The great escape
If you love adventure, you’ll love North Carolina!
Choose between the Mountains, the Coast or the Piedmont’s gently rolling hills – whatever you’re up for, you are sure to find it in North Carolina.
You’ll have heard all about adventure on the coast in our Sun, Sea, Sand & Surf section, but let’s take a look at the full range of adventure facilities North Carolina has to offer.
Great hikes and treks
If hiking and trekking tickles your fancy, head to Dupont State Forest, 40 miles southwest of Asheville near Brevard. This 10,000-acre State Forest is home to 900 miles of hiking trails. Take the 3-mile roundtrip easy hike to three beautiful waterfalls, then follow the side trails down to the base of each waterfall. Make sure you pack some food and wine for a picnic.
One hike that is a must is the Skyline Trail, and it’s worth every cent of the $14 per person (approximately £9.50) park entry fee. Packed with great scenery and a few steep climbs, this 1.5-mile loop takes you past breathtaking views of the gorge and a 400-foot waterfall. See the Devil’s Head, stop at Exclamation Point, walk along a natural ledge on sheer cliffs, and refresh yourself at Nature’s Showerbath, where a gentle cascade of water pours onto the path from an unseen source. And don’t miss the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River – Whitewater Falls, near Sapphire. It’s the highest waterfall in the Eastern United States, dropping 441 feet.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has over 850 miles of hiking trails for hardcore hikers. They range from easy to difficult and can provide anything from a half-hour walk to a week-long backpacking trip. The Appalachian Trail (left) runs for 70 miles along the Park’s top ridge.
Located just 35 miles from Asheville is the setting for the novel Cold Mountain. This area was made famous by Charles Frazier’s best-seller, which was turned into an acclaimed motion picture in 2003. The movie was actually filmed in Romania, but the mountain scenery is very similar to the real Cold Mountain area. The mountain itself reaches 6,030 feet and is part of the Shining Rock Wilderness area in Pisgah National Forest. And because Cold Mountain is in a National Forest, it has been preserved in its natural state – it is still much as it was during the Civil War, when Frazier’s novel is set. Reaching the summit requires a strenuous 10-mile hike.
The sheer cliffs and rock faces of North Carolina have been standing tall for more than a million years, and continue to call visitors from around the world. Whether you’re 6 or 60, a beginner or a pro, you can experience the thrill of rock climbing throughout the state.
At Chimney Rock Park (right), which you may recognise from ‘Last of the Mohicans’, beginners can enjoy the wonders of rock climbing in the hands of a skilled instructor. Prices start at $135 per person for half a day’s climbing.
Alternatively, head out to Looking Glass Rock, less than an hour from Asheville and probably the best-known rock climbing area in the state. It offers friction and face climbing on a 500-foot mountain wall.
Western North Carolina’s mountains contain some of the best mountain biking to be found anywhere. Gravel roads wind along beside lazy streams and through forested valleys, and rugged trails climb up steep mountainsides.
Want a trail that travels 5,000 feet across mountain peaks? Or a single track that traverses long, narrow ridges? You’ll find both within the boundaries of the Old North State. Whatever you’re looking for, be it a gentle cruise to a beautiful picnic spot or a rugged descent on technically demanding single track, you’ve chosen a great place to experience it all!
Wet and wild
The mountains are a magnet for visitors in search of thrilling white-water rafting. From family fun to full-on Grade-V challenges, you’ll get not only an adrenalin rush but also spectacular views as you pass through the mountains.
The Nantahala River, located in Nantahala National Forest, is one of America’s favourite white-water playgrounds. It is an ideal base for exploration as it’s based on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just a short distance from Cherokee and Bryson City.
Those who want to sit back, relax and let someone else to do all the work should head to Lake Fontana for a ride in a jet boat. With the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a backdrop, hold on tight as you are taken on a high-speed cruise around the lake, complete with 180/360 degree spins. You can even combine a hike and jet boat trip!
Explore the mountains near Asheville and you’ll come across the king of swimming holes: one with a 60 foot natural water slide that runs down a well-worn slab of rock, and was providing summertime entertainment long before man-made water slides came into fashion. You’ll find this fantastic free natural slide 7 miles north of Brevard in the Pisagh National Forest.
One of the ‘50 Great American Adventures’ as voted by the US’s Travel and Leisure Magazine, North Carolina’s llama treks are great for both experienced hikers and families in search of fun. And with a variety of hikes available, from daytime picnic walks to multi-day hiking trips, this truly is an adventure not to be missed.
Accompanied by a llama, hikers can enjoy the views of the Great Smoky Mountains without having to carry any of their provisions. Llamas are more manoeuvrable and smaller than other pack animals, and can go through, over, under, and into almost any area that people can. The llama’s strength, stamina and gentle manner make it an excellent travel companion for hikers, backpackers and forest work crews.
A one day trek starts from just $65pp, which includes lunch. For another $30 visitors can try their hands at white water rafting on the Pigeon River, with five-miles of water rapids that will give rafters a true taste of adventure. Alternatively, enjoy a two or three day trek from $230pp, including hearty meals, snacks and beverages, as well as all camping gear necessary for your back country adventure.
If you would rather settle into a saddle than walk, consider cycling, mountain biking or horseback riding. Touring and mountain bikes can be hired from outlets across the state and there’s an extensive network of paths and trails to keep you pedalling for as long as you want.
Click below to take the test…
All images are courtesy of North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development. Bill Russ, Photographer
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