The Blue Ridge boasts dozens of towns with vibrant outdoor scenes and access to world-class adventure. This fall, over 100,000 readers voted for their 48 favorites. They are mountain biking meccas, whitewater oases, climbing paradises, and hiking nirvanas.
BRO visited the top three winning towns to uncover outdoor secrets and insider insights from leading locals. We also highlight the best places to eat, play, and stay for all 48 towns in our contest.
2015 Top Small Town
Franklin, North Carolina
“I had the opportunity to move away into other markets and invest in other communities, but I wanted to come back to the town I grew up in,” says Franklin native and Outdoor 76 co-founder Cory McCall.
In 2010, McCall and Florida transplant Rob Gasbarro started an outfitter that catered to the plethora of recreational opportunities around them. “A lot of people were not optimistic about our future,” Gasbarro says. “It was 2010, and main streets were dying all over the United States. Everyone was telling us, ‘You guys are nuts.’”
Even Gasbarro and McCall had their doubts. But just five years after opening its doors, Outdoor 76 has now become one of many new businesses that occupy Main Street. Visitors to Franklin can walk downtown past storefronts of all varieties, from antique shops to gourmet restaurants, art galleries, coffee shops. The town even boasts its own yoga studio (Beyond Bending Yoga) and brewery (Lazy Hiker Brewery Company).
“We’ve believed all along that Franklin has always been a top outdoor town,” says Gasbarro.
Yet for the longest time, Franklin earned its revenue not by promoting the 500,000 acres of national forest that comprise Macon County (that’s 50 percent of the county), but by advertising the region’s gem mining. Though the town has since made waves in embracing outdoor recreation as both an identity and economic driver, even the town’s newly designed logo, which features a hiker posing beside the Appalachian Trail’s white blaze, hints at Franklin’s past as the Gem Capital of the World (look closely at the dotted ‘i’ in ‘Franklin’).
Photo by Jess Daddio
“Being so close to all of the outdoor wonderment was definitely important to us,” says Lazy Hiker Brewing Company’s headbrewer Noah McIntee. “It’s nice to be in an area where everywhere you go just to run your basic errands, you have this sweeping panoramic view of the mountains.”
McIntee, who grew up in the Southeast, says he knew that western North Carolina had mountains, but he was surprised by the stunning scenery that surrounded this relatively unknown town. Situated close to the southern border of North Carolina, Franklin is just a two-hour drive from a number of southern hotbeds like Atlanta, Greenville, and Knoxville, making it an ideal basecamp for adventure in southern Appalachia. What’s more, Macon County is home to 19 peaks over 5,000 feet in elevation and two long-distance trails, the Appalachian Trail and Bartram Trail, the latter of which passes right through town.
Though Franklin sits just 111 miles north of Springer Mountain, making it an ideal place to resupply before the Nantahala Outdoor Center, its designation as an Appalachian Trail Community in 2008 increased thru-hiker traffic exponentially. Given hikers have to catch an 11-mile hitch into town, that should say something about the community’s hiker-friendly vibe. Free WiFi, hiker maps, laundry services. Hikers suffering from feet woes can even get a shoe fitting and a beer at McCall and Gasbarro’s outfitter-taproom. As far as southern hospitality goes, it doesn’t get more welcoming than that.
“Being able to have those relationships, Franklin runs on that,” Gasbarro says.
“It’s cliché to say ‘the sky’s the limit,’” McCall adds, “but literally, right now, the sky is the limit. The town is coming into its own and it’s going to be neat to see where it goes with a modern day frontier.”
Photo by Jess Daddio
When To Go
Though Macon County has one of the highest rainfall zones in the eastern United States, the county’s four distinct seasons are typically mild, and even in the wintertime, the lower elevations receive very little snow, making outdoor recreation enjoyable year round. We recommend spring and fall.
