We've visited many North Carolina mountain towns over the years, and picking the very best to highlight for this guide was tough. This is especially true since we live directly in between two of them, Maggie Valley and Waynesville NC.
Within the historic North Carolina mountains, you'll find many gorgeous and quaint North Carolina mountain towns and cities that offer unique history, infatuating charm, local culture, art, shopping, dining, hiking, and so much more.
Many of these small NC mountain towns are easily accessible from the combination of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Those that are a little further out are still accessible and just require a longer, but often very scenic drive, making the longer drive well worth it.
In this guide, we highlight our top picks for the Best North Carolina Mountain Towns. Coming up with this list was difficult, as there are so many wonderful small towns, and each has its own unique charm. Our decisions were based on overall charm, history, dining options, places to stay, and activities.
Let's get started!
Best North Carolina Mountain Towns
Picking the top towns was difficult enough, but rating them in order was an impossible task. So we decided to just list our picks for the best north Carolina mountain towns in alphabetical order.
What makes these various towns great is very subjective for everyone, so we let you decide the best ones for you based on your individual needs.
We included Asheville in our list anyway, because it's a great small city that provides central access to many great things to do in Western North Carolina, and is also a central location for visiting many of the small towns included in our list.
Asheville NC is most well known for its unique culture and vibe and is full of art, music, bars, cultural events, and craft beer.
Downtown Asheville is full of great restaurants, bars, bus tours, exceptional street performers, and more. You'll find many hotels, shopping venues, and of course, Biltmore.
Located close to Boone NC, Banner Elk is a beautiful small town that is not only popular for its quiet small-town atmosphere but also for its quaint downtown and access to many great things to see and do in the area.
For such a small mountain town, Banner Elk is full of some amazing restaurants, and has earned itself a reputation for being one of the top culinary destinations in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Both LP on Main and Stonewalls Restaurant are some of the best restaurants we've experienced in our Blue Ridge Mountain travels.
Banner Elk is popular because of being between two of the largest ski resorts in North Carolina, Sugar Mountain Ski Resort and Beech Mountain Ski Resort. Banner Elk is also a popular lodging location for those visiting the Autumn in Oz event at Land of Oz in Beech Mountain.
We love visiting Banner Elk for its beautiful scenery, vibrant downtown, amazing restaurants, and tons of outdoor activities. Banner Elk NC is one of our favorite North Carolina mountain towns.
While we love these small North Carolina mountain towns, there are a few we're exceptionally partial to, and Beech Mountain NC is one of them.
Beech Mountain is most well known for being a major North Carolina Ski town, with Beech Mountain Ski Resort. However, Beech Mountain has so much more to offer.
Beech Mountain NC offers hiking trails, waterfalls, incredible mountain biking trails at the Ski Resort, and even a lake with fishing and kayaking. There are many great lodging options and restaurants as well. In fact, Beech Mountain has one of our favorite BBQ places, Holy Smokes BBQ.
We have visited many areas in the Blue Ridge Mountains with wildlife, but we've never seen so many deer as we have during our visits to Beech Mountain. You'll see Deer everywhere!
One of our favorite attractions and events is Autumn in Oz at Land of Oz in Beech Mountain. We look forward to visiting each year!
Another of our favorite small North Carolina mountain towns is Blowing Rock NC which offers a wonderful downtown area full of shops and restaurants to explore. There is even a magnificent park in downtown that you can walk and explore.
Nearby is Boone NC for those looking for a bigger city feel and a university-style atmosphere.
While not necessarily a small mountain town, Boone NC, is still a wonderful North Carolina town to visit, that provides larger city amenities with a small-town flare.
Boone is home to one of North Carolina's largest universities, Appalachian State University, and as a result, has a young and vibrant vibe that you'll only find in a college town.
Boone's downtown area is wonderful and full of locally owned businesses, restaurants, and bars. For those that love the outdoors, Boone provides easy access to the Blue Ridge Parkway, many area hiking trails, waterfalls, skiing and mountain biking.
Bryson City is in Western North Carolina, south of Cherokee and is a great small mountain town that has a historic downtown, access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park via Deep Creek, tubing and rafting, and is the central location for the popular Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
The downtown area is full of locally owned shops and restaurants. The Tuckasegee River flows right through downtown Bryson City and provides a beautiful setting.
