Two nights in Black Mountain, NC

We were in Black Mountain in mid-November 2023, as part of our fall quickie to the mountains trip.

Bugsy posing in the campground in Black Mountain
a scene from the KOA

As previously discussed, we landed in Black Mountain after a couple nights in Asheville, followed by a night in Burlington, followed by a desire to return to the mountains of Western NC. But not too far into the mountains, as we wanted to minimize the pain of the drive home to Central VA afterward.

downtown Black Mountain
cute downtown Black Mountain

Black Mountain is a small town twenty minutes east of Asheville, with some key similarities: good beer, good food, lots of live music, and a convenient campground. And some important differences: it’s muuuch smaller, it’s freaking adorable (sure, Asheville is a pretty town, but Black Mountain wins in cuteness hands down), and you can drive fifteen minutes and be on ridiculous hiking trails.

walking through dog-friendly Town Hardware and General Store
Bugsy browsing around dog-friendly Town Hardware and General Store

Apparently Tripadvisor named Black Mountain the prettiest small town in the US in 2017, and we totally get it. The town is super cute and very dog-friendly: we didn’t encounter a shop (at least that we tried to go into) where Bugsy wasn’t welcome. While we enjoyed walking (and eating and drinking) around downtown, what really got us excited was how close incredible hiking was!

Campground

the lake by the Airstream at the KOA
the lake in our backyard at Asheville East KOA

We stayed at Asheville East KOA–why they don’t include Black Mountain in their name is a mystery. It’s a lovely KOA, centered around a couple little lakes, with pretty Swannanoa River running through. There’s a nice dog-walking trail around the lakes and through the woods by the river.

Bugsy walking along the Swannanoa River at the Asheville East KOA
walking along the Swannanoa R in our campground

It was quiet when we visited in late November; I bet it gets hopping in the nice summer weather. There’s some road noise from I-40, but it’s nowhere as loud as at Wilson’s in Asheville. The campground is an easy six-minute drive from downtown Black Mountain.

Amy’s recommendations

Before I get to what we did, I want to list the recommendations of a friend from VA who spends a lot of time in Black Mountain. We hit as many of these spots as we could in our short stay–which was over a Sunday and Monday night, so not everywhere was open. Looking forward to checking more of these off the list!

Favorite restaurant: Pure & Proper (closed when we visited)

Favorite breakfast: Open Oven (we didn’t go out for breakfast)

Favorite lunch: Cousins Cuban Cafe (we didn’t go out for lunch either)

Favorite coffee: Dripolator (we tried and failed to go here)

Favorite bakery: Four Sisters (we just missed them as they close at 3pm Sunday and aren’t open Mondays)

Favorite tacos: Taco Billy (OH YES)

Favorite brewery: Black Mountain Brewing (went to the other two breweries in town instead)

Favorite short hike: Lookout Mountain (did this in 2017)

Favorite fun place for food and drink: Foothills Grange

Hiking

South Mountains State Park

hiking the HQ Trail at South Mountains State Park
hiking the HQ Trail in South Mountains SP

Similar to our recent hiking in Asheville, one of our Black Mountain hikes doesn’t reeeaally count as a Black Mountain hike, because we stopped on the drive in. South Mountains State Park is an hour east of Black Mountain, about a half hour south of I-40. We had a lovely time hiking through the woods on the sparsely-populated HQ Trail and past the scenic 80-foot waterfall on the very busy High Shoals Falls Loop Trail.

steep steps down along High Shoals Falls
descending the sketchy stairs by the falls
view from the top of High Shoals Falls
view from the top of the falls–the far edge pictured is where the action begins
a section of High Shoals Falls
a section of High Shoals Falls

The path along the falls is a long set of stairs that were tough on our poor aging doggo, and they’d be pretty treacherous if wet. If you’re planning to park an RV, definitely do not go during prime hiking times. We were able to park along the edge of the lot by the trailhead, but if you need to park in the horse trailer parking area, you’ll be adding a 1.5-mile road walk both ways if hiking from the main trailhead.

Graybeard Trail

Blue Ridge vista from the summit of Graybeard Mountain
vista from Graybeard Mountain’s summit

A short 18-minute drive from the KOA (so more like 10 minutes from downtown Black Mountain), through the rustic hamlet of Montreat, lies a wilderness area with miles of well-maintaned trails including the 9-mile out-and-back to Graybeard Mountain. It’s maybe 3/4 a gorgeous walk in the woods, and 1/4 a steep and rocky climb, with beautiful trees and massive rhododendron stands and views of neighboring mountains (including Mount Mitchell).

Blue Ridge view from Walkers Knob
Walker Knob’s summit view

Be sure to take the spur to Walker Knob–it’s a good spot to sit and eat. We ate standing up at the Graybeard summit in order to take in the views over the encircling trees. The views at the top aren’t wide and sweeping, but they’re impressive.

rhododendrons along Greybeard Trail
rhododendron heaven (yes I’m hiking with my Dynamite Coffee latte)

There’s very little parking at the trailhead! Go early! It also seems like it’s a better winter hike, when the leaves are off the trees and the mountains can peek through. The trail is dog-friendly, but we left our old girl at home as she’d prefer not to hike nine miles anymore.

