Sarah E. Kucharski photo
Black Mountain, N.C.
Tucked between the railroad tracks that helped modernize Western North Carolina and the 4.5-acre Lake Tomahawk is the charming town of Black Mountain. An ideal place from which to base one’s explorations of the region, Black Mountain offers a diverse selection of shops and restaurants all within easy walking distance from the center of town.
White settlers first explored the Black Mountain area in 1784, though the Cherokee lived there long before. In the Cherokee language, Swannanoa Valley means “beautiful valley,” and what is today Black Mountain was once known as Grey Eagle. However, it wasn’t until 1874, when the railroad to the Swannanoa Gap was put in, that pioneers truly began making the area their home. Nearly fifty years later, the railroad was converted to a scenic motor road, which increased the number of visitors discovering Black Mountain’s beautiful climate and making it famous as a health resort.
Today, Black Mountain boasts a cool factor strongly influenced by nearby Asheville but on a smaller scale and at a slower pace—though that may soon change as the town continues to gain notoriety as a great place to stay awhile.
For more event information, including guided hikes, gallery exhibits, and live music, visit blackmountain.org.
Get your grub on
Every town needs a good pizza joint. Black Mountain has two. My Father’s Pizza has been a staple since 1990 and features homemade sauces, dough, meatballs, and special house dressing. There’s a large outdoor patio for enjoying the food along with the season.
Fresh Wood Fired Pizza & Pasta is a more intimate spot on a side street downtown. At an inside table, diners can check out the wood fire at work, while a few outdoor tables also are available. Check out the $10 build your own salad option featuring any of the pizza toppings such as proscuitto, garbanzo beans, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, or artichoke hearts on a bed of fresh mixed greens. Or pick out one of the earthy pizzas like the Fun Guy with seasonal wild mushrooms and fresh basil or the Chevre that stars local goat cheese.
At Berliner Kindl German Restaurant and Deli there’s more sausage and sauerkraut than you can shake a stick at, which makes for a hearty meal. Those who want to play it safe may look to the house special Reuben sandwich, while those who aren’t looking for intimacy any time soon may opt for the braunschweiger and onion sandwich. The grilled Nuernberger bratwurst are not to be missed—at the very least order them as an appetizer with a side of the house recipe sauerkraut, which nicely balances sweet and tangy flavors. Kids may enjoy the ham and Swiss or grilled cheese options.Tucked away in the historic Stepp House is Louise’s Kitchen, a funky place with dining tables scattered throughout the ground floor rooms of the house—an antique radio in one room and bright pink walls in another. Diners order at the counter in the kitchen, choosing from a selection of vastly local items. Breakfast is served through lunch (Louise’s is closed for dinner) and includes the Veggie Delight—spinach, red onion, tomato, and egg served with a house-blended pesto cream cheese—while lunch itself brings tasty simple fare like the duck egg salad sandwich.
For a sweet treat, head over to the Black Mountain Bakery where a slice of cake or a couple of cookies make for an excellent reason to sit outside on the patio. Nods go to the cranberry walnut and the oatmeal raisin cookies. Soup and sandwiches are available for a quick lunch bite.
Find your morning brew or afternoon pick-me-up at The Dripolator. The small but hip coffee shop is a hangout for doing a little work or just reading the paper. Nosh on the granola sold by the cup (with milk) or get a bag to go for later.
The Blackbird Café, a purveyor of farm-to-table cuisine, can be found outside of downtown proper in the Village of Chesire. At lunch, consider opting for the pimento cheese pannini with applewood smoked bacon and tomato, but no matter what, get the shoestring fries. Dinner brings appetizers like the Ashley Farms organic chicken liver paté and entrees including a grilled sirloin with blue cheese butter and country ham carbanara pasta.
Other places worth noting include Ole’ Guacamoles Mexican Kitchen, which has an excellent reputation, and Thai Basil, where spicy and vegetarian options abound.
Partake of local libations
Be sure to check menus for local microbrews and wines, as Western North Carolina has become a libation lovers’ location. Pisgah Brewing Company—located in Black Mountain and with a tap room open seven days a week—and Highland Brewing Company are two of the most popular beer makers. But if given the chance, sample as many of the regional brews as good sense allows. The Black Mountain Ale House is a great place to go and while away some time over a game of darts or pool. For more information about beers across the state, visit ncbeer.org, and for more information about Dionysus’ drink, go to visitncwine.com. South Creek Vineyards and the Biltmore Estate’s vineyards are the closest to Black Mountain.
Adventures in retail and bargain huntingAn advantage to Black Mountain’s walkable downtown is the easy access to shopping. Park once and head off in any direction.
One of the best-known stores is Tyson Furniture Company, a fixture since 1946. The selection sprawls through several storefronts and offers everything from arts and crafts style bedsets to Amish rockers and brands including Bassett, Broyhill, Drexel Heritage, Lane, La-Z-Boy, and Thomasville. The Doncaster/Tanger outlet store is adjacent to Tyson Furniture and offers great deals on fashion.
The whole family will enjoy Town Hardware and General Store, which has everything from toys to toilet plungers. Grab a couple of throwback sodas from the shelf, a few postcards, and maybe a garden hose, then head across the street to Anthm to eyeball the whimsical found object art creations and move on to Common Housefly, a kitchen shop with a range of nifty gadgets designed to make cooking easier or at least a little more fun.On Cherry Street, head in to Bramblewood Cottage, the McCosh House, and Thyme and Again, but be sure not to miss Seven Sisters Gallery where more than 250 artists’ work comes together.
At the bottom of the hill, Ivy Corner offers up something old and something new. Go a little farther and one finds Black Mountain Natural Foods for organic produce, vitamin supplements, essential oils, and more.
After a devastating fire that destroyed most of the buildings on Sutton Avenue, the Black Mountain Fire Department was formed in 1912. Eight years later, townspeople funded the construction of a firehouse and enlisted premiere architect Richard Sharp Smith—who had served as George W. Vanderbilt’s chief architect at the Biltmore Estate before opening his own company. The firehouse was in used until 1984, when the fire department moved. By 1989, the firehouse was turned into a museum, which it is still today.
Visit the Black Mountain Center for the Arts
The Black Mountain Center for the Arts is a central location for arts classes and gallery exhibits. Drawing and painting, pottery, ballet, yoga, ballroom dancing, music lessons, and writing courses all are part of the center’s regular schedule. In addition, the BMCA hosts annual events, concerts, and theater productions. The center is located in the historic City Hall on State Street. blackmountainarts.org
Lake Tomahawk is a 4.5-acre lake, surrounded by a .55-mile walking path. Fishing is allowed, and a fishing dock is provided for individuals with disabilities. Overall the 19-acre park has a 1,700 square foot shelter used for group picnics, parties, and events, as well as a playground, individual picnic tables, and grills.
There are two lighted tennis courts, one horseshoe court, a gazebo, and an outdoor swimming pool. An open area serves as an amphitheater for outdoor music concerts in the summer.
The Black Mountain Greenway has two parts—the main greenway runs east to west from Old Fort to Swannanoa, and several side routes branch off to various locations in town and throughout the valley. The Depot Trail is a paved, sometimes steep, path through deep forest. An interesting side trip is to the community garden, and the trail continues on to the Grey Eagle Arena and connects to a path to the Blue Ridge Assembly.
Point Lookout Trail is a must for mountain bikers who are also train lovers. The paved, 3.62-mile trial follows the Old NC 10/Highway 70 route through the Royal Gorge, once known at the Central Highway, through the Pisgah National Forest. The trail ascends more than 900 feet between Old Fort and Ridgecrest with long-range views. The trail crosses over the railroad and offers several nice views of several rail tunnels. The trail parking lot in Black Mountain is located on Cherry Street just north of the Black Mountain Depot.Golfers will enjoy the 6,215-yard, par 71, 18-hole municipal course just outside of downtown proper. The course features a 747-yard, par 6 17th hole, which at one time was the longest hole in the world. The front nine holes of the course were constructed in 1929, and the back nine holes were constructed in 1962, though improvements have been made throughout the years. There’s a pro shop and a snack bar. For tee times, call 828.669.5243.
Get on the Blue Ridge Parkway west of Black Mountain near Asheville and ride in either direction. Heading north will take one to highlights such as the Southern Highlands Craft Guild Folk Art Center and Craggy Gardens, while heading south ventures past Waterrock Knob toward Cherokee.
The Pisgah National Forest is a land of mile-high peaks, cascading waterfalls, and heavily forested slopes. Comprised of over 500,000 acres, Pisgah is primarily a hardwood forest with whitewater rivers, waterfalls, and hundreds of miles of trails. This national forest is home to the first tract of land purchased under the Weeks Act of 1911, which led to the creation of the national forests in the eastern United States. It is also home to the first school of forestry in the United States, now preserved at the Cradle of Forestry in America historic site, and boasts two of the first designated wilderness areas in the east. Consider traveling half an hour to Nebo to visit the Grandfather Ranger District office for help planning your excursions.
For more advice on how to enjoy the great outdoors in and around Black Mountain, visit Take a Hike Outfitters, located in downtown.
Wrap it up with a good night’s sleep
Just outside of downtown Black Mountain, visitors will find the Black Mountain Inn, built circa 1830 as a stagecoach stop. Over the years, the stately home was remodeled and transformed, and like many such large homes in the region, it was used as a tuberculosis sanatorium around the turn of the 20th century.
In 1940, as the historic Black Mountain College increasingly rose in popularity and acclaim, a gallery manager from Florida purchased the property, restoring it, and opening it 1942 as the Oak Knoll Art Studio. The name reflects the landscape’s enormous oak trees. Famous guests included Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Norman Rockwell, and Helen Keller.The historic home was sold once again in 1965 and finally, in 1989, to its current owners who opened it as the Black Mountain Inn. The inn is a quiet place surrounded by 3 wooded-acres, and much of its 5,000 square feet of interior space showcases the home’s original woodwork.
The five rooms each feature clawfoot or built-in bathtubs with antique furnishings and plenty of sunlight. Those who wish to watch the morning news may do so in a small lounge on the ground floor where fresh coffee is self-serve. At breakfast, look forward to the homemade granola, fresh fruit, and selections such as French toast.
As a perk to guests, the Black Mountain Inn offers spa services including massage and facials. Book a little relaxation time and follow up with some easy reading in a comfortable chair or outside on one of the inn’s two patios while listening to the birds sing.
For more information, visit blackmountaininn.com or call 828.669.6528.