The famous, 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway curves and loops through the Appalachian Mountains of northwestern North Carolina, cutting past the maples and pines of Pisgah National Forest. When the parkway reaches Asheville, it's about a 20-minute detour to reach Mountain Lodge of Flat Rock, which is settled in a prime location to explore the parkway and surrounding mountains. Mixing cosmopolitan comforts with rustic charm, the lodge is a welcoming sight after a day of soaking in the region’s outdoor beauty.
In a nod to the forests around it, each of the lodge's two-double-bed studio suites is simply decorated with subdued earth tones and windows looking out onto the mountains. A fully equipped kitchen showcases Italian-granite countertops, and a roomy bathroom features a soaking tub. In the morning, a buffet-style hot breakfast starts the day with eggs, sausage, and coffee. Weather permitting, you can take breakfast on the terrace near a trickling waterfall fountain.
Flat Rock, North Carolina: Grand Estates and Scenic Parks
Nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains and just a 10-minute drive from the lodge is historic Flat Rock, a village listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its large number of Old South antebellum manors. The stately home, where poet Carl Sandburg spent the last two decades of his life, is located right off Flat Rock's main highway. To the north, in Asheville, is the palatial Biltmore Estate, George Vanderbilt’s private estate. Dubbed America’s largest home, the Biltmore House features 250 rooms and gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.
Two national forests and Chimney Rock State Park lie within driving distance, so visitors can hike mountain trails, kayak down rushing rivers, and bike along the bumpy paths crisscrossing the countryside. For a popular day trip, head about 60 miles northwest into Great Smoky Mountains National Park, home to miles of walking trails, the 6,643-foot Clingmans Dome observation deck, and a thriving black-bear population.