33 Best North Carolina Mountain Towns to Visit

Was it difficult to pick the best mountain towns in North Carolina? Definitely. As a North Carolinian-based backpacker and hiker, I’m often in the small towns of Western North Carolina. From exploring the State Parks to hitting the National Forests tp grabbing a burger and beer, there’s something about these towns that keep calling me back.

Maybe it’s themix of natural beauty, rich history, and hospitality, that makes these small mountain towns feel like home. From the Appalachian Mountains including the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountain ranges, there’s always somewhere new to explore.

While the mountain towns in North Carolina are all unique, there are common threads like a bustling art scene, great food, cute boutiques, and plenty of outdoor adventures. With so many towns, it’s hard to visit them all, let alone name the best mountain towns in North Carolina, so let’s just say these are my favorites so far. 

Best Mountain Towns in North Carolina

Boone

Nearby Outdoor: Pisgah National Forest, Grandfather Mountain State Park

Home to Appalachian State University, Boone is a college town at heart and one of the most popular mountain towns in the Blue Ridge. Think cute restaurants, little stores, and great deals. But it’s also got an outdoor spin.

I like to visit the Mast General Store when I visit. It’s a great place to browse outdoor gear, and grab some old time candy. Sunrise Grill is a favorite for breakfast when we finish up a weekend trip backpacking Carvers Gap to 19E. We usually hit the cars by 11 am Sunday which is perfect timing since they’re only open until 2.

Nearby Pisgah National Forest offers a variety of outdoor adventures from hiking to backpacking to camping to kayaking. And you’re close to the slopes of Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain Ski Resort. For a fun date, hit the mile-high bridge at Grandfather Mountain, or jump on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

One of my favorite places in Boone is Tweetsie Railroad, one of the most popular attractions in North Carolina. Their annual Ghost Train in October is aimed at adults. Smaller children will love it anytime, but the December holiday train is a favorite.

Street sign indicating Restaurants and Shopping, Cheese Factory, and Art Center on Third Ave in West Jefferson. Behind the sign is the red brick side of the Ashe County Cheese store with their sign viewable.

West Jefferson

Nearby Outdoor: Elk Knob State Park, New River State Park

I can’t stay away from West Jefferson. This may be my favorite North Carolina mountain town. There’s a strong artsy vibe. Downtown buildings are peppered with murals thanks to the local art scene. Throughout the year are art walks where you can visit galleries and see work from talented local artists.

I don’t know why, but I love going to Ashe County Cheese to watch them make the cheese curds. There’s something hypnotic about how they do it. Afterwards, I cross the street to their shop and buy local products.

With two breweries in town and several restaurants, you won’t go hungry. And you’ll need food after visiting Elk Knob State Park and Mount Jefferson State Natural Area.

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Banner Elk

Nearby Outdoor: Grandfather Mountain State Park, Pisgah National Forest

Banner Elk may be the cutest town on this list. It’s almost as if you’ve driven onto a movie set as you head downtown. Everything is colorful and neat. Lees McRae College is always advertising its local theatre. One of these days, I need to stop in and watch the show.

The town is located near the North Carolina-Tennessee border between Boone and Roan Mountain, TN. It’s a great place to stay if you’re heading to nearby Beech or Sugar Mountain. Of course, there are also tons of local hiking trails nearby. Try to visit in October during the Woolly Worm Festival. It’s one of the best in North Carolina. 

Blowing rock outcropping at dusk with fading sun in the background.

Blowing Rock

Nearby Outdoor: Pisgah National Forest, Grandfather Mountain State Park

Blowing Rock is named for a rock formation where it’s said a Cherokee brave, torn by conflict between his duty to return to his tribe and love for his beloved, leaped from the rock. The grief-stricken maiden prayed to the Great Spirit every day until a gust of wind blew her lover back onto the rock. The rock is now a tourist attraction, but there is a perpetual wind that blows up from the valley below.

There is a fee to visit the Blowing Rock and they sell food there. Your ticket is good for the entire day which is helpful. To get a photo where you can see yourself on the rock, you’ll need to visit in the morning. For a backlit photo like the one above, you’ll have to come at sunset. Call ahead before coming because they close if the weather is bad.

The town of Blowing Rock is filled with quaint shops, cute restaurants, and the Chetola resort. I really like walking the greenway that takes you on a pretty hike ending at the Chetola Resort Lake.

