Forage for plants and mushrooms
“Foraging is like a yard sale,” says Alan Muskat of Wild Food Adventures in Asheville. You never know what kind of plants and mushrooms you’ll find, so learn the difference between what’s edible and poisonous on one of Muskat’s tours. He’ll teach you how to cook certain mushrooms yourself, or you can take your finds to select restaurants in the area that will prepare them in a dish for you.
Wild Food Adventures
(828) 209-8599 or notastelikehome.org
Go to the summit of Grandfather Mountain
Conquer your fear of heights atop Grandfather Mountain’s suspension bridge, which gently sways with the breeze and the shuffling feet that cross it. “Along with the mountain’s famous profile, the Mile High Swinging Bridge is one of Grandfather’s most iconic features,” says Frank Ruggiero, director of marketing and communications for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. It can be chilly up there, so take a jacket.
2050 Blowing Rock Highway, Linville
(800) 468-7325 or grandfather.com
Learn how to fly-fish
Fly-fishing is more challenging than simply dropping a hook and line into a stream. North Carolina’s temperate climate makes for excellent year-round trout fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Learn from the pros on a guided trip with Fly Fishing the Smokies.
Fly Fishing the Smokies
(828) 488-7665 or flyfishingthesmokies.net
Go mountain biking
Ride along Brevard’s backwoods with guides who know the terrain better than anyone. Pura Vida Adventures customizes its biking trips according to skill level, and beginners will especially enjoy the waterfall tour through the scenic DuPont State Forest.
Pura Vida Adventures
(772) 579-0005 or pvadventures.com
Hike part of the Appalachian Trail
So maybe you don’t have the time — or stamina — to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. That’s okay. Just head for one of our favorite parts: the trail between the town of Hot Springs and Max Patch, which is almost 13-miles-long. Max Patch, a bald that offers sweeping 360-degree views, is the ideal place to watch the most unimaginable sunsets.
Kayak along the Haw River
Even in the Piedmont, you don’t have to travel far to get off the grid. Head to the unincorporated community of Saxapahaw, situated between Chapel Hill and Graham, for an on-the-water adventure. The Haw River Canoe & Kayak Company not only rents boats and necessary equipment, but also offers special trips revolving around stargazing, picnicking, and brunch.
The Haw River Canoe & Kayak Company
6079 Swepsonville-Saxapahaw Road, Saxapahaw
(336) 260-6465 or hawrivercanoe.com
Enjoy an afternoon of galloping and gallivanting around the family-owned Happy Trails Farm. The number of people who can ride horseback at one time is kept small, which ensures an intimate experience with these beautiful and well-cared-for animals. Children as young as three can ride in a buddy saddle with their parents, and there are on-site picnic tables where the whole family can sit around for a packed lunch.
Happy Trails Farm
704 Dogwood Hill Lane, Wake Forest
(919) 528-7968 or happytrailsfarm.us
Go rock climbing
Challenge yourself to a rock-climbing adventure at one of several mountains across central North Carolina, including Crowders Mountain, Stone Mountain, and Pilot Mountain. Capstone Climbing & Adventure provides all of the equipment and guidance needed. The views from the top are all the more worth it when they’re well earned.
Capstone Climbing & Adventure
(704) 652-2548 or capstoneclimbing.com
Tackle the same rapids as world-class athletes
Charlotte isn’t the first place where you’d necessarily expect to find Class II and III rapids, but they’re here at the man-made U.S. National Whitewater Center. In fact, Olympic athletes competing in whitewater slalom racing train here. If you’re not a pro, that’s no problem. Quick-witted and knowledgeable raft guides will teach you all you need to know for a successful voyage, but nothing will quite prepare you for how soaked you’ll be afterwards.
U.S. National Whitewater Center
5000 Whitewater Center Parkway, Charlotte
(704) 391-3900 or usnwc.org
Camp at the Uhwarrie National Forest
Perhaps the oldest mountain range in North America no longer stands as tall as it once did due to years of erosion, but the Uhwarries’s proximity to both Charlotte and the Triad still makes for a great weekend getaway. Ample trees provide plenty of shade during the day and are perfect for strapping up a hammock at night. Listen quietly for Bigfoot, who is rumored to lurk in this neck of the woods.
Uhwarrie National Forest
Highway 109 North, Troy
Channel your inner Wright brother
Take flight just down the road from where flight was born. Kitty Hawk Kites offers hang-gliding lessons at Jockey’s Ridge, the East Coast’s largest natural sand dune. Soft, sloping sand dunes are less intimidating than mountain cliffs and are perfect for those just getting the hang of, well, hang gliding.
Kitty Hawk Kites
(877) 359-8447 or kittyhawk.com
Explore Ocracoke and Portsmouth islands
Long after Blackbeard’s death, the untamed spirit of Ocracoke still endures. Perhaps the best way to explore this pedestrian-friendly village on the Outer Banks is by bike, but make sure to carve out some time for an entertaining boat tour of nearby Portsmouth Island. Step off the boat and you won’t find any vacation homes or gaggles of tourists here — just unspoiled beauty.
Austin Boat Tours
(252) 928-4361 or portsmouthnc.com
Do yoga on the water
For a unique workout, join Wilmington’s Longwave Yoga for one of its excursions that combines stand-up paddle boarding with traditional yoga technique. Finding your balance is a true talent, but even if you do fall off your board, the water is right there to provide an easy landing.
(910) 769-3494 or longwaveyoga.com
Zip-line over a swamp
Scope out wildlife — from wild turkeys to boars — at a comfortable distance while breezing through tree canopies in the town of Ocean Isle Beach. In its first year of business, Shallotte River Swamp Park offers zip-line tours in addition to boat tours of a historic swamp that George Washington is said to have once traversed himself.
Shallotte River Swamp Park
5550 Watts Road SW, Ocean Isle Beach
(910) 687-6100 or shallotteriverswamppark.com
Camp on the beach
When planning a camping trip, most look to the mountains, but pitching a tent on the beach can offer completely different thrills. While there are no designated campgrounds along the Cape Lookout National Seashore, camping is allowed in many areas. To truly rough it, head to Shackleford Banks where you can fish for dinner and watch wild horses roam just steps away.
Cape Lookout National Seashore
Presented by Great Outdoor Provision Co.
Celebrating over 40 years of fall adventures, Great Outdoor Provision Co. calls North Carolina home. This Raleigh-based specialty retailer, known for their wood floors and friendly staff, offers the very best in outdoor equipment and apparel. In addition to being a great place to purchase camping equipment, Great Outdoor Provision Co. is where you can get information and meet other people who are excited about getting outside. See their staff at play in the video above. Ask about their curated collection of hiking trails, paddle trips, and fishing adventures next time you stop by one of their 9 locations in North Carolina and Virginia. The company is also committed to the support of youth leadership programs and local conservation efforts like the Mountains-To-Sea Trail. Learn more at www.greatoutdoorprovision.com.