Black Mountain - a historic mecca of art, nature and Appalachian culture

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The town of Black Mountain, situated in the fertile Swannanoa Valley and rimmed by the majestic ridges of the Appalachians, was originally settled by the Cherokee. Located along a route pioneers used to travel west, it became a popular stopover with its inns, boarding houses, and commercial trade.
With the coming of the railroad in the late 1800s, travel increased dramatically in the area. Lured by the magic of the mountains, many travelers decided to settle here, and soon a thriving town was established. Today, Black Mountain remains a popular tourist destination and is home to seven conference centers and retreats, including Montreat, which is the conference center of the Presbyterian Church and the home of Billy Graham.
Downtown Black Mountain is alive with galleries, vintage shops, pubs and fine dining.
After crossing the Continental Divide on I-40 West and heading into Black Mountain, streets with historic brick buildings draw you into the heart of town where mountain crafts, vintage shops, pottery, and art galleries cluster next to local pubs. The mountain air, friendly shopkeepers, and numerous dining options keep tourists flocking to the small, scenic town, located less than two hours from Winston-Salem.
From sightseeing and hiking to food tours and shopping, Black Mountain has a lot to offer. Pisgah Brewing Co., home of the award-winning Pisgah Pale Ale, is just a few miles outside of town, and free tours of the brewery are available every Saturday. Close by, Lake Eden, the former location of Black Mountain College, is now a camp for youth, but many of the legendary college’s original buildings remain. In nearby Montreat, more than 20 hiking trails in varying distances crisscross 2,500 acres of pristine wilderness. Hikers may join a public hike led by a wilderness ranger or choose to hike on their own with a map. And for the foodies, Creative Mountain Food Tours offers a number of guided food tours that stop by five or more restaurants, giving tourists a chance to stroll, sip, and taste while chatting about local history and cuisine.
A handful of fresh hops at Pisgah Brewing Company
When hunger pangs start gnawing, amble down the street toward Veranda Café & Gifts (119 Cherry St.) for soup and a sandwich, or head over to Trailhead (207 W State St.), a pub with craft beers on tap where all the locals eat. New on the restaurant scene is La Guinguette (105 Richardson Blvd.), where Chef Stephane Diaz, former owner of restaurants in Paris and, most recently, in Asheville, specializes in crepes (La Normandie, with caramelized onions, leeks, Swiss, and Brie, is a favorite) and provides a happy atmosphere with great French wine. For a seriously good cup of coffee, and a bag of locally roasted beans to take home, be sure to stop at the famed Dripolator Coffeehouse (221 W State St.).
La Guinguette is the perfect place for a glass of French wine or one of their famous crepes.
If you’re spending the night, there are several great places to stay in town. Red Rocker Inn, an 1896 Victorian bed and breakfast with fireplaces and whirlpool tubs, has a delicious breakfast buffet. Just down the road is Black Mountain Inn, a historic bed-and-breakfast where the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Norman Rockwell, and John Steinbeck once stayed. Then there is the Monte Vista Inn, a historic hotel which functioned as a boarding house in the 1930s and is now a popular wedding destination. 
Black Mountain Inn, where the spirit of Hemingway lingers.
The Monte Vista, a historic hotel where every room has a view.
If art is your thing, next door to the Monte Vista is Red House Studios (310 W. State St.), owned by the Swannanoa Valley Fine Arts League. It houses seven working artists’ studios and offers exhibits, classes, and workshops. Downtown is also home to Black Mountain Center for the Arts (207 W. State St.), a community arts facility that houses monthly exhibits along with programs in music, visual, and performing arts.
Black Mountain Books - new, vintage, rare
Downtown is also where you’ll find a variety of shopping options. For book lovers, a visit to Black Mountain Books is a great place to find new, rare, and vintage books. Then there are vintage shops such as Chifferobe, where you’ll find anything from a copper baking pan to an antique broach, or Song of the Wood, where Jerry Read Smith’s handcrafted hammer dulcimers are on display. Other noted shops include Seven Sisters Gallery, which carries a unique collection of jewelry, art, and accessories from local artists, and Take a Hike Mountain Outfitters, where you can stock up on camping and hiking gear.
Former site of the infamous Black Mountain College

If you’re looking for an overnight road trip and a feast for the senses, look no further than this picturesque town in the Blue Ridge, where the views are free, the food is incredible, and the artistic heritage of Appalachia remains strong.
As featured in the June, 2015 issue of Winston-Salem Monthly Magazine.  Article by Naomi Gingerich, photos by Joshua Ruffner. Copyright 2015.

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