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When I lived in North Carolina for around two years, I was amazed at just how much there was to do in this small state. There were both mountains and beaches, as well as incredible cities to explore. In particular, I adored the hiking and outdoors in North Carolina. Western North Carolina is home to the Blue Ridge Mountains and that’s where the majority of this post will center around. Because in my opinion, these spots in Western North Carolina are some of the best to visit and should not be missed!

The Best Places to Visit in Western North Carolina (Especially in the fall!)

Grandfather Mountain State Park, North Carolina

Grandfather Mountain absolutely HAS to be number one on my list of the best places to visit in North Carolina. I loved every second of my visit to Grandfather Mountain. Hiking Grandfather Trail is probably the most memorable hike I’ve ever been on. I enjoyed Grandfather Mountain State Park so much, that I actually dedicated an entire blog post for it, which you can read here!

Attic Window, Grandfather Mountain Hiking, North Carolina
I mean, come on, look at this view! This is from "Attic Window" on Grandfather Trail.

However, hiking Grandfather trail isn’t for the faint of heart. With cables to help you up and down some steep drops, ladders throughout…it’ll take some work to get to these spectacular views. There’s even a sign at the trailhead, warning you of the difficulty of the trail ahead. But I promise, even as someone who is afraid of heights – it’s worth every second! Aside from the incredible hikes in Grandfather Mountain, there is also a nature center and an unforgettable mile-high swinging bridge in the park 

Mile High Swinging Bridge, Grandfather Mountain State Park
Grandfather Mountain Hiking, North Carolina

Blowing Rock, Boone, North Carolina

Known as “North Carolina’s Oldest Tourist Attraction”, Blowing Rock should definitely make any list of the best things to do in western North Carolina! It’s incredible to behold and provides absolutely stunning views of the Blue Ridge.

Blowing Rock, Boone, North Carolina
The legend of Blowing Rock says that the daughter of a Chickasaw Chieftain and a Cherokee brave fell in love. But one day he felt the need to return to his tribe to fight for them…torn between his tribal duties and honor and his desire to stay with his lover, the young man leapt from the Blowing Rock. Then, just as the young woman prayed to the Great Spirit, a gust of wind in the canyon blew her lover back up to the rock and into her arms. Blowing Rock is also the name of the town where the rock is located and there’s no shortage of things to do there! It’s an adorable town in the Blue Ridge and definitely worth staying in and exploring. This includes High Gravity Adventures Zipline and Aerial Park, which is so much fun! There are ropes courses in addition to the ziplining. This should definitely make it on your list of things to do in western North Carolina! To read more about Blowing Rock and all the amazing things to do there, go here.

Linville Falls, North Carolina

Linville Gorge and the Linville Falls should definitely be on anyone’s list of things to do in western North Carolina, or North Carolina as a whole. It’s an easy hike – doable for the whole family – and offers gorgeous views. Plus, if it’s summer you can cool your feet in the river by the waterfall at the bottom of the gorge.

Linville Gorge, North Carolina
The view of the tallest waterfall from partway down into the gorge.

Linville Falls has earned the (well-deserved) nickname of “the Grand Canyon of the Appalachians”.  The spectacular three-tiered waterfall plunges from 4,000 feet to 2,000 into the gorge. Again, this is not to be missed and is incredible for the entire family! The hikes here are fairly easy and super family friendly, nothing daunting like Grandfather Trail!

Linville Falls, North Carolina

Fontana Lake and Bryson City, North Carolina

Bryson City is one of the most quaint and cute mountain towns I’ve seen. And there’s a surprising amount to do there: whitewater rafting, tubing, ziplining, hiking, and so much more. While it may look like a sleepy mountain town, it is far from it! Fontana Lake is located in Bryson City and is definitely worth a stop – you can also rent a boat and spend the day relaxing on the lake. Or, for more of an adrenaline rush, there are plenty of good sized rocks and cliffs for jumping off of into the lake!

Bryson City, North Carolina
I loved these flowers along the bridge! And the gorgeous view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background.
Fontana Lake, North Carolina
The view from a fairly high cliff on Fontana Lake! Yes, I faced my fear once again and took the plunge into the lake from here!

Hot Springs, North Carolina

Hot Springs North Carolina is the definition of a sleepy mountain town. Located directly on the Appalachian Trail, you’re almost guaranteed to see some long term hikers taking a break or resupplying in Hot Springs. Hot Springs gets it’s name from – you guessed it – the natural hot springs the town was built around! There’s a spa located over the hot springs now, you can purchase time by the hour in a pool sized hot tub with water pumped directly from the springs! Visit the website here to see the rest of the services offered by the spa.

