The South's Best Mountain Towns 2022

Photo: Andy Anderson

When the elevation rises, so does the fun. There's adventure to be had on mountain vacations around the South, and those who have made the trip know few destinations can compare. Our readers voted on their favorites, so here's a list of 15 best mountain towns to visit. Follow winding country roads to small mountain towns and explore their historic downtowns, local shops and restaurants, and cozy bed and breakfasts. Settle in because you'll want to stay awhile. Hike to overlooks, bike forested trails, fish quiet lakes, marvel at waterfalls, canoe calm waterways, and appreciate the astounding splendor of nature in the mountains. (There, you're breathing deeper already.) There's never a shortage of things to do on a weekend trip to the South's best mountain towns, and these communities prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Pack your hiking boots and listen closely—the mountains are calling.

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15. Abingdon, Virginia

Abingdon, Virginia
Eifel Kreutz/Getty Images

The arts are alive in Abingdon, Virginia, a small town that's home to the Barter Theatre, one of one of the oldest professional theaters in the United States. For visual art, check out the Arts Depot, William King Museum of Art, and Holston Mountain Artisans. To range around outdoors, there's also the Virginia Creeper Trail, a great spot to wander on sunny days. Let it lead you to fishing and hiking spots around southwest Virginia.

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14. Berea, Kentucky

Berea College at Sunset
Courtesy O’Neil Arnold for Berea College

The small town of Berea, Kentucky, is near the Cumberland Mountains and surrounded by deep forests. It's the location of Kentucky's biggest privately managed forest, which is owned by Berea College, an institution founded in 1855 and the first college in the South to be coeducational and racially integrated. The forest offers miles of trails and room to roam in this picturesque region of the Bluegrass State.

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13. Bryson City, North Carolina

Bryson City
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This town is a gateway to the Smokies, and there are lots of access points to Great Smoky Mountains National Park—as well as parts of the Appalachian Trail—in and around Bryson City. Hop a train car on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad to see the park at pace (it's particularly inviting when the leaves light up in autumn), and then launch a raft on the Tuckasegee River for a whitewater adventure. Take in waterfall views from an easy hike, and fuel up afterward with a homestyle meal or farm-to-table offering at one of a variety of restaurants.

Plan your trip.

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12. Mentone, Alabama

Mentone, Alabama
Robbie Caponetto

Alabama's quintessential mountain town is Mentone, which is set atop Lookout Mountain and filled with charming spots, including the Wildflower Café, Mentone Log Cabin Village, and Mentone Arts and Cultural Center. Take a horseback ride at Shady Grove Dude Ranch, see DeSoto Falls, and book a cabin rental to take in the mountain air. It's the perfect spot for viewing leaves in the fall and rhododendrons in spring.

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11. Ellijay, Georgia

Ellijay Georgia
rodclementphotography / Getty Images

You can visit Ellijay, Georgia, at any time of year and have a great time, but it's an especially popular spot in fall, when the area's foliage turns vibrant, and the apple orchards open their doors for celebrations, cider, and apple picking. The annual Georgia Apple Festival draws visitors from all over; it has been going since 1971 and includes live music, crafts fairs, and a parade. Here, you'll also find some of the best trout waters in the Southeast, and cooler temperatures make it a good time to cast a line.

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10. Brevard, North Carolina

Looking Glass Falls
Education Images/Getty Images

Hike, bike, and ride horses in the Pisgah National Forest during a visit to Brevard, North Carolina. The wilderness area—with 500,000 acres to explore—is known for its peaks, waterfalls, and hiking trails. After adventuring, stop into downtown Brevard for lunch at Rocky's Grill and Soda Shop, freshly baked treats from Bracken Mountain Bakery, and dinner at MARCO Trattoria.

