Western North Carolina is a mecca for outdoors enthusiasts.

Thousands of miles of trophy trout streams wet the wrinkles of the Smokies, the Balsams, the Blacks and the Blue Ridge, joining into rivers where whitewater rafters and kayakers can take in the mountain beauty up close. Where highland valleys meet climbing hills, some of the most beautiful golf courses in the nation challenge all levels. Our guests get a discount at Reems Creek Golf Club, one of the best. Just 20 minutes north winter visitors can get their fill of skiing. And for an outstanding view of the mountains’ beauty, there is hot air ballooning.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, one of America’s most stunning highways, carries travelers more than 400 miles along ridgelines unmarred by billboards, trucks or any buildings other than the occasional information center. Take a drive to Mount Mitchell, highest peak east of the Rockies, or go south to catch a view of Cold Mountain, of literary and movie fame. During Autumn leaf season, the drive is particularly gorgeous.

Trailheads along the parkway and other mountain roads beckon hikers to waterfalls, balds and escarpments where rock climbers test themselves against the mountain. Steep trails at two county parks challenge mountain bicyclists.

For great views, unique trails and one of the highest waterfalls in the Southeast, visit Chimney Rock Park, a private park perched above Lake Lure and the Piedmont beyond.

An hour or so to the west of Asheville, Great Smoky Mountains National Park contains more plant and animal species than any other park in America, and offers visitors a chance to see bears, elk and other animals in the wild, as well as see how pioneers lived in a re-created mountain community.

Closer and to the south, Transylvania County boasts the greatest concentration of waterfalls in the Southeast, many of them visible from roadside overlooks. DuPont State Forest, North Carolina’s newest, features easy trails to several magnificent waterfalls.

Whitewater and calmwater enthusiasts alike find their own degree of thrill and scenery on the French Broad River, Nantahala River, Pigeon River, and other rivers.

Other outfitters offer fly-fishing trips, rock-climbing classes, guided nature hikes, horseback riding and even llama treks on mountain trails. Afterwards, loosen up with a soak and massage at the region’s only natural hot mineral springs.

 Navitat Canopy Tours is a combination of  ziplines, rappeling and a couple swinging bridges amid the treetops in Barnardsville, a few minutes north of Weaverville. Articles in both USA Today and the New York Times have praised the attraction.

For a calendar of upcoming events, visit ExploreAsheville.com.

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