Asheville Family Adventures
Our guide to the best Asheville family adventures will help get you on the right path to exploring some of the absolute best family adventures the Asheville area has to offer. Whether you’re looking for a family hike, a spot to go for a quick swim or a big overnight adventure, you’ll find a few of our favorite recommended adventures in the individual listings below. For information on the best family adventures, as well as the greatest selection of consignment outdoor equipment, clothing and assorted gear, be sure and stop by Second Gear on Haywood Road in West Asheville.
Asheville Family Adventure Expert: Second Gear
444 Haywood Road // 828-258-0757
Richmond Hill Park (Asheville): Located just minutes from downtown Asheville, Richmond Hill Park is one of the best Asheville adventure destinations due in large part to its proximity to town. But even though it’s close to town, it still offers a great amount of outdoor adventure options in Asheville. Disc golfers and mountain bikers in Asheville head to Richmond Hill on a regular basis as an easy opportunity to get outdoors and into the woods. The park offers more than three miles (with plans to build more) of mountain biking on speedy singletrack trails with just enough technical difficulty to make things exciting. For disc golfers looking to test their skills, this 18-hole course nestled in a dense hardwood forest offers just such a challenge. While dogs are required to be on leash, we do consider this a ‘dog friendly’ adventure.
Directions from Asheville: Take I-240 W to I-26 N and exit at UNC-A and head south onto Riverside Dr for 1 mile. Turn right on Pearson Bridge Rd. and head .5 mile to right on Richmond Hill Dr. Follow for .5 mile, including veer right at top of hill, through neighborhood to dead-end at parking area.
French Broad River Paddle Trail: When it comes to the best Asheville adventures, the French Broad River Paddle Trail is hard to beat. For years, camping out along on the French Broad River from Rosman to Tennessee was an adventure in and of itself. But now, thanks to the efforts of the Asheville’s RiverLink and the French Broad Riverkeeper, paddlers on the French Broad can find a plethora of camping options that are completely legit. From the headwaters of the river in Rosman to the rowdy rapids of Section 9, paddlers looking for a place to pitch a tent can find solace in seven different sites that have been meticulously carved from the dense undergrowth alongside the river’s banks.
Directions from Asheville: To learn more about the camping and paddling options along the various sections of the river and plan your next paddling vacation visit www.riverlink.org. Reservations for the campsites on the river are required and can be booked online.
DuPont State Forest (DuPont State Forest): Although it’s a 45 minute drive from Asheville, DuPont should still be on everyone’s list of the best Asheville Adventure destinations. The 10,000 acre forest nestled at the southern end of Transylvania County is renowned for its incredible mountain biking, lush, old-growth hardwood forests and towering waterfalls. Following the filming of “The Hunger Games,” which was filmed in part within the forest, the area is becoming a haven for fans of the film looking to seek out the beautiful locations showcased on the big screen. Check out Triple Falls, High Falls and Bridal Veil Falls to catch a glimpse of familiar movie spots.
Directions from Asheville: Take I-26 E to Exit 40, and take NC 280 toward Pisgah Forest. Turn left (east) on US 64 and go 3.7 miles to the Texaco station in Penrose. Turn right on Crab Creek Rd. and continue 4.3 miles.Turn south 5.3 miles on DuPont Rd. that turns into Staton Rd. High Falls Parking area will be on the left.
Worley’s Cave (Bluff City, TN): While this adventure is nowhere close to Asheville really, it is just a 1.25-hour drive north and is well worth a visit if you don’t mind driving. We like this unique “indoor” adventure because it gives you a chance to put on a head lamp and helmet and get a bit dirty Indiana Jones style. Clamber through massive corridors, splash through an underground river and explore the gigantic rooms of Worley’s Cave. With more than 37,000 feet (8-10 miles) of mapped passages on two levels, the cave, also known as Morril’s Cave, is home to an incredible variety of geologically unique cave formations. The upper level of the cave is the site of many aptly named formations, such as the crystalline “Cave Troll”. A fast-flowing river courses through the lower level and is home to a wide variety of rare species, including the elusive white crayfish. Worley’s is a beginner to intermediate cave which makes for an ideal family adventure.
Directions from Asheville: Only 1.25 hours north of Asheville. We recommend hooking up with the professional guides at River & Earth Adventures for this trip.
Art Loeb Trail (Pisgah NF, Brevard): While many of us dream of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, the fact is it’s hard to make time to hike such a long distance. For those on a more regular schedule trying to hold down a 9 to 5, the Art Loeb Trail might just be the ticket to thru-hiking success. We added this to our list of the best Asheville adventures because of its sheer beauty and remoteness. With just over 30 miles of incredible hiking, the Art Loeb Trail is renowned as one of the most beautiful and difficult hikes of its length in the state. The trail begins near the Davidson River valley before it clambers along some of the highest peaks in the area — including the unique Shining Rock and the peak of the infamous Cold Mountain — before heading down to the Daniel Boone Scout Camp. The trail is best experienced as an extended backpacking trip that usually takes two to three days, but hikers should be advised that this is one trail that necessitates a map and good orienteering skills, as more than a few hikers have found themselves deeply lost in the rugged wilderness.
Directions from Asheville: Head south to the Pisgah National Forest via either the Blue Ridge Parkway or U.S. 280 toward Brevard. From the Pisgah Forest visitor center, head north toward the Blue Ridge Parkway to the trailhead at the Davidson River Campground.
