12 Must-See Mountain Towns Within Four Hours of Charlotte


When the temperature rises, do what any good Charlottean would do and head to the mountains to breathe in the fresh air.

Orient yourself: The Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains cross the western part of North Carolina. Many of our mountain towns are scattered around two main hubs: Asheville and Boone.

When to visit: There are sights to see in all seasons – from wildflower viewing in the spring and festivals in the summer to apple picking in the fall and skiing in the winter.

  • Use this guide to choose a destination and season for you.

(1) Ashville

The king of the cool and crowd-favorite mountain town, Asheville is a rite of passage for weekend trips from Charlotte. The city of nearly 100,000 has supreme foodie spots, art galleries galore, dozens of breweries, and a handful of nearby hikes.

Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours

Perfect for: Friends who like to party.

When should we go: Fall for leaf stains and pumpkin ales.

Have: Visit the beautiful Biltmore Estate, take a brewery tour, and end the day with dancing and drinks at the outdoor bar, Ben’s Tune Up.

Complete guidance: 35 Things To Do In Asheville, North Carolina‘s Coolest Mountain Town

guide to asheville

Take a self-guided walking tour of Asheville through Grove Arcade. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

(2) Sylvester

This surprising food-centric town less than three hours west of Charlotte is one to watch. Hit the local shops or relax with a beer or dinner near Scott Creek downtown.

Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours, 45 minutes

Perfect for: The greedy couple.

When should we go: Spring for lush landscapes and wildflowers.

Have: Don’t leave Sylva without having dined at ILDA, a rustic Italian-Appalachian restaurant. While on Main Street, admire the majestic Jackson County Public Library and the view from the top of the steps.

ilda restaurant sylva nc mountain town

tiramisu restaurant sylva ilda

If it’s on the menu, order the tiramisu at ILDA. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

(3) Mount Airy

If you scaled Asheville down, you’d get something like Mount Airy, a small town of 10,000 surrounded by state parks and home to a growing beer and wine scene.

Distance from Charlotte: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Perfect for: Low budget holidays.

When should we go: Fall for the jump in the vineyards.

Have: Explore the downtown area that inspired the “Andy Griffith Show” and stop at Thirsty Souls Brewing for pizza and craft beer.

Complete guidance: Plan a weekend getaway to Mount Airy, NC’s “mini Asheville”

mont airy guide thirsty souls beer flight

Stop for a beer flight at Thirsty Souls. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

(4) Brevard

Waterfalls, fresh mountain air, fresh trout, local shops and chocolate. At Brevard, you get it all.

Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Perfect for: An outdoor getaway.

When should we go: In summer to swim in the nearby waterfalls.

Have: In town, dine at Square Root and grab a beer at Oskar Blues Brewery. Just outside of Brevard, discover a marathon of waterfalls like Rainbow and Turtleback Falls.

Complete guidance: Stay off the grid in Brevard and explore North Carolina’s “waterfall country”

brevard getaway waterfall

Hey, that’s me in front of Rainbow Falls. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

(5) Highlands

As the name suggests, Highlands sits high in the Appalachians (elevation 4,100 feet). The landscape is wonderful. Downtown is also postcard-perfect, with a vibrant arts community thanks to the Mountain Theater Company @ The Highlands Playhouse. Just outside of town, stay at Skyline Lodge with its mid-century modern design.

Distance from Charlotte: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Perfect for: Artistic couples.

When should we go: Summer. Its elevation means it’s about 10 degrees cooler than Charlotte.

Have: Visit the Bascom Center for Visual Arts and enjoy a steak at Oak Steakhouse, owned by the same restaurant group that runs Charlotte’s Oak Steakhouse, O-Ku and Mizu.

Related Guide: Charlotte Restaurant Group Opens Mid-Century Modern Mountain Lodge

mid century modern hotel skyline lounge

A view inside Skyline Lodge, a newly renovated mountain lodge. Photo: Andrew Cebulka, courtesy of The Indigo Road Hospitality Group

(6) Blow rock

Blowing Rock is an upscale resort with mountain charm. It’s ideal for a laid-back weekend filled with hiking and window shopping.

Distance from Charlotte: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Perfect for: Relaxation – whether as a family, as a couple or alone, it’s up to you.

When should we go: Fall, especially if you’re a hiker, for peak foliage.

