Asheville, North Carolina, is tucked into one of the most biologically diverse mountain ranges in the United States. The landscape is stunning, offering everything from above tree-line peaks to cool, sub-tropical forests ripe with waterfalls. Fortunately, a visit to Asheville can be adventurous, rewarding, and sustainable at the same time. Here’s how to plan a trip to this must-visit destination in the South and leave a minimal impact.
When visiting a new location make sure to plan ahead and learn the regulations that govern your destination before you go. Pack what you’ll need to adventure safely, if you’re exploring Pisgah National Forest, you’ll need extra layers for afternoon thunderstorms, snacks, and plenty of water. Wherever you are, stay on established trails, don’t forget to pack out all your trash, and keep your distance from wildlife. Leave No Trace is a great resource for any questions about how to treat natural areas so these stunning places are around for generations to come.
Ditch the Crowds
Asheville and the surrounding mountains have become more popular in recent years, and several destinations have received unsustainable levels of visitation. The good news is there is plenty of room to spread out; Pisgah has 500,000 acres to explore. Instead of hitting hot spots, where you’ll have to crop the crowds out of your pictures, seek out off-the-beaten path peaks and trails, you’ll likely find something just as beautiful and maybe even more unique.
Pedal the Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway follows the ridgeline along the Southern Appalachians for 469 miles from Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. A choice section of the road wraps around Asheville through Great Smoky Mountain National Park and climbs up 6,214-foot Black Balsam Knob to the south and 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell to the north. Most visitors travel by car, but the 35 miles from Asheville to the top of Mount Mitchell (the highest mountain peak in the Eastern US) is worth a spot on any cyclist’s bucket list.
Support Sustainable Businesses
Asheville has one of the most progressive dining scenes in the country, with a number of restaurants exceeding North Carolina’s Green Dining Standards. It’s also loaded with vegetarian and vegan restaurants, offering you the chance to dive into a sustainable plant-based diet. Plant, an award-winning vegan restaurant just north of downtown is a local favorite and has a way with grilling vegetables. Start with the grilled shishito peppers and carrots and finish with their tempeh-based chili con queso.
Consider joining Pledge for the Wild, a nationwide program designed to support the sensitive communities that receive pressure from adventure tourism. Asheville is the only destination east of the Mississippi that partners with this program, after visiting Asheville, you can text WILD4ASHEVILLE to 44321 to make a donation, contributing directly to the non-profit groups responsible for protecting and maintaining the wild lands you just enjoyed. You can also set aside a few hours during your vacation to volunteer with a local trail organization like Pisgah Area Sorba and Carolina Mountain Club who host regular work days in the surrounding mountains.