Two black bear cubs climb a tree

Have you heard about Bears Bees + Brews? This grassroots community project was founded when a local resident decided to do something about the heated issue of urban black bears in western North Carolina. This nonprofit project seeks to inspire people and raise awareness about wildlife conservation, in a fun and non-judgemental way. 

We had the opportunity to sit down with the founder, Roni Hidalgo, and learn a little more about the inception of Bears Bees + Brews and the fun events that they have planned. One event – Bear Banter + Brews is planned for this Saturday, June 1st at Upcountry Brewing. Frugal Backpacker will be participating by teaching a Leave No Trace workshop. 

A Movement is Born

Hidalgo moved to Asheville 4 years ago in search of a more peaceful and natural living environment.  She fell in love with the beautiful lush surroundings of WNC and its accessibility to nature and wildlife.  It was not long after moving to Asheville that she witnessed whole forests being leveled to make room for development.  This sparked a sense of urgency to get the community involved to help sustain our incredibly biodiverse surroundings.

“Raising awareness is key,” Hidalgo said.  “But doing it in fun and inspiring ways will help people interpret and digest information more effectively, and want to share it with others.”

Through the sharing of information, Hidalgo hopes her project will cultivate respect and compassion for bears and all wildlife.  Oftentimes, bears show up in our neighborhoods in search of food because their natural habitats are continuously being threatened by urban development and climate change.  Most negative bear encounters are easily prevented with the proper education.

Bears + Bees

The project also advocates for pollinators and habitat conservation as a whole.  

“Bears and bees is a name, but it also represents conservation of the full spectrum of wildlife, from big to small, from bears to bees,” Hidalgo said.  As bears, bees and all wildlife continuously face threats to their natural habitats, they need our support more than ever in order to survive.

By working to save other species, we are also saving ourselves.  This is especially true regarding native pollinators. About 90 percent of our food supply is a result of the work of pollinators, yet harmful pesticides that are contributing to their decline are still being used.   

How You Can Help

Bears Bees + Brews is fiscally sponsored project of Southern Conservation Partners, a nonprofit charitable organization.  Roni is seeking community sponsorships and donations to continue her work to provide free fun and educational conservation events throughout Asheville and WNC.  Visit to donate.

Find out more about how you can help wildlife, pollinators and support wildlife corridors at under “Take Action.”

Upcoming Events

Please come out to UpCountry Brewing Company this Saturday, June 1 for Bear Banter + Brews in celebration of National Black Bear Day.  The festivities start at 5:30 PM. Have fun while learning about wildlife conservation and how we can live harmoniously with urban black bears.  

Check out more upcoming events hosted by Bears Bees + Brews at

  • Bear Banter + Brews, June 1, Upcountry Brewing 5:30-11:00PM – Celebrating National Black Bear Day and conservation through fun live brewery talks from local wildlife biologists and experts.
  • Pollinators: Secret Superheroes, June 27, Asheville Masonic Temple 6PM – Partnering with Center for Honeybee Research, GreenWorks/Bee City USA Asheville, for an intimate, pollinator-dependent celebration dinner experience to raise awareness and honor our native pollinators. Visit: for more information.
  • Bears Bees + Brews Festival, October 19, New Belgium Brewery, 12-5PM A FREE conservation celebration that will bring over a dozen environmental and conservation organizations together to educate, engage, and entertain locals and visitors alike. Participating organizations and discussion topics include:
    • NPCA, Wildlands Network, and Great Smoky Mountain Association – discussing wildlife connectivity and how wildlife migration corridors can save the lives of humans and animals, and how to support them on a local level.
    • Friends of the Smokies – Promoting and protecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
    • NC Wildlife BearWise – discussing how to coexist happily with black bears and wildlife.
    • Center for HoneyBee Research and Bee City USA/Asheville – discussing conservation of bees and what to do to protect our native pollinators.
    • Asheville GreenWorks – discussing best tree practices and the importance of protecting WNC trees and forests.
    • Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy – discussing the importance of protecting the mountains of North Carolina (from the edge of Great Smoky National Park to the Highlands of Roan).
    • Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation – promoting the cultural and historical preservation, natural resources preservation, and educational outreach for Blue Ridge Parkway for future generations.

