When most people visit western North Carolina they are headed to Asheville or Boone – one of the larger towns on that side of the state. But what about the small towns near Asheville?

There are so many quaint towns near Asheville that deserve to be explored! Each one of them offers a great jumping off spot for outdoor adventures.

You’ll deal with fewer crowds but still have top quality shops, restaurants, and things to do around. The small towns are where you’ll fall in love with North Carolina.

Need a place to stay while you explore the area? Here are the best places to stay in the North Carolina mountains!

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Map of Small Towns Near Asheville, NC

Map thanks to Wanderlog, a trip planner

Black Mountain

old train depot in small towns near Asheville
Old train depot in Black Mountain

This is absolutely one of my favorite small towns near Asheville. Black Mountain is in the shadows of the Seven Sisters mountain range.

It’s about 20 minutes east of Asheville and an easy drive down I-40. You’ll want to explore Town Hardware and Sassafras for sure. Get ice cream at The Hop – locally made!!

The Black Mountain restaurants are second to none. We stay here often and I usually choose to eat in town instead of driving into Asheville.

Make sure to swing by Black Mountain Brewing and Lookout Brewing for great beer and a chill atmosphere.

Nearby at Montreat College there are some great hiking opportunities like Lookout Mountain. Just make sure you’re up for a steep climb!

Bryson City

Man and woman rafting the Nantahala River.
Rafting the Nantahala River

Home to the Nantahala Outdoor Center! At this adventure lover’s paradise, you can whitewater raft down the Nantahala River or zip line and they also offer different wilderness/rafting classes.

There are two restaurants and an Outfitters Store here as well. You can get any outdoor equipment that you may need.

There is plenty to do here to occupy an entire day but head into the town of Bryson City as well.

Make sure to try Nantahala Brewing Company and take a ride with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. They also have a train museum!

Weaverville

This cute little mountain town is full of surprises. This is a popular spot for artists so you’ll find a few art galleries and pottery studios.

Shop at Curtis Wright Outfitters and Honey and the Hive for sure. If you are in town during late June/July then go by Blue Ridge Daylilies – a Daylily farm!

If you are looking for good restaurants then Twisted Laurel, Glass Onion, and Well-Bred Bakery & Cafe are solid choices.

This little town is only a few minutes north of Asheville on I-26 and the perfect place to grab lunch and explore for an afternoon.

Marion

The town of Marion is close to lots of great hikes like Tom’s Creek Falls and Roaring Fork Creek Falls.

It’s also just south of Lake James State Park – a great place for camping, hiking, and fishing. It’s 40 minutes east of Asheville on I-40.

Highway 221 intersects I-40 here and you can follow it north into the Linville Gorge Wilderness. Here you’ll find Linville Falls and Linville Caverns.

Marion hosts the WNC Bigfoot Festival and the Livermush Festival yearly.

Mills River

two beers on a table in small towns near Asheville
Burning Blush Brewery

Is it bad that I know most of these towns based on their breweries?

In Mills River, you’ll find Sierra Nevada and Burning Blush Breweries. I highly recommend both.

Sierra Nevada is a destination in itself. You can tour the brewery, eat at their on-site restaurant, or shop in their retail store.

They also have a spacious game room/bar area upstairs and plenty of room outside to enjoy.

At Burning Blush, the interior is open with high ceilings and long picnic tables are set up for plenty of seating. Friendly doggos are welcome. They also typically have a food truck in the back patio.

This is a great jumping off point if you want to explore the DuPont State Forest area. There are tons of hiking opportunities here.

Lake Junaluska

This charming lake town is most commonly known as a retreat for Methodist churches. Anyone can enjoy the beautiful scenery though.

Here you can kayak, canoe, or SUP on the lake and fish if you’d like. There are also boat tours that are offered at the lake.

There is also a golf course by the lake if you like to play golf. If you are looking for an active lake day then head here.

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Sylva

Sylva is another small town near Asheville that has a picturesque downtown area. They have weekly concerts in the summer called Concerts on the Creek!

On Main Street you’ll find four different breweries. Yes, four of them.

