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EXPLORE Western North Carolina

Rivers Ridge Lodge is centrally located to countless Western North Carolina attractions.  Our setting is private, yet so easily accessed from Interstate 40, you can see and do everything you want without spending your vacation in the car.

Investigate whether the all-inclusive Go Blue Ridge Card will save you money on admission tickets to top Blue Ridge Parkway activities.  The card covers many popular sites and includes a free guidebook with maps so check it out.  

Please click on any heading for detailed information:

ART     COMPETITIVE SPORTING EVENTS     FESTIVALS     FOR KIDS

LANDMARKS     MUSIC     NATIONAL FORESTS     OUTDOOR RECREATION

PARKWAYS & BYWAYS     PERFORMING ARTS     RESTAURANTS/FOOD

SHOPPING     STATE & PRIVATE PARKS     WATERFALLS     WINERIES

ART

The following galleries are only a short drive from Rivers Ridge Lodge.  (Visit our EXPLORE ASHEVILLE page and click on ART for extensive information regarding art in Asheville.) 

Since 1972, members of the McDowell Arts Council Association have labored to preserve and share the heritage of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  McDowell County is proud to be a part of the official Blue Ridge National Heritage Area designated by Congress.  Visit the MACA to experience this unique part of the country and its legacy of fine mountain crafts, storytelling, music, dancing and more.  Numerous events are scheduled for the year including the Mountain Glory Quilter's Guild Quilt Show scheduled for exhibit the month of October.  The MACA is located in downtown Marion at 50 South Main Street, (828-652-8610).

In February of each year, the Black Mountain Center for the Arts hosts a show in its Upper Gallery of faculty and student art from local colleges and universities.  Meet the artists at an opening reception or visit the gallery while works remain on display (typically until BMCA’s annual Auction for the Arts in March).  Don’t miss ART IN BLOOM, a lovely art and floral event scheduled each June at the Center.   The Black Mountain Center for the Arts is located in the original City Hall at 225 W. State Street in neighboring Black Mountain (12-15 minutes from River Ridge Lodge).  Call (828) 669-0930 or visit their website for details of current shows and events.

The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, founded in 1933 and officially closed in 1953, has an extremely interesting history.  Featured on the UNC TV American Masters series, the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center is now an exhibition space and resource center dedicated to exploring the history and legacy of the world's most acclaimed experimental educational community.  It offers changing exhibitions, a video archive, research materials, and a selection of books and other materials for sale.  The Art Center is open Wed-Sat and is located on the original Black Mountain College campus (now Camp Rockmont) near Black Mountain.

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COMPETITIVE SPORTING EVENTS (listed chronologically)

Western NC offers adventurous competition (bordering on crazy!).  There's the annual Black Mountain Marathon & Mt. Mitchell Challenge in February.  The Challenge is a 40-mile run that begins at dawn in Black Mountain at an altitude of 2,360 feet.  Runners follow trails that climb to the 6,684-foot summit of Mount Mitchell then return to the start/finish area.  The weather can make this a glorious run or one that is treacherous.

The Annual Tour de Lure Bike Ride in April is made up of two rides:  the 67-mile Dewey Hughes Memorial Bike Ride and the 25-mile Corpening YMCA Fun Bike Ride.  Riders in the challenging Dewey Hughes Memorial Ride climb a total of 5,900 feet up Stone Mountain, around Lake Lure, through Chimney Rock, and return to McDowell County via the Assault on Mt. Mitchell route.  The Fun Ride participants ride through the lovely rolling hillsides and farmlands of McDowell County.

Assault on Mt. Mitchell and Marion are two bicycle races held in May that begin in Spartanburg, SC.  The former ends over 100 miles later at Mt. Mitchell on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the latter, 73 miles later in Marion.  Both rides are scenic but strenuous.

From child to adult, beginner to Iron Man, Asheville’s Mountain Sports Festival, May 28-30, 2010 (at Carrier Park on the southern edge of Asheville), offers all types of competition.  New this year, is the Adventure Triathlon and the Urban Cyclocross Race.  Visit the festival website for detailed information on many other races and contests.

Serious competitors won’t want to miss 3 challenging athletic events that are part the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games held in July.  The Bear Run is a 5-mile road (running) race climbing 1,568 feet in elevation from Linville to the summit of Grandfather Mountain.  The Grizzly Metric Century Bicycle Ride, which covers 65 miles from the base of Grandfather Mountain to Beech Mountain and back to Linville, is a challenging (road bicycle) race that includes 7,000 feet of climbing.  For those really seeking bragging rights, the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, known as "One of America's Toughest Marathons,” attracts nationally and internationally ranked runners.  It starts in Boone and ends on the track at MacRae Meadows during the Highland Games.

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FESTIVALS (listed chronologically)

Did you know that the first documented gold find in the United States was at the Reed Mine in North Carolina (just east of Charlotte)?  And that North Carolina led the nation in gold production until 1848 when the California Gold Rush began?  The North Carolina Gold Festival celebrates these little known facts and many others each April.   Festivities include gold mining demonstrations, treasure hunts, geo-caching, gold panning and more.  There will also be gold exhibits, nationally recognized musicians, local bands, vendors, raffles and plenty of food.  Held at the Tom Johnson Camping Center on US 70 between Old Fort and Marion, call (800) 959-9033 or visit the festival website for details.

Over one entire weekend in spring, Painters Greenhouse in Old Fort hosts an Annual Herb FestivalCome celebrate planting weather and the taste and aroma of fresh herbs!  Craftsmen, cooks and musicians will entertain both days.  Painters is approximately 5 miles south of I-40 (Exit 73).  For more information, click on the link to their website or call (828) 668-7225.

In April, the Route 70 Cruisers host the Mountain Thunder Car Show in downtown Old Fort.  Bring the family for a nostalgic displays of cars, trucks and motorcycles, live music, crafts, vendors and food.  Treasure hunters will appreciate the “swap meet.”   The event is free and open to the public.

Pioneer Day in downtown Old Fort is a celebration of Blue Ridge Mountain pioneer heritage.  Come to the Mountain Gateway Museum grounds the last weekend in April for free mountain music and entertainment in the amphitheatre, excellent craft demonstrations, engine displays, and a profusion of vendors, (828) 668-9259.

Spruce Pine Main Street (about 28 miles or 45 minutes from Rivers Ridge Lodge) hosts three major festivals annually: the Fire On the Mountain Blacksmith Festival on the last Saturday in April, The Toe River Storytelling Festival on the third Saturday in July, and the Mineral City Heritage Festival on the second Saturday in October.  Visit the festival websites for details.

