Asheville Area Guide

Photos by Caroline Whatley

By Erin McGrady

My wife and I spend about half the year traveling in our small camper van — but homebase is Asheville, North Carolina.

Our small mountain town has a little bit of everything, so it’s a destination for everyone — from the Biltmore visitor, to the hiker/biker, to the craft beer connoisseur. (At last count, we had 33 breweries, 40 if you count satellite tasting rooms and it seems like there’s a new one popping up each month.)

If you’re the kind of van traveler who has a love for the outdoors and who also loves to eat and drink, then put Asheville into your GPS and come see for yourself why it’s one of the most popular adventure hubs in the Southeast.

Land Acknowledgement

Asheville and much of the Southeast was built on the ancestral land of the Anigiduwagi, more commonly known as the Cherokee. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian recently (September 2021) teamed up with Buncombe County’s Register of Deeds to create and release a land acknowledgment project. You can learn more about the history of violence and broken treaties here.

A sunset view from the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, NC.

Top Things To Do

  • Check out downtown Asheville. There’s a ton of restaurants and bars as well as art galleries and shops.
  • Go for a hike or trail run on one of the many numerous trails in the area. You can hike a portion of the Mountains to Sea Trail, which spans from the western edge of the state, near Asheville, and then leads all the way to the Outer Banks.
  • Ride the trails on your mountain bike in Bent Creek Experimental Forest. The Hard Times trailhead is a good spot to start but it fills up quickly so go early.
  • Float the French Broad River in a tube or paddle it on an SUP. 
To-Go beers from 12 Bones Brewing.

Where To Eat and Drink

    • One can’t-miss spot is the newly remodeled S & W Market which is now home to Highland Brewing, the Hop Ice Cream, Bun Intended (Thai Street Food), and more.
    • Visit one of the farmers markets around town and pick up some locally grown and made food. Keep an eye out for the delicious Cantonese food made by my friend J Chong
    • If you like ramen, you must try Itto Ramen. They have two locations, one downtown and one in West Asheville. This Asian-owned business is the best in Asheville but if you happen to drive south into Arden, stop at Wild Ginger for their pho or banh mi!
    • Pick up a coffee and a pastry for the road and support Grind AVL, a Black-owned local business in the River Arts District.
    • Visit Banks Ave., an LGBQT+ safe space that regularly has drag shows and karaoke nights. 

Where To Camp

    • Unfortunately, overnight camping is not allowed at any of the overlooks along the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway. The Mount Pisgah Campground at Milepost 408, however, is a great spot that in the summer is cooler because it’s at elevation.
    • Another spot fairly close to town is the campground at Lake Powhatan
    • The Davidson River Campground near Brevard is 33 miles from downtown Asheville and is a beautiful spot with 144 sites for RV’s and tents with access to hot showers.
Caroline Whatley and Erin McGrady of Authentic Asheville.

Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley are writers, photographers, and content creators. They travel frequently for work in their small camper van but when they’re not on the road they hang their hats in Asheville, North Carolina. 

Follow their adventures on Instagram at @e.mcgrady@carolineperdue, and @authenticasheville and via their blog Authentic Asheville. To work with them, check out their portfolio or drop them a line at !

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