A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Far from a typical hotel experience, the lush grounds of Barkwells welcome every member of your family. As you drive into this neighborhood-like resort in Mills River to settle in

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Far from a typical hotel experience, the lush grounds of Barkwells welcome every member of your family. As you drive into this neighborhood-like resort in Mills River to settle in

How to Spend 3 Days Exploring Hendersonville

Sunset at Jump Off Rock in Hendersonville

Far from a typical hotel experience, the lush grounds of Barkwells welcome every member of your family. As you drive into this neighborhood-like resort in Mills River to settle in for your weekend in the mountains, you’ll catch sight of happy furballs, bounding around the nine-acre fenced property, swimming in the on-site pond, and playing with their new doggie friends.

As you might imagine, vacationing with pups creates an uplifting environment, observes Jeff Krider, who owns Barkwells’ eight vacation cabins along with his wife and partner, Patti Moore. They happen to have dogs themselves, so they know how to create a pet-friendly experience. “The customers are happy, the staff are happy, the dogs are happy. It’s just a happy place,” Krider says.

That promising feeling sets the tone for your visit to Henderson County, tucked into the hills and mountainsides south of Asheville. Ready to find your happy place here? Read on for our weekend itinerary for Hendersonville.


Jeff Krider and Patti Moore and their dogs at Barkwells in Henderson County

Jeff Krider and Patti Moore are well-versed in the art of cultivating a pup-friendly place. Photography courtesy of Henderson County Tourism

Day 1

Barkwells is designed to help four-legged travelers and their people feel right at home. Cabins boast features like extra-large dog doors, orthopedic dog beds, gated porches, and private fenced yards (along with hot tubs, grills, and full kitchens for the human guests). But beyond the accommodations, dogs — and owners — can take in the magic of North Carolina’s mountain surroundings: paddling around the pond, strolling across the grounds, or kicking back on the porch to catch golden hour.

People attend a wine tasting at Marked Tree Vineyard

Settled on the porch at Marked Tree Vineyard with a glass of wine in hand, there are few more relaxing ways to take in the sweeping views of the surrounding vineyards and mountains. photograph by Todd Bush

Once you check in to your home away from home, venture out to Marked Tree Vineyard. Perched on the Eastern Continental Divide at 2,300 feet, the vineyard relies on the high elevation to shape the soil and climate for grapes that turn into award-winning wines. Take a seat on the tasting room’s south-facing porch, overlooking rows of twining vines, and sample their award-winning cabernet franc with views of the distant Mount Pisgah.

When the evening rolls into dinnertime, raise a glass at Season’s at Highland Lake and prepare to dine on the almond-crusted flounder piccata. Or, if the mountain chill keeps you indoors, stay warm in the dining room as you tuck into a rib-eye steak paired with a bottle selected from their award-winning wine list.


People on the rooftop terrace at Shine in downtown Hendersonville.

Beyond the delicious flavors found in the dining room, Shine draws many to its rooftop terrace for craft cocktails paired with elevated views of downtown Hendersonville. photograph by Todd Bush

Day 2

Kick off your Saturday morning at The Curb Market, where local farmers, makers, and artisans have brought their wares for the last century. With everything from pecan-apple butter from Rhodes Farm to jewelweed salve from Appalachian Earthworx and dog treats from Mountain Barkery, you’re sure to find handcrafted goodies at this friendly marketplace.

After the market, dive into brunch at Shine with a hash of diced sweet potato, house-made sausage, and an over-easy egg. Leaning toward the lunch part of brunch? Try the burrata black pepper fettucine topped with toasted pine nuts. Its eclectic menu is only part of its appeal — the central location, housed within an extensively revitalized historic building, boasts a sunny rooftop terrace overlooking the downtown and mountains in the distance. If you don’t make it to brunch, you can always head there for golden hour and sip a craft cocktail while watching the sun set.

Wag! A Unique Pet Boutique in downtown Hendersonville

Shop for gourmet dog treats, stylish collars and outfits, enticing toys, and more at Hendersonville’s pet boutique. Photography courtesy of Henderson County Tourism

Take time to explore the many quaint shops while you’re in Historic Downtown Hendersonville. Within walking distance, you’ll find boutiques, books, toys, antiques, furniture, wine, jewelry, and more. Barkwells guests, make a note to stop by Wag! A Unique Pet Boutique to find a puppy-approved goodie to commemorate the trip. Art galleries also abound — even Hendersonville Outfitters, a go-to for fishing gear, sells nature-inspired artwork. And Mast General Store is an attraction in and of itself with plenty of shopping for parents and retro candies and games for children.

Wondering how to spend your afternoon? Your options include:

Winery Tour

If you’ve dreamed of spending a day sampling North Carolina-grown wines, Van in Black’s customizable tours will safely whisk you from one dreamy vineyard-side tasting room to another. Want to give your experience an educational edge? Choose to go with one of Van in Black’s guides certified by either the Wine and Spirits Educational Trust or Court of Master Sommeliers.

Build Your Own Brewery Trail

Tour local breweries with The Regal Ride, and they will create an adventure to suit your group’s tastes. Kick back and relax in a Mercedes Sprinter van or luxury SUV while visiting some of Henderson County’s favorite craft beer makers. It’s an opportunity to sample all types of local brews and see why the area has become a destination for beer enthusiasts.

