Best Things To Do Outdoors In Madison County, NC
A Guide To The Best Adventures In Marshall, Hot Springs & Mars Hill
Madison County North Carolina is rife with opportunities for enjoying the beautiful surroundings in the outdoors. Within the Pisgah National Forest, the Appalachian Trail and numerous other hiking trails provide a wide range of opportunities for hiking. Other outdoor activities include whitewater rafting on the French Broad River, bicycling on scenic and lightly traveled mountain roads; horseback riding on trails which provide unique vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains; and fishing in clear mountain streams and rivers. Madison County also offers skiing, snowboarding and tubing, as well as the option for a soak at Hot Springs. For a less strenuous but equally enjoyable way to see the county, there are plenty of self-guided driving tours to take you through the back roads to see both the history of Madison County and its majestic vistas. Read on below to browse some of the best outdoor adventures in Madison County.
Hike Max Patch: Take in the most beautiful view on the AT in Madison County. On Max Patch, you are at 4,629 feet and, on a clear day, have a 360- degree panoramic view of the Great Smoky Mountains to the south and a glimpse of Mt. Mitchell to the east. If you have encountered crowds when you have visited National Parks, you will be pleasantly surprised by this spot. The bald was cleared and used as pasture for grazing sheep and cattle in the 1800s. Today, it’s a 350-acre tract of open land where you can hike the loop trails, enjoy a picnic or the wildflowers.
For those in great hiking shape who want a wonderful Appalachian Trail day hiking experience, this is a perfect route to take. At approximately 20 miles in distance with a couple of shelters along the way to Hot Springs, this is a popular section for backpackers. But, for those that enjoy long mileage days, it sure makes for a great day hike too! If you can’t run your own shuttle to Max Patch, then Bluff Mountain Outfitters has you covered. Beginning the hike at Max Patch, you’ll be wowed by the 360-degree views from this 4,629 foot, 350 acre bald. Head north on the AT, as you wind your way back to town. It’s well marked all the way, and there are plenty of water sources along the trail – although, you will need to be prepared to purify. Get a taste of following the notorious White Blazes of the Appalachian Trail.
Directions: Take I-26W/US-19N/US-23N to exit 19A for US-25N/US-70W towards Marshall and Hot Springs. Take a left to continue on US-25/US-70 heading toward Hot Springs. From downtown Hot Springs, follow Highway 209 for 7.3 miles to Meadow Fork Road (aka SR1175). Go 5.3 miles to SR1181. Follow SR1181 for 2 miles, and after it turns to gravel, take a right onto SR1182 at the top of the mountain. Continue on SR1182 for 3 miles to the Max Patch parking area.
Ride A Zipline: What better way to experience the beauty of the surroundings and the thrill of shooting through the tree tops in the scenic natural setting found in Madison County. French Broad Adventures’ zipline course has 10 lines ranging in length from 75 to 1000 feet long with rappels and short hikes offering great views of the beautiful 26 acres of land. Want to really see the mountains? Zipline canopy tours are one of the best activities for exploring the beautiful mountains of WNC. Ziplining is wildly popular because it offers participants the chance to fly through the forest at top speeds and then perch in the treetops to take in the scenic mountain views. Zipline with French Broad Adventures and experience the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains via ten different ziplines and two rappels. With over a mile of total cable, the ziplines range in length from 75 feet to over 1000 feet long! The views are stunning, the adventure is astounding and your memories will be unforgettable.
The French Broad River: this is an adventure that offers all of the aspects of outdoor fun that make for a great day on the river. The water is warm and the huge boulders and rugged terrain create a spectacular backdrop. The rapids are definitely big enough to satisfy the adventure side of paddling, but they are also playful: fun without being too difficult. The river has a lot of deep pools that are great for swimming and the plentiful beaches make for nice places to picnic. The French Broad has everything you’d want on a river, including options that make for fun half days or full days. An interesting aspect is that it is purportedly the 3rd oldest river in the world, which makes for some really interesting geography that’s evident in the scenic landscapes along the river. A big bonus is that it is close enough to Asheville that you can head back to town and grab dinner and beer from some of the incredible restaurants and breweries. All in all, the French Broad is a great adventure for folks looking to get out and enjoy an incredible river.