INNS & LODGES:
Oak Hill Country Inn (oakhillcountryinn.com; rooms from $100/night)
Snow Hill Inn (snowhillfranklinnc.com; rooms from $149/night)
Cat Creek Lodge (catcreeklodge.com; rooms from $149/night)
CAMPGROUNDS & CABINS:
Mi Mountain Campground (mimountaincampground.com; sites from $20/night)
Pines RV Park & Cabins (gocampin.net/pinesrvpark; sites from $28/night)
Cartoogechaye Creek Campground (franklin-chamber.com/cartoogechaye; sites from $20/night)
Coffee & Sweets: The Rathskeller Coffee Haus & Pub
Breakfast: Stamey’s Café
Lunch: The Fork in the Road food truck
Dinner: The Bowery
Brews: Lazy Hiker Brewing Company
Après Adventure: Music and beer at Rock House Lodge (located inside Outdoor 76)
HIKE: Park across the road from the Winding Stair Gap access point to the Appalachian Trail and hike 4.2 moderately strenuous miles along the white blaze to the summit of Siler Bald. For an easy overnighter, set up camp at the shelter just before the summit. The bald is the perfect place to catch near-360-degree views of the surrounding Nantahala Mountains.
FISH: Cross the Little Tennessee River by way of the Iotla Bridge. Take the immediate right onto Sanderstown Road and park in the gravel pull-off on the right. The Little Tennessee is home to some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the world. Rent a canoe from Outdoor 76 and float the river or wade in from the shore.
BIKE: Rent a bike from Smoky Mountain Bicycles ($7.50/hour, $36/day) and cruise the Little Tennessee River Greenway. The country roads surrounding Franklin also make for some of the best rural road riding in the region. The bike shop can provide a map with over a dozen routes ranging from 15 miles to 100 miles of smooth, low-traffic, country roads that never leave Macon County. In town on a Wednesday during the summer? Join the shop’s weekly group ride to get the ultimate tour de Franklin.
Winter Wonderland: November 28th & December 5th
April Fool’s Trail Days: March thru April 2016
The Naturalist Trail Race 25K & 50K: October 2016
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2015 TOP Mid-Sized Town
Set against a backdrop of rolling countryside and idyllic ridgelines, the city of Roanoke is perfectly poised to offer visitors and residents alike a balanced blend of scenic beauty in a diverse and thriving urban environment. Situated at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the heart of the valley, alongside a river, wrapped in the arms of national forest, you’d think outdoor recreation would have always been an integral part of the city’s identity.
Yet it wasn’t until the early 2000s that Roanoke began to step away from its storied past as an industrial hub and promote the great outdoors outside, and within, city limits. As plans for greenways and urban parks took shape, so too did a community that supported an active lifestyle. By 2013, there was no question as to the direction Roanoke was going—with the formation of the Roanoke Outside Foundation (a non-profit created by the Roanoke Regional Partnership) came events, initiatives, and even businesses, that not only encouraged people to get outside, but also helped them get there.
“We kinda feel like it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” says Roanoke Mountain Adventures co-owner James Revercomb.
Revercomb is part of that new wave of outdoor-minded businesses. Born and raised in Roanoke, Revercomb never envisioned returning to his hometown. In fact, he spent the better part of eight years far from the Star City as a snowmobile and fly-fish guide in and around Jackson Hole, Wyo. Despite the western town’s reputation as a mecca for outdoor tourism though, Revercomb and his wife eventually came to the conclusion that there’s no place like home.
“We figured that if we weren’t in Roanoke, we’d be wishing we were,” he says. “The cost of living is fairly high [in Jackson Hole]. We were enjoying what we were doing, but we were thinking longer term. We knew we wanted to be in the mountains in a place where we could still recreate and have that quality of life as well as career opportunities.”
In early April of 2015, Revercomb and his father opened up Roanoke Mountain Adventures as a gear rental and guiding service for the greater Roanoke area. Though starting any business can be a daunting task, the Revercombs have seen nothing but support from the local community.
Blaine Lewis shares that sentiment. “We knew Roanoke was an area that would support the type of business we were going to bring here,” says Lewis, owner of Fleet Feet Sports.
Lewis, whose wife is originally from Roanoke, also relocated to the city in 2003 after leaving a 16-year career stint as an adult probation and parole supervisor to open up a franchise of Fleet Feet Sports (headquartered out of Carrboro, N.C.). As a runner and triathlete, Lewis says Roanoke’s access to the outdoors combined with a low cost of living made moving to the city a no-brainer.
