Find outdoor activities, relaxation options and healthy food in Asheville.
Ask any area resident, and he/she will quickly confirm that Asheville is what one might call “a city of wellness.” Here, outdoor recreation options, opportunities for self-care and the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables encourage folks to lead a healthy lifestyle — in fact, it is one of the many reasons people consider relocating to the region.
Lovers of the outdoors have no shortage of recreational activities, as the area surrounding Asheville offers plenty of places to hike, including Mount Pisgah Trail, Craggy Gardens and Mount Mitchell High Loop on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Plus, those who love the water are met with plenty of places to go swimming, boating, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and fishing. A few local favorite spots include The French Broad, Tuckasegee, Davidson and South Toe rivers.
“Asheville is surrounded by at least 500,000 acres of protected federal lands,” says Jenny Gruhn, owner of Asheville Hiking Tours, a company that leads individuals and groups on hiking excursions to see some of the area’s most scenic views. “We’re really living in a mecca of biodiversity, as far as varied species of wildlife as well as outdoor hobbies.”
Gruhn, who has a Ph.D. in forest ecology, takes groups on hikes they might not typically seek out. A naturalist leads each hike the company hosts, meaning participants can learn about the area’s local history, foraging, and flora and fauna while exercising and taking in the fresh air.
“We’re getting people to engage with the natural world and connect to the environment,” she says. “Our job is to take guests on hikes that aren’t on the internet — those secret, hidden gems where they’ll get the best experience.”
Another experience “Ashevillans” love to take part in — spa treatments and the options are plentiful. Imagine spending an afternoon at Shoji Spa & Retreat, a Japanese-inspired spa, where you can have a classic Swedish massage and soak in a salt mineral hot tub. Other local favorites include Sensibilities Day Spa, which offers massages, facials, and other services; Asheville Salt Cave specializes in energy healing therapies in a Himalayan salt cave; and Poseidon Spa, a day spa located in a Tudor style hotel.
Asheville Wellness Tours is the answer for those looking for the “full” rejuvenating experience. Here, guests are met with activities related to cooking, aromatherapy, yoga, tarot, hiking and other custom events meant to restore the soul and reignite each guest’s connection with themself, others and nature.
A few activities guests can take part in include rooftop bar hopping, private winery tours with a sommelier, forest bathing, tea ceremonies, guided meditation, cooking classes — the list goes on and on. “Asheville has a plethora of things to do, and we offer custom group activities, whether those are one-off events or a full weekend,” says Caitlin Van Hecke, operations manager for Asheville Wellness Tours. “We have a range of things to choose from because wellness is more than just a yoga class. It is mind, body and spirit, and there’s a lot to be said for connection — you can be nourished through socialization, too.”
While staying active and taking part in self-care are large portions of wellness, another aspect of health relates to what you consume. Thankfully, Asheville has this part covered, too. The region is home to a thriving farmers’ market scene, with goods coming from local farmers and producers. A few farmers markets you’ll want to visit include Asheville City Market, North Asheville Tailgate Market, Oakley Farmers Market, River Arts District Farmers Market and WNC Farmers Market.
“The AppalachianSustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) puts out a local food guide that lists all the farmers’ markets in our region, and there were more than 100 in Ashevilleproper,” says Sarah Hart, communications coordinator at ASAP. “They’re all a little bit different. You can go on different days of the week and try something new. I think that’s a huge part of livability and community, health and wellness in Asheville.”