Burnsville NC, in the heart of the North Carolina mountains, is home to some of the most beautiful scenery and outdoor activities in the country.
From rafting on Toe River to hiking and camping in Mount Mitchell State Park, there are countless opportunities for outdoor adventure.
Shopping and dining options abound in Burnsville NC as well, with wonderful local restaurants and boutiques in the charming a historic downtown area. There is even a planetarium and observatory just a short distance away. Burnsville, NC is full of fun things to see and do for everyone.
For those who love the arts, Burnsville has a thriving art community with many artists calling the area home. When visiting, you can explore the many art studios, meet the artists, and purchase their art.
Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or a longer stay, there is so much to explore and appreciate in this amazing mountain town.
Cherokee has been a favorite mountain town destination for years by many. In Cherokee, you can find shopping, shows, restaurants, and of course Harrah's Casino.
The Oconoluftee Visitor Center, at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offers visitors information, a museum, hiking/walking trails, and access to elk which frequent the fields around the visitor center. Nearby are Mingo Falls and Mingus Mill.
The main attraction in Cherokee these days is the huge Harrah's Casino facility, which includes the Casino, hotels, restaurants, bars, bowling, games, and more! People travel from all around the world to visit this modern entertainment facility.
Also, visit the park at the Oconoluftee River, it offers great wading and water play for families and a nice place to sit back and enjoy the sounds of the river and Cherokee itself.
Dillsboro NC is a small mountain town between Waynesville NC and Sylva NC. Dillsboro is a beautiful and artistic town that is a prime destination for the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which arrives from Bryson City NC.
The downtown area is full of various shops to explore and restaurant destinations, including the popular Haywood Smokehouse. Dillsboro is also home to one of the top North Carolina craft beers, Innovation Station.
For those looking for more excitement and adventure, Dillsboro is also a great destination for rafting, kayaking, or tubing down "the Tuck", or the Tuckasegee River. Two feature river adventure companies include Dillsboro River Company and Smoky Mountain River Adventures.
Dillsboro North Carolina is also one of our picks for the top Christmas Towns in North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Dillsboro has an annual "Lights and Luminaries" event that brings old-time customs and celebrations to current times.
Hendersonville NC is located just south of Asheville NC and offers apple picking in the fall, museums, historical structures, many dining options, hiking trails, scenic views, shopping, and much more!
Hendersonville is known as “The City of Four Seasons” and is at an elevation of 2200 feet and is only about 15 miles from the South Carolina border.
Hendersonville is most well known for its numerous area apple orchards. There area a variety of orchards to visit in the Fall, that offer pick your own apples, hayrides, apple canons, backed apple goods, cider, and many other activities for families.
Hendersonville also has a wonderful historic downtown area with unique locally owned shops and restaurants to enjoy and explore.
The Ultimate Blue Ridge Parkway Travel GuideOne of our favorite mountain small towns to visit, and one that we have been visiting since before we were married, is Lake Lure NC. The town of Lake Lure is a town around a gorgeous and famous mountain lake. People often vote lake Lure as one of the most beautiful and scenic lakes in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Lake Lure is about 30 miles south of Asheville NC, in the Hickory Nut Gorge, often called the Grand Canyon on the East, because of the sheer rock faces and tall mountains that surround the lake and town.
While Lake Lure NC is a small, quiet, and relaxing mountain town that offers many small shops, restaurants, and lots of outdoor activities, including activities on the lake and at nearby Chimney Rock State Park.
Lake Lure offers a gorgeous beach with water slides, boating, waterskiing, hiking, waterfalls, site seeing, shopping, and even zip lining.
Lake Lure is one small mountain town that needs to be on your short list of small mountain towns to visit.
Maggie Valley NC is one of the most popular mountain small towns in the Blue Ridge Mountains and has been for many years. Maggie Valley is central too many of the wonderful things to see and do outdoors in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina.
Maggie Valley also has plenty of local shopping, restaurants, and coffee shops. The Festival Grounds provides several events during the year, including craft shows, car shows, concerts, and motorcycle events.
If you love fishing, especially for Trout, Jonathan Creek, which runs through Maggie Valley provides some of the best Mountain Trout fishing in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Outfitters for fishing and fly fishing supplies are in town.
