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For as long as they have been in existence, the mist-shrouded Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina have been drawing visitors, immigrants, and outlaws to their arresting peaks. From the Cherokee who first settled this area, to the many backpackers who come to test their mettle on the Appalachian Trail, throughout the centuries, the region’s thick forests and rugged pathways have offered the promise of sanctuary and simplicity.
Our exploration of the region is centered around Asheville, in the western part of the state, where the rich cultural heritage of the Blue Ridge Mountains lives on in the city’s vibrant culinary, music, and art scenes. Using Asheville as our home base, we explore the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway by road and foot, visit poet Carl Sandburg’s famed Connemara Farm in Flat Rock, and enjoy a house tour of the Vanderbilt’s legendary Biltmore Estate. During the second leg of our trip, we visit the historic town of Hot Springs and scale to new heights during rewarding hikes on the Appalachian Trail and Mount Mitchell. Along the way, we enjoy fresh, regional cuisine and discover breathtaking views around every bend.
Arrival in Asheville
Meet your guide late this afternoon at the elegant Inn on Biltmore Estate, our historic base for the next five nights.
Our welcome dinner this evening is held at Cedric's Tavern where we enjoy locally-sourced ingredients such as estate-grown greens, berries, eggs, beef, and lamb - all a part of the Biltmore Estate's farm-to-table program.
Inn at Biltmore EstateAsheville, USA
Located on the sprawling grounds of the historic Biltmore Estate with views of the surrounding mountains, this 4-star hotel is the perfect place to relax after a day exploring. Guests enjoy the heated outdoor pool, spa & fitness center, laundry, gourmet dining, and shuttle service to downtown Asheville. In room amenities include WiFi, flat-screen TVs, and elegant furnishings inspired by the opulent era of the Gilded age.
Carl Sandburg National Historic Site & Biltmore tour
After breakfast, a short drive brings us to the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site in Flat Rock, home of the great American poet, writer, folk singer, social activist and three-time Pulitzer Prize-winner. Sandburg's widow Lillian vowed to preserve his beloved Connemara Farm after his death, and the estate was designated a national historic site in 1968. Sandburg relocated to Flat Rock at age 67 and spent the last 22 years of his life there, writing, entertaining, and raising goats.
Our walk this morning showcases Carl Sandburg's homestead, from the entranceway lake to the poet's white farmhouse, continuing uphill to reveal panoramic views from the exposed granite rock face of Little Glassy Mountain. We stop for a tour of Sandburg's house and goat barn before breaking for lunch nearby at Hubba Hubba, an authentic wood-fired smokehouse, for a taste of some real North Carolina barbecue.
Following our excursion to Carl Sandburg National Historic Site, we take in a more refined side of the Blue Ridge Mountains with a house tour at the famous Biltmore Estate of George and Edith Vanderbilt. Designed in the style of a French Renaissance Chateau, the house is as impressive now as it was when construction was completed more than a century ago. Many of the priceless artifacts inside are from George and Edith Vanderbilt's personal collection, including art by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and John Singer Sargent, magnificent 16th century tapestries, and a library stocked with 10,000 volumes.
Beyond the grounds of the estate, we explore the gardens, trails, and forests of Biltmore - pivotal ground for the burgeoning conservation movement in the 20th century. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture, the vision unfolds from the terraced gardens and conservatory below the Biltmore House. Using the grounds as a national model of forest management to educate the first generation of American Foresters, Gifford Pinchot established The Biltmore Forest School before becoming the first chief of the US Forest Service. These legacies loom large for us learning firsthand how this storied past shaped the American conservation movement.
The day's activities conclude with a visit to the Biltmore Winery for a tasting of the region's robust reds and elegant sparkling wines. This evening, we enjoy a hearty meal at one of Biltmore Village's excellent restaurants before returning to our hotel for the evening.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Today we set out for a day of hiking and exploration in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our route begins on the historic Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile scenic byway conceived during President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration and completed in 1987. On our drive, we wind past some of the route's 5,000-ft. peaks, observing the misty, coniferous hills and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands in all their glory.
Along the way, we take a break to lace up our hiking boots and experience some of the region's most popular and scenic trails on foot. We hike past cascading waterfalls at Graveyard Fields, then up to Tennant Mountain and Black Balsam Knob — often considered to behold the best views in the southeast.
We see that Graveyard Fields is aptly named as we set out on our hike through remnants of moss-covered stumps resembling gravestones - likely the result of a violent windstorm, heavy logging or wildfires that ravaged the area at the turn of the 20th Century. The trail begins through a rhododendron tunnel, which blossoms with pink and purple flowers starting in early June. After crossing the headwaters of the Yellowstone Prong, we hike first to Upper Falls before retracing our steps and then continuing downstream to the scenic Lower Falls. There are several pools at the base of the falls that lend themselves to wading or splashing on a hot summer day.
Enjoy a picnic lunch before heading up to Black Balsam Knob for the afternoon. We begin our hike in a forest canopy, before joining the Art Loeb Trail. The landscape opens up to reveal the grassy balds and sweeping views the area is known for! The summit of Black Balsam Knob reveals a panoramic view of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, and if the weather is clear, we can see the Asheville city limits to the east and the faint ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the west. We continue through patches of blueberry bushes and Apiaceae plants on a gradual climb to Tennent Mountain and another panoramic view before returning to Asheville.
Our destination today is the historic town of Hot Springs, less than an hour northwest of Asheville, where we begin our hike on a small section of the legendary, 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. Stretching from Georgia to Maine this storied footpath has been tackled by thousands through generations. We embark on the trail of "through hikers" where we might chance upon an encounter with reintroduced black bears, deer, elk, or backpackers intent on trekking the distance to Mount Kathadin in the north or Mount Springer in the south.
