Little Switzerland is located in the premier area for exploring the best the Appalachia offers of spectacular scenery, outdoor sports, fine art crafts demonstrations and shops, gemstones and the American-Scots heritage. Excursions take you through rural and wild landscapes, far from the crowds of people and bears to the west near Gatlinburg and the Smokies, or the more densely populated areas toward Washington, D.C.

Just thirty two of the many wonderful destinations are described below and keyed to blue numbers on the map. To reach them, you can choose to take the Blue Ridge Parkway through pristine meadows, mountains and valleys; travel on idyllic county roads through pastoral towns such as Plumtree and Cranberry; and/or take Interstate 40.

Milepost refers to markers along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Little Switzerland is at Milepost 334.

Click image to enlarge.


1. Museum of North Carolina Minerals

Located in Spruce Pine, site of one of the five largest annual gem festivals in the US, the official state minerals museum displays gems and most of the 300 minerals mined in the state. There are also exhibits showing the geological processes that created the surrounding mountains and valleys. (Milepost 331)

2. Grassy Creek Golf and Country Club  (Milepost 331)

3. The Orchard at Altapass


An eco-destination offering quiet beauty, fresh apples, live music, hayrides, storytelling and other special events, the two-mile long nearly 100 year old orchard adjoins the Parkway on a sunny south-facing slope overlooking a forested valley. Heritage apples from vintage trees begin bearing around July 4. The orchard received a British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow 2001 Award as one of five businesses worldwide in the Environmental Experience category, and has been recognized as one of two US leading sustainable tourism projects among 28 projects recognized globally. (Milepost 328.3 at Orchard Road ).

4. Linville Falls, Gorge and Wilderness Area

One of the original components of the National Wilderness system, the Linville Gorge has been called “the Grand Canyon of the East.” Wide trails lead to overlooks of the forested ravine laced with flowing water and waterfalls. This undisturbed wilderness was the site chosen for the filming of The Last of the Mohicans.

The expansiveness and grandeur of the gorge is balanced by areas of quiet, sunny trout-fishing waters and a visitors' center. The center's bookstore, run by the Parkway service, stocks nature, geology, literature and history books on the area. (Mileposts 316.3 and 316.4)

5. Flat Rock Loop Trail

Flat Rock Loop Trail is an easy 30-minute round trip hike that opens to incredible views of Linville Valley, and Roan, Hump, and Grandfather Mountains. (Milepost  308.3)

6.The Town of Linville

The town of Linville is synonymous with beautiful, old, unique buildings, many clad in chestnut bark. The Eseeola Lodge, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has extensive flower beds.



The bark shingles such as those covering the walls of Esseola Lodge came from trees felled by the blight that killed virtually all American chestnut trees during the first half of the last century. The architectural use of chestnut throughout the town is a lasting testimony to the artistic and ecological spirit of the settlers.



Beyond Esseola Lodge's profuse flower beds, the All Saints Episcopal Church charms casual visitors and wedding parties with its lovely design and hand-hewn crafting. Built over eighty years ago, this gem was designed by Henry Bacon, architect of the Lincoln Memorial.



Nearby there is elegant/casual dining in an unmarked two-story stone clubhouse overlooking the Linville Golf Course.





Distinctive homes are set off by flowerbeds and trimmed hemlock hedges.

Across a bridge, the Old Hampton Store sells cornmeal that is ground on the premises, sugarless apple butter, and other mountain fare.

7. Grandfather Mountain and the Highland Games at MacRae Meadows

A popular tourist attraction, Grandfather Mountain is known for its mile-high bridge, hang gliding, hiking trails and zoological park. It is named Grandfather Mountain because the billion year old rock formations that make up the nearly 6000 foot mountain form an outline that—viewed from NC 105 in Foscoe—look like a grandfather’s profile, including his beard.

From the mile-high swinging bridge at the top of Grandfather Mountain are views of MacRae Meadows, site of the second largest Highland Games and gathering of the Scottish Clans in the world.

Rivaling Edinburgh ’s pageantry, each July the meadows come to life with the music of bagpipes and harps, the drama of sheep herding with border collies, hurling and other sports competitions, and the spirited Highland Fling dance. Clan names--like McKinney, McDonald, and Mc Cloud--label the many booths displaying clan plaids and offering genealogical and historical information.

The traditions were brought to this area by the many Scots immigrants who--finding the best farmland in Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, and Delaware already taken by English and German immigrants-- pushed into the Appalachian Mountains into this gently undulating terrain reminiscent of the Highlands in Scotland.

As a monument of the games, each of the clans brought a stone from their ancestral home to build the cairn at MacRae Meadows.

MacRae Meadows is also used for other events. For example, the storyteller Ray Hicks, world-famous “living treasure,” has drawn large audiences to hear him retell stories that have roots in a Scots Gaelic past, such as the Jack and the Beanstalk tales.

