Asheville homeschool resources + Asheville homeschool field trip ideas! I started creating this list for myself informally and decided to flesh it out and make the type of resource list I wish I’d had when we first moved here. My goal is to have a comprehensive list of places with homeschool class offerings and field trip ideas.
I highly recommend signing up for the newsletter of anywhere you’re interested in, to hear about new offerings and updates! Please leave a comment with any suggestions of places I’ve missed or if you’ve had good experiences anywhere in particular. I’m using the term Asheville loosely here but looking at the larger area including what I consider suburbs or within an hour driving distance of downtown Asheville. Please know that my inclusion of any place on here does not equal any type of endorsement! I don’t have personal knowledge or experience with many of these places.
I did not include places that I consider to be purely recreational like the Retrocade, but you can find more ideas along those lines in this post about things to do with kids in Asheville (there will be some overlap but anything there that I think is a good fit for a field trip will be listed in this post as well!).
Other posts you might like while you’re here:
- Top 10 BEST things to do in Asheville NC
- 40+ things to do in Asheville with kids
- 40+ Asheville date ideas
- Kid friendly easy hikes near Asheville NC
- Top ten things not to miss in smoky mountains national park!
Sections included in this post (click to jump to that part):
- Welcome to Asheville!
- Homeschool class offerings
- Local field trip ideas including local museums (within roughly 1 hour of downtown Asheville)
- Homeschool co-ops and Facebook groups
- Day trip or overnight field trip ideas (within roughly 1+-3 hours of downtown Asheville)
- Local arts & cultural organizations that put on shows or have put on shows in the past
- Nearby nature areas for hiking
- Places to volunteer with kids
- Other local educational opportunities & annual events to be aware of
- Western North Carolina books
Pin this list of Asheville homeschool resources with this link or image:
Asheville homeschool resources
Asheville is one of the most popular cities in western North Carolina and it shows! We moved here a few years ago and when I was updating my license, I got my first (of many) lectures about how people moving in were ruining the area for everyone else. Which isn’t a complaint on my part; folks moving from out of state with remote jobs (us) have played a part in driving up housing costs while the job market has not kept up – there is a real affordable housing crisis here paired with an increasingly high living wage requirement.
I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from moving here when we are transplants ourselves but I encourage everyone considering moving here to take a hard look at housing costs and the job market, and once you’re here, to work extra hard to shop local and support local organizations trying to bridge the gaps! A bonus of homeschooling is being able to live further out from the city, which will be cheaper, but keep in mind that wi-fi and/or cellphone signal can be real stumbling blocks in more rural areas.
With all that being said, we love living here! While the museum scene is slim, the hiking options are incredibly plentiful and the mild weather means we can soak up the mountain views and waterfalls year round. Homeschool regulations are relatively simple, you can read all of them here. There are no umbrella schools, no stipends, and no public school collaborations/hybrid options. We are secular homeschoolers and I’ve noted below anything that is NOT secular.
The library system has treated us well; once you’re here and get signed up for cards, know that you can access books and audiobooks through your local branch but also get interlibrary loan borrows for free through the NC Cardinal system. Residents can also use the Zoom pass to check out the Arboretum, Nature Center, Art Museum, Science Museum, and more for free. The libraries also regularly provide programming, lego clubs, and performances geared at kids so follow your local branch on social media to keep in the loop. I’ve indicated places that are always free, as well!
I highly recommend subscribing to the newsletter of all the organizations and places you are interested in from the lists below- I also subscribe to AVL Today and follow Family Friendly Asheville on Facebook to hear about new things.
Map of all the information below
If you’re headed out a certain way, check out if there’s something nearby of interest! You can toggle the marks by type, but keep in mind that not everything will show up on the map. I did not include, for example, all the trailheads for Blue Ridge Parkway trails, or long-distance trails like the Mountains to Sea trails, or some classes and performing arts centers don’t have a public address.
I originally was going to include a map and indicate ages served, but since I started working on this list and finishing it, both of those things have changed for several locations so I’m going to say you need to click through and investigate instead of me trying to keep it up to date!
These are places that: 1. offer classes specifically for homeschoolers during the day or have part-time drop-off programs that are suitable for homeschoolers. 2. have an official website/social media presence where people can read reviews.
