Long days of sunshine are returning to Blue Ridge Mountains, and a thousand shades of green are returning to the forests, growing brighter with each day. Spring is a beautiful time to live in Asheville, as the surrounding mountains burst to life with wildflowers and roaring rivers. You might find yourself with what feels like an unending reserve of energy, wanting to sprint to the summit of Mount Mitchell and back again before you’ve even had your morning coffee. Here are five active and exhilarating ways to welcome the new season.
1. Mountain Bike to Bridal Veil Falls
There are a few ways to access the impressive, 120 foot granite slide of Bridal Veil Falls, but the one we recommend is Corn Mill Shoals Trail. Because of a precarious river crossing, this trail is guaranteed to never get too crowded. You will wind through picturesque Eastern Hardwoods with some brief but trying climbs before taking a moderately steep, straight downhill to the base of the falls. The trail is rutted with roots, rocks, and patches of mud, but nothing near as technical as you would find in neighboring Pisgah.
Enjoy the quiet and solitude that you will find on this 2.75 mile trail (one way), as Bridal Veil Falls is a very popular destination. Curtaining down a steep hillside of pure rock, they are a spectacular site to behold, something you might expect to find out West instead of tucked away in Appalachia. You may recognize them from The Last of the Mohicans and, more recently, The Hunger Games.
The good news, however, is that of all the waterfalls in DuPont, this one requires the most hiking to access, saving you from the carnival-crowds of the roadside Triple Falls and High Falls.
Park your bike at the base of the falls—racks are provided and we highly recommend locking them up—and then scramble up the sun warmed slab till you've reached the ten foot drop. Here, provided the water is not too high, you can actually climb behind the veil and explore the falls from the inside out.
2. Sip a cider at Westside Fest
What better way to celebrate the arrival of spring then a good old fashion neighborhood block party? West Side Fest is the annual West Asheville craft beer and craft cider festival, held on May 24 th in the courtyard of Urban Orchards Cider Company . A ticket includes unlimited cider and beer tasters from the neighborhood breweries of Oyster House, Wedge, Altamont, and New Belgium.
Customize your brew with a mobile flavor infuser, featuring fruit, spices, and French Broad Chocolate. Heaping plates of local BBQ and ice cream from the HOP—including the brewery inspired flavors of creamy porter, sweet malty IPA, and cider sorbets—will be available as well.
3. Hunt for Wildflowers at Graveyard Fields
When long sunny days return to Western Carolina, oceans of wildflowers bloom throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains, carpeting the forest floor and painting the fields with vibrant hues. In April, white Dogwood and Painted Trillium will be in full bloom, along with the delicate pinks of Redbuds, Pinkshell Azaleas, and Pink Lady Slippers and tiny blue Phacelia. May brings Mountain Laurel, Flame Azalea, Violets, and Wild Cherry.
Graveyard Fields, located off of milepost 418.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is one of the most popular hikes in the area for wildflower hunting. This moderate, 3.4-mile loop trail cuts through open grassy meadows of a high, flat mountain valley that bloom knee deep with wildflowers. Wrap-around views of rippling Appalachian peaks and the unusual appearance of mossy, overgrown stumps create a gorgeous and unique experience for hikers in any season.
4. Take a plunge at Midnight Hole
Hit the reset button and wash off the last remnants of winter by taking a dip at Midnight Hole on Big Creek . Named for its dark, sparkling water, this classic Southeast swimming hole is located on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line, just inside the boundaries of Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
An easy 1.4- mile hike on an old railroad grade will lead you to the pool, fed at one end by a cascade of water tumbling through rocks. The water stays very cold even throughout the summer, but the surrounding boulders are so perfect for climbing and jumping off—you won’t be able to resist taking the first plunge of the year. Afterwards, when you’re feeling refreshed and revived, continue a half-mile up to the trail to see the spectacular, 45 foot Mouse Branch Falls.
5. Do Yoga at Max Patch
Do a little spring cleaning of your mind and soul by taking your yoga practice to the summit of Max Patch . This grassy, flowering bald is the ideal place to lie in Savasana and recharge your battery after a dark and rainy winter. Mountain views roll out in all directions, including the Black Mountain Range and Smoky Mountain National Park.
The summit is a quick ten minute jaunt from the parking lot, so pack your yoga matt, a water bottle, and a book and stay all day. Max Patch is a popular destination especially on the weekends, but a brief sojourn on the Appalachian Trail in either direction can award you 360 degrees of sunny, green solitude.