The Top 30 Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in GA & NC

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[Updated Sept 3, 2022]

It’s not difficult to understand why so many people love taking getaways to the Blue Ridge Mountains, which stretch 550 miles from North Georgia to southern Pennsylvania.

From hiking trails that lead to sensational scenic vistas and breathtaking waterfalls to pastoral valleys filled with wildflowers and wildlife, there’s something mesmerizing about exploring this ancient, majestic terrain.

The mountain towns that are scattered throughout the Blue Ridge region add to the blissful experience with their complex history, not to mention rich Appalachian culture.

Their picturesque streets bring locals and visitors alike together to shop, dine, and breathe in the crisp mountain air.

While some of these places may be more well-known than others, they all exude the same cozy, small town feeling, with an individual flair that make each one unique.

So whether you’re looking for a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life or a thrilling outdoor adventure, these 30 Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in GA and NC will bring a smile to your face and warmth to your heart.

READ MORE: 101+ Things to Do in North Georgia


Best Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in GA & NC Guide

  1. Blue Ridge GA
  2. Blairsville GA
  3. Dahlonega GA
  4. Ellijay GA
  5. Hiawassee GA
  6. Dillard GA
  7. Dawsonville GA
  8. Suches GA
  9. Sautee-Nacoochee GA
  10. Helen GA
  11. Clayton GA
  12. Summerville GA
  13. Lookout Mountain GA
  14. Young Harris GA
  15. Cherry Log GA
  16. Asheville NC
  17. Boone NC
  18. Hendersonville NC
  19. Blowing Rock NC
  20. Black Mountain NC
  21. Highlands NC
  22. Cashiers NC
  23. Brevard NC
  24. Hot Springs NC
  25. Bryson City NC
  26. Banner Elk NC
  27. Burnsville NC
  28. Little Switzerland NC
  29. Cherokee NC
  30. Waynesville NC

Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in Georgia

Lake Blue Ridge in Blue Ridge, GA - blue ridge mountain towns
Lake Blue Ridge, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

1. Blue Ridge GA

Size: 2.4 square miles • Population: 1,400 • Official Website

Blue Ridge GA was founded in 1886, with the arrival of the Marietta and North Georgia Railroad.

Over the last 10 years it has grown to be one of Georgia’s most popular mountain towns, while staying true to its charming small-town origins.

Downtown Blue Ridge offers upscale restaurants, food tours, shopping, local breweries and wineries, and a vibrant arts scene with galleries, a theatre, and live music on weekends.

Outdoor lovers will delight in the abundance of activities, including horseback riding through the Chattahoochee National Forest, white water rafting on the Ocoee River, kayaking at Lake Blue Ridge, and hiking to waterfalls near Blue Ridge and the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge.

To get an authentic experience, visitors can hop aboard the historic Blue Ridge Scenic Railway and take a journey through the Appalachian region of North Georgia along the Toccoa River, just as travelers did in the late 19th century.

After a day full of adventures or shopping, relax in one of the impressive array of places to stay in Blue Ridge, which includes treehouse rentals and luxury cabins.

READ MORE: The Best Things to Do in Blue Ridge, GA

Mural in Downtown Blairsville GA - Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in GA
Downtown Blairsville, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

2. Blairsville GA

Size: 1.1 square miles • Approximate Population: 600 • Official Website

Tucked away in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest, this picturesque town is home to some of North Georgia’s most treasured landmarks.

Visitors can spend the day hiking the Blood Mountain Trail or hike to Brasstown Bald, the tallest peak in Georgia, to get breathtaking overviews of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Or spend a day hiking in Vogel State Park, one of the oldest and most cherished Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites.

Beautiful bodies of water like Lake Nottely and Lake Trahlyta offer boating, fishing, swimming, and more. A short hike from the latter will lead you to the captivating cascades of Trahlyta Falls.

Blairsville is also home to Helton Creek Falls and Meeks Park, where you can kayak the Nottely River, explore Butternut Creek, or experience a variety of delicious restaurants and fun festivals that are held throughout the year.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Blairsville GA & Union County

Exterior view of The Dahlonega Gold Museum in Dahlonega GA - blue ridge mountains GA
Dahlonega GA Gold Museum, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

3. Dahlonega GA

Size: 6.4 square miles • Approximate Population: 7,000 • Official Website

Between the endless outdoor adventures, creative arts and music scene, and bustling downtown area, Dahlonega GA is the perfect North GA mountain getaway.

