The journey through Appalachia is nothing short of breathtaking. Its the ideal drive for those who love hiking, folk art, or just a stunning view. So relax, breathe in the cool mountain air, and enjoy a moment of peace.
Theres a reason Asheville, NC has been called a new age Mecca, but its a city steeped in history as well. Some of the most impressive and recognizable homes in America are located here.
Return to the Gilded Age at the Biltmore House (1 Approach Rd.). Once owned by George Vanderbilt, with 250-rooms it is still the countrys largest house. If the weather cooperates, explore the 8, 000-acre estate on horseback, carriage, or bicycle, or float down the French Broad River by kayak or guided raft.
Literary buffs can tour the childhood home of novelist Thomas Wolfe (52 N. Market St.). Tickets to this Old Kentucky boarding house are only a dollar for adults and 50 cents for students. If you feel like shopping, Asheville offers many boutiques, galleries, and antique stores right downtown. Bring home some local art from 16 Patton (16 Patton Ave.) or Blue Spiral 1 (38 Biltmore Ave.), the citys largest gallery. When hunger strikes, theres organic fare, vegetarian cuisine, or good ol fashion Carolina barbecue to sedate it. Little Pigs BBQ (384 McDowell St.) and Barbecue Inn (1341 Patton Ave.) are local favorites known for their home-style cooking. Gorge yourself on tender pork, beef ribs, Brunswick stew, or Carolinas famous fried chicken. Dont forget the hushpuppies and slaw!
When youve had your fill of Ashevilles southern hospitality, its time to hit the road! Follow I-40 E until it merges with US-70 E, turning left at US-221. Youll drive straight through Pisgah National Forest, where visitors can camp, picnic, fish, hunt, rock climb basically, its a nature-lovers paradise. This route will take you to Banner Elk, NC in the center of the High Country. The city is called the southern ski capitol and is a popular offseason destination for cycling enthusiasts. Feeling brave? Take a stroll across the 228-foot swinging bridge at nearby Grandfather Mountain.
Taking a southwestern detour, stop off at the Roan Highlands for some of the most spectacular hiking in the East. The massif stretches 20 miles from Big Rock Creek to US-19 and is made up of five mountain peaks. The Appalachian Trail intersects the western slope for about seven miles. Hike above the tree line until youre ready to continue to Johnson City.
Just 40 minutes to the northwest by Cherokee National Forest, the town was founded in 1856 as a railroad station. Its a cultural haven: each spring, it hosts the Little Chicago Blues Festival and every summer the Blue Plum Festival. Catch a show at the Blue Moon Dinner Theater (215 E. Main St.) and enjoy a meal of classic comfort foods like corn chowder and holiday roast. For a slice of history, Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site (2620 S. Roan St.) is a must-see. The 11-building settlement centered around the log cabin of Colonel John Tipton brings visitors back to Tennessees Civil War era.
If youre still up for adventure, swing by the Doe River Gorge on the return trip. Its located in Carter, TN and a popular tourist destination, where tourists hike through a network of abandoned railroad tunnels.
Over one hundred miles of mountain ridges, forestry, scenic views, outdoor activities, folk art, and southern charm. It may be a tiring trip but I can understand if you dont want to leave.