Free & Fun Itineraries

Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus…and yes you can still enjoy a memorable vacation with your family and friends filled with activities, events and attractions that are absolutely FREE! Check out these ideas to include in your plans when you visit us!

Scenic Drives

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a wonder stretching 469 miles from Georgia to Maine with no commercial traffic, billboards or stoplights.  With the Blue Ridge Parkway right at our door step, you can pack a picnic lunch, roll your windows down and jump on America’s Scenic Drive right here in Spruce Pine.  Explore the many breathtaking overlooks, watch for wildlife, hike the marked trails, check out the historic apple orchard (milepost 328.3) and maybe even stop in at Little Switzerland (milepost 334) for a little sight seeing!  It’s worth it!

There are many scenic drives here in Mitchell County (in fact there’s hardly a road in the area that isn’t scenic), but we also recommend taking Hwy 226 North from Spruce Pine to Bakersville (stop in and explore the quaint town of Bakersville with its unique artist studios and even a tea shop) then follow 226/261 out of Bakersville to Roan Mountain, the world’s largest rhododendron gardens.  If you venture across the road you can even hike a few steps on the Appalachian Trail!  As you travel our scenic highways keep your eyes peeled for the colorful painted quilt blocks hung on the sides of barns and homes.  These quilt blocks are a part of the Quilt Trails program!

Handmade Heaven

Mitchell County is home to more artists than any other area of the state! With the world renowned Penland School of Craft right here,  many artists have made this area their home.  Stop by the Mitchell County Visitor Center or the Toe River Arts Council and pick up your studio map.  Pick any route and hit the road to visit potters, glass blowers, jewelers, weavers and more down the most beautiful mountain roads you’ll ever travel.   Tucked away in every holler you’ll find world renowned artists waiting to share their craft with you.  Don’t miss the exceptional galleries showcasing locally handcrafted items dotting our communities from Spruce Pine to Bakersville to Little Switzerland.  You can visit the Penland School of Craft Gallery any day of the week  and if you are in town on Tuesday or Thursday you can sign up for the free tour of the campus.

Outdoor Adventures

If you and your clan are happiest when you are outdoors, you are in the right place. You could fill many days exploring the beautiful outdoor assets in our area.  Here are just a few that we hope you won’t miss!

Hiking…put on your hiking boots and hit the trails around the county.  A premier stop would have to be Roan Mountain, just north of Bakersville.  Home to the world’s largest rhododendron garden, Roan Mountain has several trails open to the public to enjoy breathtaking views and the incredible blooming of over 600 acres of Catawba rhododendron in June.  While at Roan Mountain you can also check out the trails, and across the street from the entrance to Roan Mountain you can pick up a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

Another trail you should put on your to do list is the Grassy Creek Falls hike in Little Switzerland.  Take the Blue Ridge Parkway to Little Switzerland and ask anyone about the Falls.  If you take the first two right turns off of the Parkway ( at Milepost 334) you are on your way to the Falls.  It is approximately one half mile down to the 30 foot falls, but of course that means it is all uphill coming back to your car! Watch for the hand-carved wooden signs to show you where you must park and where the trail begins.

The newest trail in the area is the Kids in Parks Trail at the Orchard at Altapass.  This newest park trail lead visitors along groves of apple trees, through a cove of woods overlooking the Altapass (Eastern Continental Divide), near the historic Clinchfield Railroad Line and past the gravesite of the famous Charlie McKinney – a local legend.

Stop in at the Chamber’s Visitor Center (at the Museum of NC Minerals) for more maps of area hiking both on the Parkway and in Mitchell County.

Geocaching…Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. It’s a modern treasure hunt for folks of all ages! Check out our geocaching page!

Fishing  If fishing is your game, then you are going to think you’re in heaven! Both Spruce Pine and Bakersville have been designated North Carolina Mountain Heritage Trout Cities.  These delayed harvest waters offer the best trout fishing in Western NC! And it gets better.  As a part of the Mountain Heritage Trout Cities program, you can borrow free fishing poles and tackle in Spruce Pine or Bakersville to spend the day on the river.  In Spruce Pine the North Toe River runs right through the downtown area and is adjacent to a beautiful park.  In Bakersville you’ll love Cane Creek, right in the middle of Bakersville  featuring a lighted walking path along the creek for more than a mile.  Cane Creek also features handicapped fishing piers.

Bird Watching  Unpack those binoculars! Mitchell County has several great sites on the NC Birding Trail for folks interested in viewing and learning about our feathered friends.  The Orchard at Altapass, the Bakersville Creek Walk, Roan Mountain , Linville Falls and Riverside Park in Spruce Pine are all sites on the trail.  You will have the opportunity to see native year-round residents, seasonal migrants and the occasional rare species. Click here for site descriptions: Birding