Climb aboard as Old Fort celebrates the history of the railroad at the Third Annual Railroad Day at the Old Fort Train Station Museum & Visitor Center.  The event takes place downtown, on the first Saturday in May, and features activities for the kids, free music, model train exhibits and more.  For more information, call (828) 668-4282.

The Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) is held biannually in the spring and fall at Camp Rockmont near Black Mountain.  LEAF International “is a non-profit collaborative outreach program that empowers youth globally through music and performance arts by pairing them with instruments and mentors and connecting them to their cultural traditions.”  Purchase tickets in advance as sales are capped at 5500 per day; children under 9 are free when accompanied by a ticketed adult.

Compete or just soak in the native music, dance and storytelling at the Old Fort Pow Wow in early May.  For more information, contact Mabel Benjamin, (813) 765-3073 or email rocksandthingstoo@yahoo.com.

From beginner to Iron Man, Asheville’s Mountain Sports Festival (at Carrier Park on the southern edge of Asheville) offers something for every type of athlete May 28-30, 2010.   Participate in skateboarding, Ultimate, paddling, rock climbing, kayaking, cycling and backpacking clinics, all free to the public.  Visit the festival website for tons of detailed information.

Mmmmm…livermush.  If you don’t know what it is or have never eaten it, don’t miss the First Friday Concert & Livermush Festival in neighboring Marion June 4, 2010.  Livermush has become an institution in North Carolina without any formal advertising.  It even has its own Facebook page with over 10, 000 fans!  Composed of pig liver, head parts, cornmeal and spices, livermush is high in protein, low in fat and thought to be one of the world's most versatile foods.  Bring the whole family to see who is crowned Little Miss Livermush, compete in the Livermush Toss and see what all the fuss is about!  Check out this You Tube video of Marion’s 2008 Livermush Festival.

Experience the talent of over 65 Juried Crafters/Artists at the Annual Black Mountain Arts & Crafts Show held in downtown Black Mountain, beside The Old Depot, June 5-6, 2010.  Admission is free to the public.

The McDowell Arts Council will sponsor the second annual Honey Bee Arts and Crafts Festival in historic downtown Marion on June 26, 2010, from 9am-4pm.  Call (828) 652-8610 or contact maca@charterinternet.com for details.  Admission is free.

For almost a full century, Christians have invited everyone to Grandfather Mountain for the “Singing on the Mountain” celebration held each June.  It is the oldest, ongoing, old time gospel convention left in the Southern Appalachians. 

The Old Fort Ruritans kick off July 4th weekend with a National Championship Rodeo featuring bull riding and dogging, bareback riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling, goat tying, calf scramble, and other entertainment.  It all starts July 2, 2010, at 8pm.  Contact Keith Hall, (828) 668-3110 for more information.

For info on the annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games held each July, see COMPETITIVE SPORTING EVENTS and STATE & PRIVATE PARKS sections.

The Swannanoa School of Culinary Arts offers hands-on immersion in a variety of culinary experiences at the Seasonal School of Culinary Arts. The week-long summer sessions are held on the campus of Warren Wilson College in the Swannanoa Valley (between Old Fort and Asheville) in mid-July.

The Swannanoa Gathering is a series of summer workshops in various folk arts held on the campus of Warren Wilson College in July and August.  The Gathering was a 2008 Silver Level Players’ Choice Award Winner in the Music Camps and Workshops category of Acoustic Guitar.

For an incredible folk experience and cultural exchange, visit during Folkmoot USA, North Carolina's Official International Festival.  Folkmoot is a two-week celebration of the world’s cultural heritage held, each summer, at venues scattered throughout Western North Carolina.  Experience lively performances and dynamic workshops by Folk Dancers and musicians in colorful authentic dress.   Also offered during the Festival are: the Folkmoot 5K Rum/Walk and Kid’s Fun Run, International Festival Day and the Parade of Nations

The NC Mineral and Gem Festival is a four-day shopping extravaganza in Spruce Pine at the end of July. The event, held annually at an indoor site, is directed by the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce and supported by countless community volunteers.

The Sourwood Festival, in Black Mountain, celebrates sourwood honey and the bee that favor the indigenous Sourwood tree, or “Lily of the Valley tree,” when collecting its pollen.  Sourwood honey is a rare honey that has a sweet and sour quality and does not crystallize easily.  It has a large following in the South East, pairs well with Asian foods, and is the secret ingredient in many Southern family recipes.  Now in its third decade, folks in Black Mountain know how to kick back, enjoying great music, awesome mountain food, and a unique shopping opportunity at this alcohol-free festival in August.  

Professional and serious amateur photographers have gathered on the mountain since 1952 for the Grandfather Mountain Camera Clinic in August. 

Apple production is big business in North Carolina with Henderson County leading the pack.  Each Labor Day weekend, Henderson County hosts the North Carolina Apple Festival to honor this trade.  Historically, festival activities were spread over a week to ten days, but it was shortened in the mid 1980’s to the four-day jam-packed festival that it is today.  Entertainment is continuous, 10am-10pm Friday through Sunday, with the King Apple Parade the highlight on Labor Day.  This hometown festival offers the characteristic street fair vendors and youth activities but also features everything apples - with Red and Golden Delicious, Rome Beauty and Galas taking center stage!  The event is approximately 48 miles and 54 minutes from Rivers Ridge Lodge and closes with a street dance.

On September 29, 2010, McDowell County and the Overmountain Victory Trail Association offer the Overmountain Victory Trail Celebration, an interpretive program, on the grounds of the historic Joseph McDowell House in Marion. Learn about the owner of this historic site and his involvement in the Battle at Kings Mountain. 

The Overmountain Victory Trail Encampment, near Marion, is scheduled for October 1 - 2, 2010.  Revolutionary war buffs will want to visit the Overmountain Victory Trail Association website for more information and to access their very informative blog.  Admission is Free for both events.  Call for more information, (828) 668-4282.

Oktoberfest is three days of fun hosted annually by the Old Fort Chamber of Commerce the first weekend in October.  Enjoy live music, children’s activities, plenty of food, handcrafted art, local vendors, raffles, and the infamous Mill Creek Duck Race!  It all takes place on the grounds of the Mountain Gateway Museum, (828) 668-7223.

The town of Marion celebrates the arrival of autumn, early in October, with The Mountain Glory Festival.  The festival commemorates local and regional pastimes with a craft show, foot races, and three stages of area talent.  Shoppers enjoy more than 100 artisans, crafters and food booths.  Local Bluegrass bands, Native American music, and a “Children’s Arena” entertain and amuse festival goers.

