Photo: Sunrise on trail

Sunrise at a campsite along the Appalachian Trail, atop Max Patch Bald west of Asheville, North Carolina

Photograph by Harrison Shull, Aurora Photos

Pop. 72,231
GPS: 35°34'N 82°32'W

Asheville’s outdoor enthusiasts come together for the festivals, markets, and bohemian art and music scenes in this Blue Ridge Mountains hot spot.

PLAY

Trek the Big Fork Ridge Loop in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 9.3-mile (15-kilometer) circuit is notorious for its rough terrain and renowned for its old-growth forest (nps.gov/grsm). Whitewater raft the French Broad River and tackle the turbulent Class IV rapids ($62 for a full day; www.blueheronwhitewater.com). Or take a trip down the 60-foot (18-meter) long Sliding Rock, a natural water slide where Looking Glass Creek pours down a slippery boulder in Pisgah National Forest.

EAT

Some of the best restaurants in this eclectic city serve European fusion bites. Zambra Wine & Tapas has an evolving menu that features Carolina seafood with Spanish and North African flair, like seared scallops with oranges, capers, and Spanish honey (www.zambratapas.com).

SLEEP

If you want to feel like royalty, sign up for a night at the Inn on Biltmore Estate. You won't be sleeping in the actual 250-room Vanderbilt county home (the largest privately owned house in the U.S.), but you will be able to enjoy mountain views atop the estate's 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares) of land (doubles from $199; www.biltmore.com).

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