This time of year in Western North Carolina sees thousands of visitors every weekend. From dropping kids off at summer camp to girls’ weekends and college reunions, you can be sure to meet someone new every time you turn around. Between Asheville, Hendersonville, Cashiers, Highlands and many other charming towns in between, it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the options. We thought we would take a minute to share a few of our favorite ways to spend a beautiful summer day in WNC.

We highly recommend starting in Brevard, NC, an enjoyable 30 minute drive from the Gorges State Park Visitors Center. Located on Broad Street, Bracken Mountain Bakery is the perfect place to grab a coffee and a pastry to start your day. Everything is made fresh in house and is delicious! Trust us! You can also grab a picnic lunch while you’re in town. Head over to Mayberry’s to grab a sandwich or even the Blue Ridge Bakery at its new location on Main Street across from the Co-Ed Cinema has great to-go options.

Once you’re all fueled up and ready to spend a day in the woods, head to the Park by driving west on US 64. For specific directions, visit here. At the Park’s Visitors Center, make sure to check out all of the great exhibits. Kids love the rainfall exhibit. If you just can’t wait to eat your picnic lunch, the deck at the Center is an unbeatable place to sit down for a minute. You can generally catch some beautiful views of Lake Jocassee in South Carolina. On a colder day, you can cozy up to the fireplace and still enjoy some great views through the big windows. And remember, all of this is free!

While at the Visitors Center, talk to the staff at the front and get some recommendations for trails that would be good for your fitness and interest levels. One of the most popular hikes and easiest from the Visitors Center is the trek to the Upper Bearwallow Falls. Clocking-in at just about a 2½ mile out and back, the trail is a little strenuous but oh-so worth it! Rainbow Falls is just outside of Park boundaries but you can access it from inside the park. The trailhead is located next to a convenient parking lot. Ask about these amazing falls at the Visitors Center or talk to a ranger.

Done with your hike? Don’t forget to grab a souvenir and donate to the Friends of Gorges! Or better yet, become a member and help sustain the Park for generations to come.

Lastly, we recommend continuing your day by heading further west. Cashiers and Highlands are both wonderful options for a delicious dinner and lodging options. In Cashiers, we love Slab Town Pizza and the Cork and Barrel Lounge for dinner. One of the best places to stay in Western North Carolina is the Old Edwards Inn. If luxury if what you are looking for, you will absolutely find it at Old Edwards Inn in Highlands. There is also a Hampton Inn in Sapphire Valley if you’re looking for something a little less pricey.

If your little one is at camp for a week, extend your stay and explore the east side of the park by using the Frozen Creek Access point. There is plenty to keep you occupied! If your weekend reunion with your college buddies wasn’t long enough, take another day or two to explore the Park and its surrounding charming towns.

We promise you won’t be disappointed!

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