A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

    What We Love About Burnsville This artsy mountain town provides a refreshing summer retreat filled with mile-high peaks, lush forests, and picturesque trails. But scenic overlooks aren’t required

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

    What We Love About Burnsville This artsy mountain town provides a refreshing summer retreat filled with mile-high peaks, lush forests, and picturesque trails. But scenic overlooks aren’t required

Your Guide to Burnsville



What We Love About Burnsville

This artsy mountain town provides a refreshing summer retreat filled with mile-high peaks, lush forests, and picturesque trails. But scenic overlooks aren’t required for breathtaking views — Burnsville offers beautiful vistas around every corner, whether you’re meandering through a weekly farmers market or browsing Main Street merchants. Even the stars shine a little brighter: Mayland Community College’s Bare Dark Observatory earned the rare international designation as a Dark Sky Park, which means any evening can be filled with peaceful stargazing. With inspiration at every angle, it’s no wonder artists flock to this little mountain town. Burnsville’s bevy of creatives captures the area’s natural beauty on canvas, ceramics, glass, and textiles displayed at downtown shops, galleries, and pop-up markets.


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Where to Discover the Local Arts & Culture

Toe River Arts: This prolific gallery and cultural hub, which opened in 1974, features more than 40 artists exhibiting their works in various media, from photography, watercolor, and pottery to needlework, metals, and glass. Join in special events like the spring and fall Studio Tours and Art in the Garden.

Hearth Glass & Gallery: Prepare to be blown away by this working glass-blowing studio, recently opened by the grandchildren of Harvey Littleton, founder of America’s Studio Glass Movement. Take home stunning vases, sculptures, and decorative pieces, as well as drinking glasses, jewelry, and candles. For the ultimate experience, sign up for a glass-blowing class.

Take a self-guided tour of local studios like Hearth Glass & Gallery. Photography courtesy of Explore Burnsville

Mount Mitchell Arts & Crafts Fair: Head to Burnsville’s Town Square the first weekend of August, and you’ll see why the popular arts fair has been named a top 20 summer event by the Southeast Tourism Society. Admire the works of 250 qualifying artists and enjoy bluegrass music, live performances, and goodies from food vendors.

High Country Ceramic Arts Community: Stop in this working gallery and shop a variety of functional and decorative ceramics, reflecting the area’s scenic surroundings. Get your hands dirty and take a spin on the pottery wheel during a private lesson.




Where to Sip & Shop Downtown

Downtown Shops: Spend a day perusing the local bookstore, sweets shop, boutiques, and toy store. Be sure to stop in Mountain Time on Main Street, where you’ll find outdoor furniture, fire pits, and home decor, as well as specialty olive oils, homemade jams, and one-of-a-kind gifts.

Craft Beer: Walk a few blocks west of downtown to Homeplace Beer Co. The local watering hole is full of personality with the beer to match, like the Fuzzy Peach, Faith Healer, and Biscuits ’n’ Gravy. Tuck into a wood-fired pizza and linger on the expansive porch, or dance to live music, come for the paint-and-sip night, or find your inner child during a hula hoop class.

Yancey County Farmers Market: Get a taste of the local culture at this lively farmers market held Saturdays from April through November. Now 25 years strong, the market offers fresh flowers, homemade bread, kimchi, goat milk soap, artisanal cheeses, and quite possibly the best tomatoes you’ll ever have.

First Friday Burnsville Artisan Market: Celebrate the community’s rich art scene every month at this popular pop-up market. Downtown comes alive with artists and craftspeople showcasing their colorful wares. Plus, local restaurants and shops stay open late.




Where to Explore the Outdoors

Mount Mitchell: Put the East Coast’s highest peak high on your bucket list. Just a short walk from the parking lot rewards visitors with a 360-degree view from 6,684 feet above the Black Mountains. For a real adventure, take the Old Mitchell Trail and hike two miles to the top, or continue along the Deep Gap Trail to Mount Craig, the second-highest peak in the Appalachians. The state park offers 40 miles of hiking trails, plus stunning waterfalls.

Mayland Earth to Sky Park: Reach for the stars at the Bare Dark Sky Observatory. On clear nights, look up with help from the site’s impressive telescopes — the observatory is home to the largest public telescope in North Carolina — for a chance to see millions of stars, the eye of Jupiter, Saturn’s rings, and deep-space nebulas. During the day, a brand-new dome planetarium presents special programming.

The Bare Dark Sky Observatory boasts the largest telescope in the state. Photography courtesy of Explore Burnsville

Trout fishing: Tell your own fish story after a day on the South Toe, North Toe, or Cane rivers. Local outfitters like Southern Drifters put fishermen right on the trout and show beginners how to cast a fly.

McKinney Gap Bouldering: Test your climbing skills at the beautiful Bald Mountain Creek Preserve, sponsored by the Carolina Climbers Coalition and the Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land. The site boasts 100 quality boulder problems catering to various climbing styles, from technical slabs to steep overhangs.

A 2.5-mile loop trail to Crabtree Falls takes hikers through rhododendron thickets. A bridge over the creek in front of the falls offers the best view. photograph by Juan Sebastian Charria/iStock/Getty Images Plus

NC Outdoor Adventures: Choose your own adventure with this adventure guide company, which offers 21 activities designed for all comfort levels. Conquer whitewater in a kayak, rappel down a waterfall, or float the day away on an inner tube. NCOA also hosts edible plant walkabouts and children’s programming.

Waterfall hikes: Follow gurgling streams to incredible waterfalls, like Big Creek Falls, Crabtree Falls, and Roaring Fork Falls. Closer to town, High Pastures retreat boasts a beautiful cascade right in their backyard. Just stop by the front office for a trail map.



Where to Stay

Mount Mitchell Eco Retreat: Get reacquainted with mother nature at this 16-room hotel bordering Pisgah National Forest. Heather and Sean Busher left city life to transform an old dude ranch into a peaceful retreat. Today, fire pits and walking trails beckon visitors to explore the outdoors while yoga classes, massage therapy, and sessions at The Healing House encourage guests to connect with themselves.

Mount Mitchell Eco Retreat features five lodges comprising 16 rooms and suites. Photography courtesy of Explore Burnsville

Glamping: It’s easy to see the appeal of glamping, which takes your traditional tent to the next level. In Burnsville, the options abound. A quick online search reveals plenty of short-term rentals to accommodate your style. There’s a private chalet, a tiny home, a canvas tent, and even an airstream rental.

The Carolina Country Inn: Immerse yourself in small-town charm with warm hospitality from the Heaton family. Built in 1948, this motel provides modern amenities with a retro vibe just a short walk from downtown.




Explore More in Burnsville

Three Days in Burnsville

Where to eat, play, shop, and stay during a Blue Ridge Mountain weekend in Yancey County.

A Cosmic Adventure Near Burnsville

At the first certified Dark Sky Park in the Southeast, a planetarium offers a new way to stargaze and see the universe — and explore Earthly wonders, too.

From Ranch to Retreat in Burnsville

A big-city photographer had a vision to transform a storied Burnsville property into a space for contemplation and reflection — a healing place.



This story was published on Jul 19, 2023

Laura Lee

Laura Lee has lived and worked all over the Southeast. When she's not writing, she loves traveling with her family and her goldendoodle, ready to discover the next hidden gem.