1) The Blue Ridge Parkway – North – We are only 10 minutes from an entrance to The Blue Ridge Parkway at Mile Marker 384.7. I recommend going North on the Parkway to hikes with mountain overlooks. (The Mile Markers descend as you go north). Go North to Craggy Gardens (Mile Marker 364.4) or Mt. Mitchell (Mile Marker 355.4), which is the highest peak in the Eastern USA. On your way North on the Parkway, stop at the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center (Mile Marker 384) for more information. Also, stop by the Folk Art Center (Mile Marker 382) to visit the small museum and shop for crafts by artisans in the Southern Highland Craft Guild.
Not feeling like a hike? Drive North to check out the views at overlooks; including, Haw Creek Overlook at Mile Marker 380, Craven Gap Overlook at 377.4, and Tanbark Overlook at 376.4.
2) The Blue Ridge Parkway – South – I recommend going South on the Parkway to hikes with waterfalls. Graveyard Fields (Mile Marker 418) is beautiful hike, which has small waterfalls at the beginning of the hike and Upper Falls, another waterfall, later down the trail. 3-4 Mile hike.
3) Looking Glass – Go to Looking Glass for a great hike to a rocky overlook. From I-40 West get onto I-26 East. Continue on I-26 East to Exit 40 for Highway 280 (and the Asheville Airport). Take a right onto Highway 280 West and go 16 miles toward Brevard. As you enter the Brevard area, you will see a big shopping center on the right (with Wal-Mart). Just past the center, turn right onto US Highway 276 North to enter the Pisgah National Forest. Go 5.3 miles and turn left at the sign for Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and the State Fish Hatchery. Go 4/10 of a mile and look for the parking area on the right for Looking Glass Rock Trail Head.
4) DuPont Falls – Take I 40W to exit 46A for I 26 East towards Hendersonville. Take I 26 east to Exit 40. Turn right off Exit 40 onto NC 280. Take NC 280 south 16 miles to US 64. Turn left onto US 64 and go 3.7 miles to the stop light. Turn right onto Crab Creek Rd and go 4.3 miles to DuPont Road. Turn right onto DuPont Rd and go 4.2 miles. Note that DuPont Rd becomes Station Road.
5) Asheville Botanical Gardens – Walk this flat trail by a river and through native plant gardens. No fee. Take 240 West, take the Merriment Exit, go right and travel 1.5 miles, turn left at traffic light onto Weaver Blvd., pass the entrance to University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA) at the traffic circle, Botanical Gardens is .2 mile on the right.
6) The North Carolina Arboretum – This family-friendly facility features gardens, wooded trails, a Bonsai Exhibition Garden, a small museum, a gift shop, and a café. $12 Parking fee per vehicle. Heading west on I-40, take Interstate 26 East. Take Exit 33 (marked Blue Ridge Parkway-Brevard Road-Hwy 191). Turn left (South) onto Hwy. 191. Travel South on Hwy 191 for approximately 2.1 miles (pass Biltmore Square Mall). Look for brown signs for Blue Ridge Parkway and NC Arboretum. Turn right at light and entrance to The North Carolina Arboretum, main entrance is ahead on right.
7) Western North Carolina Nature Center – Bears, eagles, & otters are just a few of the animals you will meet at this family-friendly center. $10.95 fee per adult, $6.95/youth. Head towards Asheville and take Exit 8, take a right off the ramp, and follow signs.