Innovation, Balsam Falls, Lazy Hiker, and Nantahala (Sylva Outpost) are all within walking distance. Dangerous, I know.

The only Fly Fishing Trail in the US is also nearby so this is your place if you’re a fisherman. The Tuckasegee River also offers whitewater for the adventurous type.

Hendersonville

girl picking apples
Apple picking near Hendersonville

I will be the first to admit that I have not explored Hendersonville nearly enough. Hopefully, I can change that soon as it’s just south of Asheville.

Downtown Hendersonville is actually pretty lively and they have lots of events going on especially on weekends.

There are lots of shops, restaurants, and breweries here as well. But did you know that there are also some great local wineries in the area?

Burntshirt Vineyards is by far one of the best wineries in North Carolina and it’s located in Hendersonville. Another great one is Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards.

Hendersonville is also known for all the apple orchards surrounding it! I can’t recommend Justus Orchard enough (try the apple cider doughnuts).

Grandad’s Apples is also good but can get more crowded. It has its own bakery and is very kid friendly.

Highlands

Those who have visited Highlands often don’t want to go anywhere else in Western NC – they love returning here.

This little town is close to the corner where the borders of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia meet. It’s one of the cutest small towns near Asheville!

It’s a bit like the town of Blowing Rock in northwestern NC. Lots of great shopping, incredible restaurants, and an upscale downtown area.

If you can swing it make sure to stay at the Old Edwards Inn and Spa. It’ll definitely stretch your budget though.

Here you’ll find plenty of hiking, fishing, and artsy activities.

Cashiers

The town of Cashiers is only 10 miles from Highlands. Many times when someone is talking about the area they’ll lump them together in the Highlands/Cashiers area.

With the proximity to Highlands, you’ll find many of the same things to do. There are lots of boutiques along the highway but you may need to do some investigating to find them.

Whiteside Brewing is a popular spot to grab a drink and hang out. Just north of Cashiers you’ll find Lake Glenville where you can rent a pontoon boat for the day.

Check out both of these mountain resort towns and see which one you like best!

Cherokee

outdoor stage in small towns near Asheville
Amphitheater for Unto These Hills

One of the main attractions here is Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino so if you are a gambler then head to Cherokee!

There are also multiple events and concerts held here throughout the year. Another live event that is a can’t-miss is a performance of Unto These Hills.

It’s an outdoor drama that tells the story of the Cherokee Nation. Tyler and I thought it was fantastic.

Cherokee is also the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here you’ll find the Oconaluftee Visitor’s Center on HWY 441.

Continue on HWY 441 into the Great Smoky Mountains!

Hot Springs

You really can soak in the hot springs in Hot Springs, NC. Stay at Hot Springs Resort & Spa where they have accommodations of varying levels.

You can stay at a primitive tent site, an RV site, or they have cabins and vacation rentals. While you are here soak in one of their famous mineral baths.

These are just jetted hot tubs but the water is pulled from the underground springs in the area.

Another great spot nearby is at Max Patch. Take a picnic and enjoy the sunset here. It’s an easy hike to the top from the nearby parking lot.

This hike takes you on a section of the Appalachian Trail which is pretty neat.

Burnsville

mountain view
View from Mt. Mitchell

Another town close to some great hikes! Burnsville is close to Mount Mitchell – the tallest peak east of the Mississippi.

Mount Mitchell State Park offers tons of great hikes and the Blue Ridge Parkway is also nearby where you’ll find plenty of other hikes as well.

Another cool attraction is the Bare Dark Sky Observatory where you can look through one of the largest telescopes available to the public.

Of course, you’ll find a cute downtown area here with a brewery and a few cute shops and restaurants.

Little Switzerland

large waterfall with rocks below
Crabtree Falls

Located right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Little Switzerland offers amazing mountain views in a little resort community.

If you want to stay a while then book a room at the Little Switzerland Inn. You’ll be close to Crabtree Falls, Grassy Creek Falls, and the Linville Gorge Wilderness.

Emerald Gem Mine is also near Little Switzerland. The Switzerland Inn Chalet Restaurant is a full service restaurant with gorgeous views.

Rutherfordton

Rutherfordton is an up and coming town in western North Carolina with adorable places to stay and plenty of options for local food.

