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5 Romantic Hikes Near Asheville

When you live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet with fantastic access to the outdoors, top restaurants, and every type of art there is, for something romantic that’s different from your weekly routine is easy: take a hike!

Melina Coogan

A winter hike offers many rewards for you and your favorite explorer. You’ll appreciate the refreshing temperatures as you climb a mountainside. Many times, you’ll have the trail all to yourself since there are fewer fellow hikers. The best views of the year are on display thanks to leafless trees and deep blue skies. While the higher peaks see snow, valleys have mild winter days perfect to get outdoors. Plus, no bugs mean you’re free to hold hands or snuggle.

Here are five great winter hikes that are close to home:

Lover’s Leap

While most of the Appalachian Trail is too remote for winter hikes, you can easily take a “walk in the woods” in this section in Hot Springs. The trail runs along Main Street, so just park and start your hike there. Cross the French Broad River and climb the ridge up to several outcrops for views across the valley and river. On the way back on the 1.5-mile round trip hike, stop for a soak in the hot mineral springs or enjoy one of the restaurants in this charming mountain town.

Deep Creek Waterfalls

One of the busiest camping and tubing areas of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the summer, Deep Creek is a lower elevation trail that receives little snow. To see three frozen waterfalls, you have the option of 2.4-mile or 5-mile roundtrip hiking routes. Plenty of seating means you can take your time on this hike that’s just three miles from downtown Bryson City.

Rattlesnake Lodge

While the name may cause hesitation, this 3-mile roundtrip hike is a local favorite on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Hike the former carriage road up the ridge to the ruins of an early 1900s summer retreat. February is the perfect time to visit since you can more easily find the stone foundations of many buildings.

Bearwallow Mountain

Just 19 miles from Asheville is a short hike that rewards with 360-degree views from a treeless summit on the western rim of the Hickory Nut Gorge. Cattle often graze on top, but they will gladly share the meadow with you for a picnic by the historic lookout tower. Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy recently protected the mountain and built the 1-mile trail for all to enjoy. The uphill climb will quickly warm you up!

Mountains-to-Sea Trail at the Folk Art Center

You don’t even have to leave the city of this one! Hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway and follow the signs to the Visitor Center or the Folk Art Center (the trail starts at one and ends at the other). If you want a walk of 5.5 miles, then make it an out and back. If you want a shorter walk, just park a car at each end. This walk is a perfect blend of urban and rural coexistence with lots of features: two tunnels, a bridge over the Swannanoa River, steps, an overpass over US 70, walk under a BRP viaduct, an open field with a picturesque barn, and maybe cows.

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Featured image provided by Melina Coogan

Winter Hiking in the North Carolina Mountains

A brisk trek with friends is one of our favorite activities during the season of staying inside. When a sunny day shines down between bouts of frosty mornings and blustery afternoons, it’s a great time to explore new trails that are harder to access during the warmer months. It’s the perfect prescription to warm you up on those chilly, gloomy days!

As a kid, winter is the season of finding the best spot for sledding, snowball throwing, and snow fort building quicker than anyone else. As an adult, it can be making fresh tracks in the snow or avoiding mud puddles as you check out a view usually obscured by leaves during the spring and summer. There are also few sights that compare to a frozen mountain waterfall and one of the coolest sights to be seen in WNC: needle ice.

There are plenty of rewards to a winter hike including refreshing temperatures, fewer fellow hikers, and endless views of deep blue skies. While higher elevations typically see snow, the valleys around Asheville are usually clear and great on mild days. The North Carolina Arboretum is a great place to explore during these months as sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway are often inaccessible since it’s never treated or plowed.

As with any season, it’s best to be prepared when heading out for a hike of any length. Trail-tested essentials to keep in your daypack year round are water bottles, trekking poles, snacks, first aid kit, and whistle. A headlamp and a rain jacket are also imperative if you like to enjoy too-beautiful-to-miss sunsets or make a wrong turn. This is one season you can leave the insect repellant at home.