Black Mountain’s "Fall!  By The Tracks" Festival occurs annually in October at The Old Depot on Sutton Avenue.  Visit the mini-museum at The Caboose, paint pumpkins, observe numerous craft demonstrations, and help make apple cider using an antique apple press – lots of music, food and fun!

The Black Mountain Center for the Arts hosts a Pumpkin Festival in Black Mountain each October.

The Appalachian Potters Market is held on the first Saturday in December in Marion.  The market, sponsored by the McDowell Arts Council Association, features over 50 potters and their diverse collections of traditional to modern claywork.

The McDowell Arts Council Association also hosts the Blue Ridge Artisan Show and Sale for six days each December and features the work of McDowell County artisans.  Pottery, woodworking, basketry, jewelry, textile arts, and other fine crafts will be on exhibit and available for sale during the event held at the MACA.

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FOR KIDS (listed by proximity)

Pinwilz on Main Street in Old Fort sells beads and beading supplies and offers classes for all ability levels.

Geocaching anyone?  Enter our zip code, 28762, to find coordinates near Rivers Ridge Lodge.  Pull on your hiking boots, grab your gps and an area map, and start searching!

Shadowbrook Mini Golf and Games (828) 669-5499 and Phil’s BBQ Pit (828) 669-3606 are under one roof on Highway 9 in Black Mountain and offer a fun evening out with the kids.

At Easter, teens might be interested in the Black Mountain Recreation and Parks  Night Owl Egg Hunt.  Bring a flashlight!  They also offer a daytime version for younger bunnies.

What is a Gamelatron?  Check out their website for information about the world’s first fully robotic Gamelan Orchestra and to see when the organization has scheduled events in and around Asheville. 

Gem Mining

Gem mining enthusiasts will find plenty of places to mine gold and gemstones within 20 - 40 minutes of Rivers Ridge Lodge.  Visit each gem mining website or call for directions before attempting to find using your gps!  Although the mines are close to major thoroughfares, their rural addresses are generally not recognized by gps systems; also, most are only open seasonally.

Lucky Strike Gold and Gem Mine, about 6 miles south of Interstate 40, just off US Highway 221 on Polly Spout Rd. (about 20 minutes from Rivers Ridge Lodge), has a very helpful staff that will have you panning for gold like a pro in no time. 

Just beyond Polly Spout Rd., on Highway 221, is Thermal City Gold Mine another great facility for gem mining and gold panning.  Thermal City Gold Mine hosts a Miners Meet each year during Memorial Day weekend.

Broad River Gems & Mineral Museum, in the direction of Lake Lure, is a clear favorite among those looking to easily find the largest gems in any given bucket and a great museum collection.  Friendly and knowledgeable, the owners of Broad River Gems have amassed a tremendous assortment of fossils, minerals and metals – all displayed in their shop.

Serious miners will want to visit Heather Grove Gold & Gem Panning located between Marion and Rutherfordton.  Dress appropriately to work the Creek panning, hand sluicing, dredging, and high banking.

A bit farther away, is Gem Mountain Gemstone Mine in Spruce Pine, 25 miles or 40 minutes from Rivers Ridge Lodge. 

Emerald Village, in Little Switzerland, is a very popular gem-mining destination (approximately 25 miles or 40 minutes from Rivers Ridge Lodge).  Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Emerald Village is composed of 7 real mines each offering their own brand of activities, tours and history.  Surrounded by stunning Blue Ridge Mountain scenery with an abundance of gem mining option, Emerald Village is likely to please everyone. 

KidSenses Children’s InterACTIVE Museaum, in Rutherfordton (approximately 40 mins. from Rivers Ridge Lodge), with hands-on activities and imaginative play, keeps learning fun for children and adults!  The Discovery Garden offers an opportunity to experience the miracles of nature.  KidSenses’ Virtual Reality Ride makes it feel like you’re really riding a roller coaster!   Practice a new career at Dr. DeSoto's Dental Office, WFUN-STUDIO, Kids’ Pueblito Restaurant, Bubble-Ology and many other centers.  KidSense offers monthly programs, special events and summer camps.

Explore the subterranean recesses of Linville Caverns, the only public cavern in the Carolinas, just 32 miles from Rivers Ridge Lodge.  The natural limestone caverns are partially wheelchair accessible.  See the amazing stalactites and stalagmites; you might even catch a glimpse of an Eastern Pipistrelle Bat hanging from the ceiling.

Interested in the Paranormal?  Read about the formal investigations into Linville’s Brown Mountain Lights.  Do you like ghost stories?  If so, be sure to visit this NC Ghost Story website to learn more about Linville’s mysterious Brown Mountain Lights and other North Carolina legends of ghosts.

In season, the Orchard at Altapass offers a great experience for the whole family.  The Orchard, which sits on the Eastern Continental Divide at the Blue Ridge Parkway, is over 100 years old and has morphed into an Appalachian Cultural Center in addition to offering a traditional apple picking experience.  The Orchard was featured in National Geographic’s exposé, Discover Appalachia.  Visit the Altapass Foundation to find out more about the history of the area and other unique activities scheduled from Music to Monarch Butterflies.

The Museum of North Carolina Minerals is located at milepost 331 on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Gillespie Gap.  The Museum underwent a million dollar renovation and expansion in 2002 and offers interactive displays of the region’s minerals, gems and mining history.  Gillespie Gap/MNCM is also the site of a Revolutionary War encampment and reenactment performed by the Overmountain Men annually (see LANDMARKS section).

Catawba Science Center, in Hickory, is another awesome place to explore.  Send Mom shopping for furniture at one of Hickory’s famous furniture markets while Dad and the kids catch a show in the Millholland Planetarium’s state-of-the-art theater.  There is always an exciting traveling exhibit.  Permanent exhibits to investigate:  Saltwater & Freshwater Galleries, Hall of Astronomy, Energy Avenue, Inventor's Workshop, VR Xtreme, EarthWatch Center, Science Courtyard, Naturalist Center and RaceWays.

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LANDMARKS

Downtown Old Fort is quaint and historic and only a few miles up the road.  Go see the sites.  In a nutshell, the 31-foot Arrowhead monument marks the historic Old Fort Train Station, circa 1890’s.  This bright yellow building (renovated between 2005-2006) houses the Railroad Museum, the Old Fort Chamber of Commerce and the McDowell County Tourism Authority’s Visitor Center.  The Railroad Museum features train exhibits and artifacts, furniture, signs, photos, and an original caboose on display. 

The Mountain Gateway Museum and Heritage Center sits beside the Mill Creek across the street and deep to the Train Station.  Many festivals, events and concerts take place along the banks of the Mill Creek in the yard of this 1930’s Work Projects Administration-era, stone building. There’s an outdoor amphitheatre, a picnic area, pioneer-era log cabins, a public garden project, interior and exterior exhibits, and living history demonstrations that depict the evolution of Old Fort from its early inhabitants to modern day.  Old Fort has rich Native American, Revolutionary War, and Civil War history.  Admission to the Gateway Museum is free, and if you’re lucky, you’ll stumble upon some scheduled event.  Visit our website’s LOCATION page for more particulars on Old Fort’s birth and interesting history.

McDowell County Oral History is a wonderful website created by the McDowell County NC Tourism Authority and made possible by a grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.  The site chronicles the oral and written history of the people, places and things significant to the development of McDowell County. 

The McDowell Quilt Trail offers an exciting format for presenting history.  Through the act of hanging painted quilt squares at key places throughout Western NC counties, quilters are sharing powerful stories, giving voice to the land and buildings.  Barbara Webster, Executive Director of the project in Yancey and Mitchell Counties, believes each quilt square, “is a history repository…I like to think of the blocks as mirrors of who we are.”  The area now has one of the highest concentrations of quilt blocks in the country.  Stories about the project have appeared in Carolina Mountain Living, WNC Magazine, Our State magazine, Carolina Mountain Life, local newspapers from NC to Atlanta, the Wall Street Journal, and radio spots sponsored by the NC Department of Tourism in 6 states.  Can you find a block and learn the history behind it?

The Historic Carson House (just minutes from Rivers Ridge Lodge, between Old Fort and Marion, at 1805 Highway 70 West) was rescued, restored, and opened to the public as a museum and library in 1964.  The museum has a remarkable collection of quilts and coverlets.  Most are slave made with some that served as “maps” for the Underground Railroad during the Civil War.  In 2007, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected one of the Carson House quilts for participation in their Picturing America program. Visitors and family historians also have access to the Mary M. Greenlee Genealogical Research and History Room during regular hours at no cost.

Located at 136 Highway 70 West, in Marion, is the Joseph McDowell House, circa 1780-81.  The historic house is listed on the Commemorative Driving Route for the National Park Service Overmountain National Historic Victory Trail, as Joseph McDowell was a member of the Overmountain Men.   In fact, McDowell County is named in his honor.  Plans are underway to restore the home and grounds to pay tribute to the McDowell Family and preserve the history of McDowell County.  Call or email for more information:  josephmcdowellhouse@gmail.com or (828) 668-4282).

The Caboose is Black Mountain’s mini-museum display of train memorabilia, photographic history and period music.  Admission is free.

Poetry buffs won’t want to miss visiting the Carl Sandburg Home in Connemara, NC (approximately 53 miles from Rivers Ridge Lodge).  Sandburg won Pulitzer Prizes for poetry in 1919 and 1951, and for history in 1940.  The New York Post wrote at Sandburg’s death, "Carl Sandburg was the poet of the American dream and the American reality.  His poetry has the freedom of prose, his prose the quality of poetry, and through it all ran what has been called the sense of being American." 

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MUSIC

The music and dancing in Old Fort are renowned.  Since 1986, folks downtown have heard Bluegrass and traditional Mountain Music every Friday night.  Played by anywhere from 3-8 bands in the Rockett Building on Main Street, it all starts at 7 pm with bands rotating in every 30 minutes.  Bring the entire family as no alcohol is permitted.  The music is free, sodas and coffee still 25¢, and the experience…priceless.

The town of Marion also holds a Bluegrass Music Jam, rain or shine, every Thursday.  The Jam is open to all musicians as there are never any scheduled performers.  It is held outdoors, weather permitting (bring chairs or blankets), or in the historic Marion Depot in inclement weather.  For more information, call (828) 652-2215.

Check out the Black Mountain Music Scene website for up-to-date information on great live music in Black Mountain and the Swannanoa Valley area.

Black Mountain hosts a free outdoor concert series, Park & Rhythms, on Thursday nights during June, July and August. 

White Horse Black Mountain…a place for music and spirit is a 4400 sq ft music and arts venue that seats 225, cabaret style.  State-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, great acoustics, a beautiful wood & copper bar, and nice selection of beverages (beer, wine, soft drinks, coffee and tea) make White Horse Black Mountain a sure bet.

The Swannanoa Chamber Music Festival is a summer series of concerts and lectures scheduled on various evenings throughout the months of June and July.  Festival events are held mostly on the campus of Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa.

Warren Wilson College is partnering with the Diana Wortham Theatre, in Asheville, to present a series of spring Celtic concerts.  Battlefield Band will perform on March 19, 2010, Lúnasa on April 15, 2010, the Karan Casey Band on May 14, 2010, and Bua on May 29, 2010.

Warren Wilson College also sponsors a popular Celtic holiday concert, A Swannanoa Solstice, each December at the Diana Wortham Theatre.  The evening has become a winter tradition and features International and American seasonal music, dancing and Storytelling.  

Are you a budding musician/songwriter?  Don’t miss the Singer Songwriter Contest held in August at Zachary’s Pub in Little Switzerland.  The pub is located on the second level of the Switzerland Café and offers the live music of Singer Songwriters from Asheville and the surrounding area every Saturday Night at 7pm.  The Café is open spring, summer and fall (Milepost 334 on the Blue Ridge Parkway).

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NATIONAL FORESTS

Western North Carolina is home to 3 magnificent National Forests: Pisgah, Nantahala and Cherokee.   The southern border of Pisgah National Forest runs along the edges of Old Fort and Marion and is close to Rivers Ridge Lodge.  Nantahala National Forest is west and south of Asheville, and Cherokee National Forest is mostly in the state of Tennessee with just a portion of it residing within North Carolina.  The National Forests in North Carolina website is teeming with links to pdf files and tons of information on how to access the many excellent outdoor activities offered in the National Forests.  Click on these other useful websites for bird watching, fishing, hunting and waterfalls.  See our OUTDOOR RECREATION section for more outdoor adventure and PARKWAYS & BYWAYS section for scenic drives through the National Forests.

Conservationists won’t want to miss the Cradle of Forestry, home to the first Forestry School in America (1898-1913).

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OUTDOOR RECREATION

Western North Carolina boasts unbelievable natural resources for fishing, golf, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing and white water rafting. Asheville’s Mountain Sports Festival (at Carrier Park on the southern edge of Asheville) offers an impressive variety of sports instruction, demos, races, and competition for every level of athlete in May (see COMPETITIVE SPORTING EVENTS section).

