Top 35 Coolest NC Mountain Towns

35 Cool Mountain Small Towns near Asheville

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, along with new galleries and trendy shops. Each town has its own personality and many things to do. Meet some local folks and experience a leisurely day of exploration, just like Mayberry. Since many are in close proximity, you can visit several in a day (see map at bottom of page). Enjoy!

Saluda
Saluda
Since the late 1890s, tourists have flocked to this tiny railroad town of 700 residents. Main Street has many longtime businesses, including fantastic galleries and restaurants. A must stop is the 1899 Pace's "old time" General Store that is part museum. Since 1892 is Thompson's Store and Ward's Grill. Learn about the Saluda Grade at the Depot. Raft and tube on the Green River.
Bryson City
Bryson City
Check out our favorite small town near Asheville! Ride the train on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad before you explore their downtown shops and galleries or paddleboard down the river. Nearby Deep Creek in Great Smokies features camping, hiking, trout fishing and the popular tubing. Raft the Nantahala River. And that's just the beginning!
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.
Banner Elk
Banner Elk
This quaint mountain village near Beech Mountain is home to Lees-McRae College, a beautiful historic campus at the highest elevation of any college east of the Mississippi (3,700 feet). Downtown is home to the Woolly Worm Festival in October.
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.
Morganton
Morganton
Located about 60 miles east of Asheville, Morganton's charming downtown centers around the stately historic courthouse. Shop, eat and taste local brews at two breweries: Fonta Flora and Catawba. In September, attend the big Historic Morganton Festival with arts and crafts, festival cuisine, wine garden featuring many nearby wineries.
Lake Junaluska NC
Lake Junaluska
This beautiful lake town near the Great Smoky Mountains is home to trails, boat tours, golf, gardens, and a big variety of lodging options including lakefront hotels and cabin rentals for a Methodist church retreat.
Highlands
Highlands
For the most upscale shopping in the mountains, head to downtown Highlands. It's a popular area for affluent travelers, many with a summer home in the area. This is one of the highest towns east of the Mississippi River, with an elevation at 4,118 feet. Nearby are many beautiful waterfalls, including the roadside Dry Falls.
Black Mountain
Black Mountain
This quaint town is just a mile from the busy I-40. We especially love exploring the shops along Cherry Street. And don't forget the Swannanoa Valley Museum. Find an impressive selection of restaurants for a tiny town. Nearby Montreat is worth a quick sidetrip.
Marshall
Marshall
This historic town in Madison County is nestled between rocky cliffs and French Broad River. This "one street wide and a mile long" town of 900 residents has re-energized Main Street, filled with artists’ studios, galleries, music venues, and eclectic shops. Walk across the river to Blannahassett Island and the Marshall High Studios, home to many artists.
Burnsville
Burnsville
Nestled in a valley surrounded by the highest peaks in eastern America, including Mt. Mitchell, Burnsville's small downtown is dominated by the Town Square with towering trees. The Mount Mitchell Crafts Fair transforms the streets around the town square into a festival for craft and art lovers, with 150 juried crafters. Our favorite dining spot downtown is the Garden Deli.
Mars Hill
Mars Hill
Located in Madison County, this college town has a quaint downtown of historic buildings and homes. Enjoy many educational and cultural opportunities at the college, including stage plays, art exhibitis, the national clogging champions and the summertime Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre.
Rutherfordton
Rutherfordton
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!
Brevard
Downtown has seen an influx of great shops and restaurants recently. Find antique malls, galleries, and the legendary O.P. Taylor toy store and White Squirrel Shoppe. Big street festivals there include the White Squirrel Festival on Memorial Day Weekend, 4th of July celebration and Halloweenfest. And the Brevard Music Center Summer Festival is nearby.
Dillsboro
Dillsboro
This quaint village is just a few miles from Sylva. On the banks of the Tuckasegee River. Dillsboro has been a tourist stop since the late 1800s. You can arrive by train on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad on an excursion from Bryson City. Although it's a tiny village, find an impressive mix of specialty shops and galleries representing many local artists.
Weaverville
Weaverville
Their small downtown area is filled with restaurants, galleries and interesting local shops. And it's only 10 minutes from both downtown Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Twice a year, they host the big Weaverville Art Safari with dozens of artists opening their studios to visitors. Nearby is Vance Birthplace State Historic Site.
Spruce Pine
Spruce Pine
This small town offers not one but two main streets, Upper Street (Oak Avenue) and Lower Street (Locust Avenue). A must stop is the Toe River Arts Council Gallery. A walk around town leads to several public art projects, including the town clock on Upper Street. Don’t miss the Toe River Art Studio Tour twice a year.
Hendersonville
Hendersonville
