The Perfect 3 Day Weekend in Asheville

Asheville should be high on your list. From the unique beers and dishes to hiking and rafting, there is something for everyone is this quaint little town tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The United States is filled with exquisitely fun small towns which can be explored over a long weekend. Asheville, North Carolina, is one of those towns that can provide you with fun-packed few days. I had heard so much about this town tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, so I had to experience for myself what all the hype was about. 

Pisgah National Forest
Over looking Pisgah National Forest

Asheville is filled with unique eateries, wildly tantalizing breweries, artisan shops decorating the riverside and embellishing historic buildings, and numerous trails to hike for any difficulty level. I definitely sensed the workings of a strong and united community as I walked along the streets. Historic buildings have been revitalized, a strong push to go green in every way possible is pervasive, and restaurants and bars alike utilize the resources of the local farmers as much as possible. If the mountains and sense of community doesn’t do it for you, there’s always the Biltmore mansion, which is the largest property estate in the country. 

It doesn’t take long to see why this town attracts so many people far and wide.

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Reflections at Hooker Falls

My partner, Justin, and I spent 3 amazing days exploring Asheville and its surrounding area. We loved every part of it, under rain or sun. In sharing how we spent our 3 days here, I hope to inspire your inner adventure and provide you with ideas of what to do and what to eat and drink while there.

How to get around

I highly recommend you rent a car to get around Asheville. Even my Airbnb host suggested it! You’ll want the freedom of your car to take you in and around the town. It’s the best way to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains at your own pace, to get to the Biltmore, and even visit the Omni Park Grove Inn. There is plenty of parking everywhere in Asheville. If you’re flying into Asheville Regional Airport, this will be the easiest place to reserve a car rental. However, there are tons of spots in West and East Asheville to rent a car if you prefer. 

Where we stayed 

We decided to stay in an Airbnb in West Asheville. It was the perfect spot to get to the mountains and downtown. New to Airbnb? Here’s $40 off your first rental!

There are plenty of hotels and even BnBs you can find yourself in. We just found the Airbnb more affordable.

Not to Miss Breweries

One World Brewing – 10 Patton Ave #002 

This was our first brewery experience and it set a high bar. The beers were unique and nothing like we had ever had before – welcome to Asheville! What made this bar even more unique was the location. It’s nearly hidden down an alley and down some stairs in the basement of a building. 

Catawba Brewing – 32 Banks Ave

Such a great atmosphere here. This is very family friendly bar, so much so, there was a wedding party going on. Definitely one of my faves!

Green Man Brewery – 27 Buxton Ave

Twin Leaf Brewery – 144 Coxe Ave

Twin Leaf has an open and airy environment that is family and dog friendly. We took refuge here during a passing rain shower and it was the perfect space. There are some bar games to play and the beer line goes quickly so you’ll always be topped off.

The Funktorium – 147 Coxe Ave

An extension of Wicked Weed except this has a large space in the back with the perfect set up for live music. They have great upscale bar food, but the beer was subpar compared to what we were trying at other bars. The music is what makes this place a MUST!

Hi-Wire Brewing – 197 Hilliard Ave

Day 1 

Depending on when you arrive, heading straight for the mountains is definitely an option. Luckily, Justin and I arrived just after 7am and headed straight to Bryson City to get our adventure blood pumping. He had done some white river rafting in this area as a young child, so this was a MUST on our list. I highly recommend renting a raft from the Nantahla Outdoor Center (NOC). They will take such good care of you and provide ALL the clothing you will need, from water shoes to wet suits and even dry outer-shell jackets. We didn’t know what to expect, so we tried our best to pack what we needed, but ended up not using any of it as their equipment was top notch. The trip down the Nantahla River is an 8-mile journey which takes about 3 hours to raft down. This will be the most memorable 3 hours of your entire trip and there will be pictures at the very end to prove it. There are plenty of quiet moments to take in the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but also moments the rapids will bounce you up and down in your raft in preparation for the final rapid. Be sure to smile as you make your way through the last rapid as the NOC has a photographer positioned to capture the last moments of your journey. If you fall in, as we did, it makes the pictures even better in my opinion. Have no fear! 🙂

Once back in Asheville, a much deserved dinner was waiting for us. There are a variety of eating establishments to choose from. Price ranges vary, but you can expect local farmto table dishes nearly everywhere. We tried White Labs Kitchen & Tap, but weren’t entirely impressed, to be honest. If you’re looking for something quick and easy, it’s a good spot with decent pizza, but we found the service to be quite slow. A block over there is Wicked Weed Brewing Pub which is usually packed with people and popular for their food and beer. 

