Since we are fortunate enough to live two hours from the mountains, Ryan and I have prioritized visiting beautiful mountain towns nearly every fall since we moved to North Carolina. To the people who actually live in these stunning towns, we’re known as “leaf peepers” and the nickname is well-deserved. Trying to time our trip into the mountains with peak leaf color changes is always a little tricky but this year we got it right.
We got it very, very right.
Vibrant red, yellow and orange leaves clung tightly to the trees and stretched over the mountains for miles and miles. I had to tell myself to stop taking a billion pictures but it was hard to put my camera away when the colorful leaves seemed to follow me everywhere all weekend.
Aside from gazing at the gorgeous leaves that surrounded us, Ryan, Chase, Sadie and I managed to fill our time in the mountains with a myriad of activities and relaxation. It felt like our trip officially began on Thursday evening when we leashed Sadie up and strapped Chase in our hiking backpack and made the short drive from Black Mountain to Montreat to hike to the top of Lookout Mountain. It’s a short hike but a strenuous one that’s nearly all uphill but the hard work was worth it because we were rewarded with stunning 360-degree views.
Sadie thoroughly impressed us with her agility and we once again decided she must be part mountain goat. The steep incline, rough terrain and large rocks we had to climb to get to the top didn’t phase her in the least. She was one happy dog and Ryan and I are convinced she goes to bed every night wondering why in the world we don’t taking her hiking every single day of the week. (We would if we could, believe me!)
After our hike, we drove through the small but picturesque campus of Montreat College before arriving at Robert Lake Park, home to what may be the most beautiful playground I’ve ever seen. The playground had three different wooden jungle gyms nestled among shady trees and fast-flowing streams with bridges over them to allow you to cross safely from one play area to the next. I’ll go ahead and make the obvious statement now: Chase loved it!
Between our hike and playground fun, we worked up an appetite and ended up grabbing takeout sushi for dinner from Sake Sushi to bring back to our cabin, a Carolina Mornings Vacation Rental in the Village of Cheshire Cabins. We stayed in Cardinal’s Cove which was a quirky but cozy place. (The quirky part? The bedroom was located on a separate floor from the main living area and kitchen, accessible only by an outdoor staircase. Other Carolina Mornings cabins near us had more traditional layouts.)
The location of the cabin was perfect; close enough to I-40 with quick access to Asheville but tucked into the quiet town of Black Mountain that we absolutely adore. (We stayed in Black Mountain with my family last year.) Our cabin was also walkable to the Village of Cheshire which is home to a couple of local restaurants and a spa and we loved popping into the Artisan Gourmet Market for sandwiches and coffee a few times during our visit. We called it an early night on Thursday and woke up feeling energized for more hiking on Friday morning!
Once we were all up for the day on Friday, we made breakfast at our cabin before piling into Ryan’s car and driving a little less than 20 minutes to the Catawba Falls trailhead. The hike is perfect for new hikers and children and features large, well-maintained trails and mostly flat terrain. We chose the hike thinking Chase might want to walk but he seemed quite content in the hiking backpack which was ideal since it allowed us to keep a decent pace and easily point out the beautiful sights without amazing things like rocks and sticks distracting our toddler along the way.
The entire hike took place along a large stream and we passed a bunch of smaller waterfalls on our hike up to Catawba Falls. The falls are huge and breathtaking and we only saw a small handful of people during the short three-mile hike. It felt like we had the trails to ourselves which was a treat since the falls felt like they should be a big tourist attraction based on their magnitude alone.
The rest of our Friday was a bit more low key and included a trip into Asheville for doughnuts from Vortex (we loved them but Chase was not impressed because they didn’t have any with sprinkles), pizza from Black Mountain Mill & Pizzeria and a cozy night back at the cabin watching Harry Potter on TV.
Saturday was the first day we didn’t see the sun, as fog and cloudy weather loomed over Black Mountain and Asheville all day. Despite the dreary weather, the rain held off for most of the day with the exception of a light, wet drizzle that followed us around most of the morning. It was the perfect cozy coffee shop kind of morning, so we made our first trip of the day a visit to The Dripolator, a local coffeehouse located in the heart of Black Mountain.
With hot beverages in hand and sweet pastries in our bellies, we were ready to start the day!
When we asked Chase what he wanted to do on Saturday he said he wanted to see animals and since we had so much fun at the WNC Nature Center during our previous visit to the area, we decided to spend the morning among the wolves, bears, coyotes, deer and otters!
We made a pit top at the Artisan Gourmet Market for lunch on our way back to our cabin and then as Chase took his nap, I began working on this blog post and Ryan leashed up Sadie for a walk. Chase took an extra long nap but still seemed tired and a bit fussy when he woke up so we figured we should keep our evening activities rather low-key. We drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway for a bit to soak up some more mountain views before stopping for dinner at The Trailhead Restaurant, followed by dessert at Kilwin’s in Black Mountain.
Sunday passed in a bit of a blur. We were up early and after packing up the car, we drove to Lake James State Park for a quick hike on our way back home. It was a great way to break up the drive and do something active to kick off the day. We spent the rest of the day in our pajamas at home, getting organized for the week ahead. Lots of laundry, unpacking, cooking, baking and a bit of Stranger Things-watching to round out the evening.
I hope you all had a good weekend and enjoy your Monday!