Best Hikes in Asheville

I went to a TDA meeting a few weeks ago (Tourist Development Meeting) and was so interested to hear of all the great, creative ways they are marketing Asheville and helping develop it’s assets. One of the things that really impressed me was the amazing collection of resources on their new website that has collections of the best hikes, restaurants, itineraries and events calendar. Even as a local, I find that I’m often scouring the web for hike ideas, as I tend to do the same hikes over and over. So, I am pleased to share this with my guests as well - especially this hiking guide.

Speaking of favorites, one of my favorite summer hikes is the out and back Deep Gap Trail, which is accessed at the Mt. Mitchell Parking lot off the Blue Ridge Parkway. This trail is about an hour from Asheville, and well worth the drive. Yes, there are spectacular views, but for me it’s the incredible forests you walk through on the way.

So lush, this Deep Gap Trail at Mt. Mitchell, especially after a few days of rain.

So lush, this Deep Gap Trail at Mt. Mitchell, especially after a few days of rain.

Craggy Pinnacle

Craggy Pinnacle

We stopped off for another favorite, Craggy Pinnacle, for the short 1/2 mile hike to the top. Pictured are Caitlyn and James (nephew and fiancee), Steve, and Lynne

We stopped off for another favorite, Craggy Pinnacle, for the short 1/2 mile hike to the top. Pictured are Caitlyn and James (nephew and fiancee), Steve, and Lynne

Beer City USA?

Asheville has been named “BeerCity USA” more than once, and I just read this article in AVL Today that says we now have 30 breweries and still counting! For what was a sleepy little town when I moved here in 2000, that is kind of incredible. I was never a beer drinker until recent history, after my young adult daughters took me to Burial Brewing and I took a sip of their Surf Wax IPA while we were hanging out playing cards one day. Suddenly I realized I LOVE BEER, but only this beer…after trying other IPAs I learned that I mostly like the super hoppy flavor of IPAs, sometimes as much as I love a glass of wine, which has been my favorite comfort drink for years. Who knew? As of right now our family favorite breweries are Burial, Zilicoa and Twin Leaf. Find yours!

Ode to the Cottage at Sleepy Gap

Our first guests “tested out” our new baby, the Cottage at Sleepy Gap. We’re almost finished but not 100% - I still need to hang some artwork, but we’re soooo close. We’ve been working on the cottage since May, so we are ready to put this gem online!

Read what our writer/friend/poet, Bob Deans, said about his time there last week:

Cradled in the breeze-swept hollow of Sleepy Gap, a forested fold in the Blue Ridge Mountains twenty minutes outside of Asheville, the cottage sounds a silent retreat from the pace of the world beyond. Halfway up a wooded slope, the cottage tucks into a verdant canopy of red oak, pignut hickory and tulip poplar, the treetops disappearing into the morning mist before towering into afternoon skies of Carolina blue. Time is best measured from the south-facing deck, where dawn breaks in soft light heralded by the ancient call of a pileated woodpecker or the song of a swallow or wren. Sunlight filters through the foliage in late afternoon, until shadows grow long from the mountains to the west. Evening falls with moonlight spreading through the pines, and only the baleful wail of some distant hound breaks the serenity of an evening staring up at the stars. 

The cottage interior casts a spell of its own. Through careful design, the snug but tidy kitchen is fully equipped for a gourmet meal or casual brunch. The downstairs great room looks out onto the deck, perfect for opening the mind to time spent sketching, strumming a guitar or penning letters, prose and poems. The bedroom upstairs is spectacular, with windows opening to the forest outside. And a lovingly created window nook the size of a day bed appears like a hidden jewel, inviting visitors to curl up with a steaming cup of tea, burrow into a good book or simply gaze off into the woodlands and dream.

The lovely bedroom with a seriously comfy king bed with large windows allowing the sounds and view of nature. GREAT sleeping…

The lovely bedroom with a seriously comfy king bed with large windows allowing the sounds and view of nature. GREAT sleeping…

Dreams come easily at the cottage, a place where it’s no harder to work out the riddles of modern life than to imagine native Cherokee long ago, tracing the same steps today’s visitors might take among the high mountain laurel, lush mosses and ferns that crest the Blue Ridge hills rising up from behind the Cottage at Sleepy Gap.”


I think he liked it!

The meditation and yoga platform in the middle of the woods, completely private and dreamy

The meditation and yoga platform in the middle of the woods, completely private and dreamy

Lynne and Steve

The Cottage at Sleepy Gap is Opening Soon!

