Photo: Climbing boulders

A group of climbers watch as a competitor climbs the underside of "The Blade," a V5-rated fin of granite at the Hound Ears boulderfield in North Carolina.

Photograph by Andrew Kornylak, Aurora Photos

Pop. 18,952
GPS: 35°54'N 81°31'W

Leave it to Google to find this hidden gem: The company's hub is here in the forested Blue Ridge foothills. Downtown revitalizations are under way, and weekly farmers' markets with live bluegrass (www.thebluegrassmarket.com) will make the new arrivals feel at home. Even without a dot-com salary, you can land a four-bedroom on three acres (1.2 hectares) with mountain views for $299,000—for now.

PLAY

Head to the Wilson Creek Wilderness Area where the rugged trails are prime for avid hikers (www.friendsofwilsoncreek.org). The creek became a part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in 2000, and with rapids ranging from Class I to V, it’s no small trickle; a great spot for kayakers who want to experience rapids in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

EAT

Hannah's Bar-B-Q will sate your hickory-smoked pork craving with tangy BBQ sauce and throw some hushpuppies on the side (www.hannahsbbqsouth.com).

SLEEP

Right in town, try the Irish Rose B&B. The two-story brick Colonial Revival features a breezy front porch, a library with a fireplace, and big, comfy beds where you can rest up before waking to a full breakfast (doubles $125; www.irishrosebb.com). Camping options in Pisgah National Forest include Mortimer Campground or the primitive Boone Fork Campground, both situated on Wilson Creek (www.cs.unca.edu/nfsnc).

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