Horseback Riding, Mountain Views, and Private Cabins on 2,000-Acre Dude Ranch
Pisgah View Ranch is set up like a dude ranch in the Old West: you might see blazing campfires, people learning how to rope and ride, or cowboy action shooting, a competition in which participants typically dress in period costume and wield old-fashioned firearms. But the ranch is miles from the western wilderness. It's located a short drive from Asheville, North Carolina, set on 2,000 acres amid the Blue Ridge Mountains and one of the first national forests in the eastern U.S., Pisgah National Forest.
The Cogburn family has owned this property for more than two centuries, and the homey cabins have a vintage, rustic feel to them, like something from the pages of Little House on the Prairie. Some have a log exterior and some are cozy A-frame buildings. Select cabins are outfitted with fireplaces, whirlpool tubs, or covered porches that overlook the lake.
Pisgah Mountain and Indian Spring Mountain are the backdrop as you horseback ride on Pisgah View Ranch's trails. Paths wind through the woods past waterfalls and streams, and you might also see local wildlife such as warblers or butterflies (all-inclusive options include horseback riding; available for a fee with other options). Or, cast out for bass, blue gill, and lily pads at the tranquil fishpond.
Southern hospitality makes guests feel right at home on the ranch. Each day, you can savor a home-cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and on Saturdays, you can eat barbecue and corn on the cob at the ranch's weekly cookout. Throughout the day, lemonade, sweet tea, and baked goodies are always on hand.
Candler, North Carolina: Outdoorsy Activities in Blue Ridge Mountains Close to Downtown Asheville
The small, unincorporated area of Candler, North Carolina, sits in the southwest corner of the state, near Pisgah National Forest and Asheville. Pisgah National Forest is made up of more than half a million acres, and you can mountain bike or horseback ride on hiking trails through tree-lined mountains.
Voted the most one of the 10 Most Beautiful Places in America by Good Morning America in 2011, Asheville is a hodgepodge of artsy shops and historical neighborhoods. Biltmore Village is perhaps the best example of this unique character: it features red brick sidewalks, wrought-iron streetlamps, and Victorian-era buildings that now house antiques stores and specialty shops. Don't miss the Biltmore Estate, the former home of multimillionaire George Vanderbilt, which features a staggering mansion and its own winery on 8,000 acres.
It's worth it to stop by West Asheville, too, where you can stock up on vintage duds at one of the area's colorful resale shops, browse eclectic art at the galleries, or sample organic produce at the weekly farmers' market.