With heavier used trails, winter hiking can present packed snow turned slick or slushy mud. Consult with a footwear expert at Frugal Backpacker to choose footwear based on expected trail conditions. Winter hikers usually have better grip and sturdy ankle support. A good pair of hiking boots – no matter the season – provide great piece of mind.

Even though the days seem shorter, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy an afternoon or weekend hike and come back home for a warm bowl of chili or cup of tea. Layer up and get outdoors!

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Donate Your Eclipse Glasses

As Monday’s total solar eclipse passed through Western North Carolina, it offered a rare moment for friends and families to collectively enjoy an unique outdoors experience. In the days leading up to the big event, eclipse glasses were the hottest item in town. Now that the event has passed, we’re collecting your used eclipse glasses and donating them to Astronomers Without Borders and local schools. The glasses do not need to be those sold by Frugal Backpacker.

Bring in your solar eclipse glasses by Monday, August 28, and we’ll give you a coupon for $5 off any purchase of $20 or more. Astronomers Without Borders has announced a program to collect the used glasses and distribute them to schools in South American and parts of Asia, which will experience their own eclipses in 2019.

Since we’re local, we’re also working with local school systems interested in used glasses for astronomy activities and experiments. If you’re an interested local educator, shoot us an email.

The lenses on eclipse glasses expire after three years, meaning they’re not safe to use when the next solar eclipse moves through eastern Canada, the central United States, and part of Mexico in 2024. Many locals are framing or preserving them as souvenirs of the celestial experience. Paper frames can be recycled, but you’ll need to remove the lenses. Specialty recyclers like camera stores may accept solar filters for recycling. Glasses with plastic frames are likely not recyclable.

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Your Total Solar Eclipse Checklist

Your opportunity to experience a rare total solar eclipse in western North Carolina arrives on Monday, August 21. To make sure you’re prepared and packed for totality, the experts at Frugal Backpacker have assembled this helpful checklist. For more on what to expect, check out Everything You Need to Know About August’s Total Solar Eclipse.

Click here for a printer-friendly PDF version of this checklist.

What to Do Now for the Total Solar Eclipse

  • Select the best location and route for viewing the eclipse based on accessibility, weather forecast, and the time of day the path of totality will pass through the area. Many prime viewing spots require tickets or have a capacity cap in place for the day, so do your homework.
  • Select an alternate location and route. 64,000 tourists are expected to visit the mountains for the eclipse.
  • Book lodging close to your primary viewing location. Hotel rooms, campsites, and cabins are going fast!
  • Build your total solar eclipse viewing kit. (See the bottom of this post for a checklist.)
  • Purchase your eclipse viewing glasses at Diamond Brand Outdoors. We’ve ordered a lot, but they’re going fast!
  • Use an app, website, or book to find out which bright stars and planets you can expect to see during the totality, impressing your friends and kids!

What to Do the Week of the Total Solar Eclipse

  • Test all of your equipment by doing a “dry run.” Nothing’s worse than having a faulty camera when the big event gets underway!
  • Pack your total solar eclipse viewing kit and camping kit.
  • Review the eclipse timing and weather forecasts for your primary and alternate viewing locations.

What to Do the Day of the Total Solar Eclipse

  • Check the weather forecast.
  • Leave early for your viewing location.
  • Claim your spot by setting up chairs and viewing equipment, but remember to be a good neighbor so others may enjoy the experience.
  • Test your equipment.
  • Enjoy the day with your friends and family. The time of totality will be brief, but the experience leading up and following the first total solar eclipse in western North Carolina since 1506 will lead to storied memories for years to come.