8. Wilson Creek Swimming

Wilson Creek is a great place to picnic, relax on rocks, listen to the water, and swim.

9. Roan Mountain

“The Roan,” as it is called locally, may be the most beautiful mountain in the eastern U.S. Nature and man’s interventions have created a “bald” on the 6,286-foot summit that is renowned for the largest natural rhododendron gardens in the world, stands of Fraser fir, Scotch heather and other remarkable flora. Adding to its allure, from time to time mysterious “music” is heard on the Roan that sounds like the buzzing of hundreds of bees. While the summit with its modern facilities is easily reached by road, it is more memorable to hike up the trails edged with fairy-tale pillows of moss.

10. Ski Beech and Sugar Mountain

Ski Beech and Sugar Mountain have some of the best downhill skiing in North Carolina .

Beech’s alpine village has a festive outdoor ice-rink and a learner’s ski area along with plenty of places to relax and watch.

11. Valle Crucis

Beyond Banner Elk, along winding roads, is a place where streams and valleys form a St. Andrews cross: the small village of Valle Crucis,“ the Valley of the Cross.” It is North Carolina ’s only Rural Historic District . The Society of the Holy Cross, the first monastic order in the Anglican Communion since the English Reformation, was established in Valley Crucis in the early 1500’s. Following in these footsteps, a stone Episcopal church was built in 1926. It remains a focal point in this tranquil place.

Nearby, the Mast General Store and Annex and Candy Barrel preserve the flavor of mountain life 60 years ago.  Started in 1883, the Mast stores still stock many hard-to-find country-living items.

12. Moses H. Cone Memorial Park

The 4,344 acre Moses H. Cone Memorial Park has 25 miles of gently sloping carriage trails of various lengths for hikers, joggers, horseback riders and cross-country skiers. A large lake is used by non-motorized watercraft and two trout lakes offer fishing opportunities. (Mileposts 292.7 – 295)

13. Flat Top Manor

Flat Top Manor is home to one of the two craft shops on the Blue Ridge Parkway run by the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild. In contrast to the contemporary Asheville area Folk Art Center, Flat Top Manor is a historic, white wooden manor house with stables that overlooks a vista of 3,600 acres. (Milepost 295)

14. Blowing Rock

Blowing Rock is a long-established upscale summer residential community. Quaint buildings housing art shops and tearooms make for enjoyable main street shopping. The nearby “blowing rock” from which the town takes its name is a popular tourist attraction. For more information, visit here.

15.Tweetsie Railroad

Tweetsie is a popular tourist destination.

16.Glendale Springs Frescoes

Episcopal missionaries from Valle Crucis served in the Glendale Springs area as early as 1852. By 1905, Holy Trinity and St. Mary’s churches had been built there. They were a small parish until the summer of 1980 when famous painter Ben Long and his students took up residence and began work on two limestone and pigment frescoes that are some of the most significant in the United States : Mary Great with Child, which won the Leonardo de Vinci award, and The Last Supper. Hundreds of thousands have made pilgrimages to Glendale Springs to view these moving frescoes and to attend worship services. (Milepost 259)

17. Canoeing and Tubing on the New River

The New River is actually one of the two oldest rivers in the world. Even though there are plenty of other places to canoe, tube, and raft that are closer to Little Switzerland, the New River has a special appeal that makes the drive worthwhile.


18. Crabtree Meadows and Waterfalls

Just six miles from Little Switzerland, Crabtree Meadows has wilderness trails and fields of flowers bordered with hawthorn. A trail over varied terrain takes visitors to a wooden bridge below a bridal veil waterfall. (Mileposts 339.5 – 340.3)

19. Penland School of Crafts and Artists’ Studios

Nineteen miles from Little Switzerland is the Penland School of Crafts. Known worldwide as a preeminent craft school, the Penland School of Crafts has offered classes here since 1929, making the area a magnet for artists for almost 75 years. In addition to Penland, within 25 miles of the Kilmichael Tower are over 100 artists’ studios.

Among them, within 5 miles of the chalet is the iron forge of a man whose work is on permanent display in the Smithsonian collection; and the glass studio of the “Father of American art glass.” It is from the Little Switzerland-Penland area that Tiffany's in NYC and stores on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach have long commissioned pieces.



The trend is to market more local art in the mountains, where it is created. The Penland Gallery store displays the work of jewelers, glass blowers, basket makers, iron workers, potters, woodworkers, weavers, and other artisans. The Twisted Laurel in Spruce Pine also has a range of work for sale. Some artists’ studio homes are opened for visitors to watch them at work and browse in their shops. Maps locating these studios are available.

Nearby, an innovative project captures methane gas from a landfill to heat the ovens of glass-blowers. New York Times article.

20. The Dellinger Grist Mill

Established in 1867, the Dellinger Grist Mill  is now on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the only genuine 19th-century water-powered grist mill still operating in the state of North Carolina .  For directions and information  click here and here.