“Roanoke has grown and changed a lot in the past 12 years,” Lewis says. “From an outdoor perspective, Roanoke was just starting to find its roots there. From a business standpoint, it’s great because we’ve been able to help contribute to the active lifestyle growth here as well.”
As the momentum behind the city’s outdoor recreation scene continues to grow, Roanoke, once ranked as one of the “best places to retire” by Money Magazine, is also attracting a much younger, more active generation.
WHEN TO GO
With the Blue Ridge Parkway located just a 15-minute drive from town, Roanoke tends to see the most traffic during the spring and autumn months. We can’t blame them, as the budding trees and fall foliage make for spectacular sights. But with cool summers and mild winters, is there really a bad time to visit town?
INNS & LODGES:
Black Lantern Inn (blacklanterninn.com; rooms from $130/night), The Inn on Campbell (theinnoncampbell.com; rooms from $200/night)
Rose Hill Bed & Breakfast (bandbrosehill.com; rooms from $100/night)
Shenandoah Gateway Farm Bed & Breakfast (shenandoahgatewayfarmbnb.com; rooms from $150/night)
CAMPGROUNDS & CABINS: Dixie Caverns Campground (dixiecaverns.com/camping)
Coffee: Mill Mountain Coffee & Tea
Breakfast: The Roanoker Restaurant
Lunch: Local Roots
Dinner: The River and Rail
Brews: Soaring Ridge Craft Brewery
Sweets: Pop’s Ice Cream & Soda Bar
Après Adventure: Cocktails at Lucky
RUN: Park at the Chestnut Ridge Overlook parking lot off of Mill Mountain Spur Road. Run, walk, or meander your way through the 5.4-mile figure-eight loop. The trail is wide and well-graded, bordered by thickets of mountain laurel and rhododendron. Just a 10-minute drive from downtown Roanoke, this trail is a popular after-work destination for many locals.
BIKE: From town, take the Mill Mountain Greenway to Monument Trail. Climb for a half hour up to the Roanoke Star, an icon of the city that overlooks the valley. From there, hop on Wood Thrush trail for a ripping descent back to the greenway. Want more? Head 30 minutes outside of town to Carvins Cove, the second largest municipal park in the country. Whatever your route, make sure to include a cruise on Lakeside and a descent down the Gauntlet, both classics in the Carvins Cove area.
PADDLE: Rent a SUP from Roanoke Mountain Adventures ($55/day) or have Mr. Revercomb himself guide you down the waters of the Roanoke ($75/person). Beginners will learn the basics of paddleboarding in a safe environment while enjoying the scenery that surrounds them.
Star City Half Marathon & 10K: November 21, 2015
D Cup Enduro Downhill Race Series: Spring 2016
Blue Ridge Marathon: April 16, 2016
Roanoke GoOutside Festival: October 2016
Fleet Feet Sports Pub Run: every Tuesday at 6pm
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2015 TOP Big City
There’s more to Knoxville than college football. Nestled in the foothills of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the city itself is often overlooked as an adventure destination, lost in the limelight of America’s most visited national park. But you might be surprised by what this Southern metropolis has to offer in the way of outdoor adventure.
Photo by Jess Daddio
In the heart of East Knoxville lie the headwaters of the Tennessee River, a 652-mile waterway (the largest tributary of the Ohio River) born from the confluence of the French Broad and Holston Rivers. Along the riverfront and tucked into the folds of the city are 99 city and county parks, 25 trail systems, and more than 50 miles of greenways. Just over an hour’s drive from the city are some of east Tennessee’s most prized natural areas like the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area, and Obed Wild and Scenic River.
But perhaps even more unique than the city’s close proximity to recreational resources is the vibe of present-day Knoxville, a feeling of progression and unity that can most aptly be described with one word: collaboration.
“It’s not just bikers,” says Appalachian Mountain Bike Club (AMBC) president Matthew Kellogg, “it’s runners, walkers, folks out with their dogs and kids. That’s the great thing about what we do. We support an infrastructure that is greater than just bicycles and that’s why we have community buy-in.”
