Top 35 Coolest NC Mountain Towns

35 Cool Mountain Small Towns near Asheville

We love exploring our cool small towns nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina, filled with historic buildings with a mix of longtime family operated stores and restaurants, along with new galleries and trendy shops. Each town has its own personality and many things to do. Meet some local folks and experience a leisurely day of exploration, just like Mayberry. Your first stop should be the town's Visitor Center to chat with locals. They will help you plan the perfect visit to match your interests.

Since many of these towns are in close proximity, it's easy visit several in a day (see map at bottom of page). Photo above is Sylva. Enjoy!

Bryson City
Bryson City
Find much to do! Ride the train on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad before you explore their downtown shops and galleries, or paddleboard down the river. Nearby Deep Creek in the Smokies features camping, hiking, trout fishing and the ever-popular tubing. Raft the Nantahala River. And that's just the beginning!
Sylva, NC
Sylva
Home to NC's most photographed courthouse, perched on a hill overlooking the busy historic Main Street with fantastic restaurants, breweries, general store, shops and festivals. Film location for 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing. Home of Fly Fishing Trail too.
Waynesville, NC
Waynesville
Downtown's quaint old buildings, brick sidewalks, galleries and general store take you back to a more leisurely time. Each summer, Folkmoot U.S.A. attracts entertainers from all over the world. The Museum of NC Handicrafts is housed in the historic Shelton House. On summer Friday nights, come down for the Mountain Street Dances.
Dillsboro
Dillsboro
This artsy village is just a few miles from Sylva. On the banks of the Tuckasegee River. Dillsboro has been a tourist stop since the late 1800s. Although it's a tiny village, find an impressive mix of specialty shops and galleries representing many local artists. Go to many art festivals. Many arrive by train on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad on an excursion.
Saluda
Saluda
Since the late 1890s, tourists have flocked to this tiny railroad town of 700 residents. Main Street has many longtime businesses, including fantastic galleries and restaurants. A must stop is the 1899 Pace's "old time" General Store that is part museum. Since 1892 is Thompson's Store and Ward's Grill. Learn about the Saluda Grade at the Depot. Raft and tube on the Green River.
Hendersonville
Hendersonville
The largest downtown in western North Carolina outside of Asheville is filled with historic buildings and updated streetscapes with flowers and art. Find many spots for outdoor dining and a big variety of quality shops and galleries along a six-block stretch of Main Street. Don't miss two street festivals, the Garden Jubilee and the huge NC Apple Festival.
Biltmore Village NC
Biltmore Village
Stroll this picturesque historic "town" in the city of Asheville near the entrance to Biltmore Estate. Find tree lined streets with trendy, mostly local boutiques, galleries, breweries and restaurants in buildings and cottages built by the Vanderbilts.
Brevard
Picturesque Main Street has many local shops, restaurants, galleries, brewery, museums and favorite O.P. Taylor toy store. Big events include the White Squirrel Festival, 4th of July celebration, Brevard Music Festival and Halloweenfest. This is the Land of the Waterfalls with hiking, biking and famous Sliding Rock.
Cashiers NC
Cashiers
Shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants center around the Village Green with outdoor sculpture, walking paths and gardens. Find a sophisticated arts and music scene. Nearby are Silver Run Falls and Lake Glenville.
Beech Mountain
Beech Mountain
This is the coolest town on our list for temperature (highest town in the eastern USA at 5,506 feet elevation). While it's very popular for skiing and snowboarding each winter, they have an impressive trail system for hiking and mountain biking in the summer. Summer golf and scenic chairlift rides too. Each fall, follow the yellow brick road at Autumn at Oz.
Banner Elk NC
Banner Elk
This quaint mountain village at 3,700 feet elevation has great restaurants, breweries, shops, Wildcat Lake beach, and many events including the Woolly Worm Festival in October. Near Beech Mountain skiing and Grandfather Mountain hiking.
Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock Village
The tiny village (population 109) has a busy downtown at the entrance to popular Chimney Rock Park. Behind the shops and restuarants, the Rocky Broad Riverwalk takes you along the cascading river with places for a picnic. Take a step back in time in this authentic tourist town that has kept the charm of the 60s and 70s.
Hot Springs NC
Hot Springs
This tiny town of 567 residents is perhaps best known for its hot mineral springs. Located north of Asheville at the junction of the Appalachian Trail (goes right through downtown) and the French Broad River. Hike from town up to Lover's Leap for a great view of the town.
Tryon
Tryon
Home to an impressive arts community, with galleries and an arts center downtown. Also boasts a big equestrian community, with many horse-related events, including a Steeplechase each spring. The amazing Tryon International Equestrian Center attracts horse lovers and riders from all over the world. Near Saluda.
Robbinsville, NC
Robbinsville
This tiny town of 600 residents is big on things to do in Graham County, home to Fontana Lake, Lake Santeetlah, Stecoah Arts Center, Cherohala Skyway and hikes and waterfalls in Nantahala National Forest. 
Flat Rock, NC
Flat Rock
This quaint and very historic village is located three miles south of Hendersonville. A longtime summer retreat, it's home to the Playhouse state theatre, Carl Sandburg National Historic Site, Hubba Hubba Smokehouse, Sky Top Orchard, galleries and shops.
Marshall, NC
Marshall
This historic town in Madison County is nestled between rocky cliffs and French Broad River. This "one street wide and a mile long" town of 889 residents has a Main Street with artists’ studios, galleries, music venues,  restaurants, Zuma Coffee and shops. Walk across the river to Blannahassett Island and the Marshall High Studios with many events.
Forest City
Forest City