Total Solar Eclipse Viewing Kit Checklist

  • WNC + NATIONAL PARK MAPS: Cell towers will likely be overloaded, so don’t rely on an app.
  • ECLIPSE VIEWING GLASSES: You must have these for direct solar viewing. They’re inexpensive and available now.
  • HAT: To protect your head from the sun while you wait for the main event.
  • SUNGLASSES: NOT to look at the sun, but to cut down on the glare when you’re looking everywhere else.
  • PORTABLE PHONE CHARGER: Make sure you’ll be able to document the day through photos and videos.
  • CAMPING CHAIRS + TABLES: Get yourself a chance to stake your claim to watch and rest after the excitement!
  • BLANKETS: No matter where you’re watching, blankets keep things cleaner. Bring more than you think you need.
  • COOLER: You’ll likely get to your viewing area hours before the eclipse. Drinks, lunch, and snacks are a must!
  • DRINKWARE + WATER BOTTLES: Insulated cups and tumblers keep your drinks cold (or hot), don’t sweat, and are reusable.
  • HEADLAMP OR FLASHLIGHT: Since you’ll be looking up, this is primarily for emergencies. Use the red setting instead of white.
  • COMPASS: There’s plenty of information online that will tell you exactly where to look as totality begins.
  • CAMERA: This is one of the times you may want a nicer camera than you’ll find on your phone.
  • CELL PHONE: Coverage may be too spotty for weather and GPS, but your clock and camera will still work.
  • WATER: Always stay hydrated, whether the sun is shining or not.
  • SUNSCREEN: Always a good idea when you’ll be outside for any period of time.
  • INSECT REPELLENT: Another good idea anytime you’re heading into the outdoors.
  • OUTDOOR GAMES: Help pass the time and enjoy some relaxation with friends and family.
  • HAMMOCK: If you’ve got space to set up an ENO hammock or WindPouch, laying down is a great way to watch.
  • ELECTRICAL TAPE: Some folks don’t know how to turn off their camera’s flash. Be prepared to help them out.
  • CAMPING KIT (OPTIONAL): Traveling the day before or staying overnight after the eclipse helps avoid traffic and can be fun!
    • TENT
    • SLEEPING BAG FOR EACH CAMPER
    • LANTERN
    • SLEEPING PAD FOR EACH CAMPER
    • PILLOWS
    • TARPS
    • STOVE + FUEL
    • MATCHES
    • FRYING PAN + POT
    • CUTTING BOARD + KNIFE
    • SPONGE, SOAP, + BIN FOR WASHING DISHES
    • PAPER TOWELS
    • FIREWOOD (IF ALLOWED)
    • ROASTING STICKS FOR S’MORES + HOT DOGS
    • BEAR KEG
    • ICE
    • TRASH BAGS
    • FIRST AID KIT
    • CORKSCREW

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Win a Pair of KEEN Shoes, Sandals, or Boots

We hear people like free stuff so we’re giving away more of it this year! Make sure you’re signed up for our super duper fly emails to make sure you don’t miss any contests.

KEEN is one of our favorite outdoor brands. Not only do they make pioneering, quality footwear, they also believe we should all live and work monumental every day. Like other Going Further brands, KEEN strives to reduce the company’s impact on the environment, protect the places where we play, and give back to communities in need.

We’ve partnered with KEEN to give away a pair of shoes in August. You can choose from any pair in stock at Frugal Backpacker orDiamond Brand Outdoors. You can also chat with one of their experts at the Asheville Outdoor Show on September 17 to learn their evolving story, from the iconic Newport sandal to the Terradora hiker.

Introducing KEEN Terradora

From off-the-grid trails to urban hiking on city streets, women on a journey know that the right shoe makes all the difference. That’s why our Terradora shoe has an uncompromising focus on fit. It’s about biomechanics, and an evolution in women-specific performance footwear. And with the streamlined design, progressive style and color palette, it pairs as well with jeans as it does with technical outerwear.

  • WOMEN’S-SPECIFIC FIT

    Designed for a woman’s foot, with a glove-like fit and a cushioned panel to take pressure off the Achilles.

  • HILL PERFORMANCE

    Get the best of both worlds: efficiency and speed on uphill climbs, cushion and protection on the way back down.

  • IMMEDIATE COMFORT

    Lightweight, flexible construction and a lower collar height encourage freedom of movement without sacrificing support.