The largest downtown in western North Carolina outside of Asheville is filled with historic buildings and updated streetscapes with flowers and art. Find many spots for outdoor dining and a big variety of quality shops and galleries along a six-block stretch of Main Street. Don't miss two street festivals, the Garden Jubilee and the huge NC Apple Festival.
Cashiers NC
Cashiers
In Cashiers, the shops and restaurants are scattered in individual buildings and center around the Village Green with outdoor sculpture, walking paths and gardens. Also find a sophisticated arts and music scene. Nearby are Silver Run Falls and Lake Glenville.
Hot Springs
Hot Springs
This tiny town of around 800 residents is perhaps best known for its hot mineral springs. Located just 40 minutes north of Asheville at the junction of the Appalachian Trail (goes right through downtown) and the French Broad River. Before you soak in the springs, hike from town up to Lover's Leap for a great view of the town.
Waynesville
Waynesville
Downtown's quaint old buildings, brick sidewalks, galleries and general store take you back to a more leisurely time. Each summer, Folkmoot U.S.A. attracts entertainers from all over the world. The Museum of NC Handicrafts is housed in the historic Shelton House. On summer Friday nights, come down for the Mountain Street Dances.
Beech Mountain
Beech Mountain
This is the coolest town on our list for temperature (and the highest town in the eastern USA at 5,506 feet). While it's very popular for skiing and snowboarding each winter, they have an impressive trail system for hiking and mountain biking in the summer. Each fall, they open the yellow brick road for Autumn at Oz.
Cherokee
Cherokee
Home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, find a big variety of ways to experience. Learn the Indian heritage, shop for local crafts, see their painted bears or attend a pow wow, or try your luck at the huge Harrah's casino. It's also the primary North Carolina entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Robbinsville, NC
Robbinsville
This tiny town of 600 residents is big on things to do in Graham County, home to Fontana Lake, Lake Santeetlah, Stecoah Arts Center, Cherohala Skyway and hikes and waterfalls in Nantahala National Forest. 
Tryon
Tryon
Tryon is home to an impressive arts community with galleries downtown and a big equestrian community with many horse-related events, including a Steeplechase each spring. Enjoy year-round horse shows at the Foothills Equestrian Nature Center and the Tryon International Equestrian Center attracts horse lovers and riders from all over.
Sylva
Sylva
This cool mountain town is home to the most photographed courthouse in the state, perched on a hill overlooking the historic Main Street. It's home to the annual Greening Up the Mountain street festival and Concerts on the Creek summer weekly concerts. And try some local beers at two breweries.
Columbus, NC
Columbus
Located in the foothills in wine and horse country, this tiny town (population 999) has a quaint historic downtown with a park and mountain views, scenic drive, wineries and Tryon Equestrian Center. 
West Asheville
West Asheville
While it's part of the city, West Asheville has it's own vibe and busy Haywood Road lined with restored buildings filled a big variety of restaurants, bars, breweries, and funky shops.
Little Switzerland
Little Switzerland
This summer retreat along the Blue Ridge Parkway is a great stop for food at the Switzerland Cafe and shopping at the General Store or the Book Exchange. Tour Emerald Village to learn all about gem mining. Also, stop at the Museum of NC Minerals or hike to Grassy Creek Falls.
Bakersville NC
Bakersville
Located at the base of Roan Mountain and the mile-high scenic drive, this town has several galleries and studios. Home to the Rhododendron Festival. Penland School of Crafts is nearby.
Marion NC
Marion
Stroll down Marion's Main Street lined with historic buildings, churches and the courthouse. It sits at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains near popular attractions like Mt. Mitchell and Linville Falls. Don't miss the Livermush Festival!
Franklin
Franklin
This town is known as the "Gem Capital of the World." Downtown is home to the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum in a 19th Century jailhouse. Attend one of the country’s best known gem shows, the Macon County Gemboree. Tour the Macon County Historical Museum and the Scottish Tartans Museum.
Maggie Valley NC
Maggie Valley
This popular family resort town has been a favorite for generations, and it has kept much of it's local charm with vintage motels and plenty of gift shops with arts and crafts. The Wheels Through Time Museum has an outstanding collection of classic cars and motorcycles.
Biltmore Village
Biltmore Village
This historic community at the entrance to Biltmore Estate is filled with trendy boutiques, galleries and restaurants in restored buildings and cottages.
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.
Crossnore NC
Crossnore
This tiny town in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains has a famous school, church fresco, historic buildings with gallery and weaving museum, plus much more. Near Spruce Pine and Banner Elk.

Tips for Visiting Small Towns
Get out of your car and walk! Stop in some of the local business and meet the locals. Ask them about things to see and do - including favorite places to eat. Sundays are fairly quiet in many of the towns since some of the businesses close. 

Western North Carolina Small Town Map

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