Discover a Wide Range of Things to Do in Hot Springs
"What is there to do in Hot Springs?" This is a question we hear quite a lot, and not just from our teenage children. The most obvious activities that come to mind are all the wonderful outdoor adventures to find in and around Hot Springs. The hiking in the Hot Springs area is some of the best in the Southeast with a wide range of challenge, from easy to strenuous. Even if you'd prefer a leisurely stroll down the main street in Hot Springs, you'll be walking on the Appalachian Trail! The French Broad River offers fantastic class II and III whitewater along with wonderful fishing, and breathtaking scenery. Hot Springs also provides a good selection of privately owned and operated restaurants and stores to keep you entertained during your stay. If you'd like a trip into the "big city", Hot Springs is just an hour from Asheville, NC. So here's a little list of suggestions to get you excited about some of the possibilities.
Hiking in (and around) Hot Springs
Hot Springs could and should be the hiking capital of the Southeast. Start with the fact that the main street in downtown Hot Springs, (Bridge Street) is actually the famed Appalachian Trail, a 2180 mile trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine. Additionally there are dozens of trails in and around Hot Springs, all with their own unique qualities. Whether you are in the mood for a short, relaxed stroll along a loud rapid trout stream (Laurel River Trail), a tough scramble up a rocky outcropping (Lovers Leap Trail), exploring a deep cove with amazing herbs and wildflowers (Betty's Loop Trail), a hike up a ridge with giant old growth hardwood forests (Round Top Trail), or a 360 panoramic view for miles (Max Patch), Hot Springs has got it and more. We all know the health benefits of walking, but it's a form of exercise that requires no special equipment, minimal preparation, and is enjoyable no matter what the challenge level and for all ages. We hike several times a week and the best thing about hiking from Broadwing Farm Cabins is that you can simply head up into the Pisgah National Forest from the back door!
Fishing in Hot Springs
There are a multitude of excellent fishing opportunities in the Hot Springs area. To begin with there's the pond at Broadwing Farm Cabins. Just a few hundred yards from the cabins, our pond is an excellent spot to catch your dinner. It is well stocked with catfish for eating or bluegill and bass for catch and release. The French Broad River is a great place to fish too. I personally have caught smallmouth and largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, walleye, white drum, rock bass and gar. There are also some giant yellow catfish and musky in the French Broad River. For the fishing aristocrats, there are miles of trout streams in the Hot Springs area. Streams like Paint Creek and the Laurel River offer opportunities to catch bountiful stocked trout. For those who are willing to explore the more remote reaches, there are native trout, brook trout, and brown trout still hiding in some of the hollers and coves. If you'd like to take guided fishing trip in the Hot Springs area you can check in with the good folks at Elk Creek Outfitters (ecoflyfishing.com). Ask for Matt as a guide.
Go for a Scenic Drive in Hot Springs
Something we know from personal experience is that vacations should not be all about exercise, eating right and doing the right thing. Sometimes it's great to just indulge yourself. In that vein, what could be better than turning on the air conditioner, putting on your favorite music and taking a drive thru some of the most beautiful country this great continent has to offer. Hot Springs provides beautiful loop drives thru scenic valleys (Paint Rock/Laurel Loop), gorgeous roads overlooking deep gorges that wind up at great restaurants (Hwy. 209 to Trust/Luck), and amazing drives to see autumn leaves with large sweeps in elevation (Rich Mountain Fire Tower). On a good year, the leaf season in Hot Springs can last a month or more.
From Hot Springs, you can easily make a trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This "All American Road" is the most visited section of the Nation Park System. Although it is not officially a National Park it is maintained by the National Park Service and is surrounded by National Park Land. Construction began during the FDR presidency and was not completed until 1987. It stretches 469 miles and connects the Great Smokey Mountain National Park to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. From Hot Springs the easiest route to the Parkway is thru Weaverville on Reems Creek Rd (about a 45 minute drive from Hot Springs), with three or four additional access points in the Asheville area.
Leaf Season in Hot Springs
Many folks come to Hot Springs to take in the spectacular Fall colors. Frequently we hear the question, "When is the best time to see the Fall colors in Hot Springs?" It's a good question with a surprising answer. The leaf season in Hot Springs is usually quite long, so you have a good opportunity to fit Hot Springs into your Fall travel plans. Surprisingly, because we are in the French Broad River Valley, Hot Springs sits at only 1200 feet elevation. Surrounded by mountains around town that go straight up to 3500 feet, you'll see a dramatic and breathtaking panorama of Fall color. The simple answer to the question of "When is the best time…" is that the first colors normally start in late September to early October in the forest understory with purples, golden poplars in the valleys, along with the multicolored roadside sumacs. The main Fall color season usually starts sometime around the middle of October with the oaks, hickories and maples, providing a spectacularly colorful vista, usually peaking about the last week of October and lasting until the first week of November.
Within a short drive from Hot Springs, you can be at one of the tallest peaks east of the Mississippi, Mount Mitchell, on the Blue Ridge Parkway or Clingmans Dome in the Smokey Mountain National Park. Because of these great changes in elevation, the Fall leaf season around Hot Springs can last more than a month.
