BLUE RIDGE MOUN­TAINS GET­AWAYS

Good as it gets, breath­tak­ing Ap­palachian scenery

RSWLiving - - Departments - BY LIBBY MCMIL­LAN HEN­SON

When sum­mer heat starts to feel op­pres­sive, cool moun­tain tem­per­a­tures, drop-dead scenery and a laid­back vibe await you in the nearby Blue Ridge Moun­tains. Here’s a quick run­down on in­spir­ing des­ti­na­tions to which you can es­cape by car or flight to At­lanta, Greenville (South Carolina) or Asheville (North Carolina):

BLUE RIDGE, GE­OR­GIA

For­mer is­land chef Danny Mell­man staked his culi­nary claim in the tiny but chic vil­lage north­west of At­lanta. Down­town is an­chored by the gor­geous Har­vest on Main res­tau­rant that he and part­ner Michele Mo­ran helm, lead­ing the town’s farm-totable move­ment.

Go ap­ple pick­ing at Mercier Or­chards in au­tumn, and even if you don’t fish, visit Bill Oys­ter’s ac­claimed fly rod shop. Oys­ter has also opened the small but wel­com­ing Cast & Blast Inn on Main Street.

Lux­ury cab­ins―many with fire­places and hot tubs―sur­round Blue Ridge; it’s a lovely vil­lage in which to while away the hours not spent raft­ing, horse­back riding or hik­ing

the Ap­palachian Trail.

DAHLONEGA, GE­OR­GIA

Down­town of­fers no less than seven wine tast­ing rooms. A scenic 39-mile loop takes vis­i­tors to five nearby winer­ies, for tast­ings, tours and more than one win- ery café. The Ge­or­gia Wine Coun­try Fes­ti­val is in June.

Dahlonega Spa Re­sort of­fers a healthy lodg­ing op­tion with moun­tain­top yoga. Go glamp­ing in a yurt at Cedar House Inn & Yurts (where eco-minded innkeep­ers also make cozy rooms avail­able).

Down­town is chock-a-block with bou­tiques and gal­leries. But a Dahlonega get­away can in­clude fly fish­ing, golf, hik­ing or cy­cling. Seek out The Smith House for fam­ily-style din­ing and a South­ern menu.

HIGH­LANDS/CASHIERS, NORTH CAROLINA

The invit­ing High­lands/Cashiers area of west­ern North Carolina is a gem along scenic U.S. Route 64. Cashiers ram­bles in sev­eral di­rec­tions from its heart, where Buck’s Cof­fee Café brims with sur­pris­ing re­tail temp­ta­tion. The iconic High Hamp­ton Inn, with its moun­tain golf, makes for a de­light­ful base (in­clud­ing fam­i­lies).

High­lands’ Main Street presents abun­dant re­tail op­tions. Moun­tain Fresh Gro­cery & Wine Mar­ket has gourmet take­out on front-porch pic­nic ta­bles. The Old Ed­wards Inn & Spa fills a city block with in­spir­ing ar­chi­tec­ture, while the bu­colic Inn at Half Mile Farm is home to luxe his­tor­i­cal cab­ins and spa­cious ho­tel rooms, all with space to roam.

Hike the Horsep­a­s­ture River Trail to wa­ter­falls at Gorges State Park or go pad­dling on Lake Se­quoyah.

BREVARD, NORTH CAROLINA

This mu­sic col­lege town―oddly known for its white squir­rels―is a throw­back, with a soda foun­tain and O.P. Tay­lor’s toy store. And don’t miss D.D. Bull­winkel’s mer­can­tile or Red Wolf Gallery.

En­joy a flat­bread pizza at Marco Trat­to­ria af­ter hik­ing in the ad­ja­cent Pis­gah Na­tional For­est, or head to DuPont State Re­cre­ational For­est for an easy hike to three spec­tac­u­lar wa­ter­falls. Cae­sars Head State Park has a jaw-drop­ping vista. Nearby Hen­der­son­ville and the vil­lage of Flat Rock are fun to ex­plore.

ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA

This get­away can be what­ever you want it to be, from a stay at the Grove Park Inn glam lodge to a pri­vate moun­tain cabin with stel­lar Blue Ridge views. (Leaf peep­ing is sub­lime in Oc­to­ber). Craft beer op­er­a­tions pep­per the city, and Sierra Ne­vada’s spec­tac­u­lar brew­ery―ad­ja­cent to the air­port―is per­haps the best hang­out ever: Its mas­sive dog-friendly pa­tio has firepits, mu­sic and ter­rific food.

Book ahead for a din­ner ta­ble at down­town’s un­ex­pected Night­bell, and pop in to Bat­tery Park Book Ex­change and Cham­pagne

Bar to un­wind. A stay at the Bilt­more Inn sets up easy ex­plo­ration of the Bilt­more Estate, which hosts con­certs and wine tast­ings, but also of­fers guests the op­por­tu­nity to pad­dle, pic­nic, ride horses or cruise around on bikes. Nearby Bilt­more Vil­lage holds the sexy Grand Bo­hemian Ho­tel lobby bar, as well as dozens of tempt­ing shops, bars and restau­rants.

LAKE JOCASSEE/LAKE KEOWEE, SOUTH CAROLINA

Na­tional Ge­o­graphic mag­a­zine deemed the Jocassee Gorges as one of the “50 last great places on Earth.” When you take in the moun­tain panorama from the crys­tal-clear waters of ei­ther of these lakes, you’ll agree they are sim­ply stun­ning, as is the en­tire area. Sas­safras Moun­tain, the state’s high­est, is nearby. Lake Jocassee has its own wa­ter­falls along a mostly un­de­vel­oped shore­line, while Lake Keowee is largely en­com­passed by lux­ury neigh­bor­hoods (with a few rentals). Re­serve ahead for one of the af­ford­able but sur­pris­ingly nice two- and three-bed vil­las at Devils Fork State Park, right on Jocassee. All kinds of water­sports can be en­joyed on both lakes of the Up­state, and boat rentals are avail­able.

Scenic down­town Asheville, North Carolina. There are op­tions for pad­dlers (in­set) of all skills.

Yummy farm-to-ta­ble meals at Har­vest on Main are Blue Ridge fa­vorites.

Ge­orge Van­der­bilt's Bilt­more Estate (left) in Asheville de­picts Amer­ica's Gilded Age. Lake Jocassee wa­ter­falls in South Carolina (mid­dle left) and Green Knob Over­look along the Blue Ridge Park­way in North Carolina rep­re­sent na­ture's won­der­ment in the re­gion.

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