Hendersonville’s location in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina makes it a natural oasis for rest and relaxation. The town’s reputation as a summer escape dates back decades to the days when Charleston, South Carolina residents traveled to Hendersonville seeking respite from the hot, humid low country summer.
In addition to its temperate climate, today Hendersonville offers abundant outdoor adventure, downtown events and a robust craft beverage and dining scene.
For those looking to escape for an afternoon or an entire day, DuPont State Recreational Forest contains more than 10,000 acres. What was once the property of the DuPont Corporation is now a natural playground. Approximately 90 miles of trails and dirt roads encourage hiking, biking and horseback riding. Numerous waterfalls along Little River and Grassy Creek provide enjoyment for all ages.
Just north of DuPont, Holmes Educational State Forest operates as a living classroom, sharing forestry information with guests. The “talking trees” trail informs hikers about different tree species and their uses. The forest contains five miles of trails, a forestry center with exhibits and picnic facilities, all free of charge.
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Sandburg once lived in the small village of Flat Rock, south of Hendersonville, and his Connemara estate is now part of the National Park Service. Visitors may gain inspiration from touring Sandburg’s home and seeing his book collection and writing room. Five miles of trails meander through the 264-acre property and up to the top of Glassy Mountain. No visit to the Sandburg Home is complete without seeing the functioning dairy goat barn.
Jump Off Rock, only five miles from downtown Hendersonville, climbs to 3,100 feet in elevation. From the rock overlook, visitors peer into four states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. A series of short trails offer an easy to moderate hike, and the park area is ideal for picnics. Visitors who come at sunset see one of the prettiest sights in the region as the sun sinks behind the mountains.
The French Broad River flows along Hendersonville’s western edge. The ancient river is known for its calm, northward-moving waters. Lazy Otter Outfitters puts people on the water for full- or half-day paddles. Vessel choices include canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and tubes.
For the truly adventurous, The Gorge Zipline is the steepest and fastest zipline experience in the country. The course descends more than 1,100 feet into the Green River Gorge via 11 ziplines, three rappels and a sky bridge.
As the sun sets in the evenings, downtown Hendersonville comes alive with music. The annual Summer Music Series brings a variety of bands to Main Street for free concerts.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Hendersonville’s street dances. What started as a welcome home celebration for soldiers returning from World War I has become a favorite tradition for visitors and locals. Each Monday night from mid-July through mid-August, musicians play traditional Appalachian Mountain bluegrass, and cloggers and square dancers fall into rhythm.
On Friday nights through the summer, beach music and rock ’n’ roll bands take the downtown stage for Music on Main. Attendees kick back in lawn chairs or kick up their heels. Classic car shows take place in conjunction with the concerts. On the third Thursday of the month from May through September, Rhythm & Brews pairs craft beverages with live music. Attendees sample cider, beer and wine from local producers.
In addition to live music and events, Hendersonville’s Main Street is a daily destination. The wide sidewalks, lined with trees and flowering planters, are especially welcoming in the summer. Shops throw open their doors, welcoming patrons inside. Restaurants make the most of the sunshine, seating customers at sidewalk dining tables.
Never Blue, which serves an internationally inspired tapas menu, opens its garage-door front onto the street. Savory smells drift down the sidewalk and beckon hungry patrons. Diners enjoy creative cocktails, tacos and made-in-house desserts.
At Hubba Hubba Smokehouse in Flat Rock, all of the dining takes place outdoors. At this seasonal restaurant customers order at the window and choose one of the patio tables. Smoked pork, chicken and brisket are the staples, along with fresh sides, such as summer succotash and potato salad.
Some of the most popular places during the summer are Hendersonville’s numerous cideries, breweries and wineries. Visitors enjoy following the Cheers! Trail, which maps out a customizable itinerary of a dozen destinations.
Bold Rock Hard Cider — the largest craft cidery in the country — operates a state-of-the-art production facility and tasting room in nearby Mills River. Guests order flights at the bar, choose a favorite and retreat to the cider garden with a pint. Bold Bites, the on-site food truck, serves barbecue plates and sandwiches.
Mills River is also home to the East Coast headquarters of Sierra Nevada. Craft beer aficionados flock to the palatial brewery and taproom. The brewery offers tours, tastings and a full restaurant, as well as special events and live music. The beer garden out back is a popular spot to gather with friends and family around the fire pit on cool mountain evenings.