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An artsy little mountain town just 15 miles east of Asheville, Black Mountain’s original claim to fame was its experimental arts school that opened in 1933. Although Black Mountain College has since closed, the town remains alluring to art lovers and crafts enthusiasts, with plenty of galleries, shops, and annual events displaying Southern Appalachian works.
The historic downtown is quaint, walkable, and studded with rocking chairs, which has resulted in Black Mountain being nicknamed Western North Carolina’s “front porch.” Tasty restaurants, independent bookstores, breweries, and music venues abound, as do nearby hiking and biking trails that are accessible and appealing to outdoorsy folks throughout the year. At an elevation of 2,405 feet, Black Mountain also offers fresh mountain air and a scenic, rugged backdrop, and this combined with the thriving arts community has regularly placed the town atop lists of America’s best small mountain towns.
Most travelers drive into Black Mountain from the east or the west on I-40 or fly into Asheville Regional Airport (AVL), which is a 30-minute drivesouthwest. Although you can grab taxis or rideshares from the airport, renting or bringing your own wheels allows for the most freedom. That said, it’s pretty easy to travel between Asheville and Black Mountain on public transportation. The City of Asheville Transit Center offers buses between the two, and Nextbus can provide information on when the next bus will arrive.
There is no bad time to visit Black Mountain, as the mountain air is always crisp and there’s generally something of interest going on. From late spring to early fall, rocking chairs decorated by local artists pop up all over town, and they’re usually sold off by October. In July and October, there’s the biannual Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, while August sees the long-standing Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. September and October are lovely for fall foliage, which is best viewed out on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and February is famous for the Black Mountain Marathon, which brings runners up to the peak of Mountain Mitchell. Summertime concerts take place at White Horse Black Mountain, including bluegrass, jazz, classical, and Celtic music.
Black Mountain’s best shopping happens on this adorable street lined with gift stores, antique shops, and arts and crafts outlets. The biggest draw is Town Hardware & General Store, which carries more than 35,000 items including tools, paint, garden supplies, and housewares.
Those who enjoy wandering in nature will adore this area replete with mountain pathways. Favorite outdoor jaunts include the 86 miles of trails at DuPont State Forest Waterfalls, the scenic Catawba Falls in Pisgah National Forest, Mount Mitchell State Park (which contains the highest point east of the Mississippi), and both hiking and climbing at Chimney Rock State Park. You can also take a hike around the nearby Lake Tomahawk Park, where fishing is possible (note that you’ll need a valid North Carolina fishing license).
Dubbed “America’s favorite drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway snakes through 469 miles of Southern Appalachia, and a particularly lovely stretch of it is located within a pine cone’s toss of Black Mountain. If possible, time your drive to see the brightly colored fall foliage.