Family Friendly North Carolina Winter Adventures

Winter view in North Carolina mountains

Does winter get you feeling a little stir crazy? Us too, especially this year with so many of our go-to indoor entertainment options off the table. Luckily, with some extra bundling-up, exploring the gorgeous Blue Ridge mountains in the winter can be incredibly magical. Bonus: far fewer crowds, too!



Here’s a guide to an ultimate day of WNC winter adventures. 


Fuel up with breakfast – you’ll need the energy today! You burn a lot of calories any day while exploring our mountains, but your body especially needs the extra fuel when it’s cold outside. Avoid hanger and pack extra snacks for the kids. (And for you, so you don’t have a #parentingfail and eat all the kids’ snacks.)

Historic Toxaway Mountain Market Cafe
A little extra coffee or hot chocolate to start your day of winter adventure never hurt anyone

Grab a coffee or hot chocolate at the Historic Mountain Market Café. Forgot the snacks or want to stock up on some gourmet lunch supplies? Head across the street to the Historic Toxaway Market where you’ll find both kid and grown-up goodies. (Go ahead, buy the red wine or the fancy chocolate. By this evening, you’ll have earned it!)

Rainbow Falls at Gorges State Park
Rainbow Falls - with a rainbow!

Get moving on a hike. If a paved-path stroll is more your family’s style, head to Upper Whitewater Falls. Take the paved ¼ mile path to a platform where you can soak in (not literally) views of the highest waterfall west of the Rockies. Want to get the heart pumping and burn off some energy? Head down the stairs to the lower overlook; just remember you have to climb back up. That’s one way to warm up!


If you prefer a longer hike and muddier boots, head to Gorges State Park, where you can do a 4-mile round trip hike to see Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls. The falls are spectacular, especially when there’s actually a rainbow at Rainbow Falls! A word of warning – when the trail is wet (which it often is), it’s very slippery and you’ll have to navigate a few stream crossings. We recommend bringing bring dry socks and/or shoes to change into after your hike.


 On a sunny day, you can have a picnic at one of the tables in the Gorges State Park parking lot, but no judgement if you chow down in your car with the heater on. The Gorges State Park Visitor Center is worth a stop on your way out to grab a memento, guidebook or postcard.


Sapphire Valley Frozen Falls Tube Park
Photo by High South Ventures

Moment of truth: Did you tell the kids you’re going snow tubing this afternoon or is it a big surprise? Head to the Frozen Falls Tube Park at Sapphire Valley Community Center to purchase tickets for a 1.75-hour session. The 500-foot run is open to all ages and just the right amount of thrill for the whole family.


East Cottage Fireplace
Fireplace in East Cottage. Feel those cares melting away?

On your way back to Earthshine, grab some take-out pizza from Villa Amato. (Also, one last chance to grab that bottle of wine from the Market.) When you’re back in your cottage, turn up the gas fireplace while you relive the day’s adventures. If the kids haven’t crashed, reward their endurance with a family campfire under a starry sky – make sure to pack s’mores supplies!

Ready to get your adventure on? Book a cottage today! And we know we missed some things – share your favorite WNC winter adventures below!

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