Just a 15-mile drive from the city limits of Asheville, Hickory Nut Gorge is a beautiful, canyon-like landscape that offers excellent fishing, hiking and boating, plus a variety of restaurants, shops and lodging. Here you'll find three small communities – Bat Cave, Chimney Rock and Lake Lure – that are big on adventure.

overlook onto Hickory Nut Gorge in North Carolina
An aerial view of Hickory Nut Gorge © Digidreamgrafix / Getty Images

Hickory Nut Gap Farm

Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Fairview, halfway between Bat Cave and Asheville on Highway 74, has become a major supplier of grass-fed beef, pork and chicken in the greater Asheville area. Tour the farm operation, or enjoy a true farm-to-table meal at the onsite cafe, where they offer many healthy options like salads made with fresh, organic veggies or burgers made with their farm-raised beef. Purchase sausage, steaks, bacon and more at the gift shop to take back to the cabin. On Friday nights, grab your partner and head to their big red barn for the weekly barn dance featuring a live band and good old-fashioned foot-stomping fun.

The Bat Cave Old Cider Mill

A few miles farther down the road, warm up your soul with a taste of the sweet spiced apple cider made and sold at the Old Cider Mill in Bat Cave. The apples only need to travel a few miles down the mountain from nearby Hendersonville before they’re pressed and sold as cider; arrive on the weekend to watch them prepare a fresh batch. Bat Cave and Bat Man memorabilia is also sold at their Applesolutely Gift Shop.

Hiking in the Florence Nature Preserve

Just a few miles north of Bat Cave, this 600-acre nature preserve features nearly 10 miles of trails that wind through the steep and diverse mountain terrain of Upper Hickory Nut Gorge. The preserve’s well-maintained paths climb past bubbling creeks, hidden waterfalls, expansive mountain balds and rock outcroppings with excellent views. Limited parking keeps the preserve from becoming overcrowded, and the main trailhead can be found along Highway 74, less than a mile south of Gerton.

a beer over the Rocky Broad River in Hickory Nut Gorge
Enjoy a beer while overlooking the picturesque Rocky Broad River © Joshua Kinser / Lonely Planet

Trout Fishing on the Rocky Broad River

During trout fishing season, anglers can hook rainbow, brook, and brown trout in the picturesque Rocky Broad River, which descends through the Hickory Nut Gorge before emptying into Lake Lure. The stretch of water between Bat Cave and Chimney Rock has parking reserved for anglers at points where access trails make it easy to explore the river's many excellent fishing spots.

Hickory Nut Gorge Brewery

While in Chimney Rock, grab a cold one at this riverside brewery – they brew their suds onsite and offer an impressive range of outstanding IPAs, ales and stouts. The comfortable outdoor patio delivers fantastic views of the Rocky Broad River and is one of the best spots in the area to relax and watch the water roll by. Most Fridays feature live music on the open-air deck, and on Wednesdays, a fun and festive crowd gathers for trivia night.

downtown Chimney Rock Village gift shops
Chimney Rock Village has a charming Main Street full of shops © Joshua Kinser / Lonely Planet

Chimney Rock Village

Chimney Rock Village is a tiny mountain town that surrounds the entrance to Chimney Rock State Park; built mostly in the 1920s and 30s to support the nascent regional tourism, this little settlement has boatloads of charm. Take a stroll down Main Street to explore a number of inviting shops that sell old-time candies, traditional canned goods like blackberry jam and apple butter, antiques, clothing and rustic arts and crafts. Hungry hikers can have a meal at one of the several restaurants with excellent views of Chimney Rock, the iconic rock formation that towers over the village. Dig for valuable jewels at the local gem mine, or just sit along the river and enjoy a cup or cone from the wonderful Hershey’s ice cream shop.

Chimney Rock State Park

The nearly 1,000-acre Chimney Rock State Park features several miles of hiking trails, including a trek to the top of Chimney Rock, the namesake 315-foot tall rock outcropping that gives you a far-reaching panoramic view on a clear day. Hike or ride the elevator to the top of Chimney Rock and you’ll get a birds-eye-view of the dynamic Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure landscape. Another excellent trail takes you to the 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls – this waterfall featured in The Last of the Mohicans, which explains why you’ll randomly discover pictures of Daniel Day Lewis in many of the Chimney Rock shops. It’s a little park that’s easily accessible to people of all ages and abilities, and a great way to get the lay of the land before exploring more of the Lake and gorge.

Hickory Nut Falls in North Carolina
Feel the mist from Hickory Nut Falls in Chimney Rock State Park © Alex Grinchenko / Getty Images

The Lake Lure Flowering Bridge

The Lake Lure community combined their love of the town's historic bridge and an enthusiasm for gardening to create the beautiful Flowering Bridge, a delightful public garden and walking path that crosses the Rocky Broad River where it empties into Lake Lure. Wander through the meticulously kept garden of mostly native plants with mountain-lined Lake Lure as your backdrop.

Boating on Lake Lure

Lake Lure has more than 27 miles of shoreline, and its many fingers and coves provide ever-changing views of the gorge and the surrounding densely forested mountains. Head down to the Lake Lure Washburn Marina, just past the Flowering Bridge, to get a boating permit or rent a canoe; motorized boats are $50/day and $150/week, while non-motorized watercraft such as canoes and kayaks are $25/day and $50/week. For a short boating excursion, Lake Lure Tours at the Washburn Marina offers excellent guided and narrated boat rides at the top of the hour, starting at 11am.

Lake Lure North Carolina hotel
A view of Lake Lure Inn from the water © Joshua Kinser / Lonely Planet

The 1927 Lake Lure Inn and Spa

Many of the rooms at this historic inn have gorgeous lake views, and the full-service spa will soothe your muscles after a day tromping through the mountains. Lake Lure Beach, located directly in front of the inn, is a wide, sandy stretch ideal for lounging and sunning, and it also has a water slide and water toys to keep the kids entertained. The nearby ice cream shop, coffee house, and restaurants make the inn a relaxing park-and-stay location that is as much family-friendly as romantic.

Larkin's on the Lake

This waterfront restaurant offers a casual bar and grill downstairs and a more refined white-table-cloth dining experience upstairs. Keeping with the something-for-everyone theme, Larkin’s is accessible by land or lake, allowing boaters to tie up at their dock. The lake views are wonderful, making Larkin’s the perfect place to watch the sunset and a wonderful spot to end your trip exploring the Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure.

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