- Appalachian Performing Arts- a dance studio up in Burnsville that offers a homeschool class; find more details here.
- Asheville Homeschool Classes – a popular local program that offers a variety of short-term drop-off classes for homeschoolers; find more details here.
- Brainmakr math classes- this group offers math classes, a homeschool math club, latin classes, and tutoring; find more details here.
- Buncombe County Parks & Recreation– in the past, the county has offered a drop-in P.E. style class for homeschool students as well as other one-off classes that may be homeschool friendly; check in with their offerings quarterly here.
- Eden Allen Wildlife Sanctuary – this is a virtual class conducted through Outschool; if you’re not familiar with that site you can get a free $20 credit with my referral link. Learn about what to do if you find wildlife, featuring live animals from Western NC; find more details here.
- Elevate Life and Art – this is a Christian church offering programs that many secular homeschoolers also attend, covering a variety of subjects. The classes are taught by their teachers typically without parental involvement; find more details here.
- Firefly Valley Design– a local artist offering youth classes and open to working with groups; find more details here.
- Forest Floor – this is an outdoor only program that has specific homeschool classes as well as after school programs, with different focus options; find more details here.
- Lisa Smith Teaches – a local teacher that currently offers Zoom book club and classes for homeschoolers; find more details here.
- Mountain Makers– a mobile makerspace that offers different workshops that homeschoolers can take advantage of, find more details about the makerspace here and the classes here.
- North Carolina Arboretum – with miles of trails, regularly rotating exhibits, and seasonal events the arboretum is a great resource. They have drop-off homeschool friendly classes and have a robust field trip offering ; find more details here.
- Steepside School for Wild Learning – this is a Waldorf-inspired homeschool enrichment program alongside a forest kindergarten; find more details here.
- The Educational Garden Project- a local non-profit running STEM classes and camps for homeschoolers, find more details here.
- Biltmore Church Homeschool Ministry- NOT secular, obviously, located in Arden, find more details here.
- Classical Scholars– this community offers drop-off classes for 4-12th grade and is Christian; find more details here.
- Ignite Homeschool Hybrid Coop- NOT secular, they use Christian curriculum in some classes. A co-op style community with locations in Brevard & Hendersonville, find more details here.
- Mountain View Homeschool Co-op– this is a secular group, find more details here.
- Thrive Community Classes- NOT secular, teachers choose their own curriculum however several listed are explicitly Christian-based and it is held at a church, located in Waynesville, find more details here.
- ZigZag – this group is an agile learning community and they have an exciting new campus; find more details here.
- Asheville Area Homeschoolers
- Asheville secular homeschoolers
- Asheville Unschoolers & Homeschoolers
- Black Mountain Homeschoolers
- Brevard Nature School Family Co-op
- Buncombe County Homeschoolers
- Free Forest School of Asheville-Hendersonville, NC
- Hendersonville Homeschoolers
- Hike it Baby Asheville
- Homeschool Happenings of WNC – they have meetups
- Madison County NC Homeschool Co-op
- North Carolina Homeschool Support
- Smoky Mountain Eclectic Unschoolers
- WNC Forest School and Outdoor Learning Community
- WNC Homeschool Swap
- WNC Tween/Teen Homeschoolers
- WNC Wildschoolers– they have meetups
Roughly speaking, places are included in this list if they are within 1 hour of downtown Asheville; places within 1-3 hours are listed below as daytrips.
General ideas for any region:
We have not done every single one of these in Asheville but have done each either here or where we lived previously in Iowa. Call up politely, ask if they offer tours for groups, hope they say yes and organize one! I like collecting a few bucks from each family and sending a thank you card to the staff with pizza or donut money afterwards, when possible.
- Fire station
- Police station
- Behind the scenes at the post office
- Behind the scenes at the library
- Recycling center or landfill
Museums & education centers:
Please consider donating to the museums with free admission if you’re financially able, it helps keep them free for those who aren’t!
- Asheville African American Heritage Trail (coming soon!)- an in-progress trail illuminating Black history in Asheville. [Click for their official website here].
- Asheville Art Museum- the local art museum that’s downtown! They have several exhibits shown at once, a rooftop cafe, and a dedicated child/family room for making art. See way more details and what to expect in my blog post here ‘visiting the Asheville museum of art with kids‘. [Click for their official website here].