Submitted by Rosa Linda Fallon

As a family owned business, we believe in supporting the people who are working hard to make our communities better places. This holiday season, we’re excited to partner with two great organizations, Eblen Charities and Carolina High, to keep local families warm.

November 19th  –  December 25th  stop by either Frugal Backpacker location to donate a gently used coat. It’s the perfect way to use your holiday shopping for good, and as a thank you, we’ll give you a coupon for 20% off a new coat.  Read more about the organizations that your donations will benefit below.

Eblen Charities

If you’ve spent any time in the Asheville area, you’re no doubt familiar with Eblen Charities. For the last 27 years, they’ve offered crucial financial and practical assistance to local families dealing with difficult circumstances. As temperatures drop, their coat closet is vital to making sure many WNC residents are able to stay warm and healthy. All coats donated at the Asheville location of Frugal Backpacker will go to Eblen Charities.

In addition to collecting coats for Eblen Charities, Frugal Backpacker will be donating new clothing to support their numerous community outreach projects. On Tuesday, December 4th 20% of the day’s sales will be donated.

Carolina High

Nothing warms our hearts quite like stories about young people working hard to bring about change. After noticing that many of their classmates didn’t have access to quality clothing and footwear, seniors at Carolina High decided to launch a community closet as their senior project. The Carolina Closet makes clothing, footwear, toiletries, and food available to students and their families. Since the school has a 100% poverty index, these items are much needed, and are valuable to helping students thrive. All coats and footwear donated at the Greenville location of Frugal Backpacker will go to the Carolina Closet at Carolina High.

Thanks to your generosity, we collected over 500 coats last year. This year, we hope to be able to donate even more.

The 20-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail has brought boosted tourism to Greenville.

Greenville, S.C. is the perfect basecamp for countless mountain adventures. Located at the edge of the rain-soaked Blue Ridge Escarpment, where the famed mountain range tumbles low into the Piedmont, Greenville is near some of the most fertile waterfall hunting grounds in the southeast.

This mid-sized city of 65,000 is indeed an ideal choice for an active-minded weekend getaway from many Southeast hubs (it’s an easy drive from Charlotte, Charleston, Atlanta, and Asheville). In recent years, it has transformed itself from a sleepy Southern town to a vibrant community of outdoor-loving locals—starting with the remarkable restoration of the Reedy River, which flows through the heart of the city, its stunning cascades, and pedestrian-only bridge a stunning anchor for downtown. The Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 20-mile multi-use path anchors a cycling culture that invites every type of rider. And Greenville’s burgeoning culinary scene—with its European flair and sidewalk café culture—is just the way to toast a day full of adventure.

So here, we offer a few insider tips for an epic Greenville weekend getaway, with a suggested itinerary—though you’ll probably make plenty of discoveries of your own in this charming South Carolina town.


Greenville weekend getaway Swamp Rabbit Inn
The Swamp Rabbit Inn has a cheerful, cycling-centric vibe.

Blane Bachelor

Start the weekend off the right way and sneak out of work a couple hours early. Arrive in Greenville late on Friday afternoon and stop at your lodging. For your first visit, it’s a great idea to stay near the eminently walkable streets of downtown.

If there is any accommodation that exemplifies the flavor of Greenville, it’s the Swamp Rabbit Inn. A cozy, cheerful inn with a front porch full of rocking chairs and an interior designed entirely in Ikea, the b&b blends both quaint southern comfort and modern digs. Six animal-themed guestrooms offer conveniences like in-room coffeemakers and fluffy robes (though only two have in-room bathrooms). The inn offers bike rentals and is an easy walk (or bike ride) to Falls Park, the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and downtown dining. And innkeeper Wendy Lynam, a biking enthusiast who’s written a local guidebook on local routes, is always eager to help with suggestions.