Win Passes to The Gorge in Saluda, NC

We hear people like free stuff so we’re giving away more of it this year! Make sure you’re signed up for our super duper fly emails to make sure you don’t miss any contests. This month, we’ve got an awesome package from two western North Carolina Originals: The Gorge and WNCW.

THIS CONTEST HAS ENDED

Touted as “America’s steepest, fastest” zipline canopy tour, The Gorge offers 11 lines spanning over one mile that descend 1,100 vertical feet for a wild ride. It’s a great view of North Carolina’s Green River Gorge, high above the treetops. Like Diamond Brand Outdoors (our parent company), The Gorge was voted Best of the Blue Ridge by readers of Blue Ridge Outdoors.

You’ll also receive of a pair of WNCW Gear Packages: an insulated string bag, handmade mug, and earbuds!

On Oct. 13, 1989, radio station WNCW, whose call letters stand for Western North Carolina Window, first signed on the air as a a public radio station “for everyone.” Since that time, the station has become synonymous with the region it covers, programming a variety of music — folk, blues, jazz, reggae, Celtic, world, rock, bluegrass, indie — and local and National Public Radio affiliated news. It provides distinctive programming that transcends cultural, educational, or socioeconomic differences.

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Nearly 50% Off Kelty Tents

FLASH SALE: Save big on the Kelty Gunnison family of tents on Friday, May 5!

For a limited time, score the Kelty Gunnison 1.3, 2.3, 3.3, or 4.3 for nearly 50% off MSRP. The Kelty Gunnison family of tents offer ample space and great design that perform like a champ in the backcountry or while car camping. Ready to take on three seasons, these tents offer the convenience of compact folding poles along with a footprint that prevents wear. Featuring two D-style doors with vestibules for easy entry, innovative hug clips for simple setup, and door storage pockets to hold the gear you need fast, sleeping out with a friend will be twice the good times. (The first number following the tent refers to the number of people it can fit, hiwle the second indicates it’s a three season tent.)

  • Kelty Gunnison 1.3 NOW $89 (was $169.95)
  • Kelty Gunnison 3.3 NOW $129 (was $249.95)
  • Kelty Gunnison 4.3 NOW $150 (was $289.95)

Features:

  • Backpack friendly compact folding poles
  • Roll top cube carry bag
  • Easy set up
  • Free standing
  • Kelty hug clip
  • Easy entry D door
  • Color coded clip and fly attachment
  • Fully seam taped construction
  • Internal storage pockets
  • Gearloft loops
  • Awning vestibule
  • Door storage pockets
  • Footprint included

backpacking_highalpine_fmarmsaterphoto_ex9_17-0623

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3 Tips for the Stargazing Beginner

Photo: Jack Schroeder

Western North Carolina is renowned as a haven of outdoor beauty. Our night skies are no exception; Asheville’s relatively low level of light pollution and easy access to the Blue Ridge Parkway make it an ideal spot for seeking fantastic views of the night sky.

If you’re looking to expand your outdoor hobbies, give stargazing a go. It’s a low-key way to enjoy our outdoor paradise, is equally fun solo or with a group, can be enjoyed regardless of your fitness level, and doesn’t require a large investment to try.

Get started frugally. You don’t have to shell out big bucks for a fancy telescope to enjoy stargazing. In fact, you can see objects up to 2.5 million lightyears away without any equipment at all. To get started with minimal investment, purchase a star chart (great options are available for under $20) and head to a dark spot on the Parkway (check out some of our fav spots below). You’ll be surprised at what you can see!

Get help from experts. Most amateur astronomers are enthusiastic about their passion and happy to help new comers. Join one of the group star gazes hosted by Astronomy Club of Asheville or one of the many public events hosted by UNCA at the Lookout Observatory. This can be a great way to learn more about what you’re observing and make connections.

Ready for a better view? You can purchase an excellent pair of binoculars for a much smaller investment than a mediocre telescope and their versatility and ease of operation make them ideal for beginners. Added bonus, they’re a breeze to throw in your pack for incredible views on a nighttime hike.