If you have any last minute energy on Day 1, try to check out at least 1 or 2 breweries to get a taste of what your weekend will be like. 

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Our first brewery stop – One World Brewing

Day 2 

I’m all about the sun rises when on vacation and luckily, my travel buddy went along with my crazy ideas 🙂 We got an early start, around 6am, and headed into Dupont State Forest, about an hour south of Asheville, to find a trail loop with 3 different trails – High Falls, Triple Falls, and Hooker Falls. The hike was easy and relaxing and the perfect start to the day. As the first light of the day began to appear beneath the trees, it also poured light onto the waterfalls in front of us. From one fall to the next, the scenery continued to impress us. The falls of High Falls and Triple Falls, have areas you can walk down to get a closer look of the water. Triple Falls you can even stand atop the rocks of the second fall and take in everything around you. There is something about waterfalls that is so magical no matter the time of year. 

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First glimpse of High Falls
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A top of Triple Falls
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Hooker Falls

After such an early hike, we were looking forward to a hearty breakfast. Back in Asheville, we tried Green Sage Cafe and loved it! They offer all sorts of teas and coffees to taste, along with bowls, biscuits, and all you could want for a nice breakfast needed to recharge your batteries. If you haven’t had enough, check out Old Europe Pastries next door to get a little snack as you explore the streets of downtown Asheville. 

As we walked Asheville’s streets, we admired the unique stores filled with work from local artists, and historic buildings transformed into new-age space for businesses and artisans alike. Don’t forget to check out the River Arts District either. Here you’ll find even more artisans working as a community to restore the old buildings along the river into a colorful walking destination filled with murals. 

If you’re looking for a nice dinner somewhere try Bouchon or Cúrate. You’ll want to make reservations ahead of time, but a small nibble at the bar can’t hurt if you didn’t plan ahead. With all the breweries in town, brewery hopping is a must! I’ve never tasted more interesting and funky beer than in Asheville. Most of the bartenders are more than willing to explain the brewing process and the use of Brett yeast which is prevalently used throughout Asheville’s craft beer culture. They say you either like the funky taste of the Brett yeast or you don’t. I hope you enjoy it.  Definitely try to make it to Funktorium during your brewery tour. Not only is there delicious food, but they have a great live music stage that brings in talented musicians for you to enjoy. You can’t go wrong with the number of breweries. Check out my list above to see our favorite spots!

Day 3 

Last day meant another hike! But I warn you…before you head on this next hike, be sure to eat a hearty breakfast. Make your way to Biscuit Head. You won’t regret it. The biscuits are flaky, warm, and nearly the size of a person’s head! In addition to the mouthwatering biscuits, there are fresh house made jams and butters to awaken your taste buds. Because this is such a popular spot, be sure to get here early as there was a line around the building (no joke!) as we were leaving.

With breakfast in our bellies, we headed into Pisgah National Forest and landed upon Craggy Gardens. The visitor center at the top allows you to choose from a stationary activity of looking out onto the rolling hills or challenges you to a 7 mile round trip hike (there are shorter hikes as well). We didn’t know what to expect, but decided for a little challenge and headed for the 7 mile trek ending at Douglas Falls. If you’re lucky enough to reach Douglas Falls with no one else around, you’ll find yourself in the middle of the forest listening to the incredible sounds of nature: dripping waterfalls and the wind whipping among the trees. This hike is quite strenuous due to its length and uneven path, but well worth the effort as it makes you appreciate the beauty and simplicity of nature, which, in my opinion, we all need to do more often.

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Made it to Douglas Falls

As we made our way back on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we thought it would be the perfect time to make a detour before heading back to Asheville; so we headed to check out the famous Omni Grove Park Inn. At the Inn’s grand hall, you can have a bite to eat while gazing at the spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in front of you, or you can treat yourself to a nice spa, if you wish.  The Inn is rich with history and has attracted many distinguished guests from presidents to authors and was pivotal military headquarter during during WWII. We didn’t spend too much time here, as we chose to continue exploring; however, it is still well worth a pass through. We also skipped the Biltmore, as there were other things higher on our priority list.

