Waterfall, glamping and whitewater rafting made for the perfect quick getaway. Follow this 2-day itinerary for a little summer in the mountains.
A few weeks back, I was thinking that I always schedule a bunch of activities when I travel to another country but why on earth I don't do that in the places close by? I decided it was time to change that and take my kids out of the house for a bit. So I created this quick and easy itinerary from CLT to the mountains that you can do in just 2 days and enjoy the beautiful nature, while keeping mostly safe from Covid (no guarantees but not even going to the grocery shop is).
So here it is! I hope you enjoy the idea and get inspired to do this (or you own!) itinerary. Send me pics when you do!
09am - Left the house and drove to the Upper Creek Falls in the Pisgah National Forrest.
This is the exact address for the GPS: 6118 Windsong Ln, Newland NC 28657
11am - Arrived at the Upper Creek Falls.
The entrance to the parking lot is a bit hidden and it's right off a curve. The parking lot is small and from there, you have two options: go to the Upper Falls, or Lower Falls. There are signs for both and it's a loop so you can do both on the same trail. Since we wanted to head to the swimming hole first, we headed to Upper Falls.
The trail is beautiful but keep in mind that there are LOTS of roots so it's not a "smooth" walk. When you get there, you are on top of the main waterfall. You can go to the right and see the cascade from above (be extra careful and don't get too close, and definitely don't let younger kids wondering around, it's a HUGE cascade). If you turn to the right, you go up a few big rocks to get to the swimming hole. There are a few big rocks for you to leave your things and go for a swim. It was the COLDEST water I've ever been to and it took me all the courage in the world to actually jump in the water. It felt like I was going into a tub of ice... but then again, they say it can be good for you so why not challenge our fears.
The setting is so beautiful and peaceful. I really needed to be "hugged" by nature!!
We stayed there for about an hour or so. On the left side of the swimming hole, there is a rope where you can hold on to it and swing into the water. There is, if you are brave enough to go swimming in that freezing water all the way there. Well, at some point you do get used to the water (or you get numb, either way it gets better eventually).
12:30pm: Continued the trail to the Lower Creek Falls.
From the swimming hole, cross the creek there to reach the other side where the trail continues. You have to cross either by getting your feet into the water or through a big tree trunk. I read that it's very hard to cross it when the water level is too high so if you don't feel like it, you will need to turn around and go back through the same trail you came in. If you can safely cross it, reach the trail on the other side and stay on the yellow brick road - I mean, yellow sign road - as that will bring you to the Lower Creek Falls with a big beautiful surprise midway: a gorgeous waterfall!
The Lower Falls is a great place to slide. But if you like your butt, I suggest you bring a swim tube (we saw one guy using it to slide and it looked like a lot of fun!!). The boys didn't feel like getting wet again so we just stayed there for a few minutes already planning to bring a tube next time.
We crossed the creek again to continue on the trail loop and that took us back to the parking lot.
1pm: Headed to the Blue Ridge Parkway into Little Switzerland.
Helpful note: the cell phone signal was on and off for me so I suggest you to bring the instructions on how to reach the Blue Ridge Parkway printed with you. I was lucky to get a few seconds of coverage that allowed me to load the map but for about 10 minutes, we were seated in the car wondering how we could reach the Parkway (which made me miss the paper maps!).
That section of the Blue Ridge Parkway is SO pretty and with lots of lookouts to stop for a moment and take it all in.
Many years ago I read an article about the Blue Ridge Parkway and how it went through this place called Little Switzerland. The name got my attention and I always wanted to go. This time before we left home I said: we are goin to check Little Switzerland out! Two things here: 1. It's definitely a cute place and 2. "Little" is overstated, it could be "mini" or "micro" LOL
But back to the first point, it's definitely cute. There is a nice hotel there with gorgeous views to the Blue Ridge mountains and the hotel seemed really nice: The Switzerland Inn. There are fire pits outside, a nice restaurant with outdoor seating, an outdoor bar, and a pool. It has different types of room and some chalets to rent as well (that according to my son it looked like a gingerbread house, and it really does. Perfect for families with younger children). Rates for August range from $179 to $259/night for 2 adults and 2 children so it's worth to check it our if you are in for a relaxing getaway with beautiful views.
This is not were we stayed for the night, we just drove by and stopped to check it out (have you seen a travel agent not wanting to check a hotel??).
From the hotel, we then went to grab lunch at the Switzerland Cafe which is on the "Main street" right in front of the Post Office. They were not opened for dining in but one can order food from a side window. That were picnic tables positioned far from each other. That worked out perfectly and the food was really tasty!! We ordered the BBQ platter, the vegetables Focaccia (not pictured) and the chicken tacos.
On the side of the Cafe, you will find a couple of local shops. One is a souvenir shop that also have wine and beer and a few other items. I bought a delicious Pinot Noir there (tasted later), the husband got beer, and the kids got s'mores items for our night at the camping (glamping!). The next shop was a book store that I could literally spend hours going through their old books collection. They also have coffee and pastries.
