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 ( 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.


Head to the Wilson Creek Wilderness Area where the rugged trails are prime for avid hikers ( 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.


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


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; Camping options in Pisgah National Forest include Mortimer Campground or the primitive Boone Fork Campground, both situated on Wilson Creek (