The hub of the town has beautiful 19th century buildings and a myriad of arts, local shops, and great restaurants. It also offers some of the most highly acclaimed wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms in the state.

Come holiday time, you can visit one of the local Christmas Tree Farms, where you can cut your own tree for the holidays. The town is known as one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Georgia

Aside from the stunning views, Dahlonega is best known for being the site of the first major U.S. Gold Rush and for great wineries.

It’s also home to the Bear On the Square Mountain Festival, an annual celebration of Appalachian culture that’s held every April.

Visitors can also explore an underground gold mine and try their luck at panning for gold, or visit the Dahlonega Gold Museum to learn about the town’s rich history.

READ MORE:10 Festive Ways to Celebrate Old Fashioned Christmas in Dahlonega GA

Courthouse on the Square in Downtown Ellijay GA - Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in Georgia
Courthouse on the Square, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

4. Ellijay GA

Size: 3.6 square miles Approximate population: 1,700 Official Website

Located just an hour drive north of Atlanta, Ellijay GA is an enchanting town that welcomes visitors to the foothills of the state’s Blue Ridge region.

Widely known as the “Apple Capital of Georgia,” Ellijay is famous for their heirloom apple orchards, apple picking and fun Fall festivals like the Taste of Ellijay, Georgia Apple Festival, and Georgia Apple Blossom Festival.

The town has no shortage of unique activities to offer, including the pig races at Hillcrest Orchard and the South’s first apple tree maze.

The quaint downtown area is full of antique shops, wineries, and delicious restaurants that are juxtaposed by adventure-filled hiking and mountain biking trails that venture into the Chattahoochee National Forest.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Ellijay GA & Gilmer County

Mural in Hiawassee GA in the North Georgia mountains
Mural in Hiawassee GA, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

5. Hiawassee GA

Size: 2.2 square miles • Approximate Population: 900 • Official Website

Home to more than 100 miles of Lake Chatuge shoreline, Hiawassee GA is full of vibrant outdoor scenery right on the North Carolina border.

Travelers can enjoy the journey and the destination with hikes to Bell Mountain and the stunning High Shoals Falls, a collection of five waterfalls with a combined vertical drop of 300 feet.

Nature lovers should be sure to visit the expansive Hamilton Gardens, a botanical garden that is home to more than 3,000 plants and the largest collection of rhododendrons in the state.

Other fun Hiawassee attractions include visiting the historic Pioneer Village at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds and casting a line in the Hiawassee River, which is known as the “hidden jewel of trout fishing.”

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Hiawassee GA & Young Harris GA

Dillard House Stables, photo by Kurtis Miller - Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in Georgia
Horseback Riding with Dillard House Stables, photo by Kurtis Miller

6. Dillard GA

Size: 1.5 square miles • Approximate Population: 370 • Official Website

Surrounded by the magnificent North Georgia Mountains and close to three state parks and 17 waterfalls, Dillard GA is the perfect place to get lost in the wonder of nature.

Whether it’s white water rafting, horseback riding, or ziplining, thrill seekers will have plenty to do in Dillard. Those who prefer a more relaxing day can explore the quaint downtown area.

Within a two-block area, the town has over 40,000 square feet of antiques to rummage through, plus dining locations such as the acclaimed Dillard House Restaurant.

After a long day of exploration, the town’s appeal continues with an impressive array of lodging options that includes cabins, campsites, and historic inns dating back as far as 1846.

READ MORE: The 20 Best North Georgia Waterfalls (& How to Get to Them)

Amicalola Falls in Dawsonville GA - In the Georgia mountains
Amicalola Falls in Autumn, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

7. Dawsonville GA

Size: 8.21 square miles • Approximate Population: 3,100 • Official Website

From paddling the Etowah River and exploring Amicalola Falls State Park’s 729-foot waterfall to tasting 150-year-old recipes at the Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery, Dawsonville, GA has a little bit of something for everyone.

Visitors can frolic through 13 acres of cheerful sunflowers at the family-owned Fausett Farms Sunflowers & Horse Trails. Or take a trip to Around Back at Rocky’s Place, a folk-art gallery that features the works of self-taught local artists.