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A pit stop on the Blue Ridge Highway to take in the views

For dinner that day, we headed to West Asheville’s The Whale. This establishment won’t disappoint and may have been the best meal we had the entire trip. It’s a cozy spot that shares space with a brewery so you can enjoy an amazing meal and continue testing out new beers. 

Our time in Asheville flew by, but this adorable town was just what we were looking for. We went in mid-October to admire the foliage color change, but I imagine this town is a great destination no matter the time of year. You’ll head home having tried all sorts of different beers and unique dishes, but you will also feel recharged and refreshed after hiking and rafting through beautiful nature.

Asheville remains a top destination to visit in 2020 and for good reason. The beauty of its nature and the feeling of community within town is palpable. Enjoy! 

Why Everyone Should Hike Bright Angel Trail

The Grand Canyon is a must do Natural Wonder of the World. There are so many things to see and trails to hike. I strongly believe, no matter your skill level or the length of time you have available to hike, you should make Bright Angel Trail a must do hike. It will change you in ways you did not expect.

If you live in the United States, you are lucky to have 58 National Parks available to visit without leaving the country. Without a doubt, the Grand Canyon, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, should be on everyone’s bucket list. It will leave you speechless. It will leave you in awe. And it will be a moment in your life that you will never forget. I’ve been three times in my 32 years on this wondrous Earth, and have remembered every single time so vividly. 

There are four areas of the National Park one can visit: the North, South, East, and West Rim – each with its own spectacular viewpoints, activities, and hiking spots. 

rim map
Map of the 4 different rims
Glass Skywalk
Glass Skywalk

West

The West Rim is where the Glass Skywalk juts out 70 feet over the canyon and is the second most visited rim, due to its proximity to Las Vegas. This part of the canyon is part of the Hualapai Indian Tribal Lands, which means it is actually not part of the National Park. 

East

The East Rim has become more popular due to Horseshoe Bend. This part of the canyon is technically 7 miles before the Grand Canyon, but provides views of the canyon rim with the Colorado River directly in the background. Horseshoe Bend is definitely worth a small detour if you have the time.

Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend

North

Look out point on the North Rim
Look out point on the North Rim

The North Rim is perfect for those looking for a quieter and calmer atmosphere as it receives much fewer visitors. There are only three major viewpoints that show the width of the canyon rather than the depth and only a sliver of the Colorado River can be seen by walking through Angel’s Window, a natural archway in the rocks.

South

The South Rim is the most popular rim due to its vast, expansive views. This rim is where the first tourists came to visit the park back in the 1850s, which is why it has been built up with large visitor centers, lodging, and family-oriented activities. There are about two dozen major viewpoints that allow visitors to peer down into the Colorado River. 

Sunset at the South Rim
Sunset at the South Rim

I’ve been lucky enough to experience the Grand Canyon in different ways. For a quick glimpse, a short four hour road trip from Las Vegas just to peer at the vastness of the Canyon’s West Rim is well worth the trip. But the canyon deserves much more of our time. 

In 2009, I stepped into a raft along the East Rim and spent seven days rafting down the Colorado River rapids, jumping into the river from various cliffs, and sleeping on cots looking up at the night sky with the Milky Way peering back at me in its full splendor. This is a trip I will never forget; but even then I knew I was still missing a crucial adventure from this natural wonder. I needed to hike into the canyon. Ten years after my river trip, I did just that. 

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon offers many trails to explore and choosing one can be overwhelming. I contemplated doing a trail that was not frequently ventured in order to be more “one with nature.” I had read about the popular Bright Angel Trail on the South Rim. that provides rest stops with bathrooms and water stations making it one of the most frequently trekked. I strongly considered the trail, despite the possible crowd of people and because of its accessibility to other trails. As fate would have it, I found a cabin in the village at the Bright Angel Lodge, steps away from the ever popular trail head and the rim of the canyon. While getting settled at the cabin and taking in the constant changing colors of my surroundings, I knew I was not going anywhere else to hike. I determined that at sunrise I was hiking Bright Angel Trail. 

Sunrise came early, at 5:10 A.M., and I had already situated myself along the rim of the canyon with my camera in hand, ready to capture the beauty of the day’s first light touching the red rocks from the rim down to the canyon below. The sun rose slowly above the canyon and highlighted the beginning of the trail I was about to hike. At 5:45 A.M., I took my first steps onto the famous Bright Angel Trail. I was filled with energy and excitement, despite the early hour, and eager to see where the trail would lead.