Have lunch at the soda fountain, see an amazing collection of vintage cars and catch a baseball game in small town American. Every winter, the Forest City’s Hometown Holidays celebration lights up Main Street with more than one million lights.
Columbus, NC
Columbus
Located in the foothills in wine and horse country, this tiny town (population 999) has a quaint historic downtown with a park and mountain views, scenic drive, wineries and Tryon Equestrian Center. 
Cherokee
Cherokee
Home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, find a large variety of ways to experience the Indian heritage. Tour the museum and Indian Village and watch "Unto These Hills." Shop for local crafts, see their painted bears, attend a pow wow or try your luck at the huge Harrah's Casino. It's also a major gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Maggie Valley NC
Maggie Valley
This popular family resort town has been a favorite for generations. It has kept much of its local charm with vintage motels and plenty of gift shops with arts and crafts. Don't miss Wheels Through Time collection of classic cars and motorcycles. Ski at Cataloochee. Ghost Town reopens in 2019.
Morganton, North Carolina
Morganton
Located about 60 miles east of Asheville, Morganton's charming downtown centers around the stately historic courthouse. Shop, eat and taste local brews at three breweries. Just outside of town is Lake James, Catawba Valley wineries and Linville Gorge. In September, don't miss the big Morganton Festival.
Marion NC
Marion
Stroll down Marion's Main Street lined with historic buildings, churches and the courthouse. It sits at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains near popular attractions like Mt. Mitchell and Linville Falls. Don't miss the Livermush & Bigfoot Festivals!
Lake Junaluska NC
Lake Junaluska
This beautiful lake town near the Great Smoky Mountains is home to trails, boat tours, golf, gardens and a big variety of lodging options, including lakefront hotels and cabin rentals for a Methodist church retreat.
Lake Lure
Lake Lure
There's a lot happening in this lake town! In addition to a beach to keep cool on hot summer's day, there's a wonderful Town Center Walkway that connects the beach to the beautiful Flowering Bridge. Take a boat tour of the lake or bring your mountain bike for their new trail system at Buffalo Creek Park.
Weaverville
Weaverville
Their small downtown area is filled with restaurants, galleries and interesting local shops. And it's only 10 minutes from both downtown Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Twice a year, they host the big Weaverville Art Safari with dozens of artists opening their studios to visitors. Nearby is Vance Birthplace State Historic Site.
West Asheville
West Asheville
While it's part of the city, West Asheville has its own vibe and busy Haywood Road lined with restored buildings filled a big variety of restaurants, bars, breweries, and funky shops.
Valdese, NC
Valdese
Founded on the traditions of 19th century Waldensian settlers from Italy. Stop by the Visitor Center in the historic Rock School for things to do including Waldensian Heritage Winery, Waldensian Museum, Trail of Faith, Old Rock School Art Galleries and model train museum.
Black Mountain
Black Mountain
This quaint town is just a mile from the busy I-40. We especially love exploring the shops along Cherry Street. And don't forget the Swannanoa Valley Museum. Find an impressive selection of restaurants for a tiny town. Nearby Montreat is worth a quick sidetrip.
Lake Toxaway, NC
Lake Toxaway
This pristine, scenic mountain lake is surrounded by a community with many things to do - located near Brevard. Take a lake cruise at Greystone Inn, be a beekeeper for a day, stay at a wellness retreat and see Toxaway Falls.
Bakersville NC
Bakersville
Located at the base of Roan Mountain and the mile-high scenic drive, this town has several galleries and studios. Home to the Rhododendron Festival. Penland School of Crafts is nearby.
Burnsville
Burnsville
Nestled in a valley surrounded by the highest peaks in eastern America, including Mt. Mitchell, Burnsville's small downtown is dominated by the Town Square with towering trees. The Mount Mitchell Crafts Fair transforms the streets into a festival for craft and art lovers.
Highlands
Highlands
For the most upscale shopping in the mountains, head to downtown Highlands. It's a popular area for affluent travelers, many with a summer home in the area. This is one of the highest towns east of the Mississippi River, with an elevation at 4,118 feet. Nearby are many beautiful waterfalls, including the roadside Dry Falls.
Little Switzerland NC
Little Switzerland
This tiny summer retreat along the Blue Ridge Parkway is known for its charming architecture, historic inns, gem mining, winding motorcycle drives and amazing book store. Near Spruce Pine.
Franklin, NC
Franklin
This town is known as the "Gem Capital of the World." Downtown is home to the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum in a 19th Century jailhouse. Attend one of the country’s best known gem shows, the Macon County Gemboree. Tour the Macon County Historical Museum and the Scottish Tartans Museum.
Spruce Pine
Spruce Pine
This small town offers not one but two main streets, Upper Street (Oak Avenue) and Lower Street (Locust Avenue). A must-stop is the Toe River Arts Council Gallery. A walk around town leads to several public art projects, including the town clock on Upper Street. Don’t miss the Toe River Art Studio Tour twice a year.
Mars Hill
Mars Hill
Located in Madison County, this college town has a quaint downtown of historic buildings and homes. Enjoy many educational and cultural opportunities at the university, including stage plays, art exhibits, the national clogging champions.
Crossnore NC
Crossnore
This tiny town in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains has a famous school, church fresco, historic buildings with gallery and weaving museum, plus much more. Near Spruce Pine and Banner Elk.
Rutherfordton
Rutherfordton
Explore one of the oldest towns in Western North Carolina, with historic antebellum homes and a downtown filled with shops, restaurants and one of the best children's museums in the state. And it's the site of the first minted gold coins in the USA!

Free Printed Guides
Many of our small towns have free printed guides that they will mail to you (free postage too!). Find 12 that you can order here - maps too! 

Western North Carolina Small Town Map

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