Things to do in Saluda and the North Carolina Mountains
Where the foothills end and the Blue Ridge begins, Saluda is noted for its steepest graded mainline railroad track (the Saluda Grade), its orchards, its climate, its art, crafts, antiques, its biking, hiking, white water kayaking, and fly fishing. There’s also great food and music. Plus, Saluda is possibly the only town in America whose entire downtown business district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This Blue Ridge village of about 600 is also the site of the annual Coon Dog Day Festival, which takes place the first Saturday after the fourth of July each year.
It used to take a lot of pull to visit anyone in Saluda – by train that is. The 3-mile haul westward from Melrose to Saluda remains the steepest main line standard gauge of railroad track in the country. The railroad, which used to deposit passengers at a depot not far from today’s bridge overpass, started after the Civil War, to connect Spartanburg with Asheville. Convict laborers began laying track in Polk County in 1873 and reached Saluda in 1878. It was the first track to cross the Blue Ridge in North Carolina. According to the book “The North American Railroad” the Saluda Hill section had to climb to a crest of at an average 243 feet per mile (a 4.7 % incline).This forced builders to construct ” a shelf along the hill slope….to reach Saluda in a crease in the edge of the uplands,” extending to Asheville for 35 miles.
Railroad passengers found Saluda charming because of its beautiful mountain scenery and its thermo-clime – a weather phenomenon that reduces frost and dew, resulting in an extraordinary variety of plants and wildflowers. As a result, Saluda became a summer resort especially for people living in Columbia, SC. The end of regular passenger train service in December 1968 has not reduced Saluda’s appeal for tourists, who now frequent the area all year round. With its close proximity to Historic Hendersonville, Flat Rock and Asheville there are an abundant number of activities and things to see and do here. Following are some of our recommendations.
Besides the many area attractions and activities in Asheville, you’ll find more fun and exciting things to do in Saluda and the North Carolina Mountains that are just a short distance away from the Orchard Inn. Whether you are looking for a relaxing getaway or an adventure-filled vacation, you’ll find the best of both worlds when you stay at our Saluda B&B. Create your own perfect getaway and plan your itinerary for a day or two or maybe more! For more things to do near Asheville, NC, download our Western North Carolina Vacation Guide, then explore our rooms and cottages!
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad 226 Everett Street, Bryson City, NC 28713 | Phone: (800) 872-4681
Several scenic excursions are offered by the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad from Bryson City to the Nantahala River and back. The BBQ & Brews Dinner Trains are available every summer featuring slow-cooked BBQ and beer tastings, the Freedom Train on July 4, the Dinosaur Train that kids will love, the Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express in October, and finally, the Polar Express Train Ride for the whole family during the holiday season.
Western North Carolina Air Museum 1340 E Gilbert Street, Hendersonville, NC 28792 | Phone: (828) 698-2482
The Flat Rock region of North Carolina, Hendersonville, is a center of living history—the site of the Western North Carolina Air Museum. Find out what it was like to fly in the past: When airports had grass strips instead of fences, when you could trade washing airplanes for a ride, and when you could walk right on the flight line and see the excitement up close and personal. View the restored and replica antique and vintage airplanes and models of historic airplanes. Admission is free.
Wheels Through Time Museum 62 Vintage Lane, Maggie Valley, North Carolina 28751 | Phone: (828) 926-6266
Bike fanatics will be impressed by the collection of rare and historic American vintage motorcycles in the Wheels Through Time Museum. Find more than 300 of the country’s rarest and most historic classic motorcycles.
Our Carolina Foothills Wine Trail
If you’re interested in exploring the vineyards and wineries of Western North Carolina, look no further than the Our Carolina Foothills Wine Trail. There are several wonderful vineyards not far from The Orchard Inn that guests can tour.
Scenic Hikes and Drives
Grandfather Mountain 2050 Blowing Rock Hwy, Linville, NC 28646 | Phone: (828) 733-2013
The highest peak in the Blue Ridge, Grandfather Mountain is a popular nature reserve for its teeming variety of flora and fauna that you will find only in the North Carolina Mountains. Experience crossing the Mile High Swinging Bridge and take pictures of eagles, otters, bears, cougars, and more species in their natural habitats. If you’re hungry for more, take a hike on the finest trails in the South. The park is only two hours away from Saluda and is open for all seasons.
Pearson’s Falls 2748 Pearson Falls Road, Saluda, NC 28773 | Phone: (828) 749-3031
Located in the foothills of western North Carolina between the historic, quaint towns of Tryon and Saluda is Pearson’s Falls, a great place to enjoy and learn about the environment. The 268-acre wildlife and bird sanctuary is home to a lush forest, fresh streams, and a quarter-mile trail to a 90-foot waterfall. Closed in January and during some holidays. Adult (13 and up) admission is $5.
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest 1070 Massey Branch Rd, Robbinsville, NC 28771 | Phone: (828) 479-6431
The 3,800-acre Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest features one of the largest stands of old-growth trees in the eastern United States. Visitors will be mesmerized walking on trails alongside giant trees that are almost three centuries old. The forest is named after Joyce Kilmer, a World War I hero and author of the poem “Trees”.
Cherohala Skyway | Phone: (828) 479-8400
Care for a road trip across peaks of 5,300 feet? Drive and take the scenic route on the spectacular 50-mile Cherohala Skyway that stretches from the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest to Telleco Plains, Tennessee. This road strongly competes against Blue Ridge Parkway in terms of road beauty.
Green River Adventures
Green River Adventures offers several fantastic adventure options for people of all skill levels. Go kayaking along the Class III-IV rapids of the Upper Green River, an exciting section of whitewater surrounded by stunning wilderness, or rappel 200 feet down a waterfall! Both of these adventures are available to our guests through our North Carolina Adventure Vacation Package! Green River Adventures also offers guided hiking tours and stand-up paddleboarding.
The Gorge Zipline
Another option in our Adventure Vacation Package is the thrilling Gorge Zipline! The Gorge offers the steepest and fastest zipline canopy tour in America! This exhilarating (yet safe) zipline offers guests the chance to experience a stunning, unobstructed view of the Green River Gorge.
The Western North Carolina area is filled with as many as 15 fly-fishing spots, especially the Nantahala River and Deep Creek, which are famous for trout fishing. If bass and crappie are your thing, Fontana Lake will be your favorite. Try your fishing prowess over at Tanasee Creek in the Nantahala National Forest. For maps of the trails and requests for fishing licenses, visit WNC Fly Fishing Trail.
The nearby Tryon Country Club, a wonderful Donald Ross-designed course, is on the National Register of Historic Places. This course is members-only, but as a guest of the Orchard Inn, you have an opportunity to play for only $50 with our Golf, Stay, and Play special!
Biking, Horseback Riding, Hiking
Within the Nantahala National Forest is the Tsali Recreation Area consisting of 39 miles of trails for biking, horseback riding, and hiking. Choose your own landscape out of the four offered loops with different levels of difficulty: Right, Left, Mouse Branch, and Thompson Loops.
Also nearby is the Tryon International Equestrian Center, which has become a major destination for participants in equestrian competitions and classes.