By Sandra Chambers
Slide down a waterfall, mine for gem stones, zip across mountain forests or visit talking trees in North Carolina’s national parks and forests. These fun-filled outdoor adventures are within easy driving distance from Asheville and Hendersonville, N.C.
Sliding Rock waterfall in Pisgah National Forest offers visitors the unique experience of sliding down a waterfall! Its gentle 60-foot long slope ends in a deep pool of water, and even family members too young to slide alone can slide in the lap of a parent. Another option is to take a cool dip in the popular swimming hole located at the base of Hooker Falls in DuPont State Recreational Forest. If hiking is your pleasure, go for the three-mile hike from Hooker Falls to Triple Falls (where scenes from The Hunger Games and The Last of the Mohicans were filmed) and end at High Falls, the largest of the three waterfalls. exploreasheville.com/outdoor-adventures/waterfalls
MOUNTAIN GEM MINES
Become a prospector from the 1800s, and go gem mining for more than 40 different precious and semiprecious gemstones, such as sapphires, rubies, emeralds or gold. Pisgah Forest Gem Mine (two locations) also has a fun black light gem room where visitors will discover fluorescent minerals that glow in the dark. Elijah Mountain Gem Mine, located near Hendersonville, offers covered flumes for rain or shine mining, an antique shop and a place to picnic by the stream. pisgahforestgemmining.com / elijahmountain.com/home.html
At Holmes Educational State Forest, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, visitors can listen to trees that tell a story. The Talking Tree Trail features “talking trees,” each with a recorded message about itself, its site and the forest history. The Forestry Center houses audiovisual exhibits describing the managed forest. It’s also a great place for a family picnic with tables, shelters and grills. ncesf.org/holmes.html
THE GORGE ZIPLINE
Experience America’s fastest and steepest treetop canopy tour over 14,000 acres of protected forest. Zip from treetop to treetop while taking in spectacular views and dropping 1,100 feet into the Green River Gorge. During the 3 to 3.5 hour journey, participants experience 6,500 feet of zip lines, a suspension sky bridge and three free fall rappels. The program is designed for inter-generational participants and begins with a ground school orientation session to ensure everyone feels comfortable. Children over 10 years of age and at least 70 lbs. can participate. thegorgezipline.com
Plan a getaway to the North Carolina mountains at allegiant.com.