Kellogg is a mover-shaker. After coming to Knoxville in 2002, Kellogg realized the city had all of the necessary ingredients to become an outdoor destination but lacked the connectivity. Parks were already in place, trails had already been built, but the resources, and the community that used them, were disjointed at best. Then, in late 2006, Knoxville mountain bike enthusiast Randy Conner re-formed the AMBC, which had dissolved nearly a decade prior, and helped spur a new wave of energy in trail advocacy.
“Our main goal was to expand trail efforts and trail access to everybody,” says Brian Hann, AMBC’s second president and another key player in Knoxville’s trail movement.
In the decade since AMBC’s rebirth, the club has certainly made good on their mission. In 2012, the city of Knoxville opened the Urban Wilderness, a 1,000-acre swath of land that houses over 40 miles of multi-use trail. Its boundary is defined by the South Loop, a 12.5-mile trail (designed and built by the AMBC) that connects Ijams Nature Center, Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area, Anderson School Trails, William Hastie Natural Area, Marie Myers Park, and private land. Hann himself has an easement on his 116-acre property, which allows public access to the trails (and pump track) in his backyard.
“Now it’s not just going to the [Great Smoky Mountains National] Park once a month to recreate outdoors,” Hann says. “You can do it every day after work. There’s no traveling, there’s no driving. You’re rolling out your front door.”
Though the Urban Wilderness seems like the pinnacle of success for a volunteer-run, grassroots club of 250-some members, the AMBC is just getting started. The club recently received a $100,000 Bell Built grant to construct a high-caliber bike park (check out the #DowntownDownhill feed) on 100 acres of land donated to the Legacy Parks Foundation, a non-profit that heads most of the outdoor initiatives in Knoxville including, but not limited to, Outdoor Knoxville (outdoorknoxville.com), Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, and Outdoor KnoxFest.
“The city right now is poised to make some huge strides,” says Hann, which is thanks in part to a cooperative local government that values the voice of the Legacy Parks Foundation and the blood, sweat, and cases of beer AMBC has put into constructing the city’s trail system.
“We are the Volunteer State,” adds Kellogg. “It’s all of that sweat equity from our members that really push us as leaders of the club to keep going after grants.”
By the beginning of 2016, AMBC expects to have an additional six to eight miles of trail open, which includes the Bell Built bike park. The park will feature everything from beginner-friendly cross-country trails to double black diamond gravity trails.
WHEN TO VISIT
Though high-elevation mountains surround the city of Knoxville, summertime can be especially humid and hot. Even a short walk in the park will leave you soaked and sweaty. Unless you intend to plan your vacation around Knoxville’s watersport activities, come in the winter when the days are warm (around 50 degrees) and the nights are cool and everywhere else in the Southeast is unbearably cold. It’s like Florida, without the palm trees.
INNS & LODGES: Maple Grove Inn (maplegroveinn.com; rooms from $150/night), Maple Hurst Inn Bed & Breakfast (maplehurstinn.com)
CAMPGROUNDS & CABINS: Southlake RV Park (southlakervpark.com; sites from $24/night), The Lily Pad Campground (check out their Facebook page; sites from $5/night)
Coffee: Old City Java
Breakfast: Oli Bea
Lunch: The Tomato Head
Dinner: Knox Mason
Brews: Saw Works Brewery
Après Adventure: Central Flats and Taps
CLIMB: The Ijams Crag is a recently developed climbing area located in the heart of the Ijams Nature Center. There are currently over 10 established sport routes on the rock, and with moderate grades, quality rock, and easy access, this is a must-do if you’re in the city.
BIKE: Rent a bike from Tennessee Valley Bikes ($40/day) and cruise the South Loop, a 12.5-mile trail that traverses the periphery of Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness. You’ll get the ultimate trail experience here—flowy and smooth to technical and tight. If it rains and you still want to get out and ride, the trails at Sharps Ridge Memorial Park are better when they’re wet and afford great views of Knoxville’s skyline and surrounding mountains.
