Plan a trail run around a visit to one of these 6 must-visit local breweries around Western North Carolina.
Asheville, North Carolina is the must-visit trail running destination in the Southeast, if not the entire East Coast. Between Pisgah, Dupont, Montreat, and other unmentioned trail systems, the area is easily home to over 2,000+ miles of trail! White Dot Adventures, the first trail running tour company in the eastern US, is also based in Asheville, with a goal of pairing guests with a trail running experience in the mountains they will never forget. They’ll even bring the beer courtesy of their friends at UpCountry Brewing. In addition to UpCountry, Western North Carolina hosts an impressive number of craft breweries, topping the list with west coast destinations like Boulder, Colorado, and Portland, Oregon. According to this article by Forbes published in 2016, Asheville placed third on a list ranking the number of breweries against the population. No matter your ability, this guidebook showcases 5 must-visit breweries in Western North Carolina, and classic trail runs that begin nearby.
If you’re staying in Asheville, Bent Creek is the place to be. It’s known as one of the top mountain biking destinations in the region but has plenty of trails that are only open to hikers and trail runners. On the ridge above Bent Creek, the Shut In Trail is a small section of the Mountains to Sea Trail, a local favorite and offers endless opportunities for trail runners. A sign at the lower trailhead states how the trail was "originally constructed in the 1890s by George W. Vanderbilt to connect Biltmore House with his Buck Spring Hunting Lodge 17 miles away on Mount Pisgah." The construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway required much of the trail to be relocated, but the original corridor is still the same. If you’re up for a challenge, you could shuttle the entire trail from Bent Creek River Park all the way to Mount Pisgah! If you’re looking for something shorter, form a loop with Sleepy Gap, Chestnut Cove, or others instead. The annual Shut In Trail Race is also a bucket-list race that completes the entire trail and sells out in days! Just 10 minutes from the trailhead, Wicked Weed West opened up a small taproom in their brewing facility in 2019, or you could head south about 20 minutes to Sierra Nevada – one of the most aesthetically-stunning breweries in the region.
Twenty minutes east of Asheville, Montreat is a trail runner’s paradise loaded with steep trails, old railroad beds, epic views, and waterfalls. The Graybeard Mountain Trail is the must-do run if you’re up for the challenge. The summit is a small clearing that offers impressive views toward Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. If you’re looking for something shorter, Lookout Mountain is a local favorite with an excellent view of the “Seven Sisters” across the valley, a long ridgeline with seven major peaks with Greybeard as the tallest. Afterward, head to Lookout Brewing in Black Mountain, aptly named for the nearby peak. If you’re in need of running supplies, Vertical Runner is in the heart of downtown and “is the area’s premier full-service running, walking, hiking and adventure shop.”
About 30 minutes southwest from Asheville, you’ll find yourself in Brevard, the outdoor hub for the Pisgah Ranger District. John Rock is the must-do trail run and a great option for most runners with moderate fitness. The loop includes an epic slickrock overlook with views of the Davidson River and the high peaks along the Pisgah Ridge. Afterward, stop by Ecusta Brewing in Pisgah Forest. The brewery is popular among outdoor outfitters, guides, and locals, but far less popular among mountain bikers - many of whom navigate across the street to The Hub & Pisgah Tavern.
About 20 minutes outside of Hendersonville sits the Green River Game Lands. It’s a lesser-known area full of beautiful mountain streams and an impressive view of Green River Gorge. A short, but steep side trail leads down to a close-up look of The Narrows, which “is best known for being one of the most extreme kayaking runs in the Eastern US,” according to this source. This loop is quite challenging, but Sanctuary Brewing is located in the heart of downtown Hendersonville, and their expansive beer selection is sure to have something to quench your thirst. They describe themselves as being “committed to enriching the lives of both humans and animals through excellent craft beer, kindness, and philanthropy.” They also offer a 100% plant-based café with an extensive burger menu—one that redefines what’s possible even without animal products.
This list saved the best for last. The Pinnacle Park Tour near Sylva includes plenty of views and can be shortened or lengthened as needed. Though steep at times, it’s a local favorite and mostly on former logging roads – at least until you spur off to Blackrock. Roll back into Sylva afterward and stop to see our good friends at Innovation Brewing at either of their two locations. The menu is loaded with options, and they are widely recognized for their delicious IPAs. Local running tour company White Dot Adventures even considers Innovation as their favorite spot in Western North Carolina.