Marion, North Carolina, is a charming small town in the heart of McDowell County. When planning your next trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains, consider Marion as the perfect basecamp to explore nearby Linville Gorge, Lake James, Old Fort, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Consider this your primer on some of the great things Marion has to offer.
Outdoor Adventures Around Marion
When you visit Marion, you'll find the surrounding mountains offer some of the most awe-inspiring mountain views, waterfalls, and outdoor adventures. Here are some places to explore during your stay.
Explore an otherworldly subterranean experience you have to see to believe. Explorer Henry E. Colton discovered the caverns in 1858. He described them as looking like “the arch of some grand old cathedral, yet it was too sublime, too perfect in all of its beautiful proportions…” Linville Caverns are the only caverns available to tour in NC. They offer 30 guided tours every day.
Take a Hike or Two
There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails you can access near Marion. We recommend the famous Linville Trail and waterfall to your visit. Part of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, the trail can be accessed via the Linville Falls visitor center at milepost 316 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 1.6-mile roundtrip hike leads to a 90-foot waterfall plummeting into the Linville Gorge, nicknamed “The Grand Canyon of the Southern Appalachians.”
We are partial to the Mount Ida Wilderness Area for the stunning view it offers of downtown Marion. To reach the summit, you’ll take a short, .5-mile trail considered to be moderate to strenuous. Grab some hummus du jour and cheesecake from Bruce’s Fabulous Foods or stop by English Farmstead Cheese for their farm-fresh cheese to enjoy under the picnic shelter.
Play A Round of Golf
Prefer grass over wilderness? Play a round of golf at the Marion Lake Club with stunning views of Linville Gorge and Lake James. What to try something new? The North Cove Social Club has transformed what once was the Linville Falls Golf Club into a disc golf course and event space.
Be surrounded by nature by spending a day at some of the best fly fishing locations in the mountains. Here's a guide to the best streams and a primer on the fishing regulations in the area.
First things first, stop by Flavors on Main in downtown Marion, and head to the second floor. There you can pick up fly-fishing gear, outdoor clothing and shoes.
A popular spot for pond fishing is Marion’s Buck Creek Trout Farm. The trout are egg-hatched and hand-fed to market size, and the folks at Buck Creek provide everything you need — poles, bait and a place to clean your catch (or have someone clean it for you). No fishing license is required!
Be a Gold Digger
McDowell County, home to Marion today, was a significant site in North Carolina’s Gold Rush between 1800 and 1827. There are plenty of options where you can still pan for gold.
The Lucky Strike Gold and Gem Mine. Here you can pan for gold for only $5 a day! Take a break from mining to enjoy a Klondike Dog and glass of Sluice Juice (iced tea) at Miner’s Diner.
Originally a working gold and gem mine, Gold River Camp and Cabins offers riverfront lodging in a variety of cabins and tenting spots. They have “glamping” cabins, an RV spot, and a selection of tents from “glamping” to “primitive.” Pan for gold during the day and then enjoy some family time around the fire pits and in the communal game area in the evening.
Grab a Bite to Eat
Along a 0.3-mile stretch of Marion’s historic Main Street—and a few side streets—you’ll find a variety of fantastic restaurants.
A relaxed, downtown eatery with dishes made in-house from locally sourced ingredients
The perfect spot for a casual cocktail, fresh seafood and hand cut steaks
Pile on the toppings at this fast casual restaurant that puts a new spin on Mexican favorites.
Look for the "big barrel gun" out front and you've found their smoker. Serving up ribs, pulled pork BBQ, and catfish.
Around Town - Nightlife
You’ll be merry alright after a visit to one of these stops along the Blue Ridge Crafts Spirits Trail in Marion.
Enjoy some of the finest moonshine in these parts. They're open from 1 pm to 6 pm from Thursday to Saturday. The owners have perfected their recipe over generations, and they offer free samples!
This craft brewery that invites you to sip on their local, carefully crafted beer, cider, and spirits. Their products are inspired by, and honor, the heritage of Appalachian mining. We love their Ginger Beerd, made with a pound of ginger per gallon, that drinks like a dry, alcoholic ginger ale. Try it with some Carolina Kettle Chips and Memaw’s Cheese Tiddies.
This locals fave takes pride in being “Marion’s Pioneer in Craft Beer.” They serve house-made craft beer, sangria and wine and a nice selection of family-friendly foods. You can dine in or enjoy the spring weather with their outdoor seating.
Try a taste of the sweet life with their award winning mead concoctions. These honey wines are made with locally sourced ingredients and come in a variety of flavors.
Order a brew from the 20 beers rotating on tap – 10 of them dedicated to NC craft beers - and pair it with Creamy Parmesan Garlic Dip or a delectable panini. Opt to sit on their patio to enjoy the weather, and enjoy live entertainment while you imbibe.
Signature Festivals in Downtown Marion, NC
Make plans to attend one of the many great street festivals that happen throughout the year. You can check out our event calendar for other great events taking place in Marion throughout the year.
May 19 & 20, 2023! Bigfoot has long been rumored to reside on the hills surrounding Marion, and festival organizers promise that “You may come a skeptic, but you’ll leave a believer.” Sample some Bigfoot Trax ice cream, enter the Bigfoot Calling Contest, and talk to the colorful people who have witnessed actual Sasquatch sightings!
Have you ever tried Livermush? This regional favorite has been served up in Western North Carolina for hundreds of years. The Germans brought it with them when they settled in the Appalachian Mountains back in the 1700s. Celebrate this regional cuisine with a pig calling competition, live music, and all the livermush you can eat.
Celebrate small-town life in the mountains at this weekend's Mountain Glory Festival in downtown Marion. At this popular street fest you'll find locally made arts and crafts, the best in festival food, live entertainment, and a kids zone.