Children eat ice cream at Whit's Frozen Custard in Henderson County

Sweet treats along the Ice Cream Trail take many frosty forms, including frozen custard at Whit’s Frozen Custard (above) and paletas. Photography courtesy of Henderson County Tourism

Delight Your Sweet Tooth on the Hendersonville Ice Cream Trail

You’ll find hand dipped and soft serve, Irish-inspired flavors and Mexican favorites, frozen custard, and frozen yogurt on this first-of-its-kind cool and creamy route through Henderson County. From homegrown businesses like Celtic Creamery to McConnell Farms to national names like Whit’s Frozen Custard and Kilwins, you’ll find frozen delights, like classic vanilla scoops, paletas, and frozen yogurt ladened with toppings. Following the ice cream stop, we recommend releasing your sugar rush with a walk at DuPont State Recreational Forest.

Catching the sunset is one of the best perks of being in the mountains. As daylight begins to fade, head to a mountaintop park for a dramatic view from atop the Jump Off Rock outcropping that juts from a 3,100-foot summit. The panoramic views of the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountains are stunning any time of the day, but those mountaintops are particularly breathtaking when the sun’s last rays streak the sky with brilliant colors.

Three dishes from Postero in Hendersonville

Bold flavors abound at Postero and change depending on ingredients available with each season. photograph by Tim Robison

When dinnertime calls, settle in at Hendersonville’s Postero, housed within the 1922 First Bank and Trust building. This elegantly urban space incorporates reminders of its past — like the former bank vault doors. The restaurant’s seasonal menu includes entrees like seared Sunburst Farms trout with roasted baby potatoes and a San Marzano tomato-and-bell-pepper ragout.


Inside Flat Rock Village Bakery in Henderson County, NC

On weekend days, a line of eager customers files through the door at Flat Rock Village Bakery — but don’t be scared, your patience will be rewarded with sweet and savory pastries and fresh-baked breads. photograph by Tim Robison

Day 3

Rise and shine with Flat Rock Village Bakery. If baked goods are your morning modus operandi, this is the place for you. Sit on the deck under the magnolia trees with a cup of joe and a chocolate chip scone and enjoy small town Flat Rock’s morning bustle.

Or if you prefer a later start to the day, head to The Silo Cookhouse at The Horse Shoe Farm for a leisurely brunch. At the long communal tables, you’ll have the opportunity to swap stories of your weekend adventure with your tablemates over delicious dishes like challah French toast with Nutella.

Family picking apples at Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard in Henderson County, NC

Henderson County is known for its plentiful apple-picking opportunities in the fall. Above, all ages get into the autumn spirit at Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard. photograph by Todd Bush

What to do next? If it’s fall, the answer is a no-brainer: apple picking. August kicks off apple season here in “Apple Alley.” Many orchards, such as Coston Farm and Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard, allow you to pick your own apples and often offer playgrounds, apple cider donuts, and fall activities like corn mazes and hayrides.

Oklawaha Brewing

Swing by Oklawaha Brewing’s cozy tasting room to sample one of their specialty IPAs, lagers, or sours made with local fruits. Photography courtesy of Henderson County Tourism

Or you might want to savor your final hours in Henderson County at another winery, brewery, or cidery. Both Oklawaha Brewing — a nano-brewery in downtown Hendersonville — and Burning Blush Brewery — a large Victorian-Gothic-inspired space — serve craft brews in uniquely different settings. And depending on if you visit in the summer or fall, the Cider Barn Taproom at Jeter Mountain Farm offers a selection of craft ciders available only at the farm.


Explore More Henderson County Accommodations

The Horse Shoe Farm

This luxury retreat preserves elements from the original farm — its pool, pickleball courts, and spa are tucked between the animal barn, hay house, ponds, and pastures. Set on the land where cattle once grazed, this pastoral oasis is complete with lush accommodations, farm-to-table fare, and relaxing saunas and steam rooms.

Bed & Breakfast on Tiffany Hill

From the moment Selena Einwechter, owner of this exquisite bed and breakfast, greets you with open arms, you’ll feel right at home. This relaxing getaway provides elegantly comfortable suites, named and decorated to reflect Southern cities — from Natchez to Charlottesville — and features a collection of gardens with whimsical names like Laughter Loop.

Kanuga Inn & Lodging

With swimming, fishing, paddleboarding, canoeing, hiking, mountain biking, tennis courts, climbing walls, and more, this sprawling lake retreat is like an upscale summer camp for your family. It’s the perfect place to unplug and play in the natural beauty of the mountains any time of year.

Brightwaters Vacation Rentals

This private property’s two- and three-bedroom cabins and cottages, as well as a historic two-story guest house, offer convenient home bases for exploring this corner of the Blue Ridge. These well-maintained properties come equipped with gas grills, high-speed Wi-Fi, and locked storage for outdoor gear among the individualized accommodations.

This story was published on Feb 06, 2024

Lara Ivanitch

Lara Ivanitch is a freelance writer who resides in Raleigh.