Here you are, standing at the headwaters of a brand new year. As the steady current of days rolls by, we challenge you to dive in headfirst. Go ahead and pack your calendar with trails and treks, map out the road trips, and create an epic adventure or two. We’ll get you started: Here are 15 outdoor adventures to cross off your Asheville bucket list in 2016.
1. Hike the Mountains-to-Sea Trail through the Linville Gorge
The Linville Gorge is one of the most rugged and wild tracts of land in North Carolina, and the section of the Mountains-to-Sea trail that runs through it is nothing short of spectacular. Pick up the trail at the foot of Table Rock, clamber over the gnarled rock of the Chimneys, plunge down into Chimney gap and summit Shortoff Mountain. Expect to find your fill of scrambling, sheer cliffs, and some of the most dazzling vistas in the entire state.
2. Take an Adventure-Filled Weekend Away
Romantic rendez-vous, girls’ getaway, bachelor trip, or a solo venture—this year, treat yourself to an adventurous weekend away. With so many world-class day trips available in Asheville (and so many breweries to lure you back in the evenings) it can be easy to neglect the adventures that await in surrounding counties. Check out these weekend escapes, book a cabin or a yurt for the night, and hit the road.
3. Earn the Summit of Mt. Mitchell
It’s time to earn your bragging rights. Reach the summit of Mt. Mitchell, the highest point on the East Coast, on foot, via one of the more rugged and challenging trails. The 10.5-mile Black Mountain Crest Trail is is a suitably demanding option.
4. Think Outside the Pint
It’s no secret that Asheville is a craft-beer mecca, but it’s always important to mix it up, pun intended. Treat yourself to a post-excursion libation that’s beyond the pint: Asheville boasts a craft Sake brewery, two cider houses, a whiskey distillery and a downtown moonshine bar that’s nothing short of epic.
5. Bike the Blue Ridge Parkway
Every year, tens of thousands of cyclists visit the Blue Ridge Parkway, powering up the hills and cruising down the long, curving descents, basking in non-stop mountain views. Although the parkway is no place for beginners, it’s surprisingly gracious to those who are hitting its hills and curves for the first time. You’ll find manageable grade, rest stops every few miles, and plenty of inspiration in the form of breathtaking vistas.
6. Explore State Parks
In our zeal to find solitude and discover off-the-beaten-path-adventures, we often overlook the treasures trove of adventure that can be found at our local state parks. This year, explore the places you see on the postcards: the outcrop at Chimney Rock, the waterfalls at Gorges, the vistas from Caesar’s Head and the mile-high bridge at Grandfather Mountain, just to name a few.
7. Run a Race
Whether it’s a fun 5k, the Asheville Marathon or the brutal Mt. Mitchell Challenge, training for a running race provides motivation to hit the pavement or take to the trails. It’s also a great way to get involved in the community and meet some new adventure partners. For training tips and general inspiration, check out the exercise classes and and weekly runs with The Asheville Running Company.
8. Have an Epic
While you can’t necessarily plan to have an epic, you can certainly up your chances of having a rigorous, awe-inspiring and story-worthy adventure. Tackle a burly, all-day hike, leave the house before dawn, drop into a wilderness area like Linville, Panthertown Valley, ask the rangers for beta on the lesser-known trails. We’re not saying be reckless—we’re saying be curious. Go where you’ve never been before and once you’re there, keep going. Pack lots of snacks.
9. Mountain Bike to Bridal Veil Falls
DuPont State Recreational Forest is home to six beautiful waterfalls and over 100 miles of multi-use trails. Biking to Bridal Veil Falls is a unique riding adventure that entails flowing singletrack, technical downhill and river crossings with a slick-rock finale: an epic route to reach an epic destination. Cool off by exploring behind the veil at the top of the falls.
10. Run the Stone Mountain Loop Trail
There is certainly no shortage of enjoyable trail runs around Asheville; that’s true whether you’re training for an ultra or just starting out. The Stone Mountain Loop Trail is half challenge (4.5 miles, stairs, steep) half reward (200-foot waterfall, splash pool, mountain-top views). With such a dramatic payoff, this pulse-quickening adventure is a must-do.
11. Learn to Kayak
If you’re not already a kayaker, 2016 is the year to see what all the fuss is about. With classic creeks coursing through the mountains, a wealth of friendly, moderate runs like the Pigeon and the French Broad, and an active community that hosts a barrage of races, movie premieres, and social events all year long, Asheville is one of the top whitewater destinations in the country. To get started, check out the instruction and roll clinics at Green River Adventures, the Nantahala Outdoor Center, and Girls at Play.
12. Go Backpacking on the Roan Mountain Highlands
It’s possible that the 14 mile section of the Appalachian trail that spans the Roan Mountain Highlands is the most spectacular backpacking trip in the entire Southeast. Miles of airy, grassy balds and views unspooling in all directions will make the weight of your pack evaporate and the burning in your quads go unnoticed. It’s a picture-perfect overnight with unlimited starry views.
13. Take the Plunge
14. Claim a First Ascent at Rumbling Bald
Why not? The bouldering at Rumbling Bald is becoming so popular, very soon there won’t be any new routes to find. But for now, the forest of this rock-studded section of the Hickory Nut Gorge is just brimming with projects still waiting to be cleaned, claimed, and sent for the first time. So take a break from your next session and wander into the unknown, toothbrush in hand. Remember—first ascents come with naming privileges…
15. Tackle the Pisgah
If you’re an avid mountain biker, but you’ve been spinning your wheels when it comes to tackling the Pisgah Gnar, no more excuses. Yes, the 500,000 acres (!) of the Pisgah National Forest can be intimidating. Yes, there are plenty of fulfilling and comparatively gentle trails to be found at Bent Creek and DuPont. Yes, the trail systems at Pisgah have a reputation for brutal climbs and technical downhill. But there’s a reason that those trails are renown as being some of the best riding in the country, and it’s time you discovered those reasons for yourself. Check out the best ways to ease yourself into Pisgah, and you’ll be a Clawhammer veteran in no time. (Hint: Park at the Fish Hatchery parking area.)