They even have lots of international cuisine options! You’ll find Thai, Mexican, Italian, and Chinese to name a few.

There are lots of trails that pass through town and plenty of parks. It’s also near Lake Lure Beach.

Don’t miss the art galleries from local artists and the boutique shops downtown.

Lake Lure

lake below mountains at small towns near Asheville
View of Lake Lure from Chimney Rock

Anyone love the movie Dirty Dancing? Part of it was filmed at Lake Lure!

Of course, they have all the usual lake activities – boat tours, kayaks, canoes, SUP. You won’t find a more beautiful lake though with mountains surrounding you as you relax.

There is a beach – Lake Lure Beach – where you can lay out in the sun. A unique attraction here is the flowering bridge. Flowers are planted all along this pedestrian bridge.

You can have plenty of adventures off the lake as well. Mountain bike at Buffalo Creek Park, zip line at Canopy Ridge Farm, or go horseback riding at Cedar Creek Riding Stables.

Chimney Rock

thin waterfall
Hickory Nut Falls

Chimney Rock and Lake Lure are right beside each other. Until recently I thought the only thing here was Chimney Rock State Park but I was completely mistaken.

This is a hopping little tourist spot. Just outside the state park there is a row of stores along the street where you could spend an hour or two shopping.

Burntshirt Vineyard also has a second location here with an incredible bistro. Across the street from Burntshirt is Hickory Nut Gorge Brewery who serves snack/bar food.

I recommend heading to the park and spending the morning hiking then stopping by the winery and brewery. Beware there is a charge to enter the park.

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Morganton

This may be considered a city instead of a small town, but it’s much smaller than Asheville.

There are plenty of specialty shops and boutiques downtown as well as restaurants, breweries, and bottle shops.

When I think of Morganton, I think of a gateway to incredible hiking. You’ll be nearby South Mountains State Park, Lake James State Park, and the Linville Gorge Wilderness.

Outside of downtown, make sure you try Abele’s Family Restaurant. They have a great buffet!

Waynesville

cheeseburger with fries
Burger in downtown Waynesville

Another town that is heavily influenced by local artists! Main street downtown has lots of quirky shops and incredible places to eat.

There are also plenty of events on the weekends in this small town. Make sure to check out the local brewery, Boojum Brewing too.

Waynesville is just east of Cherokee and right outside the Great Smoky Mountains and Nantahala National Forest.

Murphy

The Hiwassee River flows right beside the little town of Murphy in Cherokee County. This town is in the far southeast corner of NC near the TN and GA borders.

This tiny town has a thriving downtown and visitors flock here in the summer. At Appalachian Driving Experience you can rent a Porsche sports car and take it for a spin.

Learn about the history of the Cherokee tribe at the Cherokee Historical Museum. Shop for locally made soaps and other body care products at Blue Moon Elise.

Hungry? Try Bistro 29, Red Brick Deli, or The Daily Grind & Wine. Don’t forget Valley River Brewery for a beer!

Brevard

waterfall with icicles at the bottom at small towns near Asheville
Looking Glass Falls

The secret has quickly gotten out about Brevard. There is so much to do here for outdoor enthusiasts and this college town will have you falling in love the first time you visit.

Brevard is in Transylvania County which is known as The Land of Waterfalls because there are over 200 of them in the area.

A few popular ones are Looking Glass Falls, Moore Cove Falls, Sliding Rock, Skinny Dip Falls, and I could go on. Mountain biking is incredibly popular here too.

If you want a guided trip for canyoneering, white water rafting, or rock climbing then check out Pura Vida Adventures. They lead a few other local trips plus offer shuttles for some hiking trails.

This synopsis wouldn’t be complete without some brewery recs. Try Oskar Blues with their famous Dale’s Pale Ale, Ecusta Brewing, UpCountry, or Brevard Brewing Company.

Cute Small Towns Near Asheville

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to small towns near Asheville. I know that there are others so I’ll have to update this as I visit more.

While I love visiting Asheville and being in the city, you really can’t beat small town charm.

Let me know in the comments if I’m missing one of your favorite small towns near Asheville!

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