Old Fort, North Carolina

Old Fort, NC

Located at the foot of the Black Mountains, Old Fort is a small quaint town often called the "gateway to the west." If you are traveling along Interstate 40 east toward Asheville, Old Fort is the little village near I-40 that you passed by before you drive the winding section up the ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. The town of Black Mountain is located at the top of the ridge.

Here's a sampling of what you will find:

Visitor Center: Less than a half mile from I-40 at exit 73 is the McDowell County Visitor Center at 91 South Catawba Avenue. Stop there for all sorts of maps and brochures about things to do. 

Arrowhead Gallery and Studios: Across the street from the Visitor Center, see and buy works from 40+ artists and artisans, featuring a wide variety of arts and crafts, classes and workshops. 78C S Catawba Ave

Old Fort Arrowhead Monument: In the center of Old Fort, built in 1930 this hand chiseled granite monument served to honor the peace finally achieved between the pioneer settlers and the Native Americans. At the unveiling, over 6,000 people attended including chiefs from both the Catawba and Cherokee tribes. These two tribes had never smoked a pipe of peace together until that day.

Train Depot: Old Fort's train depot is in the heart of town, located directly behind the Arrowhead.

Mountain Gateway Museum

Mountain Gateway MuseumOld Fort is home to the state run museum exhibiting mountain lifestyle and history from the earliest inhabitants to the twentieth century. Summer music programs, festivals and a variety of other activities are held there and at their outdoor amphitheater on Mill Creek. Free. Read more.

Places to Stay and See in Old Fort

Inn on Mill Creek
Tucked away on seven private wooded acres inside Pisgah National Forest, this casual B&B near the charming small town of Black Mountain has spacious guest rooms decorated to reflect the natural beauty of the mountains. 7 rooms, $149-$199, wi-fi, fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs, gardens, pond, organic orchard, pet friendly, North Carolina... read more
NC Mountain Cabin Rental
Choose from a large variety of top-notch vacation rentals in Asheville, Black Mountain and Montreat, complete with excellent customer service. Find cabins that are pet-friendly, plus feature Wi-Fi, hot tubs, breathtaking mountain views and other amenities. 200 vacation rentals, from $129/night and $745/week, sleeps 2-15 people.... read more
Point Lookout NC Bike Trail
Point Lookout Trail
(7.2 miles roundtrip, moderate) The best paved greenway near Asheville is a blast for biking or hiking. This paved path in Pisgah National Forest was formerly part of Old US Highway 70, winding through the woods with views of the mountains, railroad and forest. While the trail is only 3.6 miles one way, it climbs 900 feet in elevation from Old Fort to Ridgecrest.
Catawba Falls
Catawba Falls
(3 miles roundtrip, easy) This waterfall in the Pisgah National Forest is just three miles from I-40 in Old Fort. Hike to the lower falls, a 100-foot cascade. Experienced hikers and rock climbers continue on a challenging hike to the stunning Upper Catawba Falls in the photo.

Free Festivals at Mountain Gateway Museum

  • April 29, 2017: Pioneer Day Festival with period demonstrations, vendors, music and food. 9 AM-4 PM. 
  • June 3, 2017: Official NC Gold Festival hosted by the NC Gold Foundation on the museum grounds with games, demonstrations, treasure hunt, music, food and art. 9 AM-4 PM. 
  • July 4, 2017: Ice Cream Social with free ice cream and live music 1-3 PM, followed by the 4th of July Parade
  • September 16, 2017: Railroad Day celebrates Old Fort's rich railroad history with trolley rides, model railroads, demonstrations, food, music, crafts and more.

Andrew's Geyser

Andrews Geyser: (Undergoing repairs in 2017) Located just outside Old Fort in McDowell County, this manmade geyser shoots up over 80 feet high at times. Its water supply is drawn from the Mill Creek. Enjoy the mighty, misty column of mountain water that shoots straight up, twisting a bit in the wind, always raining down. Andrews Geyser is free, open to the public, and surrounded by a sizable concrete wading pool that’s a super spot to get misty. The park includes picnic tables and stone benches, where you can sit back and watch the water show. Catch a rainbow with early morning or late afternoon sun.

Old Fort History 
Since 1869 travelers through these mountains looked for the familiar sight of a tall water plume, a manmade geyser, and a resort hotel tucked away at the base of the Blue Ridge this signaled the start of the long climb to Asheville through some of the most scenic terrain in North Carolina. Originally a fort built by the colonial militia before the Declaration of Independence, the settlement served for many years as the western outpost of the early United States. The fort is now being rebuilt by the non-profit corporation "Davidson's Fort Historic Park. 

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