We have been frantically hard at work trying to finish the renovation at our newest property, the Cottage at Sleepy Gap. This is completely different from our other properties in that it's not in downtown Asheville, but rather it's perched on a hilltop on 4 wooded acres that border National Forest on Blue Ridge Parkway land (if you're a serious hiker you could hoof it up the hill to the Sleepy Gap overlook on the BR parkway!). When we purchased this cute little cottage, we thought we'd just dress it up a bit, but boy were we in for more than that once we started! Plus, we have travelled a lot lately and done our research staying in vacation rentals all over the country, and have gotten a better sense of what hospitality means these days and what we'd want if we were the guests. The Cottage at Sleepy Gap is the result of this hard work (wink, wink - we loved seeing what other hosts do!). 

We had the chance to make the cottage a 2 BR house, but opted to have one luxurious bedroom with a king bed, and we added big windows, a new bathroom and a cozy, hand crafted sleeping/reading niche  with a big picture window that overlooks the woods. We added new hard wood floors and tons of windows to let nature in, and Lynne's nature photography will fit right into the otherwise neutral tones. We want the Cottage to be a place that we can relax ourselves when we want a getaway - or - when we want to have an outdoor adventure fix, since we'll be in between so many activities - biking and hiking at Dupont Forest, swimming in the Davidson river secret swimming holes, tubing at Zen Tubing, exploring the beautiful Arboreturm - all of these places are within a short 1/2 hour drive, some only 10 minutes away. And on the way home, we could stop at the world famous Sierra Nevada brewery for beer, obviously, dinner, games and music.

We are really excited about this place and think it's unique to Asheville. So, stay tuned! I'm ready to take bookings in October, but it may be ready mid to late September.

"Bakeries You Knead to Know"

Want to keep up on all things Asheville? Subscribe to AVLtoday to find out about events, best restaurants, hikes, shows etc. They are a great resource. Below, here is an article near and dear to my heart - bakeries! Asheville is really catching up in this realm lately (and I heard yesterday of another one opening soon in Fairview)!


Rise to the days’ occasion

Old World Levain (OWL) Bakery 295 Haywood Rd.

 8 a.m.–6 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday
8 a.m.–9 p.m. Thursday–Saturday 

Pastries are made with local grass-fed milk, organic sugar + butter, and Lindley Mills organic flour. 


Hole donuts 168 Haywood Rd. 

 7:30 – 2, closed on Tuesdays 

Donuts created with a single yeasted dough recipe containing organic stone ground flour from Lindley Mills, unrefined organic cane sugar, sea salt, cage free eggs and whole butter, and are fried in non-GMO rice bran oil.

Vortex donuts 32 Banks Avenue

 7 – 5 Sun. – Fri; 7 – 7 Sat.

Unique flavors daily (including gluten-free options). Check in with their Instagram for the days’ selections.

Geraldine’s Bakery840 Merrimon Ave. 

 7 a.m.–3 p.m every day 

New York Deli Style breakfast sandwiches on handmade bagels. Plus cakes + more.

BimBeriBon 697 Haywood Rd.

 8 a.m.- 11 a.m.  Mon. to Fri.; 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. Sat., 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday

Largely gluten-free donuts, pastries + pies. Plus, fresh coffee + juice. 

Just the rye lunch elections

City Bakery  88 Charlotte St. + 60 Biltmore Ave.

 7 a.m.–5 p.m. (Biltmore Ave. stays open til 6) 

A North Asheville staple since 1999 (and now downtown staple) with sandwiches, parfaits, quiche, bagels + more. 


A Few of Our Summer Favorites For Our Guests

Looking Glass Falls is not far from Looking Glass Trail head, but it's on Hwy 276 just pasts where you'd turn off for the Trail head (towards Fish Hatcheries)

Looking Glass Falls is not far from Looking Glass Trail head, but it's on Hwy 276 just pasts where you'd turn off for the Trail head (towards Fish Hatcheries)

When it comes to our favorite places, we are always happy to share suggestions with our guests. Sometimes, though, I have to slow down when offering them as I get so excited about them. Here is just a sampling  - more next time!

Beer, Beer, Beer - Asheville is known for it's bounty of small breweries making delicious craft beer. My favorite (Lynne) is the Surf Wax at Burial - I love a happy IPA so this, for me, is perfect. My daughters and I love nothing more than to stock on up it and enjoy a raucous round of car playing while sipping Surf Wax. My favorite brewery in terms of location love is Zilicoa on the French Broad River - you can't beat the experience of sitting in the grass as the sun sets, sipping a yummy beer and ordering tacos from the very authentic taco truck there. Talk about a cheap date!

Hike and Swim - I love to climb a mountain then jump in a river on a hot summer day. For this, our old stand by is the 50 minute drive to Looking Glass Rock trail head near Brevard, then slip through the unmarked trail across from the parking lot at the trail head, and you'll find what we stumbled upon a few years ago - a swimming hole on the Davidson River that very few people know about. Cool off after you've hiked the 5-6 mile up and back to the top of Looking Glass R rock where you will feel like you're on top of the world. After your swim, visit Oscar Blues or the Hub for beer, followed by dinner at Magpie, a delicious meat and three with a modern twist. Mm, mmm, good. Short-ish 45 minute drive back to Asheville.

Take a Spin - We have great cycling in Asheville, both for mountain biking and road biking. For road biking, the locals love the climb up Elk Mountains to the Blue Ridge Parkway (stop by Buzzard Rock on the way to see where the high schoolers party late night but also just enjoy the view from the graffiti covered rocks!), then sail back down to town on Town Mountain Road. Or, go to the Hard Times Trail head near the Arboretum in S. Asheville (very near our newest rental) and you'll find miles of gravel roads and single track. Also great biking is back in near Brevard at the gorgeous  Dupont Forest. You can't go wrong at either - Dupont is known for the waterfalls, but Hard Times is closer. 

Rest from Dupont Forest Bike Ride

Rest from Dupont Forest Bike Ride

Feeling less ambitious but want to get outside? Float down the French Broad with Zen Tubing  - totally easy and relaxing. 






Bald Eagles, Crystal Clear Lakes, Downtown Convenience and Luxury - Oh My!

Why choose the country over the city or vice versa when you can have both?? That's what we wanna know. 

Steve and Lynne (owners of Asheville Urban Nests) are teaming up with Michelle and Shannon of Fontana Lake and Park View Cabins in nearby Bryson City to offer a country/city peak experience. In one week in the North Carolina mountains you can soak up the awesome (I use this word literally here) views of their made by hand cabins that overlook beautiful, unspoiled Fontana lake.  You can go for a hike, relax by the fire, watch the wildlife (Michelle said she was staring at a bald eagle when we talked about this idea on the phone today), or cycle the popular mountain biking trails at Tsali.  For the second half of your week you'll stay in the heart of downtown Asheville in one of our "nests" where you can luxuriate in comfortable intown living while walking to Asheville's best restaurants, music venues and shops. Sounds pretty great, doesn't it? But wait there's more - for our guests who book the country/city experience, we will offer a 10% discount off our regular nightly rates (rates vary so you'll need to get a quote). For more information, email Lynne at

The Asheville Urban Nest in the heart of downtown Asheville - modern luxury

The Asheville Urban Nest in the heart of downtown Asheville - modern luxury

Eagles Nest at Fontana Lake and Park View Cabins   

Eagles Nest at Fontana Lake and Park View Cabins


View from Inside Eagle's Landing

View from Inside Eagle's Landing

Lynne and her daughter, Hannah, spent a few nights here in March, and here is what we saw. Great trip - can't wait to go back in the summer!

Lynne and her daughter, Hannah, spent a few nights here in March, and here is what we saw. Great trip - can't wait to go back in the summer!

More Info....

Fontana Lake and Park View Cabins currently offer 2 Vacation Cabin Rentals: Eagle’s Landing 2/2 and Eagle’s Nest 2/2 ♿ 

Both Cabins Overlook Fontana Lake and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We’re Located in Bryson City, NC on 12 acres that are surrounded on 3 sides by 600 Acres of the Nantahala National Forest. 

Our little mountain town has been voted one of the "Top Ten Outdoor Towns in the East" by Outdoor Magazine, one of the Smithsonian's "20 Best Small Towns to Visit", and 1 of 8 “Small Towns Near Stunning Nature” by Orbitz. Trip Advisor ranked Bryson City as the “#1 Beautiful Little Mountain Town in America”, and Southern Living has named Bryson City as the "best budget-friendly" vacation destination! 

Discover what’s great about Bryson City, a peaceful mountain town bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with unique shops, galleries, wineries, breweries, and restaurants. We’re also home to the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. Surrounding our small town, there’s a rich vacation paradise — rafting and kayaking on the Nantahala River, boating and fishing on Fontana Lake, scenic railroad excursions, world class trout streams, and mountain biking on the famous Tsali trails. We have creeks for tubing, trails for hiking, horseback riding, and beautiful waterfalls. We’re home to the Cherokee Indian Reservation and the North Carolina half of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. ..and we’re close - just an hour west of Asheville NC.

Spring in Asheville - a few ideas to take advantage of the glorious mountain weather

Hallelujah winter is almost in the rear view mirror! We exhale, open the windows and bring a few of those lovely yellow daffodils in our house that say "almost, spring is almost here, and we can start living outside again". Can you tell that we are not big fans of winter?

Here are some suggestions for enjoying the Appalachian spring in the Asheville area:

1 - Spend a day at the Biltmore Estate biking, touring the house, taking a carriage ride, smelling the flowers in their gorgeous gardens, or kayaking on the French Broad.

2 - Take a picnic to our favorite spot only 1/2 hour from Asheville - Craggy Pinnacle just one pull off north of the Craggy Gardens Visitors Center.

Sunset on Craggy Pinnacle

Sunset on Craggy Pinnacle

3 - Take a Brews Cruise and see the downtown sites while sampling a few of our dozens of micro brewery's beers.

4 - Go to the Arboretum to see the hundreds of tulips and other blooms.

©Lynne Harty 

©Lynne Harty 

5 - Spend the day at Sierra Nevada Brewery. Play games outside, tour the garden, have lunch, hear a concert.

6 - Sip on a Cuban mojito at the new Hemingway's Cuba and watch the sun set over the downtown Asheville skyline.

Hemingway's Cuba ©Lynne Harty Photography

Hemingway's Cuba ©Lynne Harty Photography

All Photos ©Lynne Harty 2017

6 Casual and Less Expensive Lunch Spots in Asheville that We Recommend

Asheville's Foodtopian (is that a word?) scene is by know well known. But what about when you just want a quick lunch and you're not really looking for "all that"? I have a few reliable places where you can do just that. Here goes:

Taco Temple's  tacos and salad

Taco Temple's  tacos and salad

Taco Temple - it's on Charlotte St. slightly north of downtown. Owned by the same people who run the popular Mamacitas Tacos downtown, this place is slightly more upscale, but still down home enough. They make their own tortillas, have a bar, and really interesting tacos and even a great salad. 

Rosetta's - Vegetarian fare reminiscent of the 80's hippy food restaurants, you can go to the counter and order a Buddha Bowl (rice with their amazing peanut sauce, avocado, marinated tempeh, greens, seaweed) for under $10 and either sit inside or take with you. Quick and yummy.

Roman's - Great sandwiches right near the Pack Library downtown on Haywood St. They will even deliver to your door. Especially good is their grilled chicken salad sandwich.

Taco Billy - man oh man this place is great! It's on Haywood St in West Asheville (the "other" Haywood st). and has a walk up counter as well. Take my advice and get Mama's taco substituting avocado for the sausage on their plantain tortilla, and don't forget a side of their delicious green tomatillo salsa and chips. So, so good - and inexpensive.

OWL Bakery - just around the corner from Taco Billy in W. Asheville, this cute little bakery has some of the best bread and pastries in town as well as quiche and other tartines for a quick light-ish lunch. Or go to Taco Billy and then get your dessert pastry. But, oh my, you have to drive right by the now nationally famous Hole donut shop - might need to stop off there too. What a delectable corner that is in W. ASheville!

Gan Shan - well this isn't quick, but man is it good. Also on Charlotte St. just north of downtown, get their rice bowl with black bean chicken and you'll be a happy one. They are soon to open another place on that same delicious corner in West Asheville.

Taco Billy

Taco Billy

New Restaurant Find

It's not exactly a new restaurant, but rather, it is new to me - Storm Rhum Bar. I had been there for cocktails a few times with friends, and I'd been there for a photo shoot last year with Chef Owen, but somehow I had missed this gem of a restaurant until last Saturday night. What a find! My table of 6, well accustomed to the abundance of good restaurants in Asheville, all agreed that the food was superior, creative and delicious, and the service was great too. The veggie plate was one of the best I've ever had, and I'm not even a vegetarian. My friends raved about their fish entrees and the brussel sprouts, but it didn't end there. See for yourself. 

Storm is just a short walk from the Asheville Urban Nest too - another perk. Check it out next time you're in Asheville.

Chef Owen

Chef Owen

Where to Go with a Group in Asheville

Steve and recently went to NYC with our whole family of 13 to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday, and we realized what a challenge it is to be able to plan ahead to find places that you can reserve for a big group! So, I thought I would make a few suggestions for people who find themselves in the same bind. Some are very popular and require reservations way ahead of time, while others are lesser known secrets...all are places I consider to be top notch for good food and to offer a table where you can hear yourselves talk.

We joined a group last night for a Shakespeare reading group (!) at Jerusalem Garden on Patton Avenue. Jerusalem Garden has been open as long as I can remember (I arrived in 2000) but is one of those little places that we had forgotten about, as there are constantly NEW places to check out. I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious our meal was, how professional and friendly the service was, and how perfectly they are suited for large groups. You can likely get a reservation there without too much notice, and choose from regular table setting or a more middle Eastern seats on the floor with cushions kind of experience.

Recently I was at Rhubarb on Pack Square and had the pleasure of previewing their beautiful private dining room: rustic farm tables, old wooden floors, huge windows for lighting and a kitchen right there in the room. Rhubarb is well known for it's delicious and creative farm to table fare, but I didn't know about their private dining room until last week. I highly recommend their room or reserving a big table for one of their communal Sunday Suppers.

For a casual gathering on a warm night, All Souls Pizza in the River Arts District is a great idea. They have picnic tables and sometimes and outside bar in a field where kids can run around while the parents enjoy their beverages and conversation. You will want to grab a loaf of their Farm and Sparrow bread on the way home (if you're lucky and they have extra).

Speaking of warm evenings, I would really steer a large group to Smoky Park Supper Club. The restaurant and bar are situated right on the French Broad River where you can take over a few picnic tables, order local beer from the servers and get one of the best burgers in town (or a cheese platter and "finer" options). Sometimes there is music in the boat house as well to enjoy. They are situated in the largest shipping container restaurant building in the US!

Others worth taking a look at are Curate (reserve WAY ahead), Gan Shan Station, Isa's Bistro, and Chestnut. For BBQ we would try the ever popular 12 Bones at their new location that JUST opened this week at 5 Foundy.

Jerusalem Garden in downtown Asheville. Sit at a table or on cushions on the floor!

Jerusalem Garden in downtown Asheville. Sit at a table or on cushions on the floor!

Some Sweet Favorites You'll Thank Us For

One of the best new places in ASheville is OWL Bakery in W. Asheville. I used to think I had to go to Paris or New York for truly great, authentic, light yet buttery pastry, but no more! Now we go to OWL (stands for Old World Levain) Bakery. You can settle in their cute booths or catch a table outside on a nice day to enjoy your pour over coffee, latte, pastry or flax seed toast with perfectly poached egg. Grab a loaf of their deliciously moist bread to take home too. And be sure to thank us...


The other relative newcomer is from the folks at Rhubarb downtown - the Rhu. Rhubarb's little sister is just around the corner on Lexington Avenue in the former French Braod Chocolate Lounge location. There you will find MORE great pastry, bread, local cheeses, meats and a menu of take out breakfast and lunch items. Asheville, way to go!!

Need Help Deciding Which Asheville Restaurants to Choose?

As it happens, Steve and I are very interested in the food scene here in Asheville, and I am in the middle of shooting a cook book featuring Asheville restaurants called "Cooking with Asheville". The book will have photos of the feature recipe, the chefs and the environment, and they will be accompanied by the inside story of each restaurant. You can imagine that in the process of shooting this book, I've gotten an inside view to many of the restaurants here, so feel free to ask me for guidance when you are either heading out for dinner when you're here, or if you are planning ahead to make reservations (which you'll definitely need way ahead of time if you are interested in the most popular places). This is the new Asheville - we've been discovered!! As one local business owner asked me "Would you rather live somewhere that everyone's coming to or a place where people are leaving?". Good point - the former, I'd say. Below are a few shots to get your mouth watering...



Music Happenings in Asheville summer 2016

Here is a great site from that lists the many music festivals in Asheville. Shindig on the Green is an annual favorite and is most Saturdays in July and August at Pack Square Park. If you go, don't just watch the main act - the fun is in wandering around the edges to see the many multi generational musical gigs happening. Really fun. Downtown After Five is the third Friday of each month May - September and is a stone's throw from our vacation rental, Drover's Way. There you can see a few bands perform and dance if you like - there will be local food and beer vendors as well, and it's a fun summer thing to do in the evening.

Our Favorite Hikes in the Asheville Area

Our guests are often asking us for recommendations for hikes, so I decided to make a collection of photos from some of our trips. Yes, I'm a professional photographer, but even still, I'm often just carrying an iPhone vs. my big heavy camera. Also, my companion is often my husband, Steve, along with our dog, Charley, so you'll see them a lot here. All of these hikes are within an hour of Asheville, except for Roan Mountain, which is a scenic 1.5 hours away.