Valle Crucis

Nearby Outdoor: Pisgah National Forest, Grandfather Mountain State Park

Valle Crucis translates to “Vale of the Cross”. It’s home to the first Mast General Store, a landmark since 1883 where you can buy outdoor gear and clothing, candy by the bagful, games, and other random items.

The town maintains its historic appeal, transporting you back in time. It’s a pretty place for anyone wanting to get away for a nice picnic or to do a little fishing.

View of Beech Mountain resort from an overlook at the top of the mountain. The hotel is to the left with the expansive property to the right.

Beech Mountain

Nearby Outdoor: Grandfather Mountain State Park, Pisgah National Forest

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Beech Mountain. I love the town, I love Autumn at Oz, and I love that they open to mountain bikers in the spring and fall. But I am not in love with the windy drive up and down, and I’m not a fan of the ski lift at Beech Mountain Ski Resort (of course, I’m afraid of heights).

The town is nestled along the drive up to the ski mountain resort. With places to stay, places to eat, and cute shops, Beech Mountain has a lot to offer. And with mountain biking, hiking, golfing, and skiing, there’s something for everyone year-round.

Old Woolworth building in Asheville with beige brick and orange sign with gold lettering.

Asheville

Nearby Outdoor: Pisgah National Forest, Nantahala National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fact: Houses the headquarters for the Blue Ridge Parkway

Okay, Asheville is really a city, not a town, but you can’t complete a list of the best or most popular NC mountain towns without Asheville. It’s vibrant, eclectic, artsy, foodie, and more. Home to a ton of world-class microbreweries, James Beard-nominated chefs, and a huge busker community, what else would you expect?

Part quaint mountain town and part New York influence set the stage with unique architecture.

You’ll love the laid-back college-town vibe but with big city amenities. And don’t forget to visit the Biltmore Estate. It’s worth the ticket. Even though I visit frequently, I really love taking tours. It’s a great way to see something new. My favorite is the haunted ghost tour, but the Segway tour was a lot of fun.

Hot Springs

Nearby Outdoor: Pisgah National Forest, Cherokee National Forest

This little town located along the French Broad River is one of the key towns on the Appalachian Trail. A portion of the 2200 mile trail goes through Main Street. You’ll also find enthusiastic white-water rafters using Hot Springs as their home base.

While I know the town as a stop on the Appalachian Trail, it’s probably best known for its hot mineral springs. You’ll find a mix of big food, foodie havens, coffee, a hardware store that sells the weirdest and yet most useful items ever, and some of the best hospitality in the area.

Make sure to stop by Spring Creek Tavern on Main Street. They serve their burgers between two pieces of Texas Toast. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten a burger on Texas Toast. I’m just saying.

Spend a weekend and hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Lover’s Leap is a challenge, but worth the view.

Waynesville

Nearby Outdoor: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Nantahala National Forest, Pisgah National Forest

Just past Asheville is one of the most underrated North Carolina Mountain towns to visit, Waynesville. Downtown features cute shops, art galleries, and fabulous restaurants along brick sidewalks.

A friend was married at a local resort and had delicious cupcakes from Kandi’s Cake & Bake Shop. I try to stop by whenever I’m in the area. 

Waynesville is a great place to set up shop and explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or fish in the Pigeon River. It’s also handy if you want to drive along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Large waterfall coming over rock cliff without touching rocks into pool of water at the bottom.

Brevard

Nearby Outdoor: Nantahala National Forest, Pisgah National Forest

How do you describe Brevard? Quaint downtown with a modern edge, surrounded by Pisgah National Forest, and home to some of the most iconic waterfalls in North Carolina, this is one of my favorite towns along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Here is where you’ll find Looking Glass Falls, quite possibly the most famous waterfall in North Carolina. Of course, Dupont State Recreational Forest, home to 6 waterfalls and where portions of The Hunger Games were filmed, is also a huge draw.

Brevard is also home to the Cradle of Forestry, one of the first forestry schools designed to teach responsible forest management.

Of course there’s tons of food and 3 breweries in the area. Personally, I enjoy Papa LEWs for burgers and Blue Ridge Bakery for scones and other goodies.

Burnsville

Nearby Outdoor: Pisgah National Forest, Mount Mitchell State Park

If you enjoy Appalachian history, Burnsville is a must-visit. The Mountain Heritage Center offers one of the best experiences to learn more about the area’s rich history. Downtown centers around a square which restaurants and shops radiating out from the roads leading to it.