Eating and drinking

Food

Bugsy and my Chai Pani salad in South Mountains State Park
Chai Pani salad on the trail

Our first meal in Black Mountain (well, sort of) was Chai Pani salads on the trail in South Mountains State Park. We picked the salads up before we left Asheville in order to have a delicious lunch on the road. YUM.

smashburger at Foothills Grange
smashburger at Foothills Grange

Next up was Monday dinner at Foothills Grange. It was cold that evening, and the place is more suited to outdoor hanging out than indoor (lots of picnic tables, a huge sandbox, lawn games, room for kids to run wild), but we had a drink outside by a heater before moving inside for dinner.

the outdoor space at Foothills Grange
fun outdoor space at Foothills Grange

Drinks include seasonal cocktails and local beers, and food comes from the resident food truck serving humane, locally raised and butchered meats. The smashburgers and tallow fries were to die for. Yes, I call myself a pescatarian, but if there’s a local, humane smashburger on offer, I’m in. What a cool spot.

goat artwork at Taco Billy
part of Taco Billy’s art collection–spot the goats!

Finally, at long last: Taco Billy had languished on our Asheville to-do list for years, because we love White Duck so much and couldn’t not get our Asheville taco fix there. But Taco Billy has a Black Mountain location! They were closed while we were in town until Tuesday morning, so on the way out of town we ordered ahead and J drove the Airstream around the block while I ran in to grab the food. I daresay the tacos are better than White Duck?

plantain taco from Taco Billy
Taco Billy breakfast taco in the car, with veggies and a plantain tortilla

They’re huge and filling, with lots of veggies and available customizations, and the plantain tortilla… just wow. The interior of the restaurant really spoke to me with the goat artwork, and we can’t wait to try the non-breakfast tacos next time, either in Black Mountain or Asheville.

Beer

Black Mountain has three breweries: Pisgah Brewing, Lookout Brewing, and Black Mountain Brewing.

Bugsy and a beer and a stage at Pisgah
the big beer garden at Pisgah

As soon as we’d set up the Airstream at the KOA on Sunday afternoon, we hightailed it over to Pisgah; they were only open until 5:00 and then closed Monday, so it was our only chance to get a beer there. When we visited in 2017, we liked the outdoor space and thought the beers were ok. This time, we liked the outdoor space and thought the beers were ok.

expansive outdoor space at Pisgah Brewing
Pisgah’s outdoor taproom

They only had West Coast IPAs (J likes hazy New England IPAs) and no sours (I drank a local cider) and on a chilly day we didn’t want to dawdle at our outdoor table. It looks like their indoor taproom will be open weekends through the winter, but it wasn’t yet open for us. There’s a huge stage next to the outdoor taproom–it bet it’s a great place to see a concert!

Bugsy and some beer at Lookout Mountain taproom
warming up at Lookout Brewing

From Pisgah, we headed to Lookout Brewing to warm up indoors in their dog-friendly taproom. The beer was good: J had an IPA and I had a tart wit beer, and they also serve wine, cider, and hard seltzer. Lookout uses local ingredients whenever they can, including local malt and hops, which from what we’ve learned in our cross-country brewery hopping is quite unusual. The very nice beertender agreed to put the UVA basketball game on the TV for us, as the KOA trees kept us from setting up our DirecTV dish (which we’d brought just for UVA basketball, yes). J liked the IPA so much he bought a bunch to take home.

Black Mountain Brewing looks like a great spot with lots of indoor and outdoor seating, but the tap list didn’t excite us, so we pushed it to our next Black Mountain visit.

Coffee

hiking Greybeard Trail with a coffee from Dynamite
hike fueled by Dynamite Roasting Co

On the way to hike in Montreat, we stopped at Amy’s recommended coffeeshop, Dripolator… along with everyone else in Black Mountain. It’s cute and cozy but we didn’t want to wait in the long line (we’ll definitely try again next trip) so we drove back toward the KOA to Dynamite Roasting Co’s Coffee Bar.

coffee vending machine at Dynamite
coffee bean vending machine!

It’s a groovy little space with strong espresso drinks and a pastry case (I regretted not buying a cookie from Amy’s favorite bakery, Four Sisters) and my favorite–a coffee bean vending machine!

To do

the view of the lake at the KOA from the Airstream
our lake view

We’ll be back to Black Mountain for sure! In addition to further exploring Amy’s list, we want to check these places out:

  • We spotted a Tacos sign next door to Dynamite at The Clean Plate, but they’re only open Wednesday – Saturday
  • Trailhead restaurant has a good-looking menu and was packed on Monday night
  • The Railyard looks like a really cool outdoor music and beer venue if the weather’s nice
  • Bush Farmhouse makes South African food using local ingredients
  • Straightaway Cafe and Pub looks adorable but it’s a 16-minute drive south of town
  • Must eat non-breakfast tacos at Taco Billy


2 Replies to “Two nights in Black Mountain, NC

  1. Friend Amy must be really impressed with your attention to her suggestions. As for this old guy, I’m just wondering what you were doing while missing both breakfast and lunch.. Must have been a long walk with that cute puppy of yours.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *