The Top 25 Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in GA & NC

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[Updated Aug 6, 2021]

It’s not hard to imagine why so many people love to retreat into the Blue Ridge Mountains, which stretch 550 miles from North Georgia to southern Pennsylvania.

Between the breathtaking views and outdoor adventures that await around almost every turn, there’s something mesmerizing about exploring such majestic terrain.

The towns that are scattered throughout the Blue Ridge region add to the blissful experience with their history and 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 towns may be more well-known than others, they all exude the same cozy, small-town feeling and individual flair that make each of them unique.

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

READ MORE: 101+ Things to Do in North Georgia

 

Best Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in GA 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
 
Lake Blue Ridge in Blue Ridge, GA
photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

1. Blue Ridge GA

Size: 2.4 square miles

Population: 1,400

https://www.blueridgemountains.com

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 destinations, 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 including Long Creek Falls and the Swinging Bridge on the Toccoa River.

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

After a day full of adventures or shopping, relax in one of Blue Ridges impressive array of places to stay that includes treehouse rentals, luxury cabins, and the unique Unicoi State Park Barrel Cabins.

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

Lake Trahylta in Vogel State Park, North Georgia
Blairsville’s Vogel State Park, photo by Rachael Seeley

2. Blairsville GA

Size: 1.1 square miles

Approximate Population: 600

https://www.visitblairsvillega.com

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 North 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 fun festivals that are held throughout the year.

READ MORE: The 15 Best North Georgia Mountains for Hiking

Public Square North, Dahlonega, GA
Public Square North, Dahlonega, GA by Gwringle CC BY-SA 3.0

3. Dahlonega GA

Size: 6.4 square miles

Approximate Population: 7,000

http://dahlonega.org

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 dining. It also offers some of the most highly acclaimed wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms in the state.

Adventure seekers can explore captivating mountain vistas and tumbling waterfalls in the Chattahoochee National Forest, or kayak/canoe in the Chestatee or Etowah Rivers. Come holiday time, you can visit one of the North Georgia Christmas Tree Farms, where you can cut-you-own Christmas Trees.

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

It’s also home to the Bear On the Square Mountain Festival, an annual celebration of Appalachian culture (especially bluegrass music) 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: The 25 Best Hiking Trails in North Georgia Bucket List

Apple Picking in the North Georgia Mountains
Apple Picking in Ellijay, photo by Bret Love

4. Ellijay GA

Size: 3.6 square miles

Approximate population: 1,700

https://www.ellijay-ga.gov

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 and fun 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 dining that is juxtaposed by adventure-filled hiking and bike trails that venture into the Chattahoochee National Forest.

READ MORE: Apple Picking in Georgia: The 10 Best North GA Apple Orchards to Visit

Hiawassee, Georgia
Hiawassee, Georgia via Canva

5. Hiawassee GA

Size: 2.2 square miles

Approximate Population: 900

https://hiawasseega.gov

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 Lakes in the North Georgia Mountains

Dillard House Stables, photo by Kurtis Miller
Horseback Riding with Dillard House Stables, photo by Kurtis Miller

6. Dillard GA

Size: 1.5 square miles

Approximate Population: 370

www.dillardgeorgia.com

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 zip lining, 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, photo courtesy Dawson County Office of Tourism Development

7. Dawsonville GA

Size: 8.21 square miles

Approximate Population: 3,100

https://www.dawson.org

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 North Georgia wilderness. Especially on hiking trails that lead to hidden gems like Preacher’s 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 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.

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 Cherokee 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

https://www.helenga.org

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 German-inspired architecture set the scene for authentic Alpine dining, where you can enjoy everything from schnitzel and wurst to craft beers.

When you’re not exploring the enchanting (but often crowded) town, you can escape into the beauty of nature.

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 tubing down the Chattahoochee River and panning for gold, rubies, sapphires and more in the Dukes Creek Mines.

But perhaps 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 abundance of activities, traditional food and dance, and an all-around festival of fun.

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

https://cityofclaytonga.gov

Whenever people ask in our Facebook Hiking groups about the best places to visit 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 Lake Burton and Lake Rabun), several of the tallest North Georgia mountains, countless creeks and streams, 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

https://summervillega.org

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 most lists of the best places to visit in Georgia. It’s not as well-known as Helen or Blue Ridge. It doesn’t have as many outdoor attractions as Clayton. And it doesn’t have a major tourist draw, such as the apple orchards of Ellijay or the mining history of Dahlonega.

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?

Besides, there are lots of great things to do in Summerville. The lakes and trails of James H Floyd State Park are just 3 miles from downtown. The Rocky Mountain Public Recreation & Fishing Area is not much further, and Cloudland Canyon State Park is just 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

 

Best Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in NC Guide

  1. Asheville NC
  2. Boone NC
  3. Hendersonville NC
  4. Blowing Rock NC
  5. Black Mountain NC
  6. Highlands NC
  7. Cashiers NC
  8. Brevard NC
  9. Hot Springs NC
  10. Bryson City NC
  11. Banner Elk NC
  12. Burnsville NC
  13. Little Switzerland NC
Busking Musicians in Asheville, NC
Busking Musicians in Asheville, NC by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

13. Asheville NC

Size: 45.2 square miles

Approximate Population: 91,900

https://www.exploreasheville.com

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

Downtown Asheville, NC 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 25 Best Things to Do in Asheville NC

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

14. Boone NC

Size: 6.07 square miles

Approximate Population: 19,560

https://www.exploreboone.com

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or an action-packed adventure in North Carolina’s High Country, Boone NC has you covered.