Nearby Waynesville NC offers additional things to do, restaurants, and shopping as well.
Mount Airy North Carolina is the real-life Mayberry from the popular TV show "The Andy Griffith Show". Mayberry, from the show, is based on Mount Airy NC, which is also often referred to in various episodes.
Mount Airy is a beautiful and historic North Carolina mountain town. While visiting, you can enjoy many things "Mayberry" related, including visiting the “Andy & Opie” TV Land Statue, riding a vintage squad car tour through town, and visiting the Andy Griffith Playhouse. This is where Andy Griffith attended elementary school and where he performed in the 1930s and 1940s.
You can also visit many attractions, themed around Mayberry, including the Mayberry Jail, Wally's Service Station, Floyd’s Barber Shop, Wally’s Service Station, the Mayberry Courthouse, and Emmit’s Fix It Shop.
There are plenty of unique shops and great dining opportunities throughout the downtown area that are locally owned and operated, and not themed.
Mount Pilot isn't too far away, and access to the Blue Ridge Parkway is less than an hour's drive.
Located in Jackson County NC, southwest of Asheville, Sylva NC is a small but beautiful North Carolina mountain town. Sylva features an "All-American" main street in downtown, featuring shops, restaurants, and a picturesque and almost Norman Rockwell-like Courthouse.
Sylva features many wonderful restaurants, including Lucy in the Rye and Lulu's on Main. You'll also find several craft breweries.
They also featured sylva in the Oscar-nominated Three Billboards outside Ebbing. Sylva is near many hiking trails and waterfalls and is close to both the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Sylva also features Pinnacle Park, a 7-mile round trip hike up to a 5,000-foot peak with incredible views.
Last, but certainly not least, is our hometown of Waynesville NC. Waynesville is a historic town, featuring several attractions, access to local outdoor activities, and modern small-town conveniences.
The top attraction in Waynesville NC is the historic Norman Rockwell like downtown. Downtown Waynesville features many unique and locally owned shops and restaurants, along with a wonderful Mast General Store. New is Kilwin's Chocolate, which you may recognize as one of our favorites from Banner Elk NC.
Due to its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Waynesville is also known as the Gateway to the Smokies for North Carolina. Visitors can enjoy nearby hiking, waterfalls, fishing, and more in Waynesville..
Tips for visiting North Carolina Mountain Towns
Here are some tips to help you out when visiting North Carolina mountain towns:
Learn the local culture – North Carolina mountain towns have their own unique culture and traditions that make them special. Learn about what makes each town unique before you visit!
Dress for the weather – The North Carolina mountains can experience drastic changes in temperature throughout the year, so it's important to dress appropriately when visiting. Layers are always a good idea!
Bring your camera – The mountains are full of incredible views, so it's wise to take as many photos as you can. You won't want to miss out on capturing all the beauty that North Carolina mountain towns offer.
Discover local attractions – There are countless activities and attractions in the area, such as hiking, fishing, and camping. Explore the area and find something that's fun for you and your family.
Enjoy the outdoors – The mountains are perfect for outdoor activities such as biking, horseback riding, and kayaking. Take advantage of all the natural beauty around you!
Support local businesses – There are lots of local restaurants, shops, and galleries in the area. Patronize these local establishments and show your support for the community.
Have a Plan B – The weather can change quickly in the mountains, so it's always best to have a backup plan just in case your plans get derailed.
Stay safe – Always be aware of your surroundings when you are exploring the mountain trails and don't take any unnecessary risks. Let someone know where you're going and when you plan to be back.
Be respectful - Remember, you are a guest in the mountains. Respect the locals, local wildlife and environment.
Bonus Tip: Leave no trace – Be sure to pack out any trash and leave the outdoor spaces clean and pristine for others to enjoy. Don't forget to pick up after your pet!
Final Thoughts on North Carolina Mountain Towns
North Carolina mountain towns are some of the most beautiful places in the United States. With so much to explore, there's something for everyone. Whether you are looking for a relaxing getaway or an adventurous escape, these small towns have plenty of outdoor activities and experiences to offer.
Just remember to be respectful and follow all local laws when visiting! Enjoy your stay!