Rutherford County: Small Towns & Outdoors

Rutherford County: Small Towns & Outdoors

Many of you have probably gazed in awe across Lake Lure and Rutherford County from the top of Chimney Rock. Now's your chance to explore it! Located in the middle of a triangle formed by Charlotte, Asheville and Greenville SC, the county is often called the "front porch of the Blue Ridge Mountains". It is home to friendly small towns, each with unique personality and many things to do. The most iconic jewels of the county are Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. Nearby are the towns of Forest City, Rutherfordton, Spindale, Union Mills, Bostic, and Ellenboro - all filled with local flavor and interesting places to explore.

If you love the outdoors, this foothills area makes a perfect base camp for a big variety of activities. Hike Chimney Rock, kayak or water ski on Lake Lure, fish, horseback ride, zip line, rock climbing and so much more.

If you love history and museums, you'll find the home of the first one dollar gold coin and an amazing car museum. Explore the shops and restaurants in the quaint downtowns, or tour the whisky distillery. Drive the scenic Highway 64 through much of the county, discovering many surprises along the way. The "Cherry Bounce Trail" follows the old route to buy moonshine made from local cherries. Go to the Rutherford County Visitors Guide for more!

Rutherford County Top 15 Things to Do

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.
Chimney Rock Park
Chimney Rock Park
See breathtaking 75-mile views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. The park also features a magnificent 404-foot waterfall and hiking trails. Shopping and dining located at the park entrance.
Rutherford County NC Lodging
Rutherford County B&Bs, Cabins & Hotels
Find plenty of unique inns, bed and breakfasts, local boutique hotels, cabins, and campgrounds near all the things to do in Lake Lure, Chimney Rock, Rutherfordton and Forest City.
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!
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.
Flowering Bridge
Lake Lure Flowering Bridge
Walk across one of the most beautiful highway bridges that you'll ever find! It has been transformed into a gorgeous garden with impressive array of plants and flowers, whimsical planters, sculpture and plenty of butterflies.
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.
Bennett Classics Antique Auto Museum
Bennett Classics Antique Auto Museum
Named “Best Museum in the Nation” by the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA), see a big variety of 70 vehicles representing decades of history. Located in Forest City and Rutherford County.
Defiant Whisky
Blue Ridge Distilling & Defiant Whisky
Tucked away in the rolling hills of Rutherford County is the makers of the rising star Defiant American Single Malt Whisky. Located in Golden Valley (north of Forest City), they picked this location for its water aquifer. Stop by to watch the crew at work. They are happy to stop to give you a tour and a sample!
The Foundation Performing Arts and Conference Center
The Foundation Performing Arts
The "big city" 1,300-seat performing arts center is located on the Isothermal Community College Campus in tiny Spindale and features an impressive Mainstage Performing Arts Series featuring music, dance, comedy, theatre and more.
Lake Lure Welcome Center
Lake Lure & Rutherford County Welcome Center
Stop by for free travel guides, brochures and advice for fun in Lake Lure, Chimney Rock and Rutherford County. See a display of movies filmed here, including Dirty Dancing and Last of the Mohicans. The “Map Room” includes a wall-sized timeline of local heritage with folklore, local culture, and topography map of Hickory Nut Gorge. Open daily! 2932 Memorial Highway (US-64/74), Lake Lure
Bechtler House
Bechtler House & Gold Mint Site
In 1832, Christopher Bechtler minted the America's first one-dollar gold coin in Rutherfordton, 17 years before the U.S. Mint. During the mid-1800s, the Bechtlers minted more than $2.24 million in one dollar gold coins. Two sites in town tell the story in Rutherford County.
Tryon International Equestrian Center, NC
Tryon International Equestrian Center
Watch horse jumping competitions with the best riders in the country at this amazing new world-class equestrian resort south of Asheville. Free admission to many events.
Lake Lure Guide
Lake Lure & Rutherford County Guide
Order a free copy of the award-winning travel guide to Rutherford County foothills that includes Lake Lure, Chimney Rock, Rutherfordton, Forest City and much more!
Camping near Lake Lure
Rutherford County Campgrounds
See the Top 9 places to camp in the Lake Lure, Chimney Rock and Forest City areas in the foothills, including RV and motorcoach resorts. Find a big variety of amenities with many things to do in the Hickory Nut Gorge.
Forest City Christmas Lights
Forest City Hometown Holiday Lights
November 23, 2017 to January 02, 2018
See the million lights that create a magical Main Street in downtown Forest City with many events throughout, including carriage rides. Lighting ceremony on Thanksgiving Day.

Top Annual Festivals & Events in Rutherford County

Dirty Dancing Festival: Fans of the cult-classic Dirty Dancing relive memories of Baby's first dance at the "Dirty Dancing Festival" in the film’s original, breathtaking backdrop of Lake Lure. Read more!

Polar Plunge: Take the annual New Year’s Day plunge into the chilly Lake Lure to raise money for local charities. Read more!

Go to the Rutherford County Visitors Guide for more!

Thermal Belt Rail Trail

Hike/Bike: The Thermal Belt Rail Trail extends nearly 8 miles from Oakland Road in Spindale west and north to the community of Gilkey. The surface is paved for 1.8 miles from downtown Spindale to Whitesides Road and then transitions to crushed gravel for the remainder to Gilkey.

Scenic Drive: Once infamously known, The Cherry Bounce Trail is the path that moonshiners always took during prohibition to attend Amos Owens’ parties to buy his “Cherry Bounce” moonshine. This scenic drive follows along several roadways through the historic towns of Rutherford County and blends into a part of South Mountains Scenery By-Way. The Cherry Bounce Trail is marked by roadside signs for directions identified by a graphic of three large red cherries grouped together. Interesting stops along the way include the Bostic Lincoln Museum and its claim to a resident who just might be the unknown father of one of America’s most famous presidents. A few miles down the road is an authentic rural Washburn General Store that dates to 1831. And stop for a whisky tour at Blue Ridge Distilling. 

Go to the Rutherford County Visitors Guide for more!

Featured Distillery: Blue Ridge Distilling & Defiant Whisky
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The majestic Hickory Nut Gorge is a 14-mile-long canyon that cuts a picturesque pass as deep as 1,800 feet through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Abundant in undisturbed forests, waterfalls, and granite... read more