Fishing

It is best to arrive with the proper fishing licenses.  Visit the NC Wildlife Resources Commission website for licenses, regulations, maps and more.  To fish our private waters at Rivers Ridge Lodge, adults MUST obtain a NC Fishing License.  Youth under the age of 16 may fish without a license when accompanied by a properly licensed adult.  To fish designated trout waters, an additional trout fishing license may be required.  Licenses may be purchased in town at Faw’s Hardware:  11 Catawba Ave., Old Fort (828) 668-4548 or at Presnell’s General Merchandise:  2668 US 70 W between Old Fort & Marion (828) 724-4815.  After business hours, licenses may be purchased at any Wal-Mart.  The closest Wal-mart is in Marion on US 70 W, a few miles past Presnell’s.

Fly fish right outside the door of Rivers Ridge Lodge or ride less than 5 minutes by car into Old Fort to access the Catawba River, Curtis Creek, Jarrett Creek, Mill Creek, Newberry Creek or Swannanoa Creek.  Learn about the N.C. Wildlife Loaner Program at Mill Creek and visit this site to download a color-coded map of the fishable waters in and around Old Fort.  Note that Curtis Creek is partially wheelchair accessible. 

The South Toe River Area is a beautiful fishing site (about 45 minutes from Rivers Ridge Lodge) to the east of Mount Mitchell.  However, the favored fly fishing site of our fly fishing instructor is the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area (also approximately 45 minutes from Rivers Ridge Lodge).   He loves the untamed and secluded sections of the Linville River as it courses through the most rugged sections of the Linville Gorge (as do the trout!).  Note – it is an advanced hike to the best fishing in Linville Gorge.

Golf

Golfers will delight in the choice of courses and beautiful vistas available in and around Asheville.  The Old Fort Golf Course is a short but challenging 9-hole course with fabulous mountain views and a great staff less than 10 minutes from Rivers Ridge Lodge. 

Ten minutes west on I-40 brings you to the Black Mountain Golf Club, a 6,215-yard par-71, 18-hole golf course, located at the foot of the beautiful Black Mountain Range.  Black Mountain Golf Club’s par-6, 17th hole is tied for the 5th longest hole in the world at 747 yards.  At one time, it was the longest hole in the golfing world; it continues to offer many difficult lies and shots.  Bent grass greens and plush fairways add to the attraction of this great municipal golf course that is on par with some of the nicest private courses in the area.  Open daily year-round except for Christmas Day; please call (828) 669-2710 to book a tee time. 

The Marion Lake Club, off Exit 90 (I-40), offers great golf for all skill levels and spectacular views of Linville Gorge and Shortoff Mountain.  The 18-hole, semi-private course boasts 6,300 yards of rolling Bermuda fairways with excellent bent grass greens.

Visit the Great Smoky Mountain Golf Association website for info and easy links to other area courses.

Disc golf is becoming very popular and is played in the area also.

Hiking

If the weather is favorable, save an afternoon to hike or cycle Point Lookout Trail just minutes from Rivers Ridge Lodge.  It is a gorgeous 3.62-mile (one way) paved path closed to motorized vehicles.  Surrounded by Pisgah National Forest, it climbs in elevation approximately 900 feet between Old Fort and Ridgecrest.  If you begin it at Old Fort, you climb the uphill section first.  Visit the McDowell Trails Association website and click on TRAILS (upper right tab) to download the Point Lookout Trail Map as the signage is not good. 

Click on the WATERFALLS section of this webpage for the hiking trails located near Rivers Ridge Lodge that lead to the waterfalls.

The Swannanoa Valley Museum in Black Mountain hosts monthly hikes and other events.  New in 2010, is a special series of hikes, the Swannanoa Rim Explorer.

The Black and Craggy Mountains, northeast of Asheville, are composed of Pisgah National Forest, watersheds, Mt. Mitchell State Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and privately held land.  Home to Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak in the Eastern United States, this area was considered for National Park Status earlier in the 20th century but lost to The Great Smokey Mountains.  The celebrated Craggy Gardens are located at milepost 364 of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The “Craggies” are strikingly beautiful high heath balds that, at 5,500 ft elevation, are uncharacteristic of mountains in the area.  There are three hiking trails to chose from at Craggy Gardens:  Craggy Pinnacle Trail, the Craggy Gardens Self Guiding Trail, and the Mountains to Sea Trail.  Visit the Friends of the Black and Craggy Mountains website to explore their interactive map of the Black and Craggy Mountain area near Rivers Ridge Lodge.

The Appalachian Trail (click on THE TRAIL for a detailed drop down box) courses through Western NC covering 88 miles in NC from Virginia to Georgia.  The “A.T.” mostly hugs the border of Tennessee and North Carolina and comes closest to Rivers Ridge Lodge near the Roan Mountain section about 30 minutes north of Spruce Pine.

For more hiking in Southern Appalachia, visit the Foothills Trail Conference and National Forest Service websites.

The Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River is a great area to hike and fish.  Visit the website for detailed info and maps.

Horseback Riding

A little past Lake Lure, Riverside Riding Stables offers pony and trail rides (ages 2 yrs & older), river rides (ages 14 yrs & older), and overnight pack trips.  Call for reservations,
(828)288-1302 or (866)206-0235.

Sandy Bottom Trail Rides, just north of Asheville, is open year round for horseback riding, wagon and buggy rides.  Their most popular horseback ride takes riders to their “Little Pine Gem Mine” where they can dig for gems, mostly garnets.  Visitors can also access the gem mine by wagon if they wish.  Call (800) 959-3513 or (828) 649-3464.

Mountain Biking

Our family loves to mountain bike the Bent Creek Experimental Forest (just south of Asheville and no more than 35 minutes from Rivers Ridge Lodge).  Click on the first link of the Bent Creek Experimental Forest site above, Bent Creek Trails Map, for a list of trails and the second to the last link, Bent Creek Trails and Active Research Map, to get the full colored map of the area.  Download and print both maps as biking trail maps always seem to be nonexistent at local bike shops and trail heads.

An advanced ride, starting at Ridgecrest (10 minutes from Rivers Ridge Lodge), is Kitsuma Loop

For great strenuous routes around Linville Gorge, visit Linville Gorge-Mountain Biking.

The Dark Mountain Trails, near W. Kerr Scott Dam just west of Wilksboro, offer a 6.5-mile network of excellent mountain biking trails.  Be sure to download trail maps from the website before heading out.