3pm: Blue Ridge Parkway into Asheville Glamping (www.ashevilleglamping.com).
After buying the important necessities, we went back to the Blue Ridge Parkway heading to our Glamping site, located near Weaverville (North of Asheville). I heard about this place and wanted to try them out. They have those nice well-decorated domes, that really take camping to a whole new level.
Those domes though are so popular that you have to book them WELL in advance (like at least a year unless you are lucky to find a cancellation). Since this was a last minute trip, I checked their website and found just one night available for the Safari Tent that fits up to 5 people. They don't book it for only one night (min is 2 nights) unless it's a leftover night in between two other bookings, which ended up working perfectly for us.
The tent was pretty nice, with a comfortable Queen bed and a queen sofa bed, plus some cute decorations and lighting. There was even an AC unit attached to the tent window. I always liked to camp because I love to be that close to nature. But my husband likes comfort and my kids do too (can't blame them) so this was a great compromise. We stayed close to nature but everyone was comfortable.
Prior to arriving at the camp, we stopped at a nearby Publix and bought a few things for a dinner picnic and breakfast the next morning.
The day ended with a beautiful dusk, good conversation, checking the constellations and a lot of laugh. The boys are at an age where they make fun of everything including me, which makes for a great stand-up show.
As nothing goes exactly as planned (and I've come to not only expect but embrace the imperfections of every trip), the night was a little rough. Knowing the boys don't sleep well on the same bed, I brought an air mattress. But the mattress was specially noisy that night and my son was turning so much I couldn't sleep. By 1am I was tired of the noisy situation and told him to go in bed with his brother so I could finally sleep (not sure about them, but hey, priorities! lol).
To make up for the sleep situation, in the really early hours of the morning my oldest went to use the restroom and came back in awe, saying everything was so pretty outside! That's exactly what I wanted them to experience: seeing the world with a different set of eyes, waking up in a completely different setting.
7:30am: Breakfast and pack up.
We had another picnic outside, this time for breakfast. And packed our things back to the car. Not sure if you also have this problem but every time I say we will just bring an extra set of clothes, we end up with 6 big different bags with stuff in it.
8:15am: Heading to the whitewater rafting meeting point.
Before the boys were born, Raul and I used to do lots of adventure trips and one of the activities we did was whitewater rafting. Now that the boys are older we wanted them to try it out so I booked us to do a class II and III rafting. If you are not familiar with the rafting rating system, it goes from I to V, I being "lazy river" and V being you jumping up and down (and often OFF) the raft.
We figured a class II and III would be a great introduction rafting experience and although the boys were expecting a little more adrenaline, they had fun and now we feel more comfortable in taking them in a full class III with a few IV rapids next time. I won't probably bring them to a class V though because last time I was in it, almost everyone fell of the raft including the guide. It was scary and tense, the river was very fast with lots of rapids and let's just say that this mama here is pretty ok in keeping their baby bears away from that.
9am: Whitewater rafting
I booked the rafting activity with the French Broad Adventures - www.frenchbroadadventures.com
They have the 1/2 day rafting, the full day rafting (where you get to do a couple of class IV rapids in the end), zip-lining and cannoning (which we have done it in Europe and it's really fun).
The company was great from start to finish. The weather forecast was rain so they gave us heavy duty rain jackets that worked like a charm. We were protected from the rain and the wind, which made the rafting really comfortable even with the bad weather (and yes, I realize we were going to get wet regardless but it's no fun when you are soaking wet and it's windy).
The guide explaining the trip and passing the instructions was super funny and our personal guide who led us on the river was a very sweet lady. We had a great time with Connie!
The Covid safety guidelines where being followed which made us very comfortable to be there. Masks were being required for everyone at the meeting point and at the bus taking us to the river and back. Once at the raft, we could take our masks out but the guide kept hers at all times.
12pm: Arrival back to the meeting point and heading back to Charlotte.
This time we just picked the fastest route back to our home. We stopped at a freeway intersection to get some food but the vast majority of restaurants were closed. We found a fast food chain called Culver's that had good reviews so we got something there. I don't like fast food at all but at times like this it is convenient plus the boys love it so it adds up to the experience.
3pm: Arrival at home.
The drive back took a little longer due to heavy rain. We arrived home feeling tired, happy, with new stories to tell, new experiences and beautiful memories.
- Upper creek falls:
Asheville Glamping - www.ashevilleglamping.com
And it's worth to check Pisgah Glamping (this one was found by my friend but I've never heard or them or stayed there so do you own research. They have good prices) - www.pisgahglamping.com
- Whitewater rafting:
French Broad Adventures - www.frenchbroadadventures.com
- Fast food chain:
Culver's - https://www.culvers.com/
- Hotel at the Blue Ridge Mountains:
The Switzerland Inn - https://www.switzerlandinn.com/ (did not stay there but visited the grounds and really liked the place)
- Switzerland Cafe: