The Best of Outdoors Asheville

Every month here at we try to introduce you to cool towns across the country that would fulfill any outdoor lover’s wish list. This month, it’s Asheville, N.C.:

Founded: 1883

Population: 83,000

Size: Approximately 40 square miles

Activities: Backpacking, canoeing, hiking, mountain biking, rafting, rock climbing, scenic touring, skiing/snowboarding

Why you should go: When it comes to outdoor recreation, Asheville has one of the best seats in the house. Hugged by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground, and visitors to the city have easy access to glorious hiking trails on the highest peaks in the East, to rugged mountain biking trails along Fontana Lake, and to fly fishing hot spots throughout the region. And the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just a short car ride away. For the more laid-back traveler, enjoy miles of scenic touring along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

When you should go: Asheville’s relatively mild year-round climate makes it an appealing outdoor destination twelve months a year, whether it’s to ski in January or to hike the area’s high peaks in June.

Must-see/do: For outstanding views and nature observations, take a 35-mile drive from downtown Asheville to the Black Mountains and, more specifically, to Mount Mitchell, the highest elevation point east of the Rocky Mountains (at 6,684 feet). The best times to visit are from May through October, when the temperatures are warmer (and even then, they tend to be cooler than the weather you experience in Asheville), and also to ensure that the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, which sometimes closes in parts due to weather, will be open.

Off the beaten path: Take a bike ride through Swannanoa Valley on Old Highway 70 to the small town of Black Mountain to explore all that the Appalachian area has to offer.