Fun in the Sun: Asheville Summer Adventures

Rita Larkin


Does summer get hot in Asheville? Absolutely. Is the heat even nearly as intense as it is in the rest of the Southeast? Definitely not. The Blue Ridge Mountains block out a lot of the heat and humidity typical in the lower lying areas of North Carolina, as well as Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. In fact, summer in the mountains can feel down-right refreshing compared with other locales, so folks tend to spend every waking hour embracing the outdoors.

Nearly every outdoor activity imaginable is on the table—hiking, swimming, biking, rafting, kayaking, and paddle boarding. Best of all, people of every outdoor skill level can find an adventure in their comfort zone. 

It’s best to start any journey into nature with the proper gear, all of which can be found at a number of local outfitters. To purchase anything from hiking boots to pocket knives, visit, Black Dome Mountain Sports, Mast General Store, Diamond Brand Outdoors, and Second Gear. Anglers can pick up rods, reels, waders, and more at Hunter Banks Fly Fishing and Curtis Wright Outfitters (Weaverville). The staff are great resources for trail and river recommendations, directions, and other outdoor insights. 

Now it’s time to pick your adventure. For a kid-friendly option, we recommend DuPont State Recreational Forest, south of Asheville near Brevard, where families can hike and bike and cool down with a swim in one of several lakes. Find more info at

When the temperature climbs in the city, drive north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mount Mitchell State Park, the site of the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. North Carolina’s first state park is refreshingly cool in the summer and holds a variety of trails to explore, including a Kids in Parks self-guided trek, and a paved climb to a 360-degree view of the mountains. The peak’s new restaurant, Mount Mitchell Café & Eatery, recently opened after a five-year closure and extensive renovations. Stop in for gourmet sandwiches and sweeping mountain views from the observation deck lined with Adirondack chairs. 

To the south on the Parkway is Graveyard Fields, a popular spot for picking blueberries in mid- to late-August. The trails follow the clear water of the Yellowstone Prong and lead to striking waterfall views. Take the longer hike to see the Upper Falls or descend on the shorter trail to the Lower Falls, both spectacular sights.

For another refreshing hike, head to Catawba Falls in Pisgah National Forest just outside Old Fort. The popular trek was closed for two years, before reopening in spring of 2024 following an extensive rehabilitation to make the trail safer. The shaded path follows the Catawba River to a new 60-foot tower that allows hikers to climb hundreds of stairs to see the upper falls from many vantage points. You’ll work up an appetite, so make a stop at Hillman Beer in Old Fort to cool off with craft brews and delicious eats on the creek-side deck.

It’s easy to float away with the merry gaggles of tubers and stand-up paddle boarders frolicking on the French Broad River, just secure the proper equipment and navigational guidance from Asheville Adventure Company, French Broad Outfitters, Zen Tubing, or Beer City Tubing. For outdoor activities with an element of competition, the campus of Highland Brewing Co. offers a nine-hole disc golf course and white-sand, professional-grade volleyball courts. For a calmer excursion to commune with wildlife, book a day trip with Venture Birding Tours.

Even theater and music events take to outdoor stages this time of year. The Montford Park Players wow audiences with Shakespearean plays and other classics at Hazel Robinson Amphitheater in the historic Montford neighborhood. Music lovers can immerse themselves in bluegrass and old-time tunes at the free weekly Shindig on the Green events hosted at Pack Square. On Saturday evenings, regional musicians gather to jam on banjos and fiddles, storytellers share tales, and dancers show off their clogging and square dance steps. If you’re after musical variety, catch concerts under the stars at downtown’s Rabbit Rabbit or at the covered open-air stage at Salvage Station on the bank of the French Broad River. The Outpost, a more recent addition to the outdoor venues along the river, and features a great lineup of throughout the summer.

Save room for the local chilled treats from Sunshine Sammies (ice cream sandwiches made with decadent cookies), The Hop Handcrafted Ice Cream, Ultimate Ice Cream, Whit’s Frozen Custard, French Broad Chocolate Lounge, and Sugar & Snow Gelato.

Festivals, fairs, and markets are hallmarks of the season. The long-running Sourwood Festival, in August celebrates the eponymous mountain honey, music, and arts and crafts in delightful downtown Black Mountain. The popular pop-up Uncommon Market brings together vendors selling vintage décor, jewelry, stained glass, plants and more on Foundy Street and other locations. Rabbit Rabbit music venue also hosts the Show & Tell Pop-up market for unique finds and handcrafted candles, art, clothing, accessories and more.

Believe the cliché; you can find anything under the sun in Asheville.