Tennessee

The bustling taproom at Yee-Haw Brewing Company.
The bustling taproom at Yee-Haw Brewing Company.

Courtesy of Yee-Haw Brewing Company.

Johnson City, Tennessee  has experienced some recent revitalization, with new restaurants and breweries inhabiting the historic train stations, the completion of the Tweetsie Trail Greenway, and an upswing in community initiatives such as downtown music concerts and First Friday events. Most people recognize the city from the ubiquitously played bluegrass hit Wagon Wheel , but what you may not realize is that Johnson City is a notable outdoor destination in its own right. Check it out for a day or two—it’s only an hour away from Asheville.

Since it’s such a short drive, why not throw your bike and your boat on top of the car and plan for a multi-sport adventure? Check out the trail offerings at Warrior’s Path in nearby Kingsport: eight miles of sweet, looping single track. Whitewater enthusiasts can spend the day bouncing down the class III rapids of the Nolichucky River, which slices through one of the deepest canyons on the East Coast. With the exception of the notorious Class IV Quarter Mile rapid, which is easily walkable, the “Noli” is a safe and friendly river for newer paddlers looking to transition to something a bit more juicy and technical.

Just 25 miles from downtown Johnson City, the Roan Highlands of Tennessee offer some of the best views along the entire Appalachian Trail
Just 25 miles from downtown Johnson City, the Roan Highlands of Tennessee offer some of the best views along the entire Appalachian Trail

Dallas Krentzel

Some of the most phenomenally beautiful hikes in the Southeast can be found at Roan Mountain State Park . The hollows, ridges and grassy balds of Roan Mountain are spectacular in any season, but never more so then when they are decked in their autumn finery. Explore the Doe River, which winds through the 2,000-acre park, or hike up to the Raven Rock overlook.

When your day of adventure is winding down, grab a beer at the YeeHaw Brewery Company, located in the refurbished Tweetsie Railroad Depot. For dinner, Holy Taco Cantina is where you’ll find the locals on a Friday night. Rest your head at Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel right off the Appalachian Trail, or treat yourself to a stay at the Carnegie Hotel and Spa in downtown Johnson City.

4. Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina

Rainbow Falls in Jones Gap State Park.
Rainbow Falls in Jones Gap State Park.

Scott Oves

It’s possible that you’ve driven by the welcome sign to  Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina  on your way up to Greenville and hardly gave it a second thought. Maybe you were confused as to whether the sign indicated a town, or perhaps just an elaborate highway rest stop. As it turns out, the sleepy, unassuming hamlet of Travelers Rest—or TR as the locals call it—has everything you need for an adventurous weekend getaway, including strong coffee in the morning, good beer in the evening, and ample opportunity to play outside in between.

Located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, TR is poised between a number of South Carolina’s most wild and scenic state parks, including Table Rock, Jones Gap, Caesar’s Head, and Paris Mountain. That’s right—one tiny town, four beautiful state parks.

Begin your day at the lovely, light-filled Tandem Creperie and Coffee for a breakfast crepe as you consider your options. Favorite local excursions, which usually include Rainbow Falls in Jones Gap State Park. A 2.5-mile hike (one way) on the Rainbow Falls Trail leads to the base of this stunning, 90 foot cascade. Autumn foliage only adds to the finery of this aptly named veil of water whispering against brightly colored rock.

If you’re in the mood for some mountain views, hike to the top of Table Rock Mountain. The Table Rock Trail entails a steady ascent for 3.6 miles (one way), leading to the crown of the imposing granite dome. At the summit, the thrill of height and exposure combines with heavenly views in all directions for a spectacular Upcountry experience.

When the light fades, make the short jaunt back to town and hole up at the Swamp Rabbit Brewery. Enjoy a pint of Black Plague, a robust, dark lager that’s a perfect match for the invigorating autumn weather. When you’re ready for dinner, head out back for some food-truck fair, or make your way over to Sidewall Pizza for a thin-crust pie and some homemade ice cream.

Spend the night at a rented cabin, car-camping site, or backcountry camping site, all of which are available throughout the local state parks. For something luxe and truly out of the ordinary, book a night at Hotel Domestique, a boutique hotel created by bikers that caters specifically to adventure enthusiasts such as yourself.


Written by Melina Coogan for RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Caleb Forbes

Honk if you love Pisgah!

Brevard, North Carolina is situated at the entrance of both Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Recreational Forest, two of the most preeminent outdoor destinations in the Southeast. Just one hour outside of Asheville, Brevard is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts of all varieties seeking waterfalls, singletrack, and multi-pitches. A lot has been written about this rec-mecca, but unfortunately, there’s no guidebook on where to find the best beer, burger, and post-adventure rewards. Here, six spots around town to post up after an epic day in the woods.

1. Pisgah Tavern

This pocket sized tavern, featuring six rotating taps and half a dozen cans, is located within  The Hub , an independent, locally owned gear and mountain bike shop. The set up is genius: crack a cold one, peruse the guidebooks and talk trails with the mechanics as they build wheels and tighten crank sets. You and your bike will finish the day tuned up, chilled out, and brimming with beta.

The Hub and Pisgah Tavern are conveniently located at the entrance to Pisgah National Forest, adjacent to Hawg Wild BBQ and across the street from Dolly’s Dairy Bar. Essentially, everything you could ever need post-ride is within arm’s reach.

2. Oskar Blues Brewery

The Oskar Blues tasting room.
The Oskar Blues tasting room.

Craige Moore

“Ride bikes. drink beer. repeat.” That’s the slogan for Reeb, the american-made bicycle manufacturer owned and created by Colorado based Oskar Blues Brewing . (Why Reeb? Read it backwards.) Mountain biking is deeply intertwined with Oskar Blues culture, which is why the brewery decided to set up camp in Brevard, home to some of the most magnificent trails in the country. In fact, a handful of these trails are even accessible from the brewery campus itself—parking is free and cyclists are encouraged!

Located inside the lofty and industrial brewery complex, the taproom allows you to get up close and personal with the beer manufacturing process. Sip a pint of Dale’s Pale Ale, an Old Chub Scotch Ale, or one of the rotating seasonal offerings—a brisk and spicy Gubna IPA is sure to satisfy after a scorching ride up to Cedar Rock—and watch the industry professionals in action.

Food is available Fridays and weekends at The CHUBwagon, a food truck featuring “craft casual” burgers, fries, and milkshakes. Make sure and check out the ‘Bikes, Burgers and Beers’ meet up every Friday night, hosted by Pisgah Cycling. In addition to the three B’s, you’ll enjoy live music and great company. There are even some kids bikes available on the patio to entertain the next generation of shredders.

3. Brevard Brewing Company

A summery, bright lager.
A summery, bright lager.

Steven Depolo

An entire brewery that specializes in crisp, summery beers might sound too good to be true after a sweltering day at Looking Glass , but you can find it right here in downtown Brevard. The family owned Brevard Brewing Company specializes in lagers—the cold fermented, german inspired beers that are light in color and huge in taste. You’ll find these brews nearly as refreshing as a dip in the  Hooker Falls swimming hole .

Come in for a White Squirrel Wit, served in a tall Pilsner glass with an orange wedge, or a Single Hop Pale Ale with notes of citrus, lemongrass, and pine. While there is no food offered, you are more than welcome to bring take-out from any of the nearby downtown restaurants.

4. The Square Root

Celebrating another adventure down at The Square Root.
Celebrating another adventure down at The Square Root.

Melina Coogan

Located in the heart of of downtown Brevard, The Square Root offers reasonably priced, freshly prepared american pub food. Exposed brick, high ceilings, and a gleaming, polished wood bar create a friendly, elegant atmosphere to enjoy a black bean burger and a beer. If you played extra hard that day, treat yourself to an appetizer of southern style fried green tomatoes.

Locals will agree that The Square Root is one of the most popular spots in town to meet up with friends after a day chasing waterfalls in DuPont. It’s open for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch; each menu offers a variety of entrees and lighter options.

5. Dolly’s Dairy Bar

Dolly’s is a Pisgah institution, a cornucopia of treats, the stuff of summer camp lore. Also, they rent river tubes.   After a demanding day on the sharp end at Cathey’s Creek Craig , be sure and preserve enough mental functioning for one last monumental decision: selecting from amongst the 100-plus flavors of ice cream, milk shakes, banana splits, sundaes, floats, dips, and freezes.

Taking full advantage of their primo location at the entrance to Pisgah, the good people at Dolly’s have concocted specialty flavor combos inspired by, and named after, the many adventures that can be found within the forest. Pay homage to your daring pursuits in the most delicious of ways. Dolly’s is not exactly anyone’s idea of a well-kept secret—and yes, the line can be long—but it is filled with people suspended between inner-tube day and ice cream cone evening. It’s a happy place.

6. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Excellent beer flights at Sierra Nevada Brewery.
Excellent beer flights at Sierra Nevada Brewery.

Melina Coogan

Located perfectly between Brevard and Asheville, Sierra Nevada may be the slickest, shiniest, and certainly the most enormous brewery experience of your life. The sprawling, 100% solar and water powered campus features multiple dining rooms, tasting rooms, bars, covered patios, and outdoor seating, along with complimentary brewery tours, corn toss, fire pits and an immaculate garden filled with sunflowers, herbs and organic produce. The visionaries behind this brand new Mills River location are wholly dedicated to providing visitors with excellent beers and an incomparable dining experience, and it’s evident in every last detail.

The stunning campus of the Sierra Nevada Brewery.
The stunning campus of the Sierra Nevada Brewery.

Melina Coogan

Once you’ve recovered from the site of this mammoth stone structure (which resembles a slightly more industrial Hogwarts) it’s time to find your place at the bar. The six dollar flights are a good bargain, and every single selection from the double sided beer menu is worth a taste, if not an entire pour.

Nothing revives the exhausted cyclist like a tangy pint of Hop Hunter IPA or the classic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. But a word to the wise: don’t come hungry unless you’re willing to shell out. Their constantly rotating, farm-to-table menu offers small plates and ‘shareables’ that are consistently innovative and delicious, but they’re not joking around- those plates are small. The typical adventurer, in ravenous post-Pisgah mode, may need three tiny artesian hamburgers to feel satisfied. At ten bucks a pop, it might be worth it to slam a power bar beforehand. Just a warning.


Written by Melina Coogan for RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Melina Coogan