Asheville, N.C. resources for safety-first summer travel in the Blue Ridge Mountains

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (May 22, 2020)—North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper's office announced this week its order to lift stay-at-home travel restrictions ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of the summer season.

Asheville-area businesses have stepped up to protect workers and guests with safety measures that go beyond state guidelines, including the Asheville Cares Stay Safe Pledge, a shared commitment with travelers to keep everyone safe with extra precautions. Understand the extent of the protections that the Buncombe County hospitality industry is putting in place—click here to read the Asheville Cares Stay Safe Pledge.

“The pledge represents our priority to keep the residents and visitors of Buncombe County safe, and to let travelers know that Asheville businesses are committed to following CDC-recommended standards for operations,” said Explore Asheville President & CEO Stephanie Brown. 

For travelers making Memorial Day weekend and summer travel plans with safety in mind, the Asheville area is a central locale surrounded by national parks and state forests and intersected by America’s Favorite Scenic Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway. See the following list of open space activities, fresh air adventures, scenic drives and attractions with modified operations for safer exploration.

Scenery & Fresh Air Adventures on Mountain Balds

As one of the world’s oldest mountain chains, the peaks of Southern Appalachia are generally known for their rolling greenery and layers of misty blue. Also dotting the landscape are mysterious mountain balds—open spaces with rolling grass and blooming rhododendrons (June) at the higher elevations. See this list of mountain balds perfect for a picnic, hike or sunny day adventure.

Picnics with 360-Degree Views

Asheville’s award-winning indie restaurant scene has evolved with increased safety and flexibility for travelers. One trend that is here to stay is the increased array of gourmet take-out offerings perfect for a multi-course picnic or a snack packed with local flavor. James Beard-nominated chefs including Brian Canipelli (Cucina 24, Forestry Camp), Katie Button (Cúrate), Jacob Sessoms (All Day Darling, Table and Tacos El Gallo), John Fleer (Rhubarb, The Rhu) and others have opened up pantries and pop-up bodegas to serve diners with a range of options. See this list of restaurants offering take-out.

Hike Off the Beaten Path

With thousands of miles of hiking and biking trails surrounding the area, Asheville is known for its iconic hiking trails, expansive views and famous natural attractions. While some hikes don’t have household-name recognition, a lesser-known path offers the chance to explore the mountain landscape with solitude on a trail less traveled. See this list of lesser-known hikes.

Scenic Drives & Drive-By Waterfalls: The Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding Asheville are home to winding mountain roads and thousands of beautiful cascading waterfalls. While most falls are in remote areas or require a hike to see, here are half a dozen waterfalls that can be enjoyed from the roadTravelers can also follow the bends of the famous Blue Ridge Parkway for sweeping views by car or hop on a trail. Bring a face mask and be prepared to hop off the trail to provide ample social distance as you meet fellow hikers. Check out this link for inspiration from Blue Ridge Parkway experts via Explorers of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  

Safer Fun & Soft Adventure | Attractions & Tours with Modified Operations

Social distance on the French Broad River on your own stand-up paddle board (SUP), go foraging or hiking in the woods on a private tour, try safety-first mountain biking or go flying through the canopy with increased sanitation and contact-free operations. Check out this list of attractions with modified operations with safety and sanitation protocols in mind.

Views from Above the Clouds:

The Blue Ridge Mountains are one of the best places in the world to behold a fascinating atmospheric phenomenon—the sea of clouds. It is called thermal inversion, where low-lying clouds rest in the mountain valleys and undulate with a wave-like motion. While this phenomenon is not unique to Asheville, the region’s climate, topography and abundance of streams, rivers and creeks make it one of the best places to see the magic of thermal inversion. Watch a sea of clouds video and make note of the top scenic spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway to try your luck at a view from above the clouds. TIP: Hit these spots very early in the morning to increase your chance of getting above the cloud line. An added bonus: Enjoy early-morning privacy in one of the area’s most popular natural attractions.