For more information on French Broad River Rafting, check out Blue Heron Whitewater where you can easily book your guided whitewater rafting trip.
Lover’s Leap Hike: For a short little jaunt with some spectacular views of the town of Hot Springs, the French Broad River, and the surrounding mountains, Lover’s Leap hike is a perfect option. At 1.6 miles round trip, you’ll even get to say that you hiked on part of the Appalachian Trail. From the Silvermine trailhead parking lot, head up the mountain on the Lover’s Leap Trail until it intersects with the Appalachian Trail. Take a right on the Appalachian Trail to loop back around to the road back to the parking lot. The highlight of the trail is the view from the rock outcroppings at the top of the loop – remember your trail safety so you don’t accidentally take the “Leap”! After the descent, there is also a nice flat section that parallels the river before you complete the loop.
Directions: Take I-26W/US-19N/US-23N to exit 19A for US-25N/US-70W towards Marshall and Hot Springs. Take a left to continue on US-25/US-70 heading toward Hot Springs. Immediately before crossing the bridge over the French Broad River, turn left onto SR 1304. Turn left at first intersection and follow the signs to Silvermine trailhead parking area. (GPS N35 53.356, W82 48.711)
Bailey Mountain Bike Park: Lay down some fresh tracks at this recently opened mountain bike facility that’s open year-round with great options for downhill biking aficionados. As the first year-round gravity park in the Southeast, Bailey Mountain is sure to draw a crowd. Reservations are required, so call ahead. (855) 743-3962.
Go Fly Fishing: Escape the crowded rivers and streams found elsewhere in WNC and explore the miles of tranquil and scenic fishing rivers and streams found in Madison County. Just a short drive from Asheville, anglers will find pure water quality in the many fly fishing creeks with diverse stream conditions with opportunities to hook up with everything from trout lying in wait in streams with pools and drops to broader rivers like the Shelton Laurel. Or, if trout isn’t what you’re after, try out the fishing on the nearby French Board River with its great smallmouth bass, catfish and muskie fishing options. For a more comprehensive look at Madison County Fishing options, see our Madison County Fishing Guide.
Horseback Riding: Fresh mountain air, breath-taking scenery and an old fashioned down-home friendliness greet you when you take a trip on one of Madison County’s many great riding trails. Horseback riding offers a calm and relaxing way to take in unique views of some of the area’s most beautiful vistas and dramatic back-country scenery here in the Blue Ridge Mountains and is a great adventure for the whole family.
Ski The Wolf: When you ski or snowboard at Wolf Ridge Ski Resort you’ll enjoy unmatched views, crisp mountain air, well-groomed slopes and some new places to explore at the closest ski resort to Asheville. Wolf Ridge Ski Resort offers 22 runs and two quad lifts, a terrain park, night skiing and much more. There is something for everyone from beginner to expert at this family-oriented resort – now with an expanded 72 acres of ski terrain. Wolf Ridge also has a tube run on the way to the resort that is a fun way to enjoy the snow if you are not a skier.
The Laurel River Trail: located within Pisgah National Forest near Hot Springs, this is a moderate hike that traverses a beautiful forest alongside Big Laurel Creek. The mostly flat hike has typical Pisgah terrain like rocks and roots as it winds through the steep river gorge beside the boulder-strewn creek that is popular for kayakers in the area as a Class III+ creek. The Laurel is a tributary of the French Broad River and the confluence makes a great spot to take a break before heading back on the out-and-back trail. During summer months the trail’s frequent access points to the river offers a good opportunity to play in the river and check out the views of the nearby rock cliffs of the Palisades, but caution should be taken by anyone entering the riverbed as the rocks can be very slick and the current of the river swift.
View The Individual Listings Below For More Info & Driving Directions
- Madison County