- Asheville Museum of Science (AMOS)– the local science museum located downtown, this is a relatively young organization in a pretty small space but my kids enjoy visiting. There is a small room dedicated to rocks, gems, & minerals, a small watersheld water table, one dinosaur skeleton model, a small indoor climbing tree/play-gym, and a small room with rotating activities; [Click for their official website here].
- Asheville Poverty Initiative- this organization will take your group on an in-person or virtual walking tour to get a better sense of how the houseless population in Asheville has to navigate the area; [Click for their official website here].
- Asheville Urban Trail- walk this strip of 30 stops to learn more about Asheville history, with an accompanying scavenger hunt guide and teacher’s guide. [Click for their official website here].
- Biltmore Estate– a famous estate and mansion, there is more to visiting than touring the house! There are permanent and temporary exhibits, extensive gardens, historical hands-on crafts and games, and farm animals to visit. See way more details and what to expect in my blog post here ‘The best tips for visiting the Biltmore Estate with kids‘; they also have an annual homeschool day. [Click for their official website here].
- Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center; be sure to check they have a current exhibition on, it’s not open all the time. They also host evening concerts! [Click for their official website here].
- Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site– visit the pastoral homesite of the late author, explore the trails, and stop in to pet goats at the historic barn; [Click for their official website here]. There is also a free junior ranger program for this location! Admission is free to the grounds and the goats (small fee to tour inside the house itself, but easy to skip that). Highly recommend making it a full day and stopping in to Flat Rock Park while you’re down there.
- Center for Craft– this is a small exhibit space featuring a few artists at a time, located right downtown. [Click for their official website here]. Admission is free!
- Chimney Rock State Park- this state park is a bit confusing; there are sections that are free to enter but this particular one is privately managed with an entrance fee. There is a small nature center with animals, maintained trail system, and a small cave. [Click for their official website here].
- Cradle of Forestry- this campus introduces visitors to the history of forestry with indoor exhibits, paved trails, and several open-air museum style buildings teaching about the forestry school’s past. Don’t miss the giant locomotive engine or the loaner adventure backpacks in the visitor center! [Click for their official website here].
- Farm Heritage Trail- cruise this self-guided 8 family farm tour that includes scavenger hunt ideas, [Click for their official website here].
- Folk Art Center- a large gallery featuring exhibits by local artisans as well as a small shop to buy art as well. Lots of breakables here so not advised for large groups or little kids, but interesting to visit in small groups. They also host regular workshops with hands-on opportunities for kids and host a library where the public can access regional history and craft reference books; [Click for their official website here].
- Grovewood Village– a small artisan area with galleries, artist workshops, and two museums. It hosts the Estes Winn Antique Car Museum and Biltmore Industries Homespun Museum that focuses on textiles; there are volunteer-led tours of the Homespun Museum and dye house; [Click for their official website here]. Admission is free to both museums!
- Hands On! Children’s Museum- the closest kids museum to Asheville, this is a small museum that will appeal most to the 8 & under crowd, in my opinion. The exhibits have a heavy focus on pretend play and it is all indoors. [Click for their official website here].
- Holmes Educational State Forest- a section of forest dedicated to teaching people about forestry management; there are well marked trails and displays, they host programming for teachers and children. [Click for their official website here]. Admission is free!
- Johnson Farm- a historic home and farm offering tours of the house and farm animals, they also offer field trip programming. [Click for their official website here].
- LEAF Global Arts- a local nonprofit focused on connecting people to different cultures and the rest of the world; visit their center and check out their class offerings. Offers free printable scavenger hunt sheets on their website; [Click for their official website here].
- Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County– a small museum that shows local minerals and has a few fossil castings like a t-rex skull and a mastodon tusk. You can buy and crack a geode while there! [Click for their official website here]. Admission is free!
- Moogseum– this tiny museum is dedicated to educate and connect people with electronic music, in the footsteps of Bob Moog. Learn how synthetic music is made and try your hand at one of the electronic instruments. [Click for their official website here].
- Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University- this center is focused on preserving and sharing western NC culture and history, there are small seasonal exhibits as well as several programs designed for kids; [Click for their official website here].
- Mt. Mitchell State Park– this state park has beautiful trails, a paved observation point, and a small museum that has exhibits about area geology, local animals, and other regional history. [Click for their official website here].
