Outdoors

Exploring Asheville’s Great Outdoors by Land, Sea and Sky

Asheville is known as the “Land of the Sky,” but that nickname deserves an amendment to account for the rambling rivers, rushing waterfalls and network of trails busy with hikers, bikers and runners.

Surrounded by both the Blue Ridge and Smoky mountains, adventure seekers and nature lovers alike don’t need to go far from town to appreciate Asheville’s great outdoors.

A New Kind of Kayak

It’s a kayak … it’s a paddleboard … it’s a bellyak? Leave it to Asheville’s community of cutting-edge outdoor enthusiasts to create a new way to experience the French Broad River.

Designed and built right here in North Carolina, the bellyak combines the best elements of boating and swimming. But what exactly is a bellyak? It’s about the same size and shape as a traditional kayak, but laying prone on your stomach brings your body closer to the water.

Without a paddle, you use your arms and hands, sheathed in special webbed gloves, to navigate the water. Adventures range from the extreme, where you ride the whitewater rapids belly first, to the more relaxing, like a leisurely float down slower stretches of the French Broad River.

Prefer something in between? Contact the staff during the season (roughly May through September) to choose our own adventure.

Zip Lining Away

Why just hike the surrounding mountains when you can glide through the treetops on a zip line tour with Navitat 350 feet above the forest floor. Intrepid skywalkers, both first-timers and old pros, crisscross the treetop canopy along a network of swaying bridges and fast-flying zip lines.

Oh,those zip lines! The longest one stretches nearly three-quarters of a mile, allowing riders to blast through the sky at speeds reaching 65 mph. Thanks to automatic, hands-free braking, you can take in the scenery or just close your eyes and scream without having to worry about when to put on the brakes.

Paddleboard for Six, Please

things to do in asheville
Leave no friend behind on a SUP made for six. (Photo: Courtesy of Wai Mauna Asheville SUP Tours)

You’ve heard of a bicycle built for two, but a paddleboard made for six? This is not a riddle, but a reality at Wai Mauna Asheville SUP Tours (open seasonally). The party barge is a 17-foot SUP (stand-up paddleboard) that allows six friends to get in sync and paddle four miles downriver along Hominy Creek.

Continue the “more the merrier” theme back on dry land and put those teamwork skills to good use on the Amazing Pubcycle, a roving BYO pub.

Tour the streets of downtown Asheville and sample some local brews on a 13-person pedal-powered trolley.

things to do in asheville
Burn those beer calories on a pubcycle tour. (Photo: Alamy)

Beer Run

Asheville’s plethora of outdoor experiences is rivaled only by its astonishing number of breweries (nearly 60 in the region). Celebrate the best of both — and take the guesswork out of mapping out your own run — on a group run from a local brewery.

The weekly Wedge Run sets off from Wedge Brewing Co. at Wedge Studios each Thursday at 6:15 p.m. for a long flat run along the French Broad River. The standard is a quick 8.5 miles, but customize your distance and pace and save some energy to belly up to the bar afterward.

There’s an ice-cold IPA or smooth stout at the end of the road, and the first brew is on the house for newcomers, courtesy of the Asheville Running Collective. Just outside of the city, the Highland Brewing Co. Run Club meets at the brewery on Wednesdays at 6:15 p.m. to log miles and drink beers.

Runners and walkers go anywhere from a mile to a 5K before reconvening for brews and dinner from a food truck on the sprawling lawn out back or on the rooftop deck.

Chasing Waterfalls

Not all of Asheville’s great adventures require a bike, boat or taste for danger. Some of the region’s most spectacular waterfalls are easily accessible by car with just a bit of walking.

Hop on US Highway 276 South out of Asheville toward Pisgah National Forest. You simply need to pull over on the side of the highway to access the observation deck to view the stunning, 60-foot-tall Looking Glass Falls.

If one’s not enough, hop back in the car and continue to Moore Cove Falls, where you can walk the easy, 1.5-mile loop that snakes behind the rushing water.