Burnsville is also home to Mount Mitchell State Park where you’ll find Mount Mitchell itself, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River at 6684 feet.

A lot of people try to climb the 6 miles of trail up to the top, but fair warning, it’s a 6000-foot elevation gain which can cause some altitude sickness in people and it’s a bad trail, with a lot of roots. I’ve taken groups up there and we usually have at least one person that struggles or doesn’t make it.

My advice is to leave a large buffer when figuring out your pace to get up and back.

If you’re not sure that a 12-mile hike is up your alley, you can drive to the top of Mount Mitchell and enjoy the views from the observation deck.

Red rocking chair on a street in Black Mountain with picture of a bear in a grass field on the back.

Black Mountain

Nearby Outdoor: Pisgah National Forest

Black Mountain is one of my favorite mountain towns. I love the quirky shops and town square decorations. As you walk downtown, you’ll see pretty rocking chairs, decorated by artists, randomly set on the sidewalk.

There are great restaurants like Veranda and Open Oven, and coffee shops like Dripolater, and plenty of ice cream. My favorite time to visit is near Halloween when the town square is decorated.

It’s easy to visit with plenty of free parking, and an easily walkable downtown. Plus, with all the stores and food shops, you’ll have plenty to see and do.

Red farmhouse in the distance in a valley surrounded by green mountains.

Maggie Valley

Nearby Outdoor: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Nantahala National Forest

You’ve probably heard of Maggie Valley, it’s one of the most scenic mountain towns in NC. Known for its breathtaking beauty and majestic mountain views, it’s a great place to stay as you enjoy your Great Smoky Mountains adventure.

Head out for a hike, fish, ski, or just relax in the serene landscape. If you love motorcycles, stop at The Iconic Wheels Through Time Museum which houses an impressive collection of vintage motorcycles. The museum is a lot bigger than you think. It will take at least 3 hours to get through it.

The grand photo of the valley you see everyone is from a privately owned fire tower. You’ll need to pay a fee to climb to the top for the photo. The facility sits on a hill and you can also get a great picture from their parking lot.

When you visit, check out Sippers in the Valley coffee shop. They have this amazing menu of crazy drinks, but I just get a plain latte. The owners are amazing. Even if it’s your first visit, you’ll leave a regular.

For a break, head to local Lake Junaluska down the road. There’s a pretty trail that winds around one of the best lakes in NC.

And don’t forget to set your alarm early one early to get in line for Joey’s Pancake House. It’s worth the wait.

Marshall

Nearby Outdoor: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pisgah National Forest

Marshall is a hidden gem nestled in the mountains of North Carolina. While it’s the Madison County seat, like many towns in Western North Carolina, it’s also a bustling artist community. Situated along the French Broad River, it’s easily compared to Asheville and the River Arts District.

However, it has its own flair. Stop by historical Marshall High Studios or the Zuma Coffee shop for a taste of unique Marshall.

Two story brick buildings of various muted colors housing shops along a street in Morganton.

Morganton

Nearby Outdoor: Pisgah National Forest, South Mountains State Park

Morganton is one of my go-to stops when I’m heading out of South Mountains State Park, or Linville Gorge. I love stopping in town for a burger. There are plenty of options, but of course, I have a favorite (which I am not sharing because it’s crowded enough as it is). If you’re a beer aficionado, head to Catawba Valley Brewing Company.

Technically, Morganton is at the foot of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains and on the cusp of being a mountain town. Its stellar location makes it the most accessible town to the Triangle and Triad areas.

Parking is easy, and you can spend a few hours exploring downtown.

The town is also home to the start of the Fonta Flora Trail, which is a work in progress. Once complete, it will be a 100 mile trail connecting Morganton to Asheville.

Stone shelter with wooden awning and a shadow figure of bigfoot on the side.

Marion

Nearby Outdoor: Pisgah National Forest

The next time you find yourself near Lake James State Park, make sure to take a half day and visit Marion. Downtown Main Street is a picture-worthy destination with boutique shops, cafes, and the Marion Depot Museum.

It has a good nightlife with three breweries and a meadery, plus a small venue for live music. Stop by one of the restaurants for breakfast to get you started. Personally, I enjoy Bessie’s because the staff is amazing and it’s reasonably priced.

Although my favorite stop in Marion is Artesana Ice Cream. I cannot get enough of their cookie dough ice cream, it’s amazing.