PADDLE: Whether you’re a beginner looking to hop on the flat waters of Mead’s Quarry or a more experienced paddler seeking adventure on the Tennessee River, there’s a SUP rental place for you. River Sports Outfitters runs a rental kiosk ($11/hour) out of the Mead’s Quarry parking lot. If you’re downtown, head over to Billy Lush Board Shop and grab a board ($60/day). There’s a put-in to the river just a quick walk from their main location in the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center, home to the Legacy Parks Foundation and a great starting point for all of your Knoxville recreation needs.
Outdoor KnoxFest: April 2015
Rhythm N Blooms: April 8-10, 2016
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EXPLORE MORE GREAT TOP TOWNS
EAT: Grab a milkshake at the Ice Cream Stop
PLAY: Send classic sport routes at Hidden Valley
STAY: Post up in a cottage with Creeper’s End
Asheville, North Carolina
EAT: Brunch big at Sunny Point Café
PLAY: SUP the French Broad River
STAY: Bunk, camp, or reserve a room at Bon Paul & Sharkey’s Hostel
EAT: Eat simple, sustainable, and southern at Miller Union
PLAY: Kayak the Chattahoochee River
STAY: Pitch a tent at Stone Mountain Park Campground
EAT: Find fresh-off-the-farm plates from Woodberry Kitchen
PLAY: Tube the Gunpowder River
STAY: Camp in the capitol, as in Capitol KOA
EAT: Order the best burger in the South at Saw’s BBQ
PLAY: Cruise the Double Oak Trail at Oak Mountain State Park
STAY: Car camp at Cherokee Campground
EAT: Pick up a Cuban from Dan’s Grill Inc., the sandwich, not the owner
PLAY: Summit Blood Mountain
STAY: Bunk with thru-hikers at Mountain Crossings
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
EAT: Make your day with Appalachian Peach Marmalade from Foggy Rock Eatery & Pub
PLAY: Sunday drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
STAY: Cozy up at the Village Inn of Blowing Rock
Boone, North Carolina
EAT: Fill up on a proper southern meal from Proper
PLAY: Zigzag the switchbacks up Elk Knob’s Summit Trail
STAY: Soak in the stars from Grandfather Mountain Campground
Bowling Green, Kentucky
EAT: Chow down with home cooked plates from Cambridge Market & Cafe
PLAY: Ride Low Hollow Trail, the first mountain bike trail built in Warren County
STAY: Get the lowdown on regional cycling during your stay at Spongie Acres Bed & Breakfast
Brevard, North Carolina
EAT: Eat your weight in burrito goodness from Pescados
PLAY: Pedal from waterfall to waterfall at DuPont State Forest
STAY: Glamp and ride at The Bike Farm
Charleston, South Carolina
EAT: Get a taste of the Lowcountry at FIG
PLAY: SUP the salty marshes of the Folly River
STAY: Rough it in a tent or reserve a cottage at James Island County Park & Campground
Charleston, West Virginia
EAT: Grab a pint of local brew and catch some tunes during “Tappy Hour” at Bluegrass Kitchen
PLAY: Pedal the tour de Kanawha State Forest’s 13 miles of singletrack
STAY: Listen to the roar of Kanawha Falls as you drift to sleep at New River Campground Inc.
Charlotte, North Carolina
EAT: Expect food with a local flavor and a global twist at Heirloom Restaurant
PLAY: Bike, boat, climb, or zip your day away at the U.S. Whitewater Center
STAY: Escape the city bustle at McDowell Nature Preserve
EAT: Get the flavor of Charlottesville, from food to atmosphere, at The Local
PLAY: Think fast and flowy at Walnut Creek Park’s 35 miles of singletrack
STAY: Stay in Charlottesville like a local with Stay Charlottesville
EAT: Don’t miss Whiskey Wednesdays and Beermosa-brunch Sundays at The Flying Squirrel Bar
PLAY: Test your trad climbing on the Tennessee Wall
STAY: Save some green, in your pocket and the planet, at the LEED-platinum certified hostel The Crash Pad
Cherokee, North Carolina
EAT: Satisfy your sweet tooth at Sassy Sunflowers Bakery & Cafe
PLAY: Take on the bermy turns and gradual climbs of the Tanasi Trail System and you’ll be rewarded with ripping downhills and a flowy ride
STAY: Fish and camp on the Raven Fork River at River Valley Campground
EAT: Customize your breakfast at The Egg Bistro
PLAY: Paddle to Lake Drummond in the heart of Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge
STAY: Tour the night sky by telescope during your stay with Northwest River Park & Campground
EAT: Caffeinate your morning with Café Mark
PLAY: Cycle the Great Allegheny Passage north toward Pittsburgh, or east toward Washington, D.C.
