Meandering through the Mountains

  • Start: Asheville, North Carolina
  • End: Waynesville, NC
  • Last Modified: 2014-09-13 16:16:03
  • Total Mileage: 0 Miles
  • Number of stops: 30


On a clear day, the entire area covered by this "Best of the Road" trip can be seen from atop Clingman's Dome, the 6,643-foot peak that sits on the Tennessee-North Carolina border. The route winds through a realm of ancient mountains mellowed by time, of deep hollows harboring isolated farms, of forests that stretch unbroken to the horizon, and of national treasures such as historic Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Public markets, a subterranean lake, and fine dining are all here in the Editor's Picks, our way of sharing with you those special things we call "Best of the Road." The trip begins in Asheville, a popular resort since the mid-1800s and site of the famous Biltmore Estate. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains at an elevation of 2,200 feet, the city offers an unusual combination of Appalachian charm and cosmopolitan sophistication. Its devotion to the arts and culture earned it the nickname "Paris of the South." Asheville's lively downtown streets brim with eclectic shops, top-notch restaurants, and elegant buildings that date back to the city's Gilded Age heyday. One such building, the Gothic Revival-style Grove Arcade, was renovated and reopened in 2002 as the Grove Arcade Public Market. A pleasant anachronism in this age of chain stores and strip malls, the market consists of some 40 owner-operated businesses, many of which sell products and foods made or grown in western North Carolina. Food lovers flock to the stalls in the Portico Market, where vendors offer organically grown fruits and vegetables, locally made cheeses, exotic spices and herbs, and gourmet pies. (The blueberry-peach pie is a favorite.) The best-known spot for arts-and-crafts shopping in the area is the Southern Highland Craft Guild's Folk Art Center, located five miles east along the Blue Ridge Parkway. An excellent and less pricey alternative sits just off Pack Square in downtown Asheville. The Appalachian Craft Center specializes in authentic mountain handicrafts, especially traditional pottery made by local artisans. A large part of the store's ample space is devoted to casserole dishes, plates, and pitchers, as well as the scary-looking "face jugs" once made by African-American slaves to ward off evil spirits. Among the other handicrafts on display are wooden bowls, "friendship" brooms, quilts, looper rugs, and rustic furniture. Many of the items come from the region's best-known artisan families, including the Coles, Owenses, and Teagues.The Asheville area boasts several world-class gardens, most notably those at Biltmore and at the North Carolina Arboretum. It also has a number of "hidden" gardens--little-known places that are well worth a visit. One of these is Jarvis Japanese Garden near Mars Hill. Created by Jack Jarvis, a landscaper who became smitten with Japanese gardens after designing one for a client, the five-acre garden incorporates the traditional elements of water, stones, and plants. Pathways wind around five koi-filled, lotus- and lily-covered ponds, past a large bonsai collection, and among a riot of colorful flowers, shrubs, and exotic trees such as a Chinese pistachio and a dwarf cherry from Mt. Fuji. Jarvis, who confesses that his neighbors in rural Madison County don't quite understand his obsession, is glad to show visitors around when he's available. Admission to the garden is free. From Asheville, the route heads west on the Blue Ridge Parkway, then south to the Cradle of Forestry. This 6,500-acre section of the Pisgah National Forest commemorates the beginnings of forest conservation in the United States. It lies some 20 miles from the Biltmore Mansion but, incredibly, it falls within the estate's original boundaries. At the Forest Discovery Center, visitors can examine forestry-related exhibits and watch an 18-minute film that tells how the once-deforested landscape was nursed back to robust health by Gifford Pinchot and Dr. Carl A. Schenk around the turn of the 19th century.

Stop #1:

Biltmore Estate
Asheville, North Carolina

Stop #3:

Grove Arcade Public Market
Asheville, NC

Stop #4:

Appalachian Craft Center
Asheville, NC

Stop #5:

North Carolina Arboretum
Asheville, NC

Stop #6:

Jarvis Japanese Garden
Mars Hill, NC

Stop #7:

Forest Discovery Center
Pisgah National Forest, NC

Stop #9:

Dry Falls
Highlands, NC

Stop #10:

Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum
Franklin, NC

Stop #11:

Best Li'l Corner Ice Cream Parlor
Hayesville, NC

Stop #12:

John C. Campbell Folk School
North Carolina, United States of America

Stop #13:

Yellow Branch Pottery & Cheese
Robbinsville, NC

Stop #14:

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
Robbinsville, NC

Stop #15:

Cherohala Scenic Skyway
North Carolina, United States of America

Stop #16:

The Lost Sea
Sweetwater, TN

Stop #17:

University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN

Stop #19:

World's Fair Park
Knoxville, TN

Stop #20:

Ijams Nature Center
Knoxville, TN

Stop #21:

The Glades, Great Smokey Arts and Crafts
Gatlinburg, TN

Stop #22:

Little River Road
Little River, TN

Stop #23:

Cades Cove
Gatlinburg, TN

Stop #24:

Nantahala Outdoor Center
Bryson City, NC

Stop #25:

Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community
Gatlinburg, TN

Stop #26:

Riverwood Shops at Craft Circle
Dillsboro, NC

Stop #27:

Lulu's Cafe
Sylva, NC

Stop #28:

Mud Dabber's Pottery & Crafts
North Carolina, United States of America

Stop #29:

Whitman's Bakery
Waynesville, NC

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