One of the coolest mountain towns, it’s home to the Carson House Museum, a beautifully preserved 19th-century home. And, my favorite, the annual Bigfoot Festival is held here every year! I mean who doesn’t want to head to the Bigfoot Festival?

For a fun adventure, book a cabin or tent at Gold River Camp and enjoy a glamping experience.

Large stone arrowhead on stone pedestal on a street corner with sign for Old Fort Train Station and Museum in front of it.

Old Fort

Nearby Outdoor: Pisgah National Forest

Old Fort is a small town with good beer and one of the best museums I’ve been to. For a true step back in time, explore the Mountain Gateway Museum and learn about the region’s heritage. The original cabins on the ground and the small amphitheater are beautiful to explore, plus the indoor exhibits are interesting.

But what Old Fort is really known for is being home base to some of the best mountain biking in Pisgah National Forest. Of course, there are plenty of other options like hiking trails with stunning waterfalls, amazing vistas, and the famous Catawba Falls.

While I enjoyed my trip here, it’s more of a day visit. I would stay in nearby Marion or Black Mountain and head to Old Fort for a day or to access the trails.

Misty waterfall coming out a distance from a rock cropping with a wooden fence and accessible trail that goes behind it.

Highlands

Nearby Outdoor: Nantahala National Forest

Highlands is perched at the top of a plateau where the fresh mountain air gives you a bit of a break from the summer heat. Of course, there are also amazing views and great waterfalls to visit. You can walk behind Dry Falls, an accessible waterfall.

Main Street offers an array of boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Explore the region’s diverse flora at the Highlands Botanical Gardens, a peaceful sanctuary, perfect for a relaxing stroll.

Cullowhee

Nearby Outdoor: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Nantahala National Forest

I adore Cullowhee, it’s where I received my Wilderness First Responder Training. One of several small towns nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, you’ll find a youthful vibe thanks to Western Carolina University. Students here have the advantage of a college town with outdoor adventures thanks to the mountains and nearby Tuckasegee River.

This is also the home to Landmark Learning, one of the best places for Wilderness Training.

Victorian building with green trim and sign indicating Jackson County Information Center.

Sylva

Nearby Outdoor: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Nantahala National Forest

Sylva blends into Cullowhee a bit, but the two cities have distinct vibes. Sylva is a hotbed of local talent displayed through art galleries throughout town. Other reasons to visit include the town’s green and clean endeavors. 

Outdoor enthusiasts will love the Jackson County Greenway, a pretty trail system winding along the Tuckasegee River. You’ll find a lot of locals and nearby WNC students enjoying the trail. Fly fishers also flock to Sylva, home of Western NC’s fly-fishing trail. 

You may also see a few areas that look familiar if you’re a fan of the movie, The Fugitive. Filmed in the area, downtown Sylva was used in a few scenes.

The Jackson County Courthouse sits high on a hill as you enter downtown. Locals told us it’s the most photographed courthouse in North Carolina. I can’t verify that, but I can see why it would be.

The craft beer scene is big in Sylva and you’ll find Innovation Brewing, Lazy Hiker Brewing, and Balsam Falls Brewing. Personally I liked Innovation. Who would have thought that beet and basil pale ale would be delicious?

Large waterfall over rocks with a top part that comes over a large rock, then it goes down a mountain to a second large waterfalls. Both sides of the water are lined with green trees.

Cashiers

Nearby Outdoor: Nantahala National Forest

Cashiers is surrounded by lush forests, pretty lakes, and waterfalls. Whitewater Falls, the largest single-drop waterfall in North Carolina, can be found nearby. A bonus is that part of the 76-mile Foothills Trail that weaves through the North Carolina and South Carolina border also near Cashiers.

You can relax on Lake Glenville, or hike through Nantahala National Forest, including Panthertown Valley, one of the few temperate rainforests in North America, and home to the famed Schoolhouse Falls.

It’s also pretty close to the Grassy Creek entrance of Gorges State Park.

Dillsboro

Nearby Outdoor: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Nantahala National Forest

Not far from Sylva, Dillsboro is another mountain town with a vibrant art scene. Located along a river, you’ll find pottery studios, craft shops, and galleries featuring local arts.

The quaint town features the Historic Front Street with cute storefronts and restaurants, a perfect place to chill after kayaking or tubing down the Tuckasegee River.

Bryson City

Nearby Outdoor: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Nantahala National Forest

You’ve probably heard about Bryson City. Nestled at the foot of the NC side of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, it’s also home to the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, and not far from Fontana Lake (one of the best lakes in North Carolina), with the famous Fontana Dam. This beautiful mountain town is popular with tourists.

To say there’s a lot to do here is an understatement. It’s a great place to set up for fall leaf viewing, stage your trip to the busiest National Park in the US, hike, shop, eat, and enjoy the area from the unique point of view of a train. You can also go white-water rafting through the Nantahala Outdoor Center. With so many things to see and do, Bryson City is easily one of the best towns in NC, not just in Western North Carolina.

Twenty foot tall carving of the head of Sequoya who created the Cherokee alphabet in front a a grey building housing the Cherokee Indian Museum.

Cherokee

Nearby Outdoor: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Nantahala National Forest

Home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee, NC is steeped in Native American Heritage. Explore the Museum of the Cherokee Indian or head to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino which blends modern entertainment with tribal traditions.

Not far from Bryson City, it’s a great day trip to learn more about the Cherokee. It’s minutes from Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Pisgah National Forest. Plus, there are pretty parks and areas to hike all over the city.

When I visited the Mountainside Theatre where the play “Unto These Hills” is performed, it was closed, but staff said it was okay to go in. When I exited one man asked me if I had seen Sully. It turns out there are ghosts in the theatre. I loved hearing the story from this amazing storyteller.

Murphy

Nearby Outdoor: Nantahala National Forest

You’ll find Murphy in the far southwest corner of North Carolina, near the borders of Tennessee and Georgia. Surrounded by Nantahala National Forest, Murphy offers outdoor recreation like hiking and mountain biking. Nearby Hiwassee Lake is a great way to beat the heat and enjoy some boating.

Downtown Murphy offers a quirky adventure with its unique shops and restaurants. I love the trees and flowers that line the streets. It makes Murphy unique and memorable.

Two motorcyclists on a curving road known as Tail of the Dragon lined with green trees.

Robbinsville

Nearby Outdoor: Nantahala National Forest, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness

Robbinsville is buried deep in the heart of Nantahala National Forest. This little gem is a tranquil respite, known for its proximity to the Tail of the Dragon, a winding road that attracts motorcycle enthusiasts.

Outdoor lovers have their choice of fishing, camping, and hiking. Nearby Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is home to some of the oldest and largest old-growth hardwood trees in North Carolina. 

Spruce Pine

Nearby Outdoor: Pisgah National Forest

Yet another artisan community, Spruce Pine is a hub for artisans and craftsmen. The Penland School of Crafts is a great place to browse up-and-coming artists. Visitors can also enjoy mining for gems and panning for gold at the Emerald Village complex. It may sound hokey, but it’s a lot of fun and you get hooked quickly.

Nearby you’ll find Linville Caverns and Roan Mountain State Park.

Little Switzerland

Nearby Outdoor: Pisgah National Forest

Little Switzerland is one of the most famous stops on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The historic landmark offers captivating views and a cozy atmosphere. Designed to look like a Swiss town, it’s an interesting place to stop and eat or get a photo. Keep in mind that “downtown” is a hotel, general store, bookstore, and restaurant.

Parking can be tight during peak Blue Ridge Parkway times, like the annual leaf viewing. You may have to circle for awhile.

They just opened a cidery and campground which I think is brilliant. This is a great option for spending time in this fun area without the hassle.

Bakersville

Nearby Outdoors: Roan Mountain

Art lovers will adore Bakersville. Numerous galleries and studios showcase local talent. The charming downtown streets are lined with historic buildings and a small-town atmosphere.

This is a great place to visit in June during the annual Rhododendron Festival. June is the best time to see the blooms in the mountains.

Hendersonville

Nearby Outdoor: Pisgah National Forest, Chimney Rock State Park

Hendersonville is one of the most popular small towns in NC. Think of it as the home base of the North Carolina mountains. Besides the tree-lined streets and Sierra Nevada Brewery, you’ll find apples. And I mean apples and apple products. Apple everything.

The North Carolina Apple Festival is held in Hendersonville every year and pulls in quite a crowd. After the festival, head for a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Downtown is vibrant with local shops and restaurants. Jump Off Rock is a popular overview with amazing views. It’s in a little park within a neighborhood. While I visited during the day, I’ve been told that it’s officially closed between sunset and sunrise and police often patrol.