STAY: Pedal right to your door at the trailside Trail Inn B&B
Davis, West Virginia
EAT: Stuff your face with gourmet pizza from Sirianni’s Pizza Cafe
PLAY: Learn to cross-country ski while drinking moonshine at White Grass Touring Center
STAY: Dance the night away at The Purple Fiddle
EAT: Wine and dine at Montaluce Winery & Restaurant
PLAY: Hike the Approach Trail in Amicalola Falls State Park to the Appalachian Trail’s southern terminus
STAY: Hike in, literally, to the Hike Inn, a taste of home in a rustic setting
Durham, North Carolina
EAT: For the “mo’ distinguished” of southern breakfast experiences, head to Dame’s Chicken & Waffles
PLAY: Cast your luck catching bass, bluegill, catfish, and crappie on Falls Lake
STAY: At Rollingview Campground, you can park the rig year round
Eden, North Carolina
EAT: The Garbage Plate from Red River Grill sounds bad but tastes delicious
PLAY: Rent a canoe and fish the Dan River
STAY: Family-friendly, pet-friendly Dan River Campground is the best place to base
EAT: Don’t leave town without one of Cantaberry Restaurant’s tasty pies
PLAY: Ride or run the Pinhoti Trail
STAY: At Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Getaway, all you need is a bike and an appetite, for food and adventure
Fayetteville, West Virginia
EAT: From bacon jam to fried eggplant, Secret Sandwich Society has something for every palette
PLAY: Marathon paddle all 23 miles of the Gauley River in a day
STAY: Join your fellow dirtbags around the campfire at the American Alpine Club Campground
Greenville, South Carolina
EAT: Listen to the live tunes across the river from your balcony dinner at The Lazy Goat
PLAY: Ride the Swamp Rabbit Trail to nearby Travelers Rest
STAY: Rent a room, and a bike, from Swamp Rabbit Inn
EAT: Locally sourced, ethically minded, vegetarian and vegan friendly meals are the staple at The Little Grill Collective
PLAY: Rent a bike, or a guide, or both, for a day of singletrack at Massanutten Resort’s 15-mile trail system
STAY: The Side of the Road Inn & Cottages offers visitors a luxurious stay and gourmet breakfast just two miles from the ‘Burg
Hendersonville, North Carolina: EAT: Pig out on pulled pork from Flat Rock Wood Room PLAY: Run or ride the rugged trails of the Green River Game Lands STAY: Shack up trailside and riverside at Wilderness Cove Campground
Johnson City, Tennessee
EAT: Savor the heat of East Tennessee hickory smoked meats at The Firehouse Restaurant
PLAY: Paddle or raft the Nolichucky Gorge
STAY: Try farm life without the commitment at Storybrook Farm B&B
EAT: Indulge in farm to table dishes inspired by the Shenandoah Valley at The Red Hen
PLAY: Explore the Natural Bridge Caverns
STAY: Trek through the woods with a llama in tow at Applewood Inn
EAT: Cajun and creole meets the bourbon belt at Bourbon n’ Toulouse
PLAY: Seek the elusive smallmouth fishing holes on the North Fork of Elkhorn Creek
STAY: Camp on the banks of the Kentucky River at Fort Boonsborough
EAT: Fine southern meals coupled with contemporary art make for a unique dining experience at Proof on Main
PLAY: Stay cool no matter the season as you rip the features at Louisville Mega Cavern & Underground Bike Park
STAY: Settle back in time at the historic Central Park B&B
EAT: Ask for the Luray Spelunker at The Purple Door Cafe & Konditorei
PLAY: Section-cycle the scenic 105-mile Skyline Drive
STAY: Fish for smallmouth bass on the Shenandoah River right from your campsite at Outlanders River Camp
Martinsburg, West Virginia
EAT: Meatless never tasted so good, thanks to Good Natured Market & Vegetarian Cafe
PLAY: Hike Shockeys Knob Loop in the Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area
STAY: Find any amenity you need at Falling Waters Campsite
