On the hottest summer days, what's the best way to beat the heat in the mountains of North Carolina? Since the city of Asheville is in a valley, it is usually only 5-8 degrees cooler than places like Charlotte or Atlanta. So high temperatures often reach 90 in the summer months. However, as you head up into the higher mountains, you cool a few degrees every 1,000 feet in elevation gain. So the highest mountain peaks can run 15-20 degrees cooler than Asheville! And most of the mountain swimming holes are fed by cool mountain springs. Here are 10 ideas to keep your cool (click the links for details):
1. Sliding Rock: The most popular natural waterslide in the South is near Brevard. Slide down a 60-foot smooth rock waterfall into a pool of chilly 55-degree water (photo at top) with lifeguards on duty. On the hottest days, especially weekend, they run out of parking. So get there early. A most adventurous natural slide for adults is Turtleback Falls.
2. Mountain Swimming Spots: From cascading creeks to mountain beaches (photo above is Wildcat Lake), see the best places to take a dip in our refreshing waters throughout the 16 counties we cover in western NC.
3. Linville Caverns: Take a guided underground tour and enjoy nature's refrigerator at 52 degrees year round.
4. River Tubing: Float down a scenic mountain river on a lazy summer day. Our favorite tubing locations are Deep Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains, Green River Gorge near Saluda and the French Broad River in Asheville.
6. Mt. Mitchell: The highest peak in eastern America stays up to 20 degrees cooler than the city of Asheville with summer highs usually in the 60s or lower 70s. Drive to the top and walk to the observation deck for 360-degree views or have a picnic in the cool mountain breezes (pic above). Hike the Deep Gap Trail to Mt. Craig through a lush forest and never go below 6,000 feet in elevation.
7. High Hikes: If you want to hike on a summer day, head for the highest elevations and deep forests. In addition to Mt. Mitchell, hike lofty Big Butt Trail, Waterrock Knob, or the Appalachian Trail at Roan Mountain. Beech Mountain has mile-high hiking, biking and golf. Also, hike early mornings to avoid the heat. Take plenty of water and sunscreen! Then you can relax with a cold beer in the afternoon.
8. Blue Ridge Parkway: Ride north or south on the Parkway from Asheville to quickly climb in elevation, thus the temperatures drop. Head north for a cool picnic at Craggy Gardens, usually at least 10 degrees cooler than the valleys. And you can enjoy a windshield tour in the cool comfort of your car. South is Richland Balsam, the highest point on the Parkway at 6,047 feet.
9. Waterfalls: While it is dangerous at many waterfalls to swim (never get into the water at all above a waterfall), you can wade in the cool waters below many of the waterfalls or get sprayed by the mist. See our Top 60.
Cheers! End the day with cold beer in a Beer City brewery!