- Museum of North Carolina Minerals- a small museum right off the Blue Ridge Parkway showcasing local minerals and how they fit into the region, with interactive exhibits; [Click for their official website here]. Admission is free!
- NC State Minerals Research Laboratory– a university lab that does some outreach to younger students, they offer a small class as well as tours of the lab; [Click for their official website here].
- North Carolina Arboretum- a huge tourist attraction; the arboretum has miles of trails, manicured gardens, and visiting exhibits that are often a perfect fit for homeschooling. Don’t miss their miniature model train, permanent bonsai exhibit, and the fun kids’ loaner explorer backpacks at the visitor center. [Click for their official website here].
- Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute aka PARI– this research area offers guided tours by appointment and occasional open houses, introducing visitors to the interior NASA exhibit, planeterium, outdoor telescopes, and campus trails. [Click for their official website here].
- Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education- a very small learning center with a few native animals and exhibits about Pisgah National Forest, located at a trailhead with a fish hatchery nearby; [Click for their official website here].
- Silver River Center for Chair Caning– a small museum covering the art and craft of woven chairs, including a hands-on opportunity to try weaving for kids, also offering presentations for small groups; [Click for their official website here]. Admission is free!
- Smith-McDowell House Museum– Asheville’s oldest mansion lets you take a self-guided tour to explore the building itself and see local history exhibits. [Click for their official website here].
- Swannanoa Valley Museum- a small museum in Black Mountain that hosts traveling exhibits about regional history. [Click for their official website here].
- Transylvania Heritage Museum- a small museum focused on the history of Brevard and the surrounding area, they also offer ‘traveling trunks’ for educators to check out. [Click for their official website here]. Admission is free!
- Vance Birthplace Historic Home- this preserved plantation site teaches regional history about the dwelling of Zebulon B. Vance and the people he enslaved. There are historic buildings as well as a visitor center with exhibits, and regular educational programming. [Click for their official website here]. Admission is free!
- Wheels through Time Museum– this museum focuses on motorcycles and unique cars from the past. [Click for their official website here].
- Western North Carolina Air Museum– a small museum focused on flight, you may get lucky and see someone flying while you visit and see the stationary planes. [Click for their official website here].
- WNC Nature Center- a very popular spot, this mini-zoo showcases many of the region’s native animals along with several interactive playspaces for kids. They offer small group programming and events as well, and there is a small sluice gem “mining” spot. [Click for their official website here].
Private Businesses or nonprofits with discount, tour or observation opportunities:
- Asheville Public Art Trail– Drive and walk to see different murals and public art installations around downtown! [Click for their official website here].
- Asheville Water Resources Department- this city department offers tours of the water treatment facility for kids. [Click for their official website here].
- Cataloochee Ski Area- homeschool discount for lessons, rentals, and lift tickets. [Click for their official website here].
- Dr. King’s Farms- get up close to see this local farm’s watusi, elk, yak, and deer on a tour. [Click for their official website here].
- Echoview Fiber Mill- a local yarn shop and processing factory that turns wool and fluff into yarn and more, offering tours. [Click for their official website here].
- French Broad Chocolates- see how the popular chocolates are made, with a 45 minute factory tour including tasting chocolate in each step of the process. [Click for their official website here].
- Hickory Nut Gap Farm- explore a working farm, meet the animals, and explore this popular local retailer with a farm tour. [Click for their official website here].
- NC Glass Center– a non-profit set up to teach people about glass art, with free demonstrations and some classes open to kids. [Click for their official website here].
- River Arts District- this is an expansive area near downtown full of outdoor murals and small studios where you can shop and sometimes catch artists at work, observing what they’re making. [Click for their official website here].
- Round Mountain Creamery- tour a working dairy goat farm and sample their cheese. [Click for their official website here].
- Treetops Adventure Park- this tourist spot has a ropes course, zipline, climbing area, and mountain bike park; offering discounts for homeschool groups and optional curriculum. [Click for their official website here].
- Winchester Creek Family Farm- take a farm tour to meet the animals [Click for their official website here].
- Wolf Ridge Ski Area- homeschool discount for lessons, rentals, and lift tickets. [Click for their official website here].
- Woolworth Walk– this is an art gallery with over 170 different vendors. You can browse diverse & talented art while sipping on a milkshake from their soda fountain! [Click for their official website here].