EAT: Can’t decide between Italian, American, Spanish, or French? Rania’s Restaurant Bar & Grill has it all
PLAY: Paddle the Smith River
STAY: Camp lakeside on Philpott Lake at Goose Point Campground
EAT: MoonShadow Café, where farm fresh food, craft brews, live tunes, and local art unite
PLAY: Bring your A-game to Big Bear Lake’s glorious, techy singletrack
STAY: Whether you want a room or a studio, the Inn at Deep Creek has it all
Morganton, North Carolina
EAT: At root & vine, you can order gourmet comfort food and a bottle of wine to go or dine among a sophisticated atmosphere
PLAY: Soak in the sights of the Blue Ridge from the Fox Trail in South Mountains State Park
STAY: The clear mountain waters of Camp Lake James are the perfect backdrop to your campsite or cabin stay
Morgantown, West Virginia
EAT: Satisfy your post-adventure appetite with a Cold Trail Ale and a Fire on the Mountain flatbread from Mountain State Brewing Co.
PLAY: Tackle the Cheat River Canyon by raft, kayak, or canoe
STAY: Sing camp songs around the fire by night, boulder by day at Coopers Rock State Forest
EAT: Spoil your biscuit standards at Loveless Motel and Café
PLAY: Hamilton Creek Park is the only mountain biking within Nashville proper, and its techy climbs and challenging descents aren’t to be taken lightly
STAY: Affordable lodging located on the Cumberland Riverfront, Nashville Downtown Hostel makes even one-time visitors feel like family
EAT: Falls City Restaurant & Pub, where only the bar dancing rivals the food
PLAY: Paddle the loop on the Lower Youghiogheny River, then cycle or run your shuttle for a multisport day
STAY: Trails connecting to Kentuck Campground offer hiking enthusiasts plenty to explore during the day
EAT: Try the best pit BBQ in Kentucky at the Pig in a Poke
PLAY: The Russell Fork River offers paddlers everything from class II boogy water to classic class V creekboating
STAY: Clean facilities, easy access to the Russell Fork, and scenic trails make Breaks Interstate Park a must-visit
Richmond, Virginia: EAT: Pasture may specialize in small plates and a minimal setting, but the flavor of the food is anything but PLAY: Cycle, paddle, run, or multisport it up at the James River Park System STAY: Make new friends at the centrally located Hostelling International USA
Sylva, North Carolina
EAT: Hippies unite at Soul Infusion Tea House & Bistro, where veggie burgers have their own category
PLAY: Dawn patrol a hike out to Clingmans Dome and you’ll be rewarded with near-360-degree views of the Smokies
STAY: Get back to nature at Moonshine Creek Campground
Virginia Beach, Virginia
EAT: Start the day off right with a $2.50 Bloody Mary and The Ray Ray from Doc Taylor’s Restaurant
PLAY: Post up in the evening for a night surf fishing session at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
STAY: Camp in the sand or upgrade to a cabin with First Landing State Park Campground
EAT: Big Bear Café, likely the only place you can grab a cup of coffee in the morning and a five-course meal that same night
PLAY: Hike alongside the impressive Great Falls Park or step up your paddling game and navigate the high volume falls on the Maryland side by boat
STAY: Conveniently located to museums, subways, and more, Downtown D.C. Hostel makes your city stay a little less stressful
Waynesville, North Carolina
EAT: Bogart’s Restaurant & Tavern serves comfort food in a cozy barn setting
PLAY: See where Charles Frazier got his inspiration and hike the 10-mile trail to the summit of Cold Mountain
STAY: Just two miles off of the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway, Grandview Lodge couldn’t make accessing the park any easier