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Asheville, North Carolina

Nestled at the perfect altitude in the Appalachians, historic Asheville is rich in both recreational and cultural opportunities and is a perfect getaway for anyone looking to escape the oppressive southern summers. Temperatures here are often 10 degrees lower than nearby Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia, and Columbia, South Carolina. Wilderness engulfs almost every corner of Asheville. It's strategic location at the intersection of the Pisgah National Forest, Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountain National Park offers easy access to the great outdoors"whitewater rafting, mountain biking, fly fishing and zip lining are all easily within reach. And if you are staying in the rich downtown area, Mount Mitchell, the highest peak on the East Coast, will act as a constant reminder for you to come out and play.

If it's a super hot day, you'll want to start on the water. You can tackle some of the best river rapids in the American Southeast on the one of the oldest rivers in the world, the free flowing French Broad. Navigate its 4.5-mile Class II-III rapids section, or for a more thrilling ride take a full-day trip over its white-knuckle Class IV Frank Bell's Rapid. Snaking 210 miles through Asheville, the Pisgah National Forest and the Appalachian mountains, French Broad is also the longest river in North Carolina. As you battle the churning water and rushing rapids, keep your eyes open and remember to catch your breath and appreciate the unparalleled old growth forests.

After you dry off, put on your boots and head for the hills to breathe the crisp forest air on one of the many hiking trails that are tucked into the Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hikers that take the challenging West Ridge-Graybeard Loop will be rewarded with outstanding vistas of Asheville and the Parkway. Another favorite is Craven Gap, a 4-mile out-and-back trail on the Parkway along rugged terrain where rare wild cacti grow. If you want to satisfy your inner peak bagger, there's no place to go but up. The Mount Mitchell Trail offers one of the toughest hikes in the region, gaining over 3,600 feet in elevation over a relatively short 5.5 miles. You'll feel joy "the views are amazing"and pain" it's a slog and even the most seasoned climbers will feel the burn. This hike is one of 40 summits that qualifies for the Carolina Mountain Club's South Beyond 6000 program. All of the trails are located in North Carolina and Tenneesee and are a short drive from Asheville.

Western North Carolina is packed with paths and rough landscapes that offers top-ranking mountain biking. Hit the trails of the nearby Tsali Recreation Area, a top-ten ranked mountain biking system hosting almost 40 miles of trails and four loops at the base of the Great Smokies. You'll speed along fast, single-track lanes and catch air on some gnarly jumps beside Fontana Lake. For those looking to stay close to town, the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club operates dozens of trails in Asheville, such as the 12-mile Kenilworth Loop adjacent to the French Broad River. Rolling Vistas is a challenging course that hugs the French Broad River and cuts through the Biltmore Forest for remarkable views of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Want a different vantage point? Get a bird's eye view of the Parkway as you fly through the forest canopy on a zip line. Several outfitters offer zips that will get your adrenaline flowing and your heart beating.

Expert outfitters will help you get the most out of your Asheville adventure. The Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) is your one-stop shop for all sorts of adventures in the Asheville/Smokies area. NOC has world-class staff to guide you on everything from whitewater rafting on seven rivers in the region to hiking the Appalachian Trail. Prepare yourself for any adventure at the NOC Outdoor School where you can brush up on your paddling skills, earn a wilderness medicine certification, or learn how to survive in the wild.

After a long day of activity, you'll want to retire in comfort without saying goodbye to the wild. The Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds are located in a secluded section of woods not far from the historic Biltmore Estate. The property is an organic reflection of nature, complete with a trout pond, stream and waterfall. Walk out on your private cabin porch or deck to soak in the natural sights and sounds, or relax in the cabin hot tub. If you want to restart the action bright and early in the morning, the land has its own hiking trail that joins the Mountain-To-The-Sea Trail.

The PAG240-1 is the perfect companion for a trip to Asheville. It's water resistant to 100 meters, and can easily handle the area's rivers, whether you're whitewater rafting or flyfishing on them. The digital compass measures up to 359 degrees and will help you navigate the area's numerous trails. Use the altitude graph and altitude differential to chart your trek up Mount Mitchell.

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