I drove a little out of town to visit Appalachian Ridge Hard Cider. It was a great way to unwind after a big day of touring. The cider was amazing, the staff knew their stuff, and they had an apple sling shot. I mean, what was not to love?

Visitors can also enjoy the 23-stop Cheers Trail where you visit every brewery, cidery, and winery in the area. With so much to do, Hendersonville is an easy pick for the best mountain town in NC (see what I did there – pick, apples…..).

Lake looking green from reflections of trees on mountain next to it. Red lifeguard stand on a darker beige sand beach.

Lake Lure

Nearby Outdoor: Chimney Rock State Park, Pisgah National Forest

You know Lake Lure; you just didn’t know you knew it. This idyllic town was used for part of the filming of Dirty Dancing, including the famous lake lift scene. To celebrate, the town hosts an annual Dirty Dancing festival with a lake lift contest.

Beyond that, the city is a beautiful place to visit with a cute downtown, a pretty lake, and Chimney Rock State Park.

Flat Rock

Nearby Outdoor: Pisgah National Forest

When I think of Flat Rock, the tiny home community comes to mind. Flat Rock has a cute tiny home community where you can live or rent for a bit to try your hand at tiny home living.

It’s also home to Flat Rock Playhouse, the State Theater of North Carolina, and the Carl Sandburg House. And Sharewell coffee.As a coffee drinker with a borderline problem, I needed to mention that.

While the town is small, it has one of the best parks I’ve ever been to. The Park at Flat Rock was amazing. It has miles of trails, a playground, tons of benches, educational area, good parking, and a lot of green space for picnics and to let the kids run.

Side view of downtown block in Saluda, North Carolina. Two floor brick buildings line a sidewalk with one building having a blue front that says Azalea Bitstro.

Saluda

Nearby Outdoor: Pisgah National Forest

Saluda is perched on top of the Saluda Grade and is known as the “heart of the mountains.” Nearby Green River Game Lands offers opportunities for hiking, fishing, and wildlife observation. If you’re not up to a big hike, try Pearson’s Waterfall and Glen which is an easy quarter-mile hike on a well-maintained trail.

I had tucked my wallet in my pack which was in the trunk. The really kind official manning the booth where you pay for your ticket just laughed and told me I was not the first. He was really patient while I jumped to get it out of the trunk.

Saluda is one of the old-timiest towns on the list, but with a modern twist. M.A. Pace’s General Store has been open since 1899 and Thompson’s Store is North Carolina’s oldest grocery store. But then you have some of the best dining in the area.

Dinner downtown means several options for farm-to-table eateries including Azalea Bistro operated by James-Beard Nominated Chef Garrett Tallent. For a more casual experience try the Purple Onion or The SPOT.

Best Small Towns Near Asheville

Let’s face it, most people visit Asheville and want to know what small towns are nearby. Answers may vary, depending on what you mean by “nearby”. I’m going to set the parameter as in the vicinity of a 45-minute drive from Asheville. 

Black Mountain (20 min)

Waynesville (40 min)

Old Fort (28 min)

Maggie Valley (43 min)

Lake Lure (50 min)

Hendersonville (50 min)

Hot Springs (49 min)

Burnsville (45 min)

Marshall (29 min)

Marion (42 min)

Old Fort (28 min)

Sylva (50 min)

Mountains layered behind each other in the fall with green, orange and red trees and a blue sky.

What is Western North Carolina?

If you live in North Carolina, you’ve heard the term “Western North Carolina” tossed around a lot. But where does it start? The area is the region of North Carolina which includes the Appalachian Mountains. It’s as simple as that. If a town is inside the Appalachian Mountain area, it’s in western NC. 

All towns on this list meet the technical definition. Believe it or not, it’s somewhat difficult to be outside the area and be a mountain town in NC. 

Making things more complicated is the use of “High Country” which is a nickname for parts of western NC north of Asheville, including Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk. 

You’ll also hear the Foothills mentioned, which is the mountainous region south of Asheville. This would include Lake Lure, Highlands, Cashiers, and Brevard. 

Wrap-Up: The Best Mountain Towns in North Carolina

It’s hard, if not impossible, to create a list of the best NC mountain towns. They all have their own unique personalities showcasing the best of mountain life, and I haven’t visited even half yet.

In the meantime, my advice is to use this list as inspiration and pick a town you think you’ll enjoy, then add a couple of days to explore some of the areas around it. Once you find your super-secret small-town vacation spot, hold it tight and don’t tell anyone. 

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