Great Places to Go:

Blue Ridge Star Park and Observatory– Spruce Pine, NC Recognized by the International Dark Sky Association as a dark-sky place.

Mt. Pisgah Trailhead (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 407.6)

Stoney Bald Overlook (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 402.6)

Tanbark Ridge Overlook (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 376.7)

Craggy Dome Overlook (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 364.1)

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WNC Trail Triple Crown Challenge

We’ve partnered with our friends at Asheville Trails and Diamond Brand Outdoors for the WNC Trail Triple Crown Challenge.

Visit Frugal Backpacker or any Diamond Brand Outdoors location to check out the awesome new Asheville Trails kiosks with dozens of local trails. We believe the outdoors are for everyone of all abilities, so you’ll find lots of good stuff at the kiosk, like directions and insider tips on easy, moderate, and difficult hikes of varying distance. Find a trail you like, and then snap a picture of the info sheet with your phone. And then visit the Asheville Trails website to get driving directions and more trail info.

Hit any three trails from the displays during April and we’ll give you 20% off up to five items, plus a free Asheville Trails sticker! Just post a pic to Instagram while you’re on the trail, tag both @frugal_backpacker and @ashevilletrails, and use the hashtag #WNC3C.

Once you’ve hiked three of the trails, return to Frugal Backpacker or any Diamond Brand Outdoors location to receive your discount. A team member will take a look a look at your tagged photos — which we’d probably like to share on our feed if you give us permission!

Discount cannot be used for gift cards, boats, or special orders. See store for any other exclusions.

Winter Hiking in the North Carolina Mountains

It may be a little hard to imagine layering up for a winter hike with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve seen over the past few weeks, but a chilly trek with friends is one of my favorite activities during the season of staying inside. When a sunny day shines down between bouts of frosty mornings and blustery afternoons, it’s a great time to explore new trails that are harder to access during the warmer months. It’s the perfect prescription to warm you up on those chilly, gloomy days!

As a kid, winter is the season of finding the best spot for sledding, snowball throwing, and snow fort building quicker than anyone else. As an adult, it can be making fresh tracks in the snow or avoiding mud puddles as you check out a view usually obscured by leaves during the spring and summer. There are also few sights that compare to a frozen mountain waterfall and one of the coolest sights to be seen in WNC: needle ice.

There are plenty of rewards to a winter hike including refreshing temperatures, fewer fellow hikers, and endless views of deep blue skies. While higher elevations typically see snow, the valleys around Asheville are usually clear and great on mild days. The North Carolina Arboretum is a great place to explore during these months as sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway are often inaccessible since it’s never treated or plowed.

As with any season, it’s best to be prepared when heading out for a hike of any length. Trail-tested essentials to keep in your daypack year round are water bottles, trekking poles, snacks, first aid kit, and whistle. A headlamp and a rain jacket are also imperative if you like to enjoy too-beautiful-to-miss sunsets or make a wrong turn. This is one season you can leave the insect repellant at home.

With heavier used trails, winter hiking can present packed snow turned slick or slushy mud. Consult with one of our footwear experts to choose footwear based on expected trail conditions. Winter hikers usually have better grip and sturdy ankle support. A good pair of hiking boots – no matter the season – provide great piece of mind.

Even though it seems like spring has come early, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy an afternoon or weekend hike and come back home for a warm bowl of chili or cup of tea. Layer up and get outdoors.

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Events

Asheville Outdoor Show 2018

Stay tuned for BIG changes to this one-of-a-kind community driven event celebrating all things outdoors! There will still be plenty of local gear makers and national innovators showcasing the latest trends in outdoor recreation, but you’ll find far more diverse offerings of interactive demos, educational workshops, and informative speakers.

Check out pictures from last year!

RSVP ON FACEBOOK

Kids are welcome at this free public event. There’s even an awesome Family Adventure Zone!