- Arborcrest Gardens- a privately owned, manicured botanical garden that opens to the public by appointment. [Click for their official website here].
- Bays Mountain Park- this park has miles of trails, a planetarium, and several animal exhibits. They offer inexpensive programming for students. [Click for their official website here].
- Catawba Science Center– this science museum has specific homeschool classes on top of the public exhibits and their planetarium, aquarium, and labs. [Click for their official website here].
- Cherokee Museum- learn about Cherokee culture and people at this popular museum with exhibits on their history and present day lives. [Click for their official website here].
- Children’s Museum of the Upstate- this children’s museum is much larger than closer-by options and lots of fun. [Click for their official website here].
- Erwin National Fish Hatchery- open to the public for self guided tours or you can schedule guided ones, this is a fish hatchery and small regional history ‘heritage museum’. [Click for their official website here].
- Exchange Place- this is a living history museum of an 1850’s farm that showcases how difficult life on the farmstead could be, with hands on demonstrations and farm animals. [Click for their official website here].
- Foxfire- this is an outdoor museum focused on Appalachian history, with on-site demonstrators as well as virtual tours. [Click for their official website here].
- Gray Fossil Site / Hands On! Discovery Center– this features an active Pliocene-era fossil dig site along with a small museum, letting hopeful paleontologists get a glimpse at the real thing. [Click for their official website here].
- Grayson Highlands State Park– this super popular park is all the way in Virginia but it has beautiful views, a portion of the AT, and wild ponies grazing along the trails (don’t pet or feed them please!). [Click for their official website here].
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park– the park is huge and working on the junior ranger program will be engaging for any kid, but also admire the architecture of Clingman’s dome, consider hopping on to a part of the Appalachian Trail, and enjoy exploring the Mountain Farm Museum while you’re there. They have a new online resource geared at kids & learning as well, Smokiees @ home. Check out my hiking trail suggestions here + touristy things to not miss here. [Click for their official website here].
- Greenville Zoo- a small zoo with more traditional animals than the WNC Nature center. [Click for their official website here].
- Hagood Historic Mill Historic Site- a open air museum preserving an 1850’s farmstead; you can arrange for field trips touching on different aspects of life back then. The site also has a preserved petroglyph site in the same area. [Click for their official website here].
- Kidsense Children’s Museum- this children’s museum is in a quaint little downtown, with a tall climbing net and several different rooms for hands-on fun and exploration. It is larger than the one in Hendersonville; [Click for their official website here].
- John C. Campbell Folk School- this school hosts several public workshops and events. [Click for their official website here].
- Linville Caverns– the state’s only public show cave, take a tour and go underground. [Click for their official website here].
- Roper Mountain Science Center- this museum schedules homeschool field trips as well as running some public programs. [Click for their official website here].
- Trail of Tears National Historic Trail– this tragic path begins in western North Carolina, don’t miss the junior ranger program. [Click for their official website here].
- Upcountry History Museum- a museum with several interactive exhibits and traveling exhibits, touching on regional history. [Click for their official website here].
- Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail– this trail covers four states, tracing the route used by patriot militia during the Kings Mountain campaign of 1780. Drive to one of the nearby sites in NC; [Click for their official website here].
- Asheville Choral Society
- Asheville Community Theater
- Asheville Symphony Orchestra
- Attic Salt Theatre Company
- Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center
- Different Strokes! Performing Arts Collective
- Flat Rock Playhouse
- Haywood Arts Regional Theater (HART)
- Montford Park Players
- NC Stage Theater
- Parkway Playhouse
- Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre (SART)
- South Carolina Children’s Theater
- Wortham Center for Performing Arts– note that they have daytime performances for school groups and allow homeschoolers to buy tickets; they release each fall and often sell out.
Local nature/historical organizations & outdoor areas to explore
Local nature/historical oriented organizations that hold public events of interest
- Audubon North Carolina
- Blue Ridge Audubon
- Conserving Carolina
- Cradle of Forestry
- North Carolina Arboretum
- North Carolina Forest Service
- North CarolinaWildlife Resources Commission
- Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
- Waterfall Keepers of NC
- Western North Carolina Historical Association
- WNC Nature Center
A few things to consider before you go!