There’s also some great hiking in and around Hot Springs. I mean, check out these incredible views!

Hot Springs, North Carolina
Hot Springs, North Carolina

Carver's Gap, Pisgah - Cherokee National Forest

This one is technically justttt over the Tennessee/North Carolina State Line – but I had to put it on the list! It’s an incredibly gorgeous hike and includes some stunning Alpine Meadows. We went in March, naively thinking this was time enough for the mountaintop to have warmed up for spring. As we drove further up the mountain, the snow got deeper and deeper but that didn’t deter us! 

While the clouds obscured the view for the most part, the snowy ground of the three balds atop the mountain was still stunning and an unforgettable experience. I’m a sucker for snow, and the snowy ground here was like something out of a storybook…so I’m going to add a couple extra pictures of this one!

Carver's Gap, Cherokee/Pisgah National Forest
Carver's Gap, Cherokee/Pisgah National Forest
Carver's Gap, Cherokee/Pisgah National Forest
Carver's Gap, Cherokee/Pisgah National Forest

Asheville, North Carolina

If you’re somehow tired of the mountains and want to experience the city life in western North Carolina – Asheville is the best place to go! With incredible night life and breweries on just about every corner – it’ll definitely scratch your itch for city life. Asheville is also home to the beautiful Biltmore Estate and the North Carolina Abortorium, leaving no shortage of things to do in the city. Ashville also makes for a good base to explore the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. I wish I’d explored Asheville a little more when I lived in North Carolina! Definitely add this to your itinerary when spending time in western North Carolina.

Carowinds, Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte is another city that’s great to check out in western North Carolina! With more breweries, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, food tours and ghost tours, there’s no shortage of things to do. For a change of pace, my absolute favorite to do in Charlotte is Carowinds Theme Park! It’s got some amazing rides and some incredible events throughout the year. Specifically in the fall, Carowinds becomes Scarowinds for their Halloween event! It has some amazing haunted houses, and you can’t beat roller coasters after dark! If you’re looking for some thrills while visiting western North Carolina, you should definitely add Carowinds to your list of things to do!

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Things to Do in Western North Carolina
Things to Do in Western North Carolina
Things to Do in Western North Carolina
Things to Do in Western North Carolina

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  1. Squeeee what a beeeeautiful area! To be honest, you had me at Gradnfather Mountain, what an epic-looking trail!
    Then, you just showed sooo many fun options – I love all hikes to waterfalls and hotsprings. Basically you’ve shown me I need to spend some time exploring Western North Carolina. 😉

  2. Wow I had no idea how beautiful inland North Carolina is, how fit do you need to be for the trails? I love hiking and happy to do harder ones but I like to plan ahead.

    1. I’m not in very good shape by any means! I was a little daunted by Grandfather Trail and we definitely took some breaks. But, there are also a few easier trails in Grandfather State Park. Also, Linville and other areas have super easy trails. I saw young kids and older people tackling them with no issues!

  3. North Carolina is a good driving distant state for us since we’re from Florida. We’ve been through there, but never stayed there. It is a beautiful state!

    1. I’m actually from Florida! I’m in the military, when I was stationed in NC it was a 10 to 11 hour drive home to Sarasota, FL…brutal but doable lol

  4. Inland North Carolina doesn’t get enough credit – your pictures are beautiful! I had no idea there were hot springs in North Carolina. I might have to make a stop on my way to the Outer Banks next year

    1. I somehow never made it to the Outer Banks…still on the bucket list! Thank you for the compliment on my photos – still saving for a good camera, and my husband just got a newer phone than me so his camera is better and I’m super jealous!

  5. Western North Carolina looks like my kind of adventure. I’d love to hike the Grandfather Trail and visit Linville Gorge. The scenery looks stunning!

  6. This is amazing – I never expected North Carolina to be so interesting and….rough in such a very good way! Especially the Blowing Rock looks just marvelous – and Ashville looks like the perfect place for a hike.

  7. There are so many beautiful places in the US. I would definitely like to visit this spot in the future 🙂 I’m saving it for later.

  8. I totally agree that NC is an incredibly diverse (and beautiful!) state. A trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains was postponed in 2020, so I’m saving your blog post for later – I’m always all about the hiking on trips!

    1. I can’t wait to go back! When my husband and I move back to the states, we plan on doing an east coast road trip and I definitely want a detour through the Blue Ridge!

  9. North Carolina looks so beautiful! I’ve heard of blowing rock before but every time I see pics, I’m reminded why it’s a tourist attraction!

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