The town is close to the Georgia Hall of Fame, and Bill Elliot fans will have a blast dining at the NASCAR-themed restaurant, Gordon Pirkle’s Dawsonville Pool Room.

For a trip to see Fall colors in the mountains of North Georgia, be sure to include a stop by Burt’s Farm and Uncle Shucks Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch to go on hayrides, roast marshmallows, and find the perfect pumpkin!

READ MORE: The 20 Best Pumpkin Patches in North Georgia to Visit

Sea Creek Falls in Suches GA, one of the best waterfalls near Blue Ridge)
Sea Creek Falls in Suches, photo by Hope Cross

8. Suches GA

Size: Unspecified • Approximate Population: 1,000

Reaching an elevation of 2,792 feet, it’s no wonder why this unincorporated Union County community is often called “The Valley Above the Clouds.”

The town’s tranquil atmosphere lends itself to uninterrupted exploration of the beautiful wilderness. Especially on North Georgia hiking trails that lead to hidden gems like Preachers Rock, Sosebee Cove, and Sea Creek Falls.

The Lake Winfield Scott Recreation Area is a prime location for people looking for an authentic mountain camping experience. It boasts 31 campsites and plenty of opportunities for swimming, fishing, and boating.

Another great fishing opportunity can be found at the Valley at Suches, which is known for catch-and-release fly fishing and offers guided fishing tours.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to Live in the Georgia Mountains

Sautee Nacoochee Mound in Helen GA
The Sautee Nacoochee Indian Mound, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

9. Sautee-Nacoochee GA

Size: Unknown • Approximate Population: 3,700

Located in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains near Helen, Sautee-Nacoochee GA captivates travelers with its rich cultural history and striking natural beauty.

One of the area’s most recognizable sights is the white gazebo that sits atop the Sautee-Nacoochee Indian Mound at The Hardman Farm, which was home to a former Governor of Georgia.

Believed to have been a burial ground for Georgia’s original Cherokee inhabitants, it now stands as a symbol of their connection to the land.

The Sautee-Nacoochee Center offers the most comprehensive look at the town’s history.

There you’ll find a local museum, African-American heritage site, native plants and butterfly garden, and the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia, among other attractions.

READ MORE: 40 Fascinating Facts About Appalachian Culture & History

Alpine-style buildings in Downtown Helen GA
Downtown Helen GA, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

10. Helen, Georgia

Size: 2.1 square miles • Approximate Population: 550 • Official Website

Combining the magic of Bavaria with the beautiful landscape and endless outdoor recreation opportunities of the Blue Ridge region, Helen GA is truly a one-of-a-kind town.

The cobblestone walkways and Bavarian-inspired architecture set the scene for authentic German restaurants, where you can enjoy everything from schnitzel and wurst to craft beers.

Nearby hiking trails lead to gorgeous waterfalls like Anna Ruby Falls and Dukes Creek Falls, or you can immerse yourself in nature a few miles away at Unicoi State Park & Lodge.

Other popular activities in Helen include river tubing on the Chattahoochee River and panning for gold and gems in the Dukes Creek Mines.

But the most famous attraction in Helen is the annual Oktoberfest celebration, which is held from September to the end of October. Visitors can enjoy an array of activities, traditional food and dance, and an all-around festival of fun.

Plan on visiting for the Christmas in Helen GA celebration, which was recently rated the “Top Christmas Town in America” by and one of Southern Living‘s Best Christmas Towns in the USA. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Helen GA

Downtown Clayton GA Shopping
Downtown Clayton GA, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

11. Clayton GA

Size: 3.39 sq miles • Approximate Population: 1,968 • Official Website 

Whenever people ask in our Facebook Hiking groups about the best places in Georgia for outdoor adventures, we refer them to Clayton, the largest town in Rabun County

The area is home to 3 state parks (Black Rock Mountain, Tallulah Gorge, and Moccasin Creek), 4 lakes (including Burton and Rabun), several of the tallest mountains in North Georgia, and 17 of the most beautiful waterfalls in Georgia.

There are so many gorgeous cascades within 15 miles of downtown Clayton, you could easily visit 5-6 in one day. Start the day by viewing Toccoa Falls and Tallulah Falls, then head north for a quick hike to Minnehaha Falls and the Panther/Angel Falls trail on Lake Rabun. Then finish the day at the stunning Hemlock Falls on Moccasin Creek. 

Even if hiking isn’t your thing, there’s plenty to do in the town of Clayton. The downtown area is home to great Clayton restaurants such as Fortify and Universal Joint, as well as the family-owned Wander North Georgia store for outdoor gear. 

And don’t miss nearby attractions, including the family-friendly Goats On The Roof, the Appalachian history of the Foxfire Museum, and the Dillard House just up the road.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Clayton GA

Downtown Summerville GA
Downtown Summerville GA, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

12. Summerville GA

Size: 4.01 sq miles • Approximate Population: 4,320 • Official Website

Located 24 miles north of Rome, just 10 miles east of the Alabama border, this sleepy northwest Georgia town has a population of around 4,320 people. 

You won’t see it on  most lists of the best places to visit in Georgia. It’s not as well-known as Helen or Blue Ridge, and it doesn’t have a major tourist draw, such as the apple orchards of Ellijay or the gold mining history of Dahlonega GA.

So why did the town of Summerville GA make this list of the best mountain towns? Two words: space and personality. Summerville’s outdoor attractions don’t draw anywhere near the tourist crowds you’ll see in other North GA hotspots. 

And in a place most famous for legendary folk artist Howard Finster, whose Paradise Garden remains an oddly fascinating national treasure, is it any wonder this town is full of colorful characters?

There are lots of things to do in Summerville. The lakes of James H Floyd State Park are 3 miles from downtown. The Rocky Mountain Public Recreation & Fishing Area is not much further, and Cloudland Canyon State Park is 30-40 minutes away. 

There’s also shopping and restaurants on Commerce St, the Historic Summerville Train Depot & Train Turntable, the Historic Couey House, J.R. “Dick” Dowdy Park, Willow Springs Park, and more. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Summerville GA

Waterfall at Lookout Mountain GA TN
Lookout Mountain GA, photo via Canva

13. Lookout Mountain GA

Size: 2.66 sq miles • Approximate Population: 1,629 • Official Website

Lookout Mountain is both a town and a mountain located on northwest Georgia’s state boundary with Tennessee. To make matters more confusing, the town is called Lookout Mountain on both sides of the border! 

The area is best known for the #1 Lookout Mountain attraction, Rock City, whose famous “See Rock City” painted barns and signs help to draw more than half a million visitors every year.

But there are plenty of other things to do there, including exploring the caverns of Ruby Falls, riding the Looking Mountain Incline Railway, taking in stunning scenic views at Sunset Rock, and hiking the Lula Lake Land Trust.

Those with an interest in Civil War history can also visit the Battles For Chattanooga Museum and explore the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, one of the more important sites in Sherman’s Atlanta campaign. 

If you visit, make sure to take in the beautiful overlook of 7 states from 2,388 feet at Rock City Gardens & Fairyland Caverns. This is also one of the best Christmas Towns in Georgia to visit, with incredible light shows around the holidays. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Lookout Mountain GA/TN

Overlook at Brasstown Valley Resort in Young Harris GA
Overlook at Brasstown Valley Resort in Young Harris, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

14. Young Harris GA

Size: 0.95 square miles • Approximate Population: 1,059 • Official Website

The quaint town of Young Harris is 8 miles from Downtown Hiawassee and even closer to Lake Chatuge (one of our favorite lakes in the North Georgia Mountains.

Even if you don’t choose to stay there, it’s definitely worthy of a day trip visit.

The town is best-known for (and named after) Young Harris College, a liberal arts college founded in 1886, which currently has around 800 students. Some of the area’s best restaurants are very close to the picturesque campus.

The charming Georgia mountain town encompasses just 640 acres of land, but there are an impressive array of fun things to do there.

The most popular is visiting Brasstown Valley Resort, which features 102 guest rooms, 8 cabins, a full-service spa, horseback riding tours, 18-hole golf course, an excellent restaurant, and stunning scenic overlooks.  

