Love birds by day, powder hounds by night: Hit the slopes of Cataloochee Mountain after dark for an out-of-the-ordinary romantic excursion. The ski resort offers both Twilight Passes (1 p.m. to 10 p.m.) and Night Passes (6 p.m. to 10 p.m.) so that visitors may discover the distinct pleasures of skiing and snowboarding after sundown. Although the main trails are brightly lit, the real fun begins when you and your sweetie duck into the trees and find the powder stashes that are illuminated only by starlight.
2. Plan a Picnic on the Parkway
A picnic on the Blue Ridge Parkway requires very little planning, which makes it a perfect spur-of-the-moment romantic outing. Simply choose which phenomenal view you’d like to share (we recommend Looking Glass Rock Overlook at Milepost 417, which also happens to be the trailhead for Skinny Dip Falls, need we say more) or cruise the parkway and take your pick of breathtakingly beautiful overlooks.
For perfect picnic fare, stop by the West End Bakery for sandwiches, baked goods, and coffee to go, or class it up with a box of hand-selected truffles from the French Broad Chocolate Company. (Of course, if this is an evening excursion, a bottle of champagne certainly qualifies as a picnic.)
3. Camp Out at Crabtree Falls
Take a tiny vacation to the Crabtree Falls & Meadows Recreation Area, home of the gorgeous, 70-foot Crabtree Falls, one of the most photogenic landscapes near Asheville . Spend the night in one of the small, rustic cabins at the Crabtree Falls Campground, then make the easy, 3 mile out-and-back hike to the falls first thing in the morning. Bring a thermos of coffee to share with your sweetheart, and watch as the first rays of sun penetrate the forest and illuminate the gauzy veil of water. If you’re an early riser, you may have that marvelous sight all to yourself.
4. Watch the Sunset from the Linville Gorge
With all the artistic allure of sunrise, but without the painful wake-up time, sunset is time of reflection, serenity, and romance. As the sun sinks and the sky erupts in colors, the world grows cold very quickly. Make sure and throw a blanket in your backpack so you can wrap it around the both of you, and pack a thermos of hot tea to share.
A dramatic spot to witness the closing of day is from the summit of Hawksbill Mountain in the Linville Gorge Wilderness. Some 2,000 feet above the canyon floor, perch at the edge of the rock outcrop, and take in the view that stretches across the gorge to Table Rock and Grandfather Mountain. Remember to pack a couple of headlamps for the 1.5 mile descent back to the car.
5. Take in the Stars at Graveyard Fields
If you’re truly looking to impress, treat your certain someone to the best stargazing in all of North Carolina. Graveyard Fields , a high valley in the heart of the Great Balsam Range, is best known for its hiking trails, which meander through mountain laurels, blueberry thickets, and rhododendrons, and provide the perfect overlook for two waterfalls that tumble down the Yellowstone Prong. In the evening, however, after most of the visitors have packed up and headed home, the settling darkness unveils a whole new realm of natural beauty above the quiet meadow.
Folded away in the Blue Ridge and far from the city lights of Asheville and Hendersonville, the sky above Graveyard Fields is one of the best places in the Southeast to view the Milky Way. And while this may be a lofty claim, that diamond-white spray of stars is arguably the most romantic spectacle in all of the visible cosmos.
6. Ride the Point Lookout Greenway Bike Trail
If you want to keep it casual with a brand new love interest, take a fun and flirty ride on the Point Lookout Greenway Bike Trail. This paved greenway, surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest, makes for a pleasant 8 mile out-and-back ride (including the half mile dash from the parking area at the Pisgah National Forest Picnic Area near Old Fort.) If you choose to cruise together on a tandem bike, be warned that the trail gains 900 feet of elevation in 3.6 miles, so be ready for some teamwork.
7. Escape for the Weekend
Just because you’re a permanent resident of the Blue Ridge Mountains doesn’t mean you can’t play tourist from time to time. Surprise your partner by renting a cabin for the weekend and sweeping him or her away from the ubiquitous demands real life. Hide away at a riverside cabin, hole up in an upscale yurt, or indulge in the luxuries of a fancy mountainside cottage. A weekend of fresh views, hot-tub soaks, and some new perspective on a familiar landscape will do you both a world of good. Sometimes, even the most steadfast relationships need a little change of scenery.
8. Cozy Up with a Hot Mulled Cider
Nestled on a side street between West Asheville and the River Arts District, Urban Orchards Cider Company is one of the coziest hideouts in the city. The spacious interior, filled with warm light and polished wood, is the perfect respite from a dreary winter evening. The cider, brewed right downstairs from Carolina apples, is light, bright, and not too sweet, a perfect date-night alternative to beer. The brewers create a seasonally shifting menu of creative infusions, from tart cranberry to the effervescent ginger champagne.
When you don’t have the time to disappear into the mountains, head over to Urban Orchards, break out the trail guides, and plan your next adventure together over a piping hot cranberry-orange mulled cider.