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.
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.
Thermal City Gold Mine
Thermal City Gold & Gem Mine
Visit this authentic gold mine and travel back to the 1800s gold rush. Pan for gold and gems, talk to a real prospector and explore the "Old West" buildings with plenty of interesting things to see. Open mid March-October. South of Marion.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Lake Lure Guide
Lake Lure & Rutherford County Guide
Order a free copy of the award-winning travel guide to the 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 10 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 campground amenities with many things to do in the Hickory Nut Gorge.

Festivals & Events

Lake Lure Arts Festival
Lake Lure Arts Festival
Saturday, May 25, 2019 to Monday, May 27, 2019
Featuring handmade creations from more than 60 artisans from across the region, including painting, photography, jewelry, leather, metal, soaps and more on Memorial Day Weekend. Admission is free. Across from the beach, 2771 Memorial Highway.
Dirty Dancing Festival
Dirty Dancing Festival
Friday, September 13, 2019 to Saturday, September 14, 2019
Fans of the cult-classic Dirty Dancing will relive memories of Baby's first dance in the film’s original, breathtaking backdrop of Lake Lure.
Lake Lure Arts Festival
Lake Lure Arts Festival
Saturday, October 20, 2018 to Sunday, October 21, 2018
Check our artwork by more than 60 vendors from many different disciplines. Also enjoy live music and entertainment, food vendors and the beauty of Lake Lure.
Forest City Christmas Lights
Forest City Hometown Holiday Lights
Thursday, November 22, 2018 to Tuesday, January 1, 2019
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.
Santa on the Chimney at Chimney Rock State Park
Santa on the Chimney
Saturday, December 7, 2019, Saturday, December 14, 2019
Watch Santa practice for his world-wide chimney-dropping tour on his "practice chimney," the 312 ft. tall Chimney Rock monolith. Included with park admission.
Lake Lure Polar Plunge
Lake Lure Polar Plunge
Tuesday, January 1, 2019
Jump into the chilly waters of Lake Lure to raise money for local charities. What a way to start the new year!

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!

Visit, tour and taste whiskey, moonshine and hard ciders at distilleries and cideries near Asheville, made with local ingredients and fresh mountain spring water in Western North Carolina. Blue Ridge... read more
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,... read more
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