High Points

By Jen Tota McGivney

Choose your own mountain adventure in the Carolinas.

The Carolinas offer an abundance of mountain getaways, but with the choices comes a tough decision: Which mountain getaway is best? It depends. Do you want to stay in a rustic campsite or a lakeside villa? Do you want to hike to waterfalls, pick apples or peruse art galleries? No matter your style, we have the spot for you.

For the Art Lover: Black Mountain, N.C.

In 1933, Black Mountain College opened with an innovative approach that put the arts at the center of its curriculum. For years, this school produced painters, writers, dancers and composers.
The spirit of the arts lives on in Black Mountain. This town is a haven for those who create — and admire — arts and crafts. The charming downtown offers a variety of galleries, whether your preferred medium is paint, pottery, wood or iron. The Black Mountain Center for the Arts hosts theater performances and concerts, as well as artists’ workshops. If you prefer art of an edible kind, find it in more than 40 independent restaurants, offering German, French, Argentine, Italian and Mexican cuisine.

For the Indecisive: Hendersonville, N.C.

In town for apple picking or cider tasting? (Henderson County is the state’s largest apple producer.) Here for the art? (Picturesque downtown Hendersonville boasts nine galleries.) Prefer to picnic by a waterfall? (Nearby DuPont Recreational Forest has six.)

Hendersonville faces a good problem for a small town: too much for visitors to do. They devised a creative solution: trail maps. Whether it’s breweries, hiking trails or specialty trails (heritage, orchard, quilt or beer-wine-cider), you can find a customized map and itinerary to guide your visit. Find them at

For the Adventurist: Banner Elk, N.C.

Banner Elk is the premier ski town of North Carolina. It’s the only town in the state located within five miles of two ski resorts, Sugar Mountain Resort and Beech Mountain Resort. The town also offers year-round attractions. During the summer, weekly concerts attract families to the downtown park with free music and food trucks. Both resorts also offer mountain
biking opportunities.

While small enough to have just one stoplight, Banner Elk is big enough to have its own winery and brewery. Banner Elk Winery is an international award-winning wine producer that hosts year-round tastings. The taproom at Kettell Beerworks — formerly Flat Top Brewing Company — provides an ever-rotating list of craft beers, as well as standard favorites always on offer.

For the Traditionalist: Oconee State Park, S.C.

During the Great Depression, the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) transformed this land into South Carolina’s third oldest state park. Visitors experience that history today. Oconee offers 19 cabins, accommodating four to eight guests, built by the CCC. The park has updated these cabins with amenities like air conditioning, heating and Wi-Fi, but the original touches, like fireplaces and screened porches, offer an old-time feel. Popular activities here haven’t changed much over the decades. Why would they? It’s hard to improve upon days spent at a lake, a mini-golf course or hiking trails. On Friday nights during the summer, the park even hosts square dancing with a live band.

For the Water Lover: Devils Fork State Park, S.C.

If you stand in Lake Jocassee deep enough for water to hit your neck, the water will be clear enough to see to your toes. This is the clearest lake in South Carolina, a man-made lake created with the Jocassee Dam. But the past persists beneath the water: scuba divers visit what stood on this land before the dam: a cemetery and even a hotel.

But more than divers come to this lake. Fishers come in search of trout, and vacationers come in search of fun: pontoon boats, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards are available to rent. At the end of a day on the water, visitors can stay in a modern lakefront villa or a boat-in campsite before hitting the lake again the next day.

For the Nature Lover: Jones Gap, S.C.

If you need to unplug in order to recharge, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to commune with nature at Jones Gap. More than 60 miles of hiking trails take you along the scenic Middle Saluda River and five of its waterfalls. Extend your hike to visit the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, offering more than 12,000 acres of mountain habitat.

Primitive camping along the trail offers seclusion, quiet and a firepit. Keep your eyes (and ears) peeled: this park is a favorite among birdwatchers, especially for migratory songbirds like the Swainson’s warbler, that arrive in the spring and stay the summer.

(Go Magazine May/June 1019)

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