Other Young Harris attractions include the Carolina Crawlers Off-Road Adventure Park, Rollins Planetarium, hiking the Miller Trek Trail, and several small waterfalls on the college campus. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Kayaking Rivers in Georgia

Exterior of Expedition Bigfoot Museum in in Cherry Log, GA
Expedition Bigfoot Museum, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

15. Cherry Log GA

Size: 1.14 square miles • Approximate Population: 99

If you’re looking for the traditional trappings of small towns in the Blue Ridge Mountains– historic downtown areas, charming shops, with lots of restaurants to choose from– sleepy Cherry Log GA might not be the spot for you. 

What makes Cherry Log a welcome change-of-pace in the increasingly bustling North Georgia mountains can be summed up in 3 words: Location, location, location. 

Cherry Log offers exceptional proximity to two of the most popular places in Georgia, with Ellijay 8 miles to the south and Blue Ridge 8 miles to the north.

But it has none of the traffic congestion or crowds those towns tend to get on weekends, and there are some very cool Cherry Log attractions worth exploring.

Anyone with an interest in Appalachian Folklore will get a kick out of visiting the Expedition Bigfoot Museum, and the Rich Mountain Wilderness, Ellijay River Vineyards, Goose Island Lake, and Fall Branch Falls are all close by. 

READ MORE: The 40 Best North Georgia Cabins to Rent

Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in North Carolina

Busking Musicians in Asheville, NC - blue ridge mountains nc
Busking Musicians in Asheville NC, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

16. Asheville NC

Size: 45.2 square miles • Approximate Population: 91,900 • Official Website

With its charming atmosphere, breathtaking views, fantastic foodie scene, and fun outdoor activities, Asheville NC has everything you’d want from a bustling mountain town.

Downtown Asheville has something around every corner. There are stylish shops, delicious downtown restaurants, rooftop bars, street performers, art galleries, breweries, and loads of live music venues.

Just outside of town you’ll find some of the best Pisgah National Forest hiking trails, as well as trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, and more.

If you get a chance, check out the 6,684-foot summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River and one of the highlights of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in Western North Carolina.

Also, be sure to check out the famous Biltmore Estate, the largest home in America, which has 250 rooms, 8,000 acres of gardens and trails, and the nation’s most-visited winery.

READ MORE: The 35 Best Things to Do in Asheville NC

Best Things to do in Boone, NC
Bird’s Eye View of Boone NC, photo via Canva

17. Boone NC

Size: 6.07 square miles • Approximate Population: 19,560 • Official Website

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or an action-packed adventure in North Carolina’s High Country, Boone NC has you covered. As a college town, it offers loads of great restaurants and shops. 

Visitors can explore the local Boone hiking trails and waterfalls, spend the day at Elk Knob State Park, learn about the Revolutionary War at the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum, or visit the Tweetsie Railroad theme park.

During the warmer months, rafting, tubing, kayaking, fishing, and hiking are just a few of the outdoor activities Boone visitors love. But winter is when this North Carolina mountain town really comes alive.

With a reputation for being one of the best places for snow skiing in North Carolina, Boone has fantastic ski lodges such as the Beech Mountain Resort and the Sugar Mountain Resort (the largest ski and snowboard area in NC).

Boone is also home to some of the best Christmas Tree farms in NC, making it a great place to visit around Christmastime.

READ MORE: 15 Best Things to Do in Boone NC

Main St in Downtown Hendersonville NC - blue ridge mountains north carolina
Downtown Hendersonville, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

18. Hendersonville NC

Size: 6.9 square miles • Approximate Population: 13,950 • Official Website

To take in as much of this intriguing historic town as you can, start at the downtown Hendersonville Visitor Center, where the helpful staff can give you an overview of all the cool things to do in town.

Strolling along the lovely shops, art galleries, antique stores, and restaurants in Hendersonville, NC, you’ll quickly see why many people predict this will be Western North Carolina’s next boom town. 

The appeal of Hendersonville continues with cool attractions such as the Appalachian Pinball Museum, Mineral Lapidary Museum, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., and the popular Pisgah Forest Gem Mine.

If you’re looking for some fun in the great outdoors, Hendersonville is home to Pisgah National Forest, Holmes Educational State Forest, and DuPont State Forest, which is full of waterfalls and over 80 miles of roads and hiking trails.