Planning to bring your pooch along? The modern, brand-new Aloft hotel in downtown fully embraces the town’s dog-friendly philosophy. The hotel offers a pet package that includes toys, treats, dog bed, and bowl; adoption events are also regularly held in the lobby. Visitors of the two-legged persuasion will find games, a coffee and snack bar, and a full lounge on-site.

Greenville weekend getaway Hotel Domestique
A stay at Hotel Domestique is a must-do for any cycling enthusiast.

Courtesy of Hotel Domestique

Serious cyclists won’t want to miss a chance to stay at Hotel Domestique, a stunning, European-influenced property that’s the vision of 17-time Tour de France rider and Greenville local George Hincapie. The hotel is located in Travelers Rest, a charming town that’s an easy drive from downtown Greenville, but it’s perfectly located for epic rides through the mountains. Cycling packages and clinics are available, and Hincapie himself sometimes joins guests on rides (he’s a fixture on local roads, too, so keep an eye out for him).

After checking in, head downtown to Falls Park on the Reedy for sunset. Built along the rocky banks of the Reedy River, Falls Park is the beating heart of Greenville. The 345-foot, pedestrian-only suspension bridge over the river is a sign of the modernization that Greenville has invested in, and the tumbling cascades that anchor the park are a fitting backdrop for the town’s outdoorsy vibe.

Open spaces are an important tenet of Greenville's design
Open spaces are an important tenet of Greenville’s design

Rob Glover

It’s a quick walk between the park and The Playwright, a popular local watering hole. Everything in the Irish pub—from the bar rail to the woodwork to the etched Victorian glass that highlights each public-house booth—was handcrafted in Dublin and shipped to Greenville specifically for this space. There’s plenty of authentic Ireland on the menu, too: bangers and mash and a super-hearty lamb and Guinness pie. Speaking of the brown nectar, you won’t find a better pint poured this side of the pond.



Today’s a big day, you’ll need some quick energy. No one takes the art and science of coffee more seriously than the aptly named Methodical Coffee. Pair a locally made pastry with one of their pour-over javas.

Greenville weekend getaway Paris Mountain State Park
Whether riding or hiking, the trails at Paris Mountain State Park lead to many amazing spots.

South Carolina State Parks

Once properly caffeinated, lace up your hiking shoes and take a short drive to Paris Mountain State Park. In less than 20 minutes, you’ll be walking the beautifully maintained but secluded trails that wind over and around the park’s namesake peak. The park’s multi-purpose trail system offers some of the best mountain biking in the area, and it’s popular with local trail runners, too. Challenging elevation changes and multiple scenic lakes overlooks make a day at Paris Mountain both an invigorating physical workout and a restful mental retreat.

If you plan to ride singletrack at Paris Mountain or any of the parks near Greenville, a quick stop at the Sunshine Cycle Shop will provide all the biking beta you need for the area.


Saluda Lake is a hidden gem just a few miles from downtown Greenville
Saluda Lake is a hidden gem just a few miles from downtown Greenville

Upstate Paddleboards

Now that you’ve got in your cardio, it’s time for lunch and a relaxing float on Lake Saluda. Just about every weekend of good weather finds German-born Jan Mueller sharing his love of paddle sports here. His shop, Upstate Paddleboard, provides lessons from certified instructors as well as board and kayak rentals. The quiet waters of Lake Saluda and the gentle Saluda River that feeds it are a bit of a secret gem of the Upstate. Saluda Lake Landing, the launch site for Mueller’s trips, offers a simple but tasty selection of lunch favorites for a quick bite in between activities.