Alexander Park in Buncombe Co is one of the newer locations for mountain biking.  Most of the trails are moderate in difficulty.  Visit the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club website and click on Trail Riding, in the left margin, for maps of Alexander Park and other mountain biking trails.

Snow Skiing

There are 6 ski resorts in WNC, with Wolf Ridge Ski Resort, in Mars Hill, the closest to Rivers Ridge Lodge at just under an hour.  Ski Beech Resort, at 5506 feet on Beech Mountain, has the highest elevation of any ski resort east of the Rockies and is 60 miles and approximately 90 minutes from Rivers Ridge Lodge. 

Whitewater

In 2006, the American Whitewater Journal named Asheville one of the Top Five US Whitewater Cities.  Each year in May, the French Broad River Festival is held in Hot Springs, NC.  Nantahala Outdoor Center offers white water rafting guided tours on the Nantahala (Class II-III), French Broad (moderate Class II-IV), and Cheoah Rivers (Class III-V).  They also offer whitewater paddling instruction for kayaking and canoeing.  There are many other outfitters who offer fine rentals and tours, but Nantahala’s site is particularly informative.

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PARKWAYS & BYWAYS

The Blue Ridge Parkway, “America’s Favorite Drive,” courses near Old Fort but is most easily accessed by taking Interstate 40 towards Asheville to the 240 Bypass (15- 20 minutes).  Look immediately for the Blue Ridge Parkway Exit.  Visit the Parkway website to check for closures (especially during winter) before you embark on your drive. 

Other routes worth exploring by car (although an hour or more from Rivers Ridge Lodge to their starting points) are the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway, the Cherohala Skyway, and the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway.  The Forest Heritage Byway, 65 miles long with 21 designated places to visit along its route, offers a unique glimpse into the history, culture and ecology of the Pisgah National Forest.  Don’t have quite that much time?  Note that the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway is only 17.6 mi and visits some of the sites on the 65-mile loop above.  The North Carolina section of the Cherohala Skyway is 20.5 mi long.  It courses through the Southern Appalachian high country of the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests and offers a unique glimpse into the life of the Cherokee and early settler.  The Mountain Waters Scenic Byway is 61 miles long and winds through the Nantahala National Forest.  This byway offers outstanding vistas and many water and hiking adventures along its course but there are no designated sites to visit along its route.

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PERFORMING ARTS

Visit McDowell County’s Foothills Community Theatre website for a schedule and description of performances.

The Warren Wilson Department of Theatre presents a full series of theatrical productions, concerts, and special events at Kittredge Theatre on the Warren Wilson College Campus located between Old Fort and Asheville. 

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RESTAURANTS/FOOD

OLD FORT Markets

John's Self Service Market on Catawba Avenue is a friendly hometown store that sells groceries and specialty meats, (828) 668-7725.

The Old Fort Farmer's Market opens each Thursday afternoon from 3-6 pm (June - October) in the parking lot of the Historic Old Fort Depot and Museum at 25 W. Main Street, Old Fort.  Shop for seasonal vegetables, locally produced meats, eggs, flowers and more, (828) 668-4282.

Walker's Blueberries
is a Pick-Your-Own Farm and Roadside Market located at 1971 Pine Cove Road in Old Fort (off Bat Cave Road at Exit 73 of I-40). 
Visit their website for details and directions.   Please call during business hours - home phone: (828) 668-4229.

OLD FORT Restaurants

Catawba Vale Café offers fantastic sandwiches and specialty drinks.  It’s the local favorite, (828) 668-9899.

The Rail Restaurant is Old Fort’s newest eatery downtown at 5 Main Street.  They serve breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday and dinner on Wednesday and Friday nights.  They offer tasty American fare, breakfast any time of day, and Wi-Fi.  Call (828) 668-6500 for more information.

The Wild Moose Steak & Grill is an upscale restaurant offering fresh and healthy made-to-order entrees, (828) 668-4709.

Todd’s Four Oaks Seafood is a Southern institution that cooks up down-home good chicken, steak and seafood.  They offer a fried and grilled menu, chicken wings, frog legs and the best fried oysters around.  Look for monthly prime rib specials and occasional live Bluegrass & Gospel Music.  Open Wednesday through Sunday.  Located on Bat Cave Road, .2 miles south of Exit 73 on I-40, (828) 668-4929. 

MARION Markets

The Marion Tailgate Market opens each Tuesday from 3-6 pm and Saturday morning during the growing season (June - October).  The sheltered market features an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and other locally made items at the intersection of West Henderson and Logan Streets in downtown Marion (adjacent to the Historic Marion Depot).  Call (828) 652-2215 for more information.

Pick-Your-Own, shop at the Roadside Market or call for delivery!  Big Pauly's Produce and Feed is located in Marion on Hwy 221 - fresh and convenient!  
Visit their website for details and directions, (828) 756-7500 or (828) 442-2485.

BLACK MOUNTAIN Markets

The Black Mountain Tailgate Market is open Saturday mornings from 9 am - noon, rain or shine.  Visit their website for detailed vendor information, photos and directions, or visit The Mindful Kitchen’s blog to read about the Black Mountain Tailgate Market.

Chocoholics won’t want to miss Chocolate Gems for amazing truffles and fine European chocolate “gems,” 828-669-9150.

The Merry Wine Market is a full service wine store on State Street.  Novices and sommeliers are equally welcomed at this unique family owned shop that would, “rather make a friend than a sale.”

BLACK MOUNTAIN Restaurants

Camino’s Southwestern Grille is a solid choice for lunch or dinner.  It is kid friendly, the atmosphere is pleasing, and the outdoor seating is great on a nice day – all without breaking the bank! 

My Father’s Pizza is always excellent for traditional or unusual wood-fired pizza, etc. in a relaxed atmosphere for lunch and dinner.  Eat inside or on the terrace, and expect it to be packed on weekends…it’s that good.  My Father’s Pizza is closed on Tuesdays.

Ole’s Guacamoles is a Black Mountain favorite for atmosphere and great, reasonably priced food.

Que Sera is Black Mountain’s newest fine dining restaurant providing guests with the freshest wild fish, meats and produce from local farms, where possible.  Featuring an extensive wine list and locally brewed beer on tap, Que Sera delivers exceptional food with attention to detail and friendly service.  Que Sera is closed on Mondays.