Camping in Pisgah (Pisgah NF, Brevard): Ready to get away from it all for awhile? Get out of the city and head to the woods of Pisgah National Forest where you’ll find one of the nicest campgrounds around. Nestled next to one of the most highly-regarded trout streams in the southeast, the Davidson River Campground in the Pisgah National Forest is the perfect destination for families looking to pitch a tent for a night or two. With loads of amenities, including bike rentals, showers, grills and flush toilets, the campground offers backcountry luxury in a beautiful setting. The campground offers first-come, first serve sites from April 1 to Oct. 31. For more info call 828-877-4910. For a more rugged backpacking experience, there are a number of well-maintained and highly used campsites near the headwaters of the Davidson River.
Directions from Asheville: Take I-26 E to Exit 40. Turn right on NC 280 for 16 miles to Brevard. Turn right/north on US 276 into the Pisgah National Forest for 1 mile to campground on the left. To hit the backcountry sites continue to head north on US 276 for 4 miles and veer left onto forest service road 476. Head 1 mile to the Center for Wildlife Education and Fish Hatchery.
Paddle The French Broad (Asheville): The French Broad River flows 213 miles starting in nearby Transylvania County into Tennessee and provides some excellent whitewater rafting and float opportunities in the area. The river is calm as it cuts around downtown Asheville, but it’s a torrent of whitewater further west near Hot Springs. Run a 5 mile half-day trip for an experience chocked full of class II-III rapids such as Pinball, S-Turn, and Stack House. Go for an 8 mile full day trip and tackle the famous class IV Frank Bell’s rapid. If you are looking for a mellow float one the best access points is at the Bent Creek River Park just south of town.
Directions from Asheville: We recommend heading to French Broad Outfitters for an Asheville float trip. If you’re interested in whitewater rafting, we recommend linking up with Blue Heron Whitewater by calling (888) 426-7238.
Paddle Lake Lure (Chimney Rock/Lake Lure): Rent a canoe or kayak and paddle the warm waters of Lake Lure, a mountain lake nestled in the heart of Hickory Nut Gorge. Rocky domes and green peaks surround the family-friendly lake on all sides. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent at the Lake Lure Marina. After the paddle, chill-out and build sand castles at the Beach of Lake Lure.
Directions from Asheville: Take I-240 E to Exit 9. Stay on 74A E for 20 miles. The Lake Lure Marina is a few miles past Chimney Rock Park.
Walk Laurel River Trail (Hot Springs): For 3.6 miles, the Laurel River trail follows the picturesque stream of the same name, offering families a flat but scenic hike that ends at a ghost town where the Laurel meets the French Broad.
Directions from Asheville: Take I-26 W for 8.5 miles to Exit 19A to merge onto US 25/70 towards Marshall. Take US 25/70 for 21 miles towards Hot Springs. The Laurel River Trail is at the intersection of Hwy 25/70 and Hwy 208. There is a gravel parking area about 100 yards south of the intersection. Look for the brown Laurel River Trail Forest Service sign.
Swim The Davidson River (Coon Tree Picnic Area / Pisgah National Forest): There are lots of nice swimming holes and sliding rocks on Davidson River to explore. We recommend this family friendly spot due to safe access to the river, the nice picnic spots and flush toilets (always a plus when in a national forest). After a dip in the river, check out the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. Admission is free to explore their various mountain wildlife exhibits.
Directions from Asheville: Take 1-26 E to Exit 40. Turn right on NC 280 towards Brevard. Follow NC 280 for 16 miles to Hwy 276. Turn right on Hwy 276 for 5 miles to the Coontree Picnic Area on your left. If you want to stop by the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, head up Hwy 276 another .5 miles. Bear to the left onto Forest Service Road 475 for 1.5 miles to the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education.
Bike or Walk The Wilma Dykeman Riverway (Asheville): Carrier Park and the French Broad River Park (part of the Wilma Dykman RiverWay) on Amboy Road offer two miles of flat, paved greenway trails perfect for biking with younger children. Pedal by the French Broad and enjoy a picnic on the banks of the river. Be sure to check out the newly opened trail just past Carrier Park that heads south along the river towards Bent Creek.
Directions from Asheville: Take I-240 W to Exit 1-B (Farmers Market, Hwy. 191). Turn left at the light and pass over I-240. Turn left at the very next light (I-240 E/ I-26 W.) and stay in the right lane. Take Exit 1-C (Amboy Rd). There are two parking areas along Amboy Rd.—Carrier Park is the first on your right; the French Broad River Park will be on your left a few miles down Amboy.
Explore Lake James (Morganton): Large lakes with expansive mountain views are hard to come by in the Asheville area. However, just 40 miles east is the 6500 acre Lake James with 150 miles of shoreline and sweet views of the Black Mountain Range. Your best bet for recreation is the Lake James State Park which currently covers 600 acres with another 3000+ acres (graciously donated by Crescent Resources) opening for public use. A portion of that new area will be open in spring 2010 and will include an additional swimming area with facilities.
Directions from Asheville: Travel approx. 37 miles on I-40 E to the Nebo/Lake James exit (Exit 90). Head north for .5 mile, turn right onto Harmony Grove Rd./State Road 1747 and follow it for 2 miles to a stoplight. Proceed straight across the intersection and past Nebo Elementary School to a stop sign. Turn right onto NC 126, and follow the signs to the park entrance 2.3 miles on the left.
Asheville Family Adventure Expert: Second Gear
444 Haywood Road // 828-258-0757