Our hike this morning is a loop that begins by weaving through the remnants of an old silver mining operation, then gently ascends through rhododendron forest, giving us an up-close view of the region's diverse flora and fauna. After about an hour, we emerge on a ridgeline affording us with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the distant ridgeline of the North Carolina-Tennessee border. We eventually reach a rocky outcropping of Lover's Leap, overlooking the town of Hot Springs and the serpentine French Broad River. Following a steep, switchback descent, our trail eventually levels out and meanders alongside the river, before reaching our starting point.
Following our hike, we may choose to soak in the warm mineral springs of Hot Springs spa, a destination since the late 1700s, when the waters earned a reputation for their healing powers (the facilities are basic). We can also pay a visit to Hot Springs' quaint downtown area, where the Appalachian Trail runs along Bridge Street for a time before climbing back into the wilderness on either side of the French Broad River.
This evening, we return to our hotel for some time to relax before heading downtown to enjoy one of Asheville's delightful restaurants.
Rising high above the gentle mist of low-hanging clouds, Mount Mitchell stands more than a mile high, its crest towering above the time-worn Black Mountains. Standing at 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River, and this majestic peak is our destination today. Our drive from Asheville along the Blue Ridge Parkway takes about an hour, with a couple of breaks along the way to stretch our legs and take in the incredible vistas.
One of our stops is a short hike to Craggy Gardens, with a dramatic view overlooking the Tennessee border to the west and central North Carolina to the east. Craggy Gardens is famous for its natural garden meadows, or "balds", and in early summer, blooms of pink and purple Catawba rhododendron cover the surrounding slopes. Even today, scientists debate how the balds first appeared in this region. Some suggest they were left after a devastating wildfire destroyed the mountain-top vegetation, while others believe the balds were created by Native Americans to attract certain wildlife.
We then continue on to Mount Mitchell State Park to embark on our hike around the mountain summit. Our trail meanders through old growth spruce and fir forests for about a mile before reaching the summit. If the group is feeling good, we may hike out to Mt Craig and Big Tom (both 6,000ft peaks along the Black Mountain Crest) before returning to our vehicle.
Tonight we return to Asheville for our final celebratory dinner.
Our tour ends after breakfast, and you may depart at your leisure for home or onward to other journeys.
Please note that this is a typical itinerary, and actual activities may vary due to weather conditions, local events, and to allow serendipity to play a hand in your experience. Accommodations are as outlined in the itinerary, although we reserve the right to change these or the order visited should the need arise.
Apr 25-30, 2021
Oct 10-15, 2021
From $3,995 Per Person
First two reserved:$475
See single supplement policy below.
MAKE IT PRIVATE
9+ Guests: $3,995 per person
4-8 Guests: $4,295 per person
Make it Private price is based on Land Cost only, and a guarantee of the specified number of guests in double occupancy. For groups smaller than the numbers shown, or those requiring single occupancy, we reserve the right to adjust the per person price. Additionally, some trips have minimum group sizes. Please call 1-800-941-8010 for details.
Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement is paid by participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. If you reserve at least 120 days prior to departure, you may be eligible for a reduced or free single supplement.* This is generally limited to the first one or two solo travelers to reserve, and the reduction is outlined in the pricing for each trip. Please note, free or reduced single supplements are not combinable with other offers or promotions.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If you reserve at least 120 days ahead and a roommate is not available, you will only be charged a “forced” single supplement in the amount of 50% of the standard single supplement* (unless otherwise noted in the detailed itinerary). Single accommodations are limited so you are encouraged to reserve early!
*This may not apply to certain trips with unique accommodation arrangements. Please see specific trip information for more details.
Boundless Journeys' trips are designed for energetic and flexible individuals who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. This journey is rated 2+, easy to moderate, on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the most strenuous). The walks and hikes on this trip range from 2-4 hours. The terrain is usually gradual, although you may encounter occasional steep sections. Most walks are on unpaved paths and trails and may be uneven with rocks and roots.
Asheville, North Carolina
Most Convenient Airport:
Asheville Regional Airport (AVL)
Meeting Time and Place:
Your guide(s) will meet you in the late afternoon on the first day of the trip, in the lobby of our hotel in Asheville.
Departure Time and Place:
Our tour ends after breakfast at the hotel, and you may depart at your leisure.
The Blue Ridge Mountains have a moderate climate, with four distinct seasons and variations in weather depending on elevation. In the early summer, the weather can be quite varied, but is generally temperate and noticeably cooler and less humid than in other areas of North Carolina. Days can range from being sunny and dry, to humid with a chance of rain. During most days, we will drive and hike through a range of elevations, experiencing a variety of temperature fluctuations as we travel higher into the mountains.
Please come prepared for a variety of weather conditions. You can learn more at www.weatherbase.com
The Blue Ridge Mountains have earned a reputation for their small-scale food operations offering a true sense of place. Whether tucking into some North Carolina barbecue or sitting down for white tablecloth service, delicious fare can be found everywhere, even in the smallest towns. Farmer's markets and country stores abound along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and "mountain comfort food" has come into its own in recent decades. This is thanks to a reliance on seasonal ingredients, local game, canning, and cured meats — age-old Appalachian traditions that are not so much a culinary fad, as they are (and were) a means of survival in a remote and rugged landscape.
Walking and hiking 2-4 hours per day on a variety of terrain
This trip can be your own adventure by taking over one of our scheduled dates, or we can request a fresh one.
By: Katya d'Angelo
No exploration of a new destination is complete without interacting with and learning about the culture. Culture affects the landscape and vice versa. For us, a well-rounded, fulfilling journey means…
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