The upscale Red Rocker Inn takes pride in serving the finest quality ingredients and offers homemade apple butter, hot buttermilk biscuits and ten homemade desserts!  Because all entrees are specially prepared to order, reservations are required.  The Red Rocker Inn is noted throughout the Southeast for its exceptional lodging and fine Southern dining and is regularly recommended by The Atlanta Journal, New York Times and Southern Living.  The celebrated Red Rocker breakfast was voted the BEST in all of Western North Carolina.  Breakfast starts at 8:30, costs $10 per person, and also requires a reservation.  Come hungry to enjoy this exceptional traditional Southern breakfast!

Thai Basil is family owned, authentic and excellent.

The Black Bird – A New American Tavern is quickly becoming a community favorite.  Offering New Southern Cuisine using local ingredients, the atmosphere at the Black Bird encourages lingering.  The bar serves wines by the glass and beers from local microbreweries, Pisgah and Highland.  Save room for desert; the owner’s background as a pastry chef has landed her desert creations in Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines.  The Blackbird is open for lunch, dinner and brunch.

A friend recommended Madison’s over the phone as we searched for some great food after a superb day of mountain biking at Bent Creek.  The evening had quickly grown cold after a brilliant day, and we were starving!  The Madison Inn is an elegant restaurant, yet they didn’t scoff at our casual workout gear.  They welcomed us with genuine Southern hospitality, sat us by a crackling fire, and proceeded to serve us an outstanding dinner – it was a delight!

The Veranda Café offers fresh, family-friendly lunches.  Specializing in simple, southern fare from low country favorites to spicy Louisiana specials with occasional Caribbean selections on the menu.  Dine inside or on the patio and bring the kids…for the best lunch in town, guaranteed!

Culinary School in Swannanoa

The Swannanoa School of Culinary Arts offers hands-on immersion in a variety of culinary experiences at the Seasonal School of Culinary Arts. The week-long summer sessions are held on the campus of Warren Wilson College in the Swannanoa Valley (between Old Fort and Asheville) in mid-July.

Lakefront Dining in Nebo

The Bullfrog Bar & Grill, at Bear Creek Marina, is McDowell County's only lake front dining experience.  It offers a full service bar and grill and live music most weekends.

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SHOPPING

Shopping in Old Fort

In downtown Old Fort, there are no chain retailers - just a thriving artisan community, a few art and woodworking galleries, a couple of hardware and grocery stores and some good eateries.

Old Fort Model Trains is aptly located across from the historic train depot in downtown Old Fort.  Owned by Kristy Chinery and Wes Lael, Wes brings his childhood love for trains and long time hobby to fruition in the store.  They sell a wide variety of engines, rolling stock, buildings, landscaping supplies, track, magazines, videos, and memorabilia in house and online.  Come to shop, talk trains, or sit outside and watch the genuine Norfolk Southern train running through town.

Pinwilz Beads and Jewelry Supply sells new and vintage beads "by-the bead," beading wires and materials “by-the-foot,” Swarovski Crystal, and other beading supplies.  They offer all types of beading classes mostly on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

The Appalachian Artisan Society Gallery features the works of 60-70 local artisans.  TAAS reports, “Visitors tell us this is one of the best places to shop for unique authentic Appalachian crafts.”  Recently added to the gallery, is an Appalachian Authors Section.  Come to shop or just visit.  TAAS Gallery shares its retail space with Pinwilz and Catawba Vale Café, so the mood is always fun and relaxing.

Call for an appointment to visit Turtle Island Pottery.  Their gallery is just 2-1/2 miles south of Old Fort’s Exit 73 on I-40.  Browse their inventory online:  they have a very popular line of functional stoneware, and their beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces are reminiscent of gourds, shells, frogs and other natural object - gorgeous!  Their whimsical face mugs and pitchers are the best we’ve seen.  They will tackle commissions and might just produce a hilariously fitting mug for that person on your list who has everything.

Shopping in Black Mountain

Our first trip to Black Mountain was by accident, and we’ve come intentionally ever since!  The retail quality is on par with Asheville, but the overall mood is a bit more neighborly.  Asheville is fabulous, but we just love Black Mountain…

Black Mountain Books, on Cherry Street, carries rare, out of print books.  They specialize in books about NC, Black Mountain College, the Southern Appalachians, Nature, Religion, and 18th and 19th Century England and Scotland, (828) 669-8149.

The Black Mountain Yarn Shop is inviting and inspiring!  You’ll find everything you need for knitting.  Also offered, are classes for all levels and special events for knitting, crocheting and spinning.  Open Mon-Sat and Sunday by appointment, (828) 669-7570.

Black Mountain Natural Foods is a small, well stocked natural food store, on Black Mountain Avenue, that provides local, organic, fair trade, recycled and earth friendly products.  In addition to nutritional supplements and herbs, they offer a wide product selection including: body care, organic produce, organic dairy products, local cage free eggs, soy products, wheat free products, dried fruit, drinks, teas and more, (828) 669-9813.

The Doncaster/Tanner Outlet carries fine women’s apparel and accessories and offers savings of 25-65% off regular retail.  If you happen to catch a big sale, the savings can be spectacular, (828) 669-5117.

Epic Cycles, (828) 669-5969, and Take a Hike Outfitters, (828) 669-0811, sit side-by-side on Sutton Avenue.  They offer equipment, clothing, repair service, and information for all your cycling and hiking needs.

One Fly Outfitters specializes in fly fishing equipment, fly tying supplies, fly tying classes, fly fishing instruction, and guided fly fishing trips.  They are open Mon-Sat.

Seven Sisters Craft Gallery, on Cherry Street, is an amazing arts and crafts store.  One side is filled with gorgeous hand crafted jewelry, clothing and clever items for home and personal use.  The other side is stocked with spectacular one-of-a-kind furniture creations and home accessories (it’s like a mini-Grovewood Gallery).  

An unbelievably unique store (and also our personal favorite) is Song of the Wood where traditional wooden instruments are built, played and sold.  They specialize in the hammered dulcimer but have other interesting instruments such as the bowed psaltery.  You’ve never heard either played?  Put on some headphones and listen to a CD, better yet, ask any staff members to play for you!  They will generally drop whatever they are doing to fulfill your request, (828) 669-7675. 

Town Hardware and General Store is known for its nostalgic signs, classic toys, pop icon lunchboxes, and regional books.  Although it feels like a trip back in time, they also have everything you might need from a modern hardware store…don’t miss it.  Call  (828) 669-7723 or (877) 669-7723 (toll free).

Look for more fine stores scattered around Black Mountain’s center - this will get you started.

