Scenic Views and Spectacular Vistas West of Asheville
If you want wild and unspoiled wilderness and some of the true beauty of Western North Carolina then go west. The North Carolina Arboretum is a short 20 minute jaunt west of Downtown Asheville and is a wonderful place for the whole family, from kids to grandparents. The Arboretum offers stunning scenery and is surrounded by mountains, but best of all it is highly assessable. The foothills of Mt. Pisgah in the Pisgah Valley offer one of the best sunsets in the area, and if you go to the tip of the state you are in for a real treat. Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is 2 hours west of Asheville and is the last virgin forest left in the area. If you want to feel like you have entered J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle Earth then this is the place. Lake Santeetlah, Wolf Lake, and Bear Lake, are three primo summer swimming spots, and from there you are a hop, skip, and jump away from the Cherohala Skyway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Watch your gas meter in your car out there, because it can get remote.
The North Carolina Arboretum centers on education, economic development, research, conservation, and garden demonstration. On 434-acre in West Asheville, the Arboretum is located on one of the most breathtaking natural landscapes in the United States. Asheville's Mountain peaks surround the property's visual perimeters and 1.8 miles of the Bent Creek stream run through the center of the Arboretum. The staff and other plant experts teach a wide variety of classes and workshops. Programs are available for all ages and range from bonsai demonstrations to nature walks. The North Carolina Arboretum is an institutional member of the American Public Gardens Association.
Learn more about the NC Arboretum by visiting our Attractions, Tours and Daytrips page.
Pisgah Valley up 151 to the Blue Ridge Parkway
The western most region of Asheville borders Enka-Candler and the Pisgah Valley. At dusk, Mount Pisgah throws a shadow over the valley that can be seen all the way from the steps of the UNCA library in North Asheville. This route will truly show you what Asheville looked like before development, both in scenery and in mind-set. Farms and quiet homesteads dominate this quaint countryside. From downtown Asheville, take 240 West to 40 West and get off at the Enka Candler exit (number 44). Take a right off of the exit ramp, onto Smokey Park Hwy, and then after about 2.5 miles keep your eyes open for a left hand turn onto route 151. This route will take you straight to the Blue Ridge Parkway. When you get to the last leg of 151 the road is laden with hairpin corners making it either a dream or a nightmare. If you keep a close watch you can catch some of the tiny waterfalls that frequent the roadside.
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest and Lake Santeetlah
Entering Joyce Kilmer is like entering J.R.R Tolken’s Middle Earth, and a journey through this forest is like a journey back in time. You can almost feel the forest spirits watching you as you wander the beautiful paths of Joyce Kilmer. A number of of the colossal tulip-poplars are as old as 450 years, 20 ft wide, and stand at an impressive 100 ft tall. Under the canopy of these gentle giants lies a forest floor teeming with life. Joyce Kilmer’s amenable neighbor, Lake Santeetlah, is a temperate and premier swimming and camping destination. Fishing, boating, swimming, or just laying in a hammock on the shore and reading a favorite book, all are worthy ventures while visiting one of the author’s favorite locations in all of WNC. This whole area is sandwiched between the Nantahala National Forest to the South and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to the North. From Asheville take I-40W to Exit 27. Exit right onto U.S. 19/74 toward Waynesville. Go about 47 miles, and bear right on NC 28N. Go 5 miles, and turn left on NC 143 to Robbinsville. From Robbinsville, take NC 143W. After about 12 miles, turn right on Joyce Kilmer Road (SR1134). Go 2 miles and turn left to memorial forest. You can’t miss Lake Santeetlah, for it is on the way to Joyce Kilmer.
Connecting Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee is the winding landscape that some may claim rivals our very own Blue Ridge Parkway. Although this is quite the claim, it must be noted, and by a Western North Carolinian at that, that this is one stunningly spectacular area of wilderness. The Cherohala Skyway gets its name from the two territories that it crosses through, the Cherokee and Nantahala Forests. This roadway cost a staggering $100 million dollars and more than 30 years of hard labor, but the finished product has been well worth it. The Cherohala Skyway winds up and over 5,400 Ft Mountains for 15 miles in WNC before descending another 21 miles into the scenic backcountry of Tennessee. The route covers some extremely isolated areas, and has no facilities or gas for 36 miles. In the winter months the road can be treacherous or even impassable. However, the Cherohala Skyway is still a favorite of naturalists and motor sport enthusiasts alike. The long sweeping corners and scenic views must be seen to be believed. From Asheville take I-40W to Exit 27. Exit right onto U.S. 19/74 toward Waynesville. Go about 47 miles, and bear right on NC 28N. Go 5 miles, and turn left on NC 143 to Robbinsville. From Robbinsville, take NC 143W.
Note: Deals Gap, A.K.A The Tail of the Dragon, A.K.A 129N is a world famous motorcycle enthusiast location, with 318 curves in 11 miles. If your interest is peaked then check out our Motorcycle Riding page.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The US Department of the Interior says this, “No place this size in a temperate climate can match Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s variety of plant and animal species. Here are more tree species than in northern Europe, 1,500 flowering plants, dozens of native fish, and more than 200 species of birds and 60 of Mammals.” The Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides near endless opportunity to view superb mountain scenery, take photographs, picnic, or hike and backpack along the abundant trails, and delight in an almost never-ending showcase that Mother Nature provides. The Park is located due west of Asheville and can be accessed from many locations.
For more information consult our Maps of WNC page.