Horseback Riding in the Hot Springs Area
We have many families stay at Broadwing Farm and encourage family stays, with no extra guest fees for families with children. Kids today are surrounded by many excuses to stay inside and miss out on the forest, animals and the kinds of adventures that past generations took for granted. Hot Springs offers adventures to share with your kids during your stay. Sitting astride a horse and walking along a mountain trail with views of the rugged French Broad River Valley is just such an adventure. The horseback riding outfitters in the area have great reputations for providing an adventure of wholesome family fun in the great outdoors by family run businesses with years of outfitting experience. "Hard to beat!" as they say.
Rafting in Hot Springs
Your boat floats placidly across pools of clear water, past colorful rocks while doll eyed fishes drift lazily by. Rugged mountains, ancient stony cliff faces and tall pine ridges surround you. You are floating thru the valley of one of the oldest rivers on earth but at this moment it all fades to the back of your mind. Because ahead you hear a steady roar. There is a spray in the air and you can see white splashes of water shooting up over a jumble of giant boulders. You brace your feet into the raft, listen to your guide's expert instructions and prepare yourself for the ride of a lifetime.
Hot Springs is actually built up around the French Broad River which is a class III whitewater experience. For those unaccustomed to whitewater lingo, that translates to exciting but not too extreme. And if a whitewater adventure is not your cup of tea, you can choose to float for a mile or so on one of the lazy sections of river in a tube or raft. There are a number of quality, experienced outfitters to choose from in the Hot Springs area.
Shopping in Hot Springs
Hot Springs is a quaint little town but there are some fun downtown options to buy gifts or vacation goodies for yourself. The Artisan Gallery has a wonderful selection of artwork, pottery, clothing, weaving, etc. by our talented local artisans. Harvest Moon likewise has local crafts as well as antiques, vintage goods and clothing. For the adventuring visitor to Hot Springs, Bluff Mountain Outfitters has a wide variety of outdoor clothing, gear, books and gifts as well as food, drinks, coffee and (best of all) chocolate. And a trip to downtown Hot Springs is not complete without a visit to the historic Gentry's Hardware Store. It was established in 1946 by James Gentry (fresh back from World War II) and his wife Dot and it has been in the family ever since. Jim's son Keith and his wife Jeanne now carry the tradition. It's loaded with history and great tools, hardware and gifts. For styling work clothes, belts, boots and hats, the Carhartt store is the best. For beer, wine or snacks try L&Ks right across from the gas station, Paul and Josie will do their best to serve you what you need. The Hillbilly Market has a nice selection of groceries, fresh produce (some of it local), and keeps fresh meat for grilling.
Dining in Hot Springs
Hot Springs offers a great variety of dining options, from hearty breakfast fare to gourmet dining and several things in between. There are three pubs in downtown Hot Springs. The Spring Creek Tavern and Still Mountain are great for a beer, a meal (Spring Creek Tavern has a wood fired pizza oven) and a game of pool. The Iron Horse Station provides wonderful atmosphere, an extensive menu and great selection of beer and wine. All three usually have live music on the weekends. The Smokey Mountain diner has been serving Hot Springs breakfast lunch and dinner 7 days a week for longer than most of us can remember and it's a favorite of hikers. For a romantic treat, Chef Chris Brown at the Mountain Magnolia Inn will delight and surprise with his original appetizers and amazing entrees. He often highlights local food specialties including grass fed beef and rainbow trout.
Go for a Picnic in Hot Springs
Sometimes the simple things are the best. Hot Springs is a good reminder of that simple principle. There are two lovely developed and maintained picnic areas within ten minutes of down town Hot Springs. Murray Branch Picnic Area has shelters, grills, tables and a beautiful view of the French Broad River. Rocky Bluff Recreation area on Hwy 209 has picnic tables, grills, camping areas, a historic cemetery, and is the beginning of a couple of wonderful hiking trails.
Visit the Biltmore House in Asheville
The Biltmore House, an hours drive from Hot Springs NC, is America's largest private residence- an 8000 acre estate completed in 1895 for George Vanderbilt. It stands today as a prominent example of the opulence of the Gilded Age. George Vanderbilt, son of railroad magnate and philanthropist William Henry Vanderbilt, made regular visits to Asheville with his mother, beginning in the 1880's. He loved the area so much for its scenery and climate that he decided to create his own "little mountain escape" to replicate the working estates of Europe, complete with 75 acres of formal gardens and a winery. The estate is still owned by the Vanderbilt descendants today.
Shop Local at Tailgate Markets in Asheville
If you like local food, fresh food, berries, veggies, local grass fed beef, flowers, pork, poultry, fish, baked goods, pottery, crafts… ok, this list could go on and on. To summarize, the Asheville area has become known as one of the best regions in the country for local farms, fresh food and tailgate markets. During the growing season, most days of the week within an hours drive you can find at least one farmers market where you are sure to find a bountiful cornucopia of delicious local fare.