Road Trip Alert: Hot Springs, North Carolina

by Kristy Tolley
Find Big Things in this Tiny Town

By Vanessa Infanzon

I can’t remember how I learned about Hot Springs, North Carolina, but the tiny town captured my heart more than 20 years ago. It’s tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, 30-minutes from the Tennessee border, with access to hiking trails, restaurants and shops. The town and its surrounding areas offer a setting for quiet reflection.

The Town of Hot Springs, named for its natural hot springs, became a resort destination in the early 1800s. Native Americans discovered the 100-plus degree mineral water first and held spiritual ceremonies along the French Broad River.

Today, it’s a thriving (and peaceful) town with art, history, activities and outdoor recreation. It has the distinction of being the only town in North Carolina to cross paths with the Appalachian Trail. If you’ve binged on television shows like, “Bless this Mess,” “Northern Exposure,” or “Schitt’s Creek,” during the pandemic, you may have an appreciation for the big things this small town has to offer.

History, Outdoor Adventures and More

Immerse yourself in the town’s history. Stop by the Hot Springs Welcome Center for a map of 17 churches, houses, inns and stores to visit in the area. Learn about Gentry Hardware in downtown Hot Springs. It’s a family owned store since 1946 and is a must see for people who appreciate a traditional hardware store.

Hike one of the trails near Hot Springs. Head to the Laurel River Trail, a one-way 3.6 mile trail along the river. Bring a picnic to view the Dudley Falls and Paint Creek Corridor. Set out on Lover’s Leap Loop Trail and Appalachian Trail Loop for a 1.6 mile loop.

Ride the trails on a horse, just 25-minutes from Hot Springs. Saddle up with Sandy Bottom Trail Rides for a one-, two-, three- or four-hour guided tour on a 500-acre working ranch. Trot past cattle, goats and a 200-year-old garnet mine. Dig for gems in the creek on the three-hour ride. AAA Discount $3 off with a current membership card.

Eat and Drink

Eat at Trailside Bakery and Café for homemade dishes. Try the brisket or smoked pork sandwich, lobster macaroni and cheese and leave room for peanut butter and pecan pies and turnovers. Look for special events in the large outdoor seating area. Spring Creek Tavern’s outdoor seating overlooks the creek. The menu features a choice of burgers, sandwiches and wraps and an extensive craft beer selection.

Start your day at Smoky Mountain Diner with a homemade cinnamon roll (only available on Saturday mornings and holidays). Mother and daughter team serve up traditional breakfasts, skillet breakfast, homemade biscuits and apple butter. You’ll be ready for a day-long hike.

Drink at Hot Spring’s first brewery, Big Pillow Brewing. A variety of American, English and German beers are served. Enjoy authentic burritos, nachos and tacos from The Grey Eagle Taqueria, the brewery’s food partner.

Hot Springs Resort and Spa

Where To Stay

Step back in time at The Belle of Hot Springs, an inn built in 1922. Spend time with Lady Belle and learn about the house’s history. For more casual accommodations, pitch a tent along Spring Creek with Creek Ridge Camping or Hot Springs Resort and Spa’s campground on the French Broad River. Need a bed, get a room at Creek Water Inn in downtown Hot Springs. Soak in mineral water from natural hot springs. Book a private cabana overlooking Spring Creek at The Hot Springs Resort and Spa.

Sleep at one of Hot Springs’ inns, camp on the French Broad River, stay in a mountain cabin or get pampered at a resort. Ask for help from your AAA representative. Hot Springs Spa and Resort offers a variety of options for guests: camping, cabins, suites and vacation rentals.

When to Go

Plan around Hot Springs annual festivals: French Broad River Festival April 30-May 2, 2021;  Bluff Mountain Festival on June 12, and the Wild Goose Festival, Sept. 2-5, 2021.

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