Every year, around the time azaleas and dogwoods begin to flower in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Alpine-inspired community of Little Switzerland springs to life. Located right on the famed Blue Ridge Parkway at MilePost 334, this area is home to magnificent waterfalls, hiking trails and breathtaking panoramic views.
Here, funky art galleries are side by side with authentic general stores, clothing boutiques, ice cream parlors, and some of the best BBQ in western North Carolina. Here's your travel guide to a perfect weekend getaway in Little Switzerland.
Where To Stay
Our weekend guide begins here, because reservations fill up quickly in this seasonal mountain town.
The Switzerland Inn is straight out of a postcard with its gabled roofs, exposed beams, and decorative wooden balconies. Set against a backdrop of mountain peaks, visitors can choose from casual rooms in the Main Lodge or private rustic cabins. In between sightseeing, relax at the pool or spa, or browse at the craft-filled Trillium Gallery.
Alpine Inn is a favorite lodge for visitors who come to race the Diamondback route, although everyone will be awed by its 3,200-foot-high location on the side of Grassy Mountain. Be sure to ask for a room with a private balcony.
Travelers on a budget will appreciate the Big Lynn Lodge, which includes gracious hosts plus breakfast and dinner for two!
The Skyline Village Inn in nearby Spruce Pine is a 3-story, Swiss-style 1940s hotel offering a tavern and lounge where you’ll quickly meet new friends. Or choose to spend some quiet time on the deck overlooking a priceless mountain view.
Where To Eat
At the Switzerland Inn, everyone is invited to enjoy a fine-dining meal at their Chalet Restaurant. For a more relaxed atmosphere, their Fowl Play Pub & Tap Room serves up traditional pub fare with a choice of 20 beers on tap. The Terrace Dining is the perfect spot for a rousing game of table tennis, made all the more enjoyable by the spectacular view. After your meal, stop by the Swiss Shoppe for an ice cream cone and an old-school game of Pac-Man.
People rave about the Switzerland Cafe & General Store with its hearty portions of down-home cooking and delectable homemade desserts. They boast the largest wood-fired smokehouse in the state, and their hickory-smoked BBQ has earned the praise of many on the NC Barbecue Trail.
There’s so much to do in and around Little Switzerland, you may want to just fuel up and go. Little Switzerland Books and Beans has an outstanding espresso bar and snacks. If you have a little time, you’ll love exploring all of the nooks and crannies stuffed with books and charm. Just a few miles away in Spruce Pine, grab a hand-crafted coffee and some lunch to go at DT's Blue Ridge Java . (You must try the cream cheese croissant!)
The closest waterfall to Little Switzerland is Crabtree Falls at MilePost 339.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). You can get to these impressive 70-foot falls by a shorter, more moderate .9-mile hike, which we recommend for children. More advanced hikers can choose a longer, more strenuous 2.5-mile round-trip hike with steeper ascents. Whichever trek you follow, you will be awed by these beautiful and powerful cascades.
For additional family-friendly waterfall adventures, visit Roaring Fork Falls, just a 2-mile drive from BRP MilePost 344. An easy 1-mile hike leads to a 100-foot waterfall characterized by a gentle cascade leading to a serene pool at its base. Families will also love nearby Setrock Creek Falls for its easy-going .5-mile hike each way. You’ll be rewarded with a stunning 75-foot waterfall at the turn-around point. It’s not a steep drop, but rather a gentle flow through lush greenery over rocky tiers. Setrock Creek is at the base of Mount Mitchell, another must-go hiking destination.
Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River and offers numerous trails for all hiking levels. The Mount Mitchell Trail is an advanced hiking trail that leads from the Black Mountain Campground to the top of Mount Mitchell. The ascent gains 3,600 feet over 5.6 miles, meaning the trail is very steep and difficult to navigate in some areas. Or, for a more moderate hike, try the Old Mitchell Trail, a 2.2- mile trail to the summit of Mount Mitchell.
There are many more trails to explore on this acclaimed mountain, including a very short, paved hike from the parking lot to the summit. Here, visitors can take in a stunning 360-degree view, peruse the exhibition hall, grab a snack from the concession stand or restaurant, enjoy a picnic, and even camp overnight!
For a different kind of adventure, take a subterranean tour of Linville Caverns. They are the only caverns in NC opened for tours, as they have been since 1937. You will be filled with wonder at the naturally occurring cathedral ceilings with their magnificent stalactites and underwater river filled with mountain trout.
Little Switzerland is located on the 469-mile long scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. Known as America's favorite scenic drive, it's one of the most traveled roads in the country, the iconic parkway offers views across miles and miles of peaks and valleys with plenty of lookout points for photos.
If thrills are your thing, driving the Diamondback route has to top your itinerary. Motorcyclists and sports car drivers come here to test their mettle on this 38-mile road filled with sheer drop offs, hairpin turns, and switchback loops. Although breathtakingly beautiful, this drive is not for the faint of heart!
Little Switzerland and its surrounding communities are home to quirky shops, like Burnsville’s One of a Kind Art Gallery with its “fine, folk, and funky local art.” Browse the jewelry, lamps, pottery, paintings, and woodworking set in the 1922 Micaville Country Store. Find more treasures like trendy gifts at Spruced Boutique and antiques and cool Christmas decorations at Uptown Funk, both in Spruce Pine.
You can mine for gems like the old timers did at the Little Switzerland’s own Emerald Village at BRP MilePost 333.9. Pan for emeralds, gold, garnets, and more! If you prefer the scientific approach to minerals, stop by the Museum of North Carolina Minerals at BRP MilePost 331 with free admission, interactive displays, and 300-plus samples of gems and minerals found right here in these mountains.
The Orchard at Altapass is another great destination found along the Blue Ridge Parkway at MilePost 328.3. Here you'll find heirloom apples on a U-Pick adventure, live music on the weekends, a butterfly garden, and fun activities for the kids.