This Small Town in North Carolina Has the Only Hot Springs in the State

Here’s what you need to know about visiting Hot Springs, North Carolina, a tiny mountain town known for its historic healing waters.

Steam from hot springs rising over large yard with event barn at Broadwing barn

Courtesy of Broadwing Farm

Asheville may be the most popular when it comes to Western North Carolina destinations, but it’s far from the only incredible place the region has to offer. There are mountain towns and communities packed with charm throughout the area, many within close proximity to scenic drives, picturesque waterfalls, and some of the best hiking in the state. Madison County, in particular, is less than an hour from Asheville, and it’s home to the Pisgah National Forest, the Appalachian Trail, and the resort town of Hot Springs.

Tucked along the banks of the French Broad River, Hot Springs has a population of around 500. Small, yes, but this quaint town holds its own when it comes to outdoor activities and tourist attractions. As the name implies, Hot Springs has long been known for its healing mineral springs, which have been drawing visitors since the late 1700s. In fact, it’s the only place in North Carolina where you’ll find geothermal springs. That, along with the fact that the Appalachian Trail goes right through town, is more than enough reason to plan a summer or fall getaway to this historic mountain town. 

steam rising form hot springs in mountains over a steel bridge

Hot Springs Tourism Association

Best Things to Do in Hot Springs, North Carolina

You can experience the area’s therapeutic waters in two places: Broadwing Farm or Hot Springs Resort & Spa. The former has cabins that can be booked for nightly stays, and each one has a private outdoor hot tub filled with fresh mineral water. You can also choose to stay overnight at Hot Springs Resort & Spa (some of the accommodations come with their own hot tubs) or reserve the jetted hot tubs — which sit along the banks of the French Broad River and Spring Creek — by the hour. The tubs are drained and sanitized after each use, but you’ll need to bring your own towels. The hot water purportedly helps relieve stress, fatigue, and pain and stiffness of the joints and muscles; after a day of hiking or driving, there’s nothing better. 

Travelers may visit Hot Springs because of its reputation for healing waters, but there are also plenty of other activities, especially in the summer. Book a whitewater rafting or float trip with Hot Springs Rafting if you want to spend a day on the French Broad River. Hiking enthusiasts can access hundreds of miles of trails in the area, many of which are technically part of the Appalachian Trail.

The Lover's Leap loop is famous for its panoramic views of the river and downtown Hot Springs. The grassy meadow atop Max Patch is a 20-mile hike from Hot Springs, but you can also drive to the trailhead to embark on the 1.5-mile loop. You can visit the historic Rich Mountain Lookout Tower on a hike or a short drive, depending on your desired activity level. 

Hot Springs also has opportunities for mountain biking, fishing, horseback riding, and even llama trekking tours, a unique way to hike through the valley and into Pisgah National Forest.

view of hay bails in a large field with a sunset over rolling hills

Courtesy of Broadwing Farm

Hot Springs Hotels

You won’t find five-star lodging in Hot Springs, but there are several cozy and comfortable accommodations to choose from. Along with camping and RV sites, Hot Springs Resort & Spa has cabins and vacation homes available to rent; many come with their own private mineral water hot tubs. Iron Horse Station, right in downtown Hot Springs, has a selection of two-person rooms as well as two covered wagons you can book for overnight stays. For something slightly more upscale, Magnolia House has three luxury cabin rentals — including a former manor house. If Airbnb rentals are more your style, you’ll find everything from a cute stone cottage to a treehouse just five minutes from the resort. 

Where to Eat and Drink in Hot Springs, North Carolina

Start your morning with a hearty breakfast at Smoky Mountain Diner, a casual spot with Southern favorites, or grab coffee and pastries at Artisun Gallery and Cafe. Spring Creek Tavern and Iron Horse Station are both open for lunch and dinner (although exact hours vary by day), and you can grab a slice at the newly opened Vinyl Pies. Big Pillow Brewing and Grey Eagle Taqueria, an iconic Asheville eatery, share the same space downtown, so you can enjoy craft beer, tacos, and live music after a long day of hiking. Specialty market Vaste Rivière Provisions is a multi-story retail shop — think meats, cheeses, wine, and coffee — with a well-stocked grocery section and a variety of work from local artists. 

Grassy Ridge Overlook, Pisgah National Forest

Adam Jones/Getty Images

Best Time to Visit

To really enjoy everything Hot Springs has to offer, you’ll want to visit in the warmer months. Summer is the best season for partaking in the area’s outdoor recreation activities, particularly rafting and kayaking. Fall, on the other hand, is absolutely glorious for leaf peeping. Hot Springs Resort & Spa is open year round, but the campground’s main comfort stations are closed in the winter. 

Getting There

About a 50-mile drive away, Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) is the closest airport to Hot Springs. American, Delta, United, Allegiant, JetBlue, and Sun Country all serve AVL, and there are nonstop flights from several major cities, including Atlanta, Dallas/Forth Worth, Denver, New York, Las Vegas, and Minneapolis. Downtown Hot Springs is easily walkable, but you’ll need a car to explore the surrounding area.

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