Like much of the Carolinas, the brewing scene around Greenville is hopping. A stop at Swamp Rabbit Brewery, located in Travelers Rest, nets a sample of some award-winning German-, Belgian-, and American-style ales. The simple, spacious digs of the brewery, including an outdoor patio, are just the spot to relax with a pint on a beautiful Carolina afternoon.

Once you’ve cleaned off the day’s adventure dust, it’s time to rally and hit the town. A quick walk up to Dark Corner Distillery is the perfect beginning to an evening’s exploration of downtown. Housed in a historic building with the original copper distilling system used to produce their early batches on display, Dark Corner is the place to learn the ins and outs of the craft. Tastings are $4 and include the shot glass.

The Dark Corner Distillery is an easy downtown stop to learn about the art of spirits crafting
The Dark Corner Distillery is an easy downtown stop to learn about the art of spirits crafting

Rob Glover

Main Street is lined with a fantastic collection of food options, each taking advantage of extra-wide sidewalks for dining al fresco. The Green Room, between North and Coffee Streets, serves top-notch pub grub. For a hungry adventurer, the meatloaf with a side of almost-over-the-top truffle fries is a pretty special experience.

For a lower-key exploration of European tastes, walk a few steps below Washington Street to the sub-level confines of the Trappe Door (reservations recommended). It’s a beer geek’s paradise, with a multi-page tome dedicated to the best and hardest-to-find Belgian and Trappist beers. A palate-cleansing Moscow mule is also highly recommended: Almost everything in the light, refreshing cocktail,  including the bitters and ginger soda, are made in-house. Mussels with a variety of sauces offer a tasty start to dinner, while entrees include local and Belgian-inspired favorites—think pan-seared salmon and sautéed duck breast in cherry beer sauce. You won’t have room for dessert but get the lemon crepe anyway. It’s large enough to share but the flavor is light enough to float over even the heartiest of sauces.


Enjoy a relaxing start to the day at Coffee Underground. The multi-purpose space pours delicious versions of all the coffee house favorites. If you need a super-sized antidote to the Trappist ales, the big-as-your-head cappuccino is served in what appears to be a mixing bowl with a handle. The Sunday brunch seating area, called the Red Room, is mercifully clad in dark and comforting colors. The menu includes huge omelets and fluffy French toast.


Named for the rail line on which it was built (which, in turn, was named for the indigenous animal), the Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail has been the impetus for a tourism surge in Greenville. Bike shops, restaurants, and even a brewery have benefited from the two-wheeled traffic the roughly 220-mile trail brings.

Grab your bike (another spot to check out is Pedal Chic, the country’s first women-specific cycling shop; rentals also are available) and head out on the trail. It has multiple access points, but it’s a cinch to hop on from your downtown lodging. Ride as far as you like and if you make it all the way to the end, hearty burgers and a healthy dose of Americana await at the Whistle Stop at the Café.

If you turn around before that, your last stop in Greenville should be Grill Marks. The comfy burger joint does it right: Large beef patties are wipe-your-hand juicy and come with a basket of fries plenty big enough for sharing. And for the sweetest possible ending to your weekend, order up a homemade salted caramel malt. Get it to go for the short ride back to Charlotte, or linger and start planning your next trip to Greenville.


Featured image provided by

Just out of frame to the left is the welcoming Spring Creek Tavern and Inn

On any given summer weekend in Hot Springs, North Carolina, pack-laden hikers and paddlers in wetsuits can be seen traversing the sidewalks of this tiny, no-traffic-light Appalachian Trail town, population 575. Acoustic music drifts from the open doors of taverns and the occasional train whistles echo through the valley.

Surrounded by Pisgah National Forest, Hot Springs is only about 25 miles (40 minutes) from Asheville, but it feels a world away. Adrenaline may be pumping on the Class III rapids of the French Broad River which runs through the center of town, but on the main drag, Bridge Street, the pace is nothing but a slow Southern town, with a certain mountain charm that has to be experienced to be understood.