Sunrise with Plateau Point in the distance
Sunrise with Plateau Point in the distance
Gazing into the South Rim Canyon at sunrise
Gazing into the South Rim Canyon at sunrise

One of the biggest advantages of an early start is the fact that not many people begin their day so early. The canyon itself was slow at waking up: the air had a slight chill, the sun was gently rising. The steep decline zigzagged through the many rocky switchbacks and the towering rocks above provided me with shade. I was well aware that shade would be a high commodity in the hours ahead of me, so I welcomed the moment. Up to this point, the canyon rocks above me changed in size, color, and formation at every turn. The sheer size of them did not even seem real or possible. The canyon’s immensity made me feel as tiny as an ant. 

The start of the journey down Bright Angel
The start of the journey down Bright Angel

The further along the trail I got, the more I found myself turning around to see just how far I had traveled, and how deep into the canyon I had reached; it is an elevation change of 3,000 feet after all. With every new switchback the views grew increasingly more majestic. I encountered a rest stop with bathrooms and water stations nearly every 1.5 miles down the trail and the first campground was around mile 4.5. At this point, the iron-rich rocks changed from rusty reds to light browns; the vegetation expanded to include pink and yellow blooming cacti; acacia trees filled the air with a honeysuckle-like perfume; and the sound of a trickling stream welcomed me to a natural oasis filled with life that has hardly been touched by man. This haven, known as the Indian Gardens, stood in dark contrast to the vast desert surrounding this area. 

 

 

At the south side of the Indian Gardens, a fork in the road indicated to either head to Plateau Point, that offers views of the river below, or continue on Bright Angel Trail towards the river which can connect you to a multitude of different trails including a connection to the North Rim. No matter the choice, the majesty of the Canyon will never waver. Since I had spent 7 days floating on the river 10 years earlier, I thought gazing at the Colorado River from above would complete my Grand Canyon experience. After pushing an extra 1.5 miles to Plateau Point from Indian Gardens, the expansive panorama of the North Rim across the way and the aqua blue Colorado River raging 1,000 feet below was an image that will forever be ingrained in my memory. 

By making it to Plateau Point and after a six mile trek under the sun, I felt exhilarated, strong, and full of life. I had made it to the point that I set out to accomplish. I had made it to a viewpoint that most people will never get to see. From this spot, I felt so miniscule and insignificant as the canyon from both the South and North Rims engulfed me, and the busyness of daily life seemed to be forgotten. There was no thought of the responsibilities I had back home, or even back at the top of the rim. Any concern or worry dissipated into the expansive contours of the canyon, and I was left with just the feeling of happiness in that moment. I was my best self, as I think everyone is when they push themselves to accomplish something filled with mental and physical challenges. It is a feeling we all need to hang onto and not forget. Granted, this feeling of pure contentment and strength quickly depletes as you realize there is a 3,000 foot elevation gain still ahead of you, but that happiness and strength comes back once atop of the canyon looking back down to where you had just come from. 

The immensity of the Grand Canyon with the North Rim on the other side
The immensity of the Grand Canyon with the North Rim on the other side
Plateau Point and Colorado River
Plateau Point and Colorado River

Hiking back to the top of the South Rim, I wanted to remember every step I had taken. I frequently turned to look back at the path I had just left behind. Leaving the plateau and now back on the switchbacks, the greatness of this trail began to hit me, and I realized it was there the entire time. I had spent the better part of a day on the Bright Angel Trail, but it wasn’t until I was nearly back at the top that I really noticed the vast beauty of it. The way back to the top, also put the strength and determination I had into perspective, as I now realized the many people I encountered on the switchbacks had no intention of making it past the 3 mile or even the 1.5 mile rest area. The 8 hour, 12.2 mile round trip trek on Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point was worth every bead of sweat and every foot step. The trail is dynamic and peaceful and reminds you of what is important – living in the moment and cherishing the experience.

Switchbacks of Bright Angel Trail
Switchbacks of Bright Angel Trail
View of Bright Angel Trail
View of Bright Angel Trail

My challenge to you, dear reader, is that you travel to the Grand Canyon. Whether you hike the 12.2 miles to Plateau Point, head to the river, or turn back somewhere in between, may you feel that complete bliss that comes with hiking Bright Angel Trail. I am willing to bet that the magic of the Canyon will change you and leave you with an everlasting memory that will never fade. 

Bright Angel Trail from Above
Bright Angel Trail from Above. Can you see the trail leading to Plateau Point?

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