For a breathtaking panoramic view of the Blue Ridge peaks, check out Jump Off Rock, which is located just five miles from downtown Hendersonville.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Hendersonville NC

Mary at The Blowing Rock Attraction in Blowing Rock NC in the North Carolina mountains
Mary Gabbett at The Blowing Rock, photo by Bret Love

19. Blowing Rock NC

Size: 3.05 square miles • Approximate Population: 1,300 • Official Website

Often called the “Crown of the Blue Ridge” for its spectacular, expansive views across the Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock NC is an enchanting town filled with natural beauty.

Visitors can view jaw-dropping sunsets at the iconic Blowing Rock attraction (for which the town was named), which stands at 4,000 feet above sea level and overlooks the John’s River Gorge.

The natural formation has near-constant winds, and is widely known as a picturesque place where snow occasionally blows upside down. The town also boasts man-made attractions such as Mystery Hill and the Appalachian Fossil Museum. 

Great hiking trails can be found in Moses Cone Memorial Park, Julian Price Memorial Park, and all along the Blue Ridge Parkway, guiding you through gorgeous forests, streams, and vistas.

Don’t miss the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, which showcases the Blue Ridge region’s rich history through rotating exhibits and galleries.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Things to Do in Blowing Rock NC

Black Mountain, North Carolina
Black Mountain, North Carolina

20. Black Mountain NC

Size: 6.71 square miles • Approximate Population: 8,150 • Official Website

Planning on visiting Black Mountain NC? Take time to sit back, relax, and soak in the spectacular views in one of the oversized rocking chairs that are scattered throughout “the little town that rocks.”

Black Mountain has a charming town square with numerous antique shops, gift shops, old fashioned general stores, and restaurants that are guaranteed to please.

Countless events are held at the White Horse Black Mountain music venue, which features toe tapping mountain music, poetry, theater, and other community events.

Lake Tomahawk Park is close to downtown, offering a playground, tennis court, fishing pier, and a .55-mile walking trail around the lovely little lake.

For a more intense hike, try the nearby Lookout Trail, which leads to dazzling views of the Seven Sisters mountain range.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hotels & Cabin Rentals in NC & VA

Fall in Highlands, photo by Greg Newington

21. Highlands NC

Size: 6.17 square miles • Approximate Population: 969 • Official Website

Long a popular weekend getaway with Atlanta residents, Highlands NC draws in visitors with their elegant dining, shopping, and thriving cultural arts scene.

But the tiny town also offers its fair share of rustic adventures in the great outdoors.

Surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest, the views around Highlands seem endless and hiking trails abound throughout the dynamic terrain.

Many of the trails take you to beautiful cascading waterfalls, such as Dry Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Whitewater Falls. The latter is the tallest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains, and is accessible via the Whitewater Falls Trail.

Anglers can go fly fishing with local guides in one of the area’s many rivers, including the Chattooga, Nantahala, and Tuckasegee. You can also explore the Highlands Heritage Trail, a wonderful walking tour of the downtown area.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Western North Carolina Waterfalls for Hiking

Silver Run Falls, photo by Robert Stephens - things to do in the blue ridge mountains
Silver Run Falls, photo by Robert Stephens

22. Cashiers NC

Size: 1.1 square miles • Approximate Population: 157 • Official Website

If you’re looking for the perfect place to escape your everyday routine, charming Cashiers NC is a favorite destination for those who want to relax and immerse themselves in the beauty of nature.

Located on the highest plateau in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Cashiers boasts magnificent views along with many lakes, hiking trails, campgrounds, and waterfalls.

The town is also known for having some of the best mountain golfing around, with beloved courses such as the Headwaters Golf Club and Mountaintop Golf & Lake Club.

Other notable spots in Cashiers include the Cashiers Farmers Market (which sells everything from fresh apples and other fruits to yummy bakery items) and the Village Green, a 12.5-acre park that’s open all year-round.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Lakes in the North Carolina Mountains to Visit

Triple Falls in DuPont State Forest
Triple Falls in DuPont State Forest, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

23. Brevard NC

Size: 4.82 square miles • Approximate Population: 7,900 • Official Website 

Known as the “Land of the Waterfalls,” Brevard NC is home to over 200 waterfalls, including Moore Cove Falls, Wintergreen Falls, Hooker Falls, and Upper Bearwallow Falls, just to name a few.

It’s also home to Brevard College, which is widely regarded as one of the best liberal arts colleges in the USA. This gives the town of Brevard a more youthful feel than others on this list.