21. Carolina Hemlocks Swimming

North of the Blue Ridge Parkway a short distance on NC 80 is Carolina Hemlocks. A small entry fee permits access to a camping, picnic, and swimming area along the South Toe River. While there are numerous great and wild places to swim and fish in the Toe, the Hemlocks is one of the few with people nearby. On a summer day, the warm rocks and icy water in the crystal clear, natural plunge pool are wonderful. Tubing is fun when the water is high enough.

22. Celo: An Agrarian Utopia

Celo is a utopian community devoted to wholesome, sustainable living located a short distance north of Carolina Hemlocks.

A Quaker camp in Celo that offers wholesome outdoor adventures may be the perfect, nearby place for your children to spend a week or two.

23. Mt. Mitchell Golf Course

Mt. Mitchell Golf Club is one of the top ten public courses in the state. Golf Digest’s Places to Play has given it a 4 ½ star rating.   

24. Mt. Mitchell

At 6,684 feet, Mt. Mitchell is the highest mountain east of the Mississippi. A large topographical model in the beautiful visitors’ center shows the extensive trail system. On hikes, expect wildlife, berries and well-established wildflowers, among them thriving beds of St. John’s wort. (Milepost 355.4)

25. Craggy Gardens Pinnacle Trail

This trail is an uphill climb with overarching rhododendron; it is recognized as one of the two most spectacular June bloom sites in the US . At the top, just beyond the blueberries is a breathtaking view. (Milepost 364.2)

26. Craggy Gardens Visitors’ Center

The visitors’ center provides a welcome break for those not used to driving through wild and spectacular mountain scenery, through tunnels and alongside cliffs dripping icy waters onto brilliant flowers clinging to vertical rock. Inside, the displays of local flora and fauna are oddly comforting and very informative.  (Milepost 364.4)

27. Folk Art Center

The large and contemporary Folk Art Center has on-going exhibits upstairs, special events, and demonstrations by craftsmen.The center also houses a craft shop and the administrative offices of the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild. (Milepost 382)

28. Mt Mitchell and the Black Mountains

From the chalet via the Blue Ridge Parkway to the top of Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi is less than 25 miles. This is just one of many splendid places in the nearby Black Mountains to hike.

Another nice town is the historically prominent Black Mountain, a favorite of many with its antique, craft, and furniture stores.

29. Asheville , Biltmore Village and Biltmore Estate

Asheville has received international attention recently: Frommer's writes, "This year, the editors at Frommer's Travel Guides and scoured the globe and polled our stable of authors and experts to identify twelve surprising, thriving, or emerging travel destinations. After careful thought and consideration, we are thrilled to announce our picks of the places not to be missed in 2007."

Asheville is among the 12 international destinations chosen by Frommers. They write, "Recently, Asheville has been drawing literati and celebrities who had gravitated to New Orleans as a hub of culture."

Asheville is also ranked among the top 10 cities in America for quality of life, Asheville has a distinctive culture of fine crafts, high quality imaginative restaurants, organic produce, environmental awareness, music and the meditative arts. Widely available free publications announce the many meetings, workshops, courses, and community gatherings that contribute to making Asheville a vibrant and forward-looking city.

The world-renowned 8,000 acre Biltmore Estate in Asheville transports visitors into another era. America ’s largest home, the Biltmore displays its original collection of 70,000 artworks. There are Seasonal Candlelight Christmas Evenings and festive performances and celebrations.

Next to Biltmore Estate, the Biltmore Village offers a unique shopping experience. The award winning  New Morning Gallery, for example, gathers in one large store the work of craft artists from around the nation. The independent uptown Malaprop bookstore carries many fine books that Borders and Barnes and Noble fail to stock. Pack Place is the downtown cultural center.

Warren Wilson College, known internationally for its Celtic music workshops and performances and archeology workshops.

You can drive from Little Switzerland to Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway. To save time, instead take 221 toward Marion, taking a right on Tom's Creek Road right after OLD Tom's Creek Road and a brick Presbyterian church on the right. Following it to a T at 80, where you take a left. Continue to the T at 70, where you take a right. Follow it to Old Fort, past the raiload museum, to I-40, which leads to Asheville.

30. Carl Sandburg's Home

Carl Sandburg, poet of the people and biographer of Abraham Lincoln, lived with his wife at Connemara, their 240 acre farm. Their 22 room white mansion is sited on a grassy hill above a lake surrounded by pastures and mountain. Leave time to enjoy the tour and some ramblings on your own at this place of peace and beauty that is now a National Historic site.

31. Flat Rock Playhouse

Very close to Carl Sandburg's home, Flat Rock Playhouse is one of the top ten summer theaters in the country.

32. Cherokee Indian Village, Museum, Reservation, and Outdoor Drama

The official web site of the Cherokee Indians shows the variety of activities on their reservation.

Click to view.