This weekend I went to visit my friend Ha in the little hillside town she calls home of Black Mountain, North Carolina. It’s a burg on the outskirts of Asheville in the heart of Appalachian mountain territory. Ha kept telling me, “Whitney, you have got to come see the hiking here, it’s amazing!”
Well, if I must!
If you’re curious about the Appalachian mountains and want a weekend away in a peaceful pocket of our country then this is a great spot to go, especially with your girlfriends!
Wait, a hiking and outdoorsy vacay with my girlfriends?? But they aren’t outdoorsy.
This is enjoyable by even those who aren’t super outdoorsy. The ease of the hiking trails and accessibility by car is a huge point in its favor, and then the exquisiteness of the Biltmore Estate adds that refined element that makes for a perfect girls weekend. Trust me!
Blue Ridge Parkway
First thing in the morning, we headed out on the Blue Ridge Parkway, an iconic roadway built during the Great Depression as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal.
It winds through the mountains, taking you around gorgeous scenic overlooks and sun dappled forests.
The road heads northeast for several hundred miles and covers some of the best terrain Appalachia has to offer. You could spend a week exploring it all.
The mist and cloud cover made the views even more dramatic and I was completely in awe.
(PS. I love it when scenic destinations are accessible by car!!)
One good place to get out and hike is Craggy Gardens Visitor Center and Craggy Pinnacle Trail, which is just my cup of tea–easy, short, scenic, and lined with flowers.
The overlooks are fantastic.
The Appalachian mountains are much older than the Rockies and are softer, lower, and more undulating than the rough crags and sheer exposed rock you might be used to seeing in other parts of our country. Appalachian scenery is so much greener too.
A hum of bumble bees accompanied us up the mountain. They were loving all of the flowering plants!
After Craggy Gardens, we hit the Biltmore, a beautiful estate built back in the late 1800’s by the Vanderbilt family. If you are wanting your fairy tale moment, here it is.
The Biltmore is one beautiful swirl of Downton Abbey, Beauty and the Beast, the Great Gatsby, and Versailles–all set to the stunning backdrop of the wild Blue Ridge mountains.
Today the estate consists of 8,000 acres of rolling hills, meadows, pine forest, and creeks and rivers. The landscape was designed by the same man who designed Central Park, so even in places where mother nature’s handiwork wasn’t great on its own, the scenery was adjusted to be perfect.
There is a resort on the grounds and plenty of outdoor activities, from biking trails to an equestrian center and sporting clay shooting.
The view from the veranda is the part worth waiting for–over 87,000 acres of pristine Blue Ridge mountains stretch out before you and the blue hue of their slopes explains immediately how the mountains got their name.
And the land is protected in perpetuity. Early in the 1900’s, Edith Vanderbilt sold 87,000 acres of their land to the government to form what is now the Pisgah National Forest.
I LOVED the gun room in the Biltmore and am definitely saving this photo for inspiration…
Here’s just a few more snaps from the inside of this gorgeous manse…
Black Mountain, NC
The next day we drowned our sorrows in the world’s largest cinnamon roll and a chicken biscuit from Blue Ridge Biscuit Company.
Also loved the charming little coffee shop, the Dripolator.
The town of Black Mountain is charming. The storefronts are brick, the homes are all perfectly maintained with darling wraparound porches and hydrangea bushes out front, and it’s one of the few places left where you feel like time actually slows down. I got the sense I could leave my car unlocked and be just fine. Ha put it well when she said she felt like she has relaxed ever since leaving Austin and moving here. Even though I only spent 36 hours in the place, I felt recharged and reset!
I would recommend two to four full days for this vacation, not including travel time. There are a lot of stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway I have yet to see.
Thanks Ha for the fantastic visit. You’re the best friend a girl could ask for!
More deets on the Blue Ridge Mountains coming up soon, stay tuned.