As the summer heat arrives across the country, it’s the perfect time to escape to the cool breezes and welcoming towns of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Here are a few of our favorite ways to beat the heat on your next summer vacation:
Feel refreshed as you take in the awe-inspiring beauty of a mountain waterfall and feel the spray cool your face. Check out this guide to area hiking trails and waterfalls, including the popular Catawba Falls near Old Fort and the ultimate selfie spot at Linville Falls.
Stay safe! While some waterfall areas may have wading areas to cool your tired toes, remember to always obey all posted signs and NEVER attempt to climb a waterfall or enter a stream above the falls.
Head for the hills and cool off while enjoying views from the highest peaks in the Eastern U.S. Mount Mitchell — famous for being the tallest point east of the Mississippi River — regularly boasts temperatures 10-30 degrees cooler than the surrounding valleys. You’ll want to pack a jacket for your drive or hike to the summit, where you can take in the 360-degree view and breath in the exhilarating scent of the spruce forest.
Pack a picnic (bring a cooler!) and travel the Blue Ridge Parkway south to Craggy Gardens for a hike through rhododendron thickets and postcard-worthy vistas from Craggy Pinnacle. To the north, Grandfather Mountain offers unforgettable views from the Mile-High Swinging Bridge, plus wildlife habitats featuring black bears, bald eagles, river otters and cougars.
Ice Cream & Craft Beverages
Stroll down the sidewalk in charming Marion, N.C. as you enjoy a sweet — and chilly — treat from Artesana Ice Cream Shop, Scoop Marion or Pelican’s Snoballs.
Enjoy a cold pint of craft beer from a local brewery like Marion’s Mica Town Brewing or Old Fort’s Hillman Beer. Drive out to Whipporwill Farm in Nebo to visit this dairy-farm-turned-brewery and taste the varieties of Fonta Flora Brewery. Or cool off with a cocktail or glass of wine at a local distillery, winery or meadery.
Lake James State Park
Splash in the cool waters of Lake James this summer at the park’s swimming beach. Located in the Paddy’s Creek section of the park, visitors can swim for $6 each (13+; children $4/each) and lifeguards are on duty daily throughout the season.
Or rent a canoe or kayak at the nearby concession stand to explore the lake and perhaps take a peek at the resident bald eagles.
Keep cool while you hunt for buried treasure! Plunge your mined ore into a flume of cold mountain water to sift out the gold or gems hidden inside, or venture below ground at the N.C. Mining Museum (part of Emerald Village) to tour the historic Bon Ami Mine.