The town is surrounded by DuPont State Recreational Forest and the Pisgah National Forest, so there’s ample opportunities for mountain biking, hiking, camping, fly fishing, rock climbing, and plenty of other outdoor activities.

The beautiful mountains and forest provide a postcard-worthy backdrop for downtown Brevard.

There, live music can be heard, delicious meals can be devoured, and fun street festivals can be enjoyed throughout the year.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Brevard NC & Transylvania County

Photo Courtesy of Hot Springs Tourism Association

24. Hot Springs NC

Size: 3.5 square miles • Approximate Population: 653 • Official Website

Best known for the relaxing attraction for which it is named, Hot Springs offers an authentic small town atmosphere.

Interestingly, this is also the only mountain town in North Carolina that the Appalachian Trail (which runs all the way from Georgia to Maine) passes through directly.

If you’re looking for a place to soak in healing, geothermal mineral waters, the Hot Springs Resort & Spa and Broadwing Farms both have private tubs available to guests.

Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and Pisgah National Forest, Hot Springs has tons of opportunities for hiking, camping, and kayaking along the French Broad River.

The town is also known for hosting the Bluff Mountain Festival (now celebrating its 27th year), which features old-time and bluegrass music, clogging, square dancing, and more!

READ MORE: The 15 Best Western North Carolina Mountains For Hiking

Downtown Bryson City seen from the Oconaluftee Loft Balcony
Downtown Bryson City, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

25. Bryson City NC

Size: 2.23 square miles • Approximate Population: 1,455 • Official Website

Home to a laid-back downtown filled with arts and crafts galleries, bookstores, restaurants, and more, Bryson City NC boasts undeniable small-town charm.

The Tuckasegee River runs right through town and is great for kayaking, paddle boarding, or fishing. Those who prefer to stay on dry land can explore various hiking trails that lead to beautiful overlooks, waterfalls, and streams.

A popular outdoor adventure destination, the Deep Creek Recreation Area is located just 5 minutes from downtown and is a great place for river tubing or just splashing around in the stream.

The recreation area is home to the Deep Creek Area loop hike, which shows off three spectacular waterfalls. Bryson City is also close to other popular parts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including the Road to Nowhere. 

Bryson City is widely regarded as one of the Best Christmas towns in NC thanks to its ever-popular Polar Express train, one of our favorite Western NC Christmas Events!

READ MORE:The 15 Best Things to Do in Bryson City NC & Swain County

Banner Elk, NC
Banner Elk NC, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

26. Banner Elk NC

Size: 1.92 sq miles • Approximate Population: 1,332 • Official Website

Located about 15 miles west of Blowing Rock and Boone, the town of Banner Elk is bordered by Beech Mountain to the north and Sugar Mountain and Grandfather Mountain to the south. So it’s worth visiting simply for the scenery alone. 

The charming town was settled by Martin L. Banner in 1848, and incorporated in 1911. But despite the fact that it’s home to the private Lees-McRae College, the Banner Elk population is still less than 1,500. 

Of course, those numbers tend to swell during the busy tourist season, especially once the Fall colors in NC start popping. 

There are lots of things to do in Banner Elk, including two NC wineries, the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster, hiking to waterfalls, driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, and visiting the Land of Oz, a Wizard of Oz theme park. 

But the can’t-miss Banner Elk attraction is Grandfather Mountain State Park, which includes numerous challenging hiking trails, backcountry camping, the Mile-High Swinging Bridge, jaw-dropping scenery, and more.

READ MORE: Things to Do at Grandfather Mountain State Park in Banner Elk NC

Burnsville NC Town Hall Street View
Burnsville NC Town Hall, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

27. Burnsville NC

Size: 1.59 sq miles • Approximate Population: 1,903 • Official Website

Located 35 miles northeast of Asheville and 40 miles southwest of Banner Elk, Burnsville NC is another relatively under-the-radar mountain town that truly deserves more accolades. 

Measuring just 1.59 square miles, the tiny town is surrounded by the majestic peaks of the Black Mountains, which include the 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell, the 6,647-foot Mount Craig, and the 6,327-foot Celo Knob. 

Nature lovers will find plenty of activities in the area, including countless campgrounds, hiking trails, and trout streams.

You can visit the verdant Toe River Valley, hike to gorgeous waterfalls such as Setrock Creek Falls and Roaring Fork Falls, and explore the Appalachian Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest.

In the town of Burnsville, you’ll find loads shopping and restaurant options, the rich cultural offerings of the Toe River Arts scene, stargazing at the Mayland Earth to Sky Park, and driving numerous Quilt Trails.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Burnsville NC

Shopping in Little Switzerland NC - blue ridge mountains north carolina
Shops in Little Switzerland NC, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

28. Little Switzerland NC

Size: Unknown • Approximate Population: 46

Little Switzerland NC is not like most of the North Carolina mountain towns on this list. It exists almost exclusively for tourists, and is only open 6 months out of the year. 

The town was founded in the early 1900s by NC Supreme Court Justice Heriot Clarkson after his Switzerland Inn was built, and is the only commercial access point you’ll find along the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We loved the area for its Alpine influences (which reminded us of Helen GA), breathtaking mountain scenery, access to a beautiful section of the BRP, and quaint hotels, as well as its proximity to great little towns like Spruce Pine.

There are many things to do in Little Switzerland, from driving the curvy route known as the Diamondback and panning for gems at Emerald Village to shopping, restaurants, and visiting the apple orchards at the Orchard at Altapass. 

If you go, don’t miss the opportunity to explore some of the local waterfalls, including Crabtree Falls, Grassy Creek Falls, Tom’s Creek Falls, and more!  

READ MORE: 15 Best Things to Do in Little Switzerland NC (Blue Ridge Parkway MP 334)

The Best Things to Do in Cherokee NC & the Qualla Boundary - things to do in the blue ridge mountains
Shops & Scenery in Cherokee NC, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

28. Cherokee NC

Size: 12.05 square miles • Approximate Population: 2,120 • Official Website

The North Carolina mountains have been home to the Cherokee people for centuries, and there’s no better place to learn about Cherokee culture & history than Cherokee NC.

Also known as the Qualla Boundary, the Cherokee reservation isn’t technically part of North Carolina, but a sovereign nation. Many of the best Cherokee NC restaurants and shops are 100% native-owned. 

In terms of tourist attractions, the town of Cherokee boasts the fantastic Museum of the Cherokee Indian, the Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual co-op, the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, and the Oconaluftee Indian Village & Visitor Center.

Cherokee also borders Bryson City and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so it’s a great gateway to visit highlights such as Mingus Mill, Newfound Gap, and Clingmans Dome.

The Nantahala National Forest is nearby, as are Mingo Falls and Soco Falls, two gorgeous waterfalls that deliver some exceptional ROI for such short hikes. There are some great cabins in Cherokee NC for rent as well.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Cherokee NC & the Qualla Boundary

Best Things to Do in Waynesville NC in the blue ridge region

30. Waynesville NC

Size: 8.83 square miles • Approximate Population: 10,145 • Official Website

I’d be partial to the town of Waynesville NC even if it hadn’t founded by my ancestor, Colonel Robert Love, back in 1810.

We fell in love with the natural beauty of the Haywood County area, which includes two lakes (Junaluska and Logan), the Shining Rock Wilderness, several waterfalls, and some of the tallest mountains east of the Mississippi River. 

Downtown Waynesville is one of the most walkable areas we’ve visited in the Blue Ridge region, with quaint shops, art galleries, bakeries, and an array of fantastic Waynesville restaurants

For those interested in cultural activities, there’s the Folkmoot Friendship Center (which hosts excellent annual music festivals), Haywood Arts Regional Theater, Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts, and the Waynesville Public Art Trail. 

We also enjoyed visiting the Museum of Haywood County History, the dog-friendly trails at Waynesville Greenway Park, and the area’s numerous Christmas tree farms–by Christina Maggitas & Bret Love

Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

Growing up in rural south Georgia, Christina Maggitas developed a love for nature at a young age and spent the majority of her formative years outdoors. Since visiting the Great Smoky Mountains with her family as a child, she has always admired the beauty of the Blue Ridge region and spends as much time as she can hiking in North Georgia. She has a passion for writing and storytelling, with the hopes of inspiring others to enjoy the great outdoors. Christina studied Journalism and Emerging Media at Kennesaw State University, and now works as the Travel Editor for US News & World Report.

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