Tuesday, July 14, 2020 Edition: U.S. & World | Regional

12 Cool Things to Do in the North Carolina Mountains

The North Carolina mountains are dotted with cool towns that welcome visitors with charming downtowns, exciting outdoor adventures, and rich historical sites. North Carolina is home to many mountain ranges including the Black Mountains, Great Smoky Mountains, Great Balsam Mountains, Plott Balsams, and the Unaka Range. Each mountain range is unique and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to explore the beautiful natural surroundings and welcoming atmosphere in small towns across the state.


Here are 12 cool things to do in the North Carolina Mountains:


1    Travel The Road to Nowhere

The Road to Nowhere really does exist and it can be found a few miles outside of Bryson City, NC. This road is six miles long and it ends abruptly at a tunnel inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The journey does not end there as people can continue to walk through the tunnel. Before leaving the park, everyone has to stop to see at least one of the magnificent waterfalls.
Travel The Road To Nowhere
2    Celebrate the Highland Games

Every year during the month of July, the Highland Games annual Scottish Festival is held up on Grandfather Mountain. People can experience everything from sheep herding to a footrace that is five miles long and goes 1,568 feet in elevation. There is also music, children’s activities, a Scottish cultural village, and Highland dance competitions.
Celebrate The Highland Games
3    Explore Biltmore Estate

George Vanderbilt decided in 1888 that the Blue Ridge Mountains were the perfect spot for his Biltmore Estate and construction began in 1889. Everyone can go on a self-guided tour of the house that includes three floors and the basement. There are displays of vintage clothing, furniture, art, and more that tells the history of the Vanderbilt family as well as their guests and employees. There are multiple trails on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate and people are encouraged to walk them at their own pace.
Explore Biltmore Estate
4    Visit The Orchard

The Orchard at AltaPass is along a crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and everyone can enjoy live mountain music while visiting Wednesdays through Sundays. There are numerous hiking trails, guided walks, children’s activities, a butterfly exhibit, garden, and hayrides complete with stories. Before leaving the orchard, guests may want to stop in the country store to purchase some fudge or a souvenir or two.
Visit The Orchard
5    Race Down a Zipline

Sky Valley Ziplines are up in the Blue Ridge Mountains and guests are transported to the ziplines by ATV. Once the zipline journey begins, guests will find themselves racing across 1,600 feet of zipline at three hundred feet above the valley. There are nine ziplines on the course along with cliff jumping, a swinging bridge, and waterfalls.
Race Down A Zipline
6    Horn in the West

No one should be in North Carolina and not see the Horn in the West performance. The premiere performance was in 1952 and the play has continuously been performed six nights a week from late June until the middle of August ever since. During the season, the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum is also open before the performances.
Horn In The West
7    Old Time General Store

The Mast General Store was established in 1883 and it still sells supplies to those who enter the store. The store is on the National Register of Historic Places, which makes it a must-see destination while in the North Carolina mountain area.
Old Time General Store
8    Visit Linville Caverns

There may be caverns and caves all over the world, but in North Carolina there is only one cavern. At Linville Caverns, visitors get to explore the natural limestone cavern that features stalactite and stalagmite formations plus an underground stream.
Visit Linville Caverns
9    Pan for Gold and Gems

Emerald Village is only three miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway and people can pan for gold, search for gems, explore museums, and shop in the quaint little gift shops.
Pan For Gold And Gems
10    Cherokee Indian Village

The Oconaluftee Indian Village gives visitors a glimpse into the past. This village is modeled after one that existed more than 225 years ago. Actual Cherokee guides share the history, culture, and lifestyle of their ancestors with visitors and there is even a seven-sided Council House and typical Cherokee homes that people can see.
Cherokee Indian Village
11    White Water Rafting

The Nantahala River Gorge is a spectacular way to see the Nantahala River. More adventurous people will tackle the river in kayaks or on a white water rafting trip while others can view the rapids from on top of the wooden walkway.
White Water Rafting
12    Hike The Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is the coolest thing to do in the North Carolina Mountains or any other mountains that it crosses through. The entire trail is 2,160 miles long and only a small portion of that is in North Carolina. Any time a person completes a small section of this trail, they can still say that they have successfully hiked the Appalachian Trail to all of their friends.
Hike The Appalachian Trail


There’s plenty of cool things to see and do in the North Carolina mountains. Small town charm, outdoor adventure, art, history – you’ll find it here! The views from the top are extraordinary, but a person does not need to climb that high to have fun on any of the mountains in the area.


  1. Jerry
    September 5, 2017 - 1:45 am

    I love going to the mountains, and have two friends who are mountain enthusiasts too. We all visited the North Carolina mountains – Zipline and Appalachian trail. It was hectic but enjoyable to hike the Appalachian Trail because of the hundred of miles in North Carolina.

  2. Gift
    September 5, 2017 - 11:36 am

    The North Carolina Mountains looks detailed in this piece. But I’m not getting something here.
    I thought the Travel to Nowhere would be one endless cave. How come it leads to a tunnel?

  3. Halyna R.
    September 5, 2017 - 12:06 pm

    I have a huge appreciation for historical preservation and reenactment, and North Carolina mountain area sure offers a lot of that. I wouldn’t know what place to visit first. I’d definitely like to find out more about the Cherokee Indian Village. It sounds like visiting it would be the most culturally enriching experience because you get to find out about the history of this place from the actual descendants of people who lived there two hundred years ago. And my next pick would be the Biltmore…

  4. Olivia Liam
    September 6, 2017 - 2:21 pm

    The road to nowhere’? That sounds scary. But actually, from all written here, I think it will be cool to take a few minutes’ walk down the road. Not to the tunnel anyway. Because I wouldn’t want to see what’s beyond the tunnel

  5. Caitlin
    September 6, 2017 - 3:49 pm

    It seems like most places in the United States have some form of Highland Games every year, including my own hometown. It’s great to see that so many people are trying to keep their heritage alive and well, even after multiple generations on a new continent. The Linville Caverns look like a wonderful adventure, too! The Appalachian Trail sounds like a very difficult hike, but the view looks fantastic and certainly worth giving it a shot. The fact that there is a magical little tunnel entrance…

  6. Joanne
    September 9, 2017 - 5:06 am

    While I have always loved the sea, I’ve always felt a little more at home in the mountains. I really like the idea of a “road to nowhere. I can only imagine what a lovely day one can spend at the Orchard at AltaPass with mountain music and hiking. But what I REALLY want to do it is go to the ziplines. I mean, nine ziplines!! And cliff jumping! And a swinging bridge?! I love these stuff

  7. Kelly
    September 10, 2017 - 3:29 pm

    I never made it to North Carolina when I was in the US, but I did have a friend that rode through the mountains and said it was gorgeous. I would love to hike the Appalachian Trail – that has been on my bucket list for some time, however I haven’t really had the opportunity to hike any of it as of yet.


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