The Facts: North Carolina
The three major regional airports that serve western North Carolina are in Knoxville, Tennessee; Greenville, South Carolina; and Asheville, North Carolina. It's dry and hot in the valleys in July, but the mountains can be misty and cool in the mornings and evenings.
WHERE TO STAY
The Swag 2300 Swag Rd., Waynesville; 800/789-7672 or 828/926-0430; www.theswag.com; doubles from $265. Fifteen rooms, some in log cabins with wood-burning fireplaces and whirlpool tubs, are scattered around this mountaintop lodge. The 250-acre property has its own private entrance into Great Smoky Mountains National Park; the staff can arrange nature walks and wildlife seminars.
Charles Street Garden Suite 76 Charles St., Saluda; 828/749-5846; www.saluda.com/charlesstreet; $85. On the ground floor of a shady house a block from Main Street, there is one dainty suite, with wicker chairs and a queen-sized bed, facing a pretty Southern garden.
Sourwood Inn 810 Elk Mountain Scenic Hwy., Asheville; 828/255-0690; www.sourwoodinn.com; doubles from $140. This Arts and Crafts—style inn, two miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Bull Gap, has attractive details: fir beams, stone terraces, local pottery. Each of the 12 rooms opens up to a balcony overlooking Reems Creek Valley. Snowbird Mountain Lodge 4633 Santeetlah Rd., Robbinsville; 800/941-9290 or 828/479-3433; doubles from $175. A two-story log building, just three miles from Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, that's listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The six-room Chestnut Lodge was recently added, bringing the total room count to 23. All the beds have hand-sewn quilts. Don't miss the restaurant's mountain trout.
Orchard Inn Hwy. 176, Saluda; 800/581-3800 or 828/749-5471; www.orchardinn.com; doubles from $119. A simple 13-room country inn on a crest of the Warrior Mountain Range.
WHERE TO EAT
Caro-Mi 3231 Hwy. 176, Tryon; 828/859-5200; open Wednesday—Saturday; dinner for two $30. Country cooking at its finest. Try the sautéed chicken livers.
Ward's Grill 24 Main St., Saluda; 828/749-2321; breakfast for two $10. A bowl of grits costs just a buck, and jelly biscuits are served with country ham. Ward's also blends the best milk shakes in the county.
WHERE TO SHOP
Allanstand Craft Shop Folk Art Center Bldg., Blue Ridge Pkwy., milepost 382; 828/298-7928. A superb collection of mountain quilts, woven baskets, musical instruments, pottery, and wooden bowls for sale from members of the Southern Highland Craft Guild.
Jones Pottery 209 Big Sandy Mush Rd., Leicester; 828/683-2705. Wood-fired clay platters, bowls, large planters, and bells, finished with handsome, earthy glazes.
M. A. Pace Store 60 E. Main St., Saluda; 828/749-2401. Ward's Grill has a small shop attached to it, but M.A. Pace is Saluda's real general store. Robert Pace greets you at his 103-year-old emporium of old-time treats—peanut brittle, sorghum, peach butter.
WHAT TO DO
Cataloochee Ranch 119 Ranch Dr., Maggie Valley; 800/868-1401 or 828/ 926-1401; www.cataloochee-ranch.com; trail rides from $45. Guides lead half- and full-day horseback rides on a 1,000-acre guest ranch. Private trails wend into Great Smoky Mountains National Park; some include a stop at the Swag for stunning views of the Black Mountains.
Nantahala Outdoor Center 13077 Hwy. 19 W., Bryson City; 800/232-7238 or 828/488-2175; www.noc.com; rafting trips from $30. Head here for guided three-hour whitewater trips down the wild Nantahala River, which has both Class II and III rapids cutting through spectacular gorges.
Lowe's Fly Shop & Outfitters 15 Woodland Dr., Waynesville; 828/452-0039. Roger Lowe will take you to the best trout-fishing spots in the Cataloochee Valley's Caldwell Fork.
Coon Dog Day Main St., Saluda; first Saturday after the Fourth of July (July 6 this year). Pancake breakfast, parade, dog competition, barbecue, bluegrass and Southern folk concerts, and a square dance.
Flat Rock Playhouse 2661 Hwy. 25 S., Flat Rock; 828/693-0731; www.flatrockplayhouse.org; Wednesday—Sunday through December 15. Broadway hits competently recycled for the summer stock circuit.
Brevard Music Festival 1000 Probart St., Brevard; 828/884-2011; www.brevardmusic.org; through August 4. For 66 summers, this has been one of the top open-air events in western North Carolina, with classical, pops, jazz, and opera performances on the bill.
Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking by Joseph E. Dabney (Cumberland House Press). Recipes, history, and intriguing first-person accounts of highland life.
The Craft Heritage Trails of Western North Carolina by Jay Fields and Brad Campbell (HandMade in America). An informative guide to galleries, restaurants, studios, and back-road drives.