Have: Visit The Blowing Rock for scenic views or venture along one of the most beautiful stretches of Blue Ridge Parkway just outside of town, which includes scenic Bass Lake and Moses H. Cone Memorial Park. Grab a coffee at Camp Coffee Roasters and shop downtown. And consider staying at the historic Green Park Inn, which dates back to 1891 and is full of charm.

Complete guidance: 20 things to see, do and eat in Blowing Rock, 2 hours from Charlotte

blowing rock view nc

View from Blowing Rock. Photo: Danielle Chemtob/Axios

(7) Hendersonville

A happy medium between loud Asheville and quiet Saluda, Hendersonville is a mecca for good food and drink.

Distance from Charlotte: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Perfect for: Wine, beer and cider lovers who have done Asheville before.

When should we go: Summer. Don’t miss the local street festivals and white water rafting near Saluda.

Have: Flat Rock Cider, Oklawaha Brewing, Dry Falls Brewing, Triskelion Brewing, Southern Appalachian Brewery, Burntshirt Vineyards, Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards and more.

Complete guidance: 11 things to see, do and eat in Hendersonville, less than 2 hours from Charlotte

Flat rock cider. Photo via Axios Charlotte Archives

(8) West Jefferson

Ashley here. I discovered West Jefferson by accident on the way to creeper trail in Virginia, and it’s become my favorite mountain town in North Carolina. I liked it so much that I also stopped by on my way back from Virginia. It’s charming and full of personality. Also the food is excellent.

Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours

Perfect for: Travel with your best friend.

When should we go: Fall for the leaves.

Have: All the murals that line the main street. You can spend hours walking around the city.

Related Guide: 11 Best Hikes for Fall Foliage This Year, All Within 3 Hours of Charlotte

(9) Banner Momentum

Banner Elk is North Carolina’s ski resort, right between the Beech and Sugar Mountains. But in the warmer months, you can start your day with a hike or an alpine rollercoaster and end it with a glass of wine from Banner Elk Winery.

Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Perfect for: Skiers and snowboarders.

When should we go: Winter, that is to say the ski season.

Have: Hit the slopes of Beech Mountain or Sugar Mountain.

Fun fact: The “Wizard of Oz” amusement park is minutes away. It’s a bit quirky but also a magical must-see if you’re around while it’s happening.

The view from Mount Beech. Photo: Matt Hill/Axios

(10) Boone

The quintessential college town in the mountains with nearby hikes to fill the days and effortless fun bars to complement your nights.

Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours

Perfect for: College lovers.

When should we go: To fall. This is the perfect time to watch the leaves and play college football.

Have: Take a road trip to the Mile High Swinging Bridge just outside of Boone on Grandfather Mountain. Worth it even if you’re a bit afraid of heights (that’s me).

rooftop bar cocktail boone nc

Grab a cocktail — like this one titled “F**k 2020” — at the rooftop bar of the Horton Hotel in downtown Boone. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

pizza boone nc

Lost Province Brewing’s pizza is excellent. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

(11) Wayneville

Under the radar mountain town in the shadow of nearby Asheville, but with plenty to see. Shop the boutiques and antique shops downtown, then take a long drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Perfect for: People who want to travel slow and love every minute.

When should we go: Fall to see elk and for the scenic rides of Blue Ridge Parkway.

Have: Take a tour of the Cataloochee Valley to see wild elk and dine at the Chef’s Table downtown where you can watch the kitchen prepare seasonal meals.

(12) Town of Bryson

Drive an hour past Asheville for this adorable town in the Great Smoky Mountains. Whether you’re looking for adventures on the water – like kayaking on Fontana Lake or white water and rafting through the Nantahala Outdoor Center – or want to get there in the winter for the Polar Express, this is a excellent escape.

Distance from Charlotte: 3 hours

Perfect for: Travel with friends.

When should we go: Late summer once the kids are back in school, but before it gets cold.

Have: Deep Creek is three miles from town and takes you into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There is no entrance fee and you can hike, tubing, bike, fish or go horseback riding. The best part is the three waterfalls: Tom Branch Falls, Juney Whank Falls and Indian Creek Falls.

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Ahi tuna from The Rice Wagon food truck. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

Bryson City Deep Creek Falls

One of three waterfalls you can see from the Deep Creek trail. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

Brianna Crane, Ashley Mahoney and Danielle Chemtob contributed to this guide.

A note of thanks: Many of these travel recommendations come from you, Axios Charlotte readers! Thank you for reading and sharing your comments along the way. Let us know what you think of this guide at [email protected]

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