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9. Staunton, Virginia

Staunton, Virginia
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This town near Shenandoah National Park has a lovely downtown, and visitors will find points of interest including Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Wilson Park. There are plenty of spots to get a bite to eat and relax, including Clocktower Eats & Sweets, Crucible Coffee Roasters, The Shack, Taste of India, and Hotel 24 South. After enjoying the vistas in Shenandoah National Park, take yourself to the breweries along the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail.

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8. Black Mountain, North Carolina

Perched in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Black Mountain is just 15 miles East of Asheville, making it an ideal day trip for anyone looking for their new favorite small town.
Black Mountain Chamber of Commerce

Situated just a short drive from Asheville, the small town of Black Mountain, North Carolina, has galleries filled with work by local artists, breweries, music venues, and charming bed and breakfasts, all of which ensure a full and fun weekend stay in this western North Carolina town. It's named for the Black Mountain range that rises near downtown. There are also lots of opportunities for hiking, biking, and fishing in nearby parks and forests.

Plan your trip.

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7. Hendersonville, North Carolina

Hendersonville, NC
Henderson County Tourism Development Authority

This Blue Ridge town is located south of Asheville, and visitors flock to the area to enjoy the breweries, restaurants, wineries, and apple orchards, as well as Hendersonville's historic downtown. Be sure to check out The Book & Bee Café and Tea, Black Bear Coffee Co, and Wine Sage & Gourmet while you're in town. There's also kayaking, hiking, and canoeing in nearby waters.

Plan your trip.

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6. Dahlonega, Georgia

Dahlonega, Georgia
Richard Parks/EyeEm/Getty Images

Stroll through Dahlonega, Georgia, and find a mountain town filled with personality. It's easy to go winery hopping in North Georgia. There are lots of spots to sip and explore, including Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Winery, Cavender Creek Vineyards, Kaya Vineyard and Winery, Frogtown Winery, Three Sisters Vineyards and Winery—and that's just the spots in the Dahlonega area. Venture farther afield for even more adventures.

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5. Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Eureka Springs Images

The historic downtown area is the calling card of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a mountain town nestled in the Ozark Mountains near Beaver Lake. The entire downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so take time to marvel at the architecture, then explore the works by local artisans in the town's eclectic shops and boutiques. Venture from downtown where there's adventure for all types, from ghost tours to touring underground caves and caverns.

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4. Boone, North Carolina

Boone, North Carolina
SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images

Located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Boone, North Carolina, is a western North Carolina hub for outdoorsy travelers looking for mountain views and adventure in nature. Don't miss Grandfather Mountain, where you can traverse a footbridge suspended over the forest, Daniel Boone Park and the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum, Tweetsie Railroad, and Linville Caverns. Whether ziplining, mountain biking, or wildflowers are your thing, you're likely to find a way to enjoy it here.

Plan your trip.

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3. Blue Ridge, Georgia

Jim Seith/Getty Images

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway makes it simple to enjoy the area around Blue Ridge, Georgia. Hop aboard an antique train to take a spin through the surrounding forest. If you'd rather go by foot, embark on trails through the Chattahoochee National Forest, where you can see burbling creeks and waterfalls. Afterward, enjoy the local restaurants, breweries, and shops in the downtown district.

Plan your trip.

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2. Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Blowing Rock and Blue Ridge
Photo: Courtesy Amanda Lugenbell/Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority

A small western North Carolina town with breathtaking scenic views, Blowing Rock, North Carolina, is an all-time favorite mountain destination. It gets its name from a geologic formation called The Blowing Rock, which is located near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take a drive to see vistas of the mountains and their forests, and don't miss the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum to see works by local artists.

Plan your trip.

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1. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Andy Anderson

This eastern Tennessee town is a family favorite. Gatlinburg is a gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has all the overlooks and panoramic vistas you'd hope to see during a visit to the area. To experience these dramatic sights, book into the Space Needle observation tower or the Sky Lift, an aerial cable car, where you can glimpse the mountains and their telltale haze. Or walk along the longest pedestrian bridge in North America for breath-taking views.

Plan your trip.

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