Looking down at Hot Springs from Lover's Leap
Looking down at Hot Springs from Lover’s Leap

Joanne O’Sullivan

And it’s no surprise that people have been experiencing this place for over a century. The mineral springs, for which the town is named, first brought tourists here in the 1880’s, but it’s the Appalachian Trail, which literally runs down the main street here, that has given Hot Springs a reputation as an outdoor destination.

As a home base for exploring the river, the national forest, or the many nearby trails, Hot Springs has everything you need. Here are the essentials for a Hot Springs visit:

Fuel Up 

Considering the size of the town, there is an impressive number of places to eat in Hot Springs. The Spring Creek Tavern describes itself as ‘hiker friendly,’ (which means they don’t mind if you smell like sweat and dirty socks), and with 12 beers on tap as well as excellent pub standards like burgers and wraps, it’s a great place to refuel. The covered deck next to the creek has prime seating and is usually full on weekend nights. Just next door, Still Mountain Restaurant and Tavern has more of a bar-pub feel and menu, and they often have musical acts playing into the night on their outdoor patio.

If you really clean up well, Mountain Magnolia Inn is primarily a romantic B &B, but it’s also an upscale restaurant with amazing views and is open to the public.

Get Out There 

The French Broad River next to Hot Springs
The French Broad River next to Hot Springs

David Wilson

There are about a dozen rafting concessions near Hot Springs, including an outpost of the  Nantahala Outdoor Center, Blue Heron Whitewater, and Hot Springs Rafting Co. Each outfitter offers something a little different: some offer kayaks, canoes, and funyaks, some offer tubes, with guided and self-guided trips depending on the area of the river (the French Broad near Hot Springs has everything from Class I to Class IV). You can, of course, bring your own gear and check out the shuttles offered by Bluff Mountain Outfitters.

If you’re seeking a hike, the Appalachian Trail runs down the sidewalk in Hot Springs then back into Pisgah National Forest, but there are plenty of other local trails, depending on what you’re interested in. If Bluff Mountain is closed, the local library has plenty of information. One of the most popular hikes in Western North Carolina is just 20 minutes from town at Max Patch, a Southern Appalachian bald with 360-degree views and great picnic opportunities.

Wind Down

After a long day on the trail or fighting the rapids, the outdoor mineral baths at Hot Springs Resort and Spa might be just what you’re looking for. The tubs are spaced far enough apart to allow for privacy, and the optional spa services menu includes everything from integrative massage to hot stone and mud bath therapies. The resort also has tent and RV camping sites along the river, plus cabins.

If you’d rather unwind with a drink, Iron Horse Station might be more your speed. The restaurant and tavern offer a varied menu, wine, beer, and acoustic music. It’s located in a historic building across from the railroad track and there are upscale hotel rooms located upstairs.

Bunk Down

Hot Springs Cabin
Hot Springs Cabin

David Wilson

In addition to the other lodging options mentioned, there are a number of local campgrounds. Appalachian Trail hikers favor the Sunnybank Inn, operated by Elmer Hall, a man who has hosted hikers for over 30 years. If you’ll be heading toward Max Patch and want a more private retreat, try Kana’Ti Lodge, a small eco-lodge with spectacular surroundings.

If you’re looking for a perfect outdoor weekend getaway in the southeast, Hot Springs should definitely be at the top of your list. 


Featured image provided by David Wilson

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 cranksets. You and your bike will finish the day tuned up, chilled out, and brimming with the 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 backward.) 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 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 Crag, be sure and preserve enough mental functioning for one last monumental decision: selecting from amongst the 100-plus flavors of ice cream, milkshakes, banana splits, sundaes, floats, dips, and freezes.

Taking full advantage of their prime 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. A 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.


Featured image provided by Melina Coogan

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.

Drop by Footsloggers, a downtown gear shop, and guide service, to pick up a guidebook or get some beta from a staff member. They will probably point you 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. Before heading towards the trails, stop and see our friends at Hatchet Coffee to try whatever unique drinks they’ve whipped up!

