Some destinations tout theme parks, upscale hotels or five-star restaurants as the reason to visit. For Hendersonville, North Carolina, acres of unspoiled nature and beautiful countryside are the main attraction.
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Hendersonville and surrounding Henderson County consist of three landscape elements: mountain ranges, isolated peaks and a rolling plateau with level valleys. Elevations range from 1,400 feet near Bat Cave at the foot of the Blue Ridge to 5,000 feet on Little Pisgah Mountain.
On the western side of the county, the ancient French Broad River snakes northward, flowing through forests and fertile farmland. One of the leading industries in Hendersonville is agriculture. Farm fields grow a variety of fruits, produce and livestock. Henderson County leads North Carolina in apple production and consistently ranks among the top producers nationally.
These outdoor resources are made accessible to visitors via parks, outfitters, camps, vacation rental properties and agritourism offerings. In a world driven by screens and technology, Hendersonville invites visitors to dock their devices and refresh their minds, bodies and spirits by immersing themselves in the outdoors.
Tucked into a bend of the Mills River, northwest of Hendersonville proper, North River Farms occupies 1,450 acres. The family farm, owned and operated by Jason Davis, produces hay for horses and cows, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. In an effort to connect with the community and teach children where their food comes from, the farm opens to the public for U-pick produce, farm tours, picnics and events.
Davis and his team take great pride in their efforts to preserve the pristine waters flowing through the farm and be good stewards of the land. The farm partners with DB bar D Outfitters to offer guided hunting and fishing trips on the property. Expert guide and lifelong hunter and fisherman Kyle Vaughan offers full-day and half-day fly-fishing trips along more than four miles of private-access water. Western North Carolina is well known for its trout fishing, and North River Farms offers some of the best. Brown, rainbow and brook trout, averaging 12 to 18 inches, are found in the farm’s waters.
No matter your experience level, Vaughan provides an enjoyable outing. Beginners have no need to purchase equipment; the outfitter can provide everything you need to try your hand at the sport, including a fishing license. A streamside lunch is included with all full-day trips.
Vaughan and his team also lead guided hunts on the property for quail and larger game, including whitetail deer, turkey and black bear.
For visitors traveling as a family, Kanuga Conference and Retreat Center is a Hendersonville treasure. Located on 1,400 acres south of downtown Hendersonville, Kanuga was established in 1928 by the Episcopal Church. The center maintains its Episcopalian ties but is open to the public.
Kanuga allows visitors to disconnect from daily distractions and reconnect with nature, family and friends. The property’s centerpiece is a 30-acre lake with a pier stretching into the water and trees rimming the perimeter. Visitors can kayak or canoe. Twenty miles of hiking trails traverse the property, winding through old-growth forest. Tennis and basketball courts encourage pick-up games.
The newest addition to the center is Ride Kanuga mountain bike park. Founded by world-champion downhill racer Neko Mulally, the park features 12 downhill-specific trails suitable for all ability levels. Trails include a mix of natural features and jump lines, and are specifically designed to help riders build new skills.
Lodging options at Kanuga include the recently renovated Kanuga Lake Inn. The hotel-style rooms feature a modern design with upscale bathrooms, but televisions are absent to encourage relaxation and reflection. Forty-three historic guest cottages located throughout the property have been beloved retreats for multiple generations of guests. The cottages range from two to six bedrooms. Each has a screened-in porch, living room and fireplace.
A spirit of creativity has long run wild in Western North Carolina. Inspired by the beautiful scenery, artists and entrepreneurs flock to the region to live their dreams. As the craft beverage boom sweeps the nation, several niche producers have found their way to Hendersonville.
Sideways Farm and Brewery opened three years ago in rural Etowah. The brewery stands out for its farm-based commitment to growing its own ingredients. Small batch, seasonal brews highlight products cultivated on property as well as sourced from local suppliers. A sampling of ingredients includes rosemary, figs, lemongrass, pumpkins and sage.
The brewery and tasting room are housed in a 2,400-square-foot facility surrounded by fields and gardens. Owners Jon and Carrieann Schneider invite customers to wander the property upon visiting, picking flowers when in season.
The brewery is one of 23 stops along the Hendersonville Cheers! Trail, which guides visitors to tasting rooms showcasing beer, wine, cider and mead. Each stop has its own character and nuance. Many, like Sideways, offer outdoor seating, reminding visitors that no matter what activity they pursue in Hendersonville, the influence of the surrounding mountains is ever present.