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STATE & PRIVATE PARKS

Lake James State Park is a 565-acre park on Lake James near the small community of Nebo (approximately 18 miles east of Rivers Ridge Lodge).  Swimming and canoeing (canoe rentals available) on the 6510-acre lake and hiking and picnicking within the park are welcomed.  Boat access is offered nearby at the Hidden Cove Access Area off NC 126.  On the north side of the lake, additional boat access is located at Bear Creek Marina, Black Bear Landing, and Canal Bridge at the McDowell-Burke County line on NC 126.  The area offers stunning views of the Linville Gorge, Hawksbill, Grandfather Mountain and Table Rock.  The Bullfrog Bar and Grill, at Bear Creek Marina, offers lakefront dining and live entertainmentParts of The Last of the Mohicans and The Hunt for Red October were filmed along the shores of Lake James.  

Less than 40 minutes (21 miles) from Rivers Ridge Lodge, in scenic Hickory Nut Gorge, is Chimney Rock Park.  Beautiful enough to be chosen as the movie set for The Last of the Mohicans, the park offers incredible 75-mile views, a 404-foot waterfall, a 32-foot climbing tower, and hiking trails for all abilities.  Because it’s a privately owned park, admission fees are slightly higher than others in the area.  Although the 4,000 acres surrounding the park are state-owned Chimney Rock State Park, Chimney Rock Park currently provides the only public access to the area.  The N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation is currently developing a master plan for the future development and protection of the larger State Park area around Chimney Rock.

Grandfather Mountain in Linville, just over an hour (48 miles) from Rivers Ridge Lodge, is another combination private/public park area. The Main entrance is at milepost 305, one mile south of the Blue Ridge Parkway and two miles north of Linville.  In 2008, Grandfather Mountain State Park was created when the N.C State Park System acquired 2,456 acres along the crest of Grandfather Mountain.  Privately maintained, Grandfather Mountain is a tourist destination known for its spectacular views, famous Mile High Swinging Bridge, and excellent 12-mile network of walking and hiking trails.  It is the only private park in the world designated by the United Nations as an International Biosphere Reserve.  Additionally, the park has created 7 “environmental habitats” to facilitate a more natural observation of the black bear, river otter, cougar, bald and golden eagle, and white tailed deer.  Check the websites for special daily programs and scheduled events.

Mount Mitchell State Park is located in McDowell and Yancey Counties near Burnsville, NC.  Mt. Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River at the crest of the Black Mountains.  It is only 38 miles from Rivers Ridge Lodge but takes over an hour to drive.

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WATERFALLS

Most are familiar with the picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway that runs through Pisgah National Forest in the neighborhood of Old Fort, but few realize that the area is nicknamed “The Land of the Waterfalls.”  Many of the falls are located to the southwest, in Transylvania County, but at least 3 are located in McDowell County. 

The striking Catawba Falls forms a 340-foot cascade and is in close proximity to Rivers Ridge Lodge.  In fact, the water that frames Rivers Ridge Lodge is a branch off the Catawba River.  The hike to the lower falls is moderate and to the upper falls, strenuous.  Hickory Branch Falls, near Curtis Creek Campground, also presents a moderate hike up to a 30-foot waterfall, but Tom’s Creek Falls, just north of Marion, offers an easy 2-mile hike to a 60-foot waterfall.

One of the most impressive waterfalls along North Carolina's Blue Ridge Parkway is Crabtree Falls in Little Switzerland (about 40 minutes from Rivers Ridge Lodge).  The falls are situated near Crabtree Meadows campground at Mile Marker 339.5.  The 2.5-mile wooded hike to the falls is moderate, and great views of the delicate looking 70-foot cascade are seen from the footbridge over the creek in front of the falls.

The well-known Linville Falls, over 1,000 acres surrounding the falls, and part of Linville Gorge were donated to the National Park Service in 1952 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.  The National Park Service still owns the falls and operates a visitor center and several miles of non-handicapped accessible trails with 4 overlooks.  Located in Burke County, about 45 minutes from Rivers Ridge Lodge, Linville Falls has the highest volume of any waterfall on the northern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and a 45-foot drop.  Swimming is prohibited at all areas of Linville Falls.  An interesting historical note:  the falls were purportedly used by local Native Americans to execute prisoners and no one is known to have survived a fall over them.  Explore the subterranean recesses of Linville Caverns south of Linville Falls and Linville Gorge, just 32 miles from Rivers Ridge LodgeThe natural limestone caverns are partially wheelchair accessible. 

Duggers Creek Falls is a lovely little tumble located in the Linville Falls National Recreation Area.  The trail to Duggers Creek is accessed from the back corner of the Linville Falls Visitors Center paved parking lot.  

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WINERIES

With a climate conducive to growing great grapes, North Carolina has developed its wine industry in recent decades.  Visit one of several wineries, the closest of which is South Creek Vineyards & Winery (23 miles from Rivers Ridge Lodge) in Nebo, NC (east on Interstate 40 to Exit 90).  At South Creek Vineyards & Winery, Frank Boldon produces a Bordeaux style wine using grapes from his own vineyards that are barrel aged and artfully blended in his state-of-the-art winery to achieve a superior product.

Lake James Cellars is a family owned and managed winery located in Glen Alpine, NC about 30 miles from Rivers Ridge Lodge (east on Interstate 40 to Exit 100).  Taste wines produced from local and internationally grown fruits in the renovated 1915 textile mill building, and shop at The Old Mill Antiques also housed in the historic mill.  The Old Mill Antiques market is a collection of over 20 antique vendors who pride themselves on, “quality antiques at reasonable prices” and feature a wide assortment of antiques.  They also carry a large selection of local art, handmade items, and North Carolina specialty foods.

Waldensian Winery, in Valdese, NC, takes pride in “using old world technologies, coupled with some modern equipment and innovations, to create wines that have a true taste of the grape."  Visitors may join a conducted tour, taste various wines and shop following.  Don’t miss the Waldensian Festival held in August to celebrate the Glorious Return in 1689 of the Waldenses from exile in Switzerland to their native valleys in the Cottian Alps of Italy.   The Winery is 42 miles from Rivers Ridge Lodge (east on Interstate 40 to Exit 112).

Lifetime resident Ed Yoder opened Raintree Cellars in Eastern Burke County in 2007.  Raintree Cellars is open Wed-Sat and is 45 miles from Rivers Ridge Lodge (east on Interstate 40, exit 116).

Please click on the EXPLORE ASHEVILLE tab to see Microbrewery information and events in Asheville.  Catawba Valley Brewing Company brews Porter and several varieties of Ale and Stout.  They are located approximately 35 miles east of Rivers Ridge Lodge in Morganton, NC (at Interstate 40, exit 105) and have recently added wine to their repertoire of beverages.

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