Explore the Grounds of Biltmore
A NOTE TO OUR READERS:
This article is from the October 2005 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.
Each day, thousands trace the velvet rope-lined passages weaving through one of America's grandest homes. Few, however, know that the total Biltmore experience begins outside. Through hikes, carriage rides, float trips, and rooftop views, discover what really brought George Vanderbilt to this land almost 120 years ago.
When driving across the estate, you'll notice paved trails lining the roadways. Walkers sometimes stroll here, but you'll mostly see folks on bicycles leisurely riding beside the fields of cornstalks showing their post-harvest browns. These are just segments of the paved, graveled, and primitive paths for walking, hiking, and biking that navigate Biltmore's thousands of acres. Make your first stop the Outdoor Center, near the Winery, for trail maps and information. Also, while you're in the area, visit the Winery Welcome Center, and make a reservation for the Red Wine and Chocolate Seminar. This event, held at 4 and 5 p.m. daily, gives you a taste of the sweet life.Left: Bike trails lead guests to some of the more remote areas of Biltmore Estate.
Walk farther south of the gardens, and you'll pick up the Bass Pond Trail (roughly a half-mile loop) that leads to the pool known best for its picturesque arched rock bridge. The Meadow Trail, a quarter-mile offshoot of the path, meanders through a rolling landscape, home to bluebirds and mourning doves.
Left: Explore the property on transport of the four-legged kind.
Left: A statue of the goddess Diana and her hound stands at the top of a grassy slope known as the Vista.
The complex also features a woodworker, antique farm equipment exhibits, and a farmyard full of heirloom chickens, lambs, calves, and Belgian draft horses.
Left: Walk the paths south of Biltmore's Gardens, and you'll discover the serenity of the Bass Pond.
Guided outdoor trips through the estate showcase the trails and breathtaking views otherwise missed on a normal visit to Biltmore. Climb atop a horse, and clop down the trails. Hop on a raft, and ease down the 3-mile section of the French Broad, Asheville's largest river, which runs through a portion of the property.
Left: Carriage rides follow a few of the same trails the Vanderbilts used almost 120 years ago.
Left: You won't get this kind of vantage point anywhere else.
While countless others traverse the house below, you can't help but feel you've found the secrets. Consider that when George Vanderbilt stood in this spot, he owned everything he saw. Out here, the incredibly grand scope of Biltmore eases into focus.
Left: On the North Wing and South Wing Tours, you'll see the mansion's architectural details up close.
Inn on Biltmore Estate: toll-free 1-877-324-5866. Rates: from $249 on weekdays, from $319 on weekends. As an inn guest, you have access to the estate's grounds, which include the gardens, Historic Horse Barn, and Winery. All excursions and tours, including the house, are extra. (The concierge staff will help you set up anything you need.) Be sure to check the Web site ( www.biltmore.com) for a variety of exclusive packages and special rates.
Left: For an elegant break from the outdoors, take afternoon tea in the inn's library.
- Estate admission: $39 (includes admission to Biltmore House,Gardens, Winery, and Farm Village).
- Red Wine and Chocolate Seminar: 4 and 5 p.m. daily; cost included in Estate admission. Sign up at the Winery Welcome Center on the day of your visit.
- Bike pass: $5. If you bring your own bike, you'll still need a pass that includes a map and access to all trails.
- Bike rental: $20 for up to four hours. Rental includes bike pass, helmet, and trail map.
- Guided bike trips: $35 per person, $10 additional for bike rental.
- Carriage rides: $35 per person for a 45-minute ride.
- Horseback rides: $50 per person per hour.
- Float trips down the French Broad River: $25 per person.
- North and South Wing Tours: $15 for each tour.
- Biltmore Estate: toll-free 1-877-324-5866 or www.biltmore.com. ( Editor's Tip: Plan your outdoor activities for the morning and your house tour for the afternoon. The crowds thin considerably after 3 p.m.)