Visitors can stop at one of the many Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks, ride a steam locomotive through the mountains, spend the day at Elk Knob State Park, see the nation’s longest-running Revolutionary War drama (“Horn in the West” at the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum), or enjoy the Tweetsie Railroad, a wild west 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 (Blue Ridge Parkway MM 291.8)

Main St in Downtown Hendersonville NC
Downtown Hendersonville, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

15. Hendersonville NC

Size: 6.9 square miles

Approximate Population: 13,950

https://www.visithendersonvillenc.org

To take in as much of this intriguing historic town as you can, start by strolling along the lovely shops, art galleries, antique shows, and restaurants in Hendersonville, NC.

You’ll quickly see why some folks are predicting that this will be western North Carolina’s next Asheville-style 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 Recreational Forest, which is full of waterfalls like Hooker Falls and Triple Falls as well as 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

Things to Do in Boone Guide - The Blowing Rock
The Blowing Rock, photo courtesy Craig Distl

16. Blowing Rock NC

Size: 3.05 square miles

Approximate Population: 1,300

https://blowingrock.com

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

Visitors can stare out in amazement from the iconic Blowing Rock– a cliff standing 4,000 feet above sea level– overlooking the John’s River Gorge.

The formation has almost constant winds, and is known as a place where snow occasionally blows upside down.

Hiking trails can be found in Moses Cone Memorial Park and throughout the Blue Ridge Parkway, guiding you through gorgeous terrain, streams, and vistas.

The town also has the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, which showcases the Blue Ridge region’s rich history through rotating exhibits and galleries.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Treehouse Rentals in the North Carolina Mountains

Black Mountain, North Carolina
Black Mountain, North Carolina

17. Black Mountain NC

Size: 6.71 square miles

Approximate Population: 8,150

https://www.exploreblackmountain.com

Planning on visiting Black Mountain NC? Take time to sit back, relax, and take in the wonderful 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 various antique stores, gift shops, old fashioned general stores, and dining options that are guaranteed to please.

Countless events are held at the White Horse Black Mountain music and arts 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 lake.

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

READ MORE: The 15 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes for NC Day Trips

Fall in Highlands, photo by Greg Newington

18. Highlands NC

Size: 6.17 square miles

Approximate Population: 969

https://www.highlandschamber.org

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 alluring terrain.

Many 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 make your way back into town to 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
Silver Run Falls, photo by Robert Stephens

19. Cashiers NC

Size: 1.1 square miles

Approximate Population: 157

www.cashiersnorthcarolina.org

The perfect place to escape your everyday routine, charming Cashiers NC is a favorite destination for those looking to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Located on the highest plateau in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Cashiers boasts magnificent views along with many lakes, hiking trails, camping locations, and waterfalls scattered throughout the area’s forests.

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 produce 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

20. Brevard NC

Size: 4.82 square miles

Approximate Population: 7,900

https://www.brevardnc.org

Known as the “Land of the Waterfalls,” Brevard, North Carolina 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 and gives the town a more youthful feel than others on this list.

The town is surrounded by the Dupont State 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 Top 10 Waterfalls Near Brevard NC (Transylvania County)

Photo Courtesy of Hot Springs Tourism Association

21. Hot Springs NC

Size: 3.5 square miles

Approximate Population: 653

https://www.hotspringsnc.org

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 North Carolina mountain town 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 having fun festivals throughout the year, including the Bluff Mountain Festival, Hot Springs Motorcycle Weekend, and the lively French Broad River Festival.

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

Deep Creek Bridge

22. Bryson City NC

Size: 2.23 square miles

Approximate Population: 1,455

https://www.brysoncitync.gov

Home to a laid-back downtown filled with arts and crafts galleries, bookstores, restaurants, and more, Bryson City, North Carolina 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, Deep Creek Recreation Area is located just 5 minutes from downtown and is a great place for tubing or just splashing around in the stream.

The recreation area also has its fair share of hiking trails, including the Deep Creek Area loop hike, which shows off three spectacular waterfalls.

Bryson City is also close to the famous Cataloochee Valley Elk of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (the most popular US National Park, with 12 million annual visitors).

During the holidays, be sure to check out one of the Best Western NC Christmas Events, the Polar Express train.

READ MORE: The Cataloochee Valley Elk in Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

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

23. Banner Elk NC

Size: 1.92 sq miles

Population: 1,332

https://www.bannerelk.com

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 wineries, the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster, hiking to Otter Falls and Elk River Falls, driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, and visiting the awesome alpacas and other animals at Apple Hill Farm. 

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

24. Burnsville NC

Size: 1.59 sq miles

Population: 1,903

https://townofburnsville.org

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.

For such a small town, there really are a lot of activities and attractions in the area! 

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

Shopping in Little Switzerland NC
Shops in Little Switzerland NC, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

25. Little Switzerland NC

Little Switzerland is not like most of the North Carolina mountain towns on this list, because 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.

We also loved that there were so 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 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!   –by Christina Maggitas, with additional reporting by Bret Love

 

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 first visiting the Great Smokey 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 north Georgia. She has a passion for writing and storytelling with the hopes of inspiring others to enjoy the great outdoors. Currently, Christina is a senior at Kennesaw State University where she is studying Journalism and Emerging Media.

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