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.

Mountain Gateway Museum

Adjacent to the Visitor Center is the Mountain Gateway Museum, the state 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.

Old Fort Arrowhead Gallery

Across the street from the Visitor Center, see and buy works from 40+ artists and artisans at Arrowhead Gallery and Studios, featuring a wide variety of arts and crafts, classes and workshops. They are closed Mondays all year, plus closed Tuesdays in January-March. 78C S Catawba Avenue.

Old Fort Sunnyside Trading Company

A surprising find in this tiny town is Sunnyside Trading Company (78 Catawba Avenue) with their huge selection of bohemian modern home décor including many funky vintage textiles and handcrafted furniture from around the world. The 10,000 square foot warehouse is usually open Friday and Saturday 10 AM-4 PM.

Old Fort Sock Outlet

Another surprise is the big Parker Legwear Sock Outlet with many that were made on site. They are usually Monday-Thursday 10 AM-4:30 PM, Friday and Saturday 10:30 AM-6 PM. 78 Catawba Avenue

Catawba Falls, NC

Catawba Falls is a very scenic hike along the cascading river to a 100-foot waterfall in Pisgah National Forest. The trailhead is just a few miles from downtown Old Fort, and it has received many recent improvements including a couple of footbridges. Read more.

Point Lookout Trail

The Point Lookout Trail is a unique, paved greenway that follows a former road up the ridge, so it's a constant walk or bike ridge for 3.6 miles. It takes you through Pisgah National Forest with mountain views along the way. Read more.

Carson House Museum

Located 9 miles east of Old Fort on US Highway 70 is the very historic Carson House. Today, it's a fascinating museum covering 200+ years of regional history. Read more.

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 (pic at top of page). 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.

Places to Stay

Inn on Mill Creek
Tucked away on seven private, wooded acres inside Pisgah National Forest, this casual B&B is located near the charming small town of Black Mountain and has spacious guest rooms decorated to reflect the natural beauty of the mountains. 7 rooms, $159-$219, WiFi, fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs, gardens, pond, organic orchard, pet-friendly,... 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 WiFi, hot tubs, breathtaking mountain views and other amenities. 200 vacation rentals, from $129/night and $745/week, sleeps 2-15 people.... read more
McDowell County
Blue Ridge Travelers: Small Towns & Outdoors
Explore McDowell County east of Asheville, with the small towns of Marion, Little Switzerland, Old Fort and Linville Falls. Includes Pisgah Forest, with hiking, waterfalls, fishing, Lake James and many things to do. See their Blue Ridge Traveler's guide for details. 

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. Read more.
  • 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 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. 

Little Switzerland is a summer colony high in the North Carolina Mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Their town sign says "Population 46." Many buildings... read more
Nestled in the rolling hill country at the base of Linville Gorge is Lake James, a beautiful lake with more than 150 miles of shoreline. Lucky for us, there is the... read more
The 500,000+ acres of the Pisgah National Forest surrounding Asheville feature some of the most beautiful and rugged mountain scenery, and the best recreational opportunities in eastern North America... read more
Located between Marion and Little Switzerland (near Linville Caverns) is Tom's Creek Falls. This... read more