Asheville has gained plenty of notice as a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, lauded not only for its prime setting among some of the world’s oldest mountains, but also for the innovative people and businesses within the outdoor industry that call the area home. This year, the options for exploring the surrounding wilderness range from unexpected ways to take in the views (think, from a roadster “joyride” or while foraging the wild foods that abound in Southern Appalachia), to discovering the science behind the scenics, to diving into the untold stories of the Black experience in the Great Smoky Mountains, to a new one-stop shop to gear up and book a guided adventure.
- Telling Lost Stories in a Park’s Painful Past: A new initiative at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park aims to address a glaring omission in its documented history and finally right a wrong through the African American Experience Project. Asheville’s Antoine Fletcher, the Smokies science communicator and director of the Appalachian Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob, recently took over as the lead on the project, which seeks to uncover, illuminate and share Black experiences in and around the Smokies across time. A trained anthropologist who has been with the National Park Service for 15 years, Fletcher hopes the work will tell a more complete story, sourcing from oral histories of descendants, historical documents such as slave schedules and through the use of old-fashioned archaeological techniques as well as new technologies. HIKES FOR HEALING: Meanwhile, Cassius Cash, the park’s first Black superintendent, launched the Smokies Hikes for Healing program in 2020 with the goal of increasing visitation of underrepresented people while also providing a safe and restorative space to nurture resilience and help build an anti-racist society. TRAVEL TIP: Asheville is a North Carolina gateway city for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with access points within an hour’s drive.
- A Joyride to Remember: Cruise the streets of Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway in a Polaris Slingshot available through Joyride Slingshot Rentals. You can see the sights from every angle with this open-air driving experience. Anyone who can drive a car can captain these totally unique three-wheeled vehicles.
- “Find” Dining in the Forest: It doesn’t get any more local than this. Offering foraging tours highlighting the bounty of wild foods growing around Asheville, Alan Muskat and his team of local guides at No Taste Like Home show guests how to safely identify, appreciate and savor edible plants, mushrooms and other extreme cuisine. Tour participants can take their forest finds to partnering restaurants (including new partner, the Vīdl Winery Pop-Up at Cultura) to have a special “find dining” dish created specially with their ingredients. The company is also now working with SeekHealing, a nonprofit organization empowering people to heal from trauma and addiction, to help get locals foraging, especially underserved populations.
- A One-Stop Adventure Shop: Second Gear, a consignment store for outdoor gear, has moved to a new location in the River Arts District. The larger space — more than 10,000 square feet — allows for an expanded selection of inventory and also comes with new neighbors to help plan and fuel up for an adventure. Asheville Adventure Company, which specializes in e-bike, rafting and hiking tours, and Sugar and Snow Gelato, offering coffee, light bites, morning treats and, of course, gelato, also share the building with Second Gear.
Want more 2022 news? Click here to view 22 (and then some!) transformational travel stories for the year ahead. Beyond the “what’s new” factor are the ever-inspiring histories, untold stories and trailblazers leading the way in this lively mountain city.