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 historic 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. The fine people at Sunrift Adventures just across the street will be happy to recommend their 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 the 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 cater specifically to adventure enthusiasts such as yourself.


Written by Melina Coogan for RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Caleb Forbes

Even after 54 years, the spirit of the mountains we call home continues to amaze. We issued a challenge to collect 300 coats during our annual Bundle Up for Good coat drive for Eblen Charities. You helped us blow past that goal by donating 503 quality coats for those in our community who need them most, just as the lowest temperatures of winter hit.

During November and December, we joined with Diamond Brand Outdoors and our customers to collect coats, hats, and gloves for the third year in row. Thanks for showing us the great things that can happen when we all join forces to strengthen our community!

We’re local and we like to support local groups doing awesome things to make our little corner of the world a better place. Call it civic pride or mountain spirit, but we think it’s the right thing to do. When you choose an independent, small business like ours, you not only enjoy a more personal experience, you’re helping build community, strengthen our local economy, create jobs, and shape Western North Carolina’s character. In 2017, we were able to support more than 60 organizations with over $70,000 in cash and in-kind donations.

If you didn’t get a chance to drop off any items, you can support Eblen Charities with a donation or as a volunteer.

Eblen Charities is a non-profit organization whose outreach extends throughout the counties of Western North Carolina and through its numerous programs has helped thousands upon thousand of families each year with medical and emergency assistance through more than 70 programs yearly throughout the region.


Last year, you helped us get over 200 coats to those in our community who need them most. This year, we’ve set a goal of 300 coats for Eblen Charities and you can score a discount for doing good.

November 12-December 24, you’ll receive 20% off an item for bringing in a gently used coat. (There’s a limit of one discount per person during the length of this promotion.) You can drop off a coat at Frugal Backpacker or either Diamond Brand location. You’ll only be able to use the discount on one item, but if you’d like to bring in multiple coats during the drive, that’s awesome! We’re also not allowed to discount certain items like gift cards.

Eblen Charities is a non-profit organization whose outreach extends throughout the counties of Western North Carolina and through its numerous programs has helped thousands upon thousand of families each year with medical and emergency assistance through more than 70 programs yearly throughout the region.


asheville coat drive eblen charities diamond brand outdoorsThanks for helping us collect over 200 coats for Eblen Charities. As the lowest temperatures of winter hit the mountains, they’ll make sure they make it to those in our community who need them the most.

During November and December, we joined with Diamond Brand Outdoors and our customers to collect coats, hats, and gloves for the second year in row. Thanks for showing us the great things that can happen when we all join forces to strengthen our community!

If you didn’t get a chance to drop off any items, you can support Eblen Charities with a donation or as a volunteer.

Eblen Charities is a non-profit organization whose outreach extends throughout the counties of Western North Carolina and through its numerous programs has helped thousands upon thousand of families each year with medical and emergency assistance through more than 70 programs yearly throughout the region.


asheville coat drive diamond brand outdoors eblen charities

Last year, you helped us get over 400 coats to those in our community who need them most. This year, we’ve set a goal of 450 coats for Eblen Charities and you can score a discount for doing good.

November 19-December 24, you’ll receive 20% off an item for bringing in a gently used coat. (There’s a limit of one discount per person during the length of this promotion.) You can drop off a coat at either Diamond Brand location or Frugal Backpacker. You’ll only be able to use the discount on one item, but if you’d like to bring in multiple coats during the drive, that’s awesome! We’re also not allowed to discount certain items like YETI, GoPro, gift cards, and boats.

Eblen Charities is a non-profit organization whose outreach extends throughout the counties of Western North Carolina and through its numerous programs has helped thousands upon thousand of families each year with medical and emergency assistance through more than 70 programs yearly throughout the region.

Eblen Charities Asheville