Appalachian Trail#4 in Best Things To Do in Asheville, NC
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Winding its way from Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Trail spans 2,190 miles through 14 states. About 320 of those miles are found in North Carolina (including 224 miles along the Tennessee border).
The North Carolina section offers many of the Appalachian Trail's highest peaks, several above 6,000 feet. Hiking enthusiasts can set out on a multiday or weeklong journey (keep in mind that you'll need permits to camp and hike in some areas, especially inside the Great Smoky Mountains).
If you're just looking for a little taste of Appalachia, you can venture about 35 miles northwest of Asheville to the town of Hot Springs, where the Appalachian Trail runs right through town on Bridge Street. From there, park at the Silvermine trailhead and follow the Appalachian Trail until you reach Lover's Leap Ridge. You can continue to hike along the Appalachian Trail or follow the orange blazes to complete the Lover's Leap Loop.
While the trail is moderately difficult, hikers say the views from its peaks and outcroppings are worth the climb.
To reach Hot Springs, take Interstate 26 North to Highway 25/Highway 70 North. There's ample parking available and travelers will find the Nantahala Outdoor Center on-site. For more information on the trail, visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website.
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This enormous French Renaissance-style estate of George Vanderbilt has a storied past dating back to 1889. Considered America's largest private home, the 250-room estate – with 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and a whopping 65 fireplaces – took six years to construct. The 8,000 acres of gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (the same landscape architect responsible for Central Park) and feature 2 ½ miles of walking paths.
Amassing 125,000 acres at its peak, 87,000 acres were sold after Vanderbilt's death in 1914 to form what is now the Pisgah National Forest. But its history doesn't stop there: During World War II the estate stored pieces from the National Gallery of Art, and in the 1970s a winery was added. In the 2000s, inns and hotels were opened on the property.
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