- Cell phone service in most if not all of these areas is spotty at best and non-existent at worst. Please go prepared by upgrading to the “pro” version of an app with a map like Gaia or Alltrails (Gaia is less user friendly but shows more of an area, Alltrails is user generated so can be incorrect easily but easier to use and follows a specific trail) and taking a paper map/compass for backup. I hike with just my kids often and in wilderness areas so I use a Garmin Inreach as a safety measure since it can send an SOS call without cell service.
- Many of these areas have completely unmarked trail systems, so I want to re-emphasize my first point. Some of them are very touristy and clearly marked; make sure to research it ahead of time so you know what you’re getting into.
- Don’t forget that higher elevations mean colder temperatures, and in fall/winter they may mean snow. The Parkway will mostly close over the winter season, cutting off access to some trailheads, however you can walk and bike on it when it is closed.
- Come prepared with the 10 essentials! Read up on Leave No Trace, waterfall safety, and bear safety before you go. It may feel like overkill for a one mile jaunt along the parkway, but getting in these habits as you explore more and further out will keep you safe, healthy, and let the Search and Rescue volunteers stay that way too.
- Don’t stack rocks in the creek and resist the temptation to pick up salamanders; moving rocks endangers aquatic creatures’ habitats and bug spray, lotion, perfume can hurt salamanders through their porous skin.
- There are a variety of hunting seasons in the area, sometimes overlapping public trails. Wearing bright colors (especially blaze orange) and making noise while you hike helps keep you safe!
- Always, always check that the trail is open and safe before you leave, since cell service may be limited (also not a bad idea to have a backup plan ahead of time, just in case even after you’ve checked ahead!). Looking on the website of wherever manages the trail should give you the most accurate information. I also like to look at AllTrails if the trail is on there and read recent reviews.
Our favorite nature guides to take
Not sure what to do?
- Try out geocaching – see how to get started geocaching here.
- Take a regional nature guide and work on identifying trees, plants, or critters – these are our favorites to take in a backpack.
- Do a nature scavenger hunt like this one.
- Set a mileage or ‘new trail’ goal for the year and work towards it!
- Join the nation-wide 1000 hours outside challenge.
- Join the nation-wide 52 hike challenge.
- Join the nation-wide My Adventure Challenge.
- Join the Hike the Smokies – Family Challenge.
- Check out one of the local Audubon recommend birding sites.
- Try one of the local hiking challenges! Not all of these are geared towards families but that doesn’t mean you can’t do them (and a few are specifically for younger hikes).
General locations to check out:
This is not an exhaustive list of trails by any means but just general areas to consider exploring! There are some popular waterfalls in singular areas that aren’t covered below, if you’re keen on those check out this WNC waterfall map!
- Appalachian Trail– this famous long distance trail isn’t just for thru-hikers sticking it out for months; read about Grandma Gatewood and do a day trip on a stretch of the AT. [Click for their official website here].
- Biltmore Estate trails– even if you skip the house tour and manicured gardens, there are a few different trails across the grounds to explore. [Click for their official website here].
- Blue Ridge Parkway– this national park site takes you to countless trailheads for some of the most popular hikes in WNC, on top of the scenic pull-outs. Don’t forget about the BRP junior ranger program. [Click for their official website here].
- Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site– there is a small network of trails on the grounds of this national park site.[Click for their official website here].
- Cherokee National Forest– in eastern TN and bisected by the national park, this forest is home to lots of the most famous hikes that that area. [Click for their official website here].
- Chimney Rock State Park- typically when people talk about Chimney Rock, they’re talking about the popular, privately managed, admission charged area of the park but there are also public, free to the public sections as well. [Click for their official website here: PRIVATE vs. PUBLIC].
- Conserving Carolina trails-this is a non-profit that manages several popular trails in the area that don’t fit under any other umbrella. [Click for their official website here].
- Dupont State Forest– one of the most popular trail systems with tourists and beginner hikes; there are several waterfalls and clearly marked paths to explore here. [Click for their official website here].
- Foothills Trail- this is a long distance trail through both NC & SC, the entire trail isn’t within close radius to Asheville but a few different sections are, including [Click for their official website here].
- Grandfather Mountain State Park– another very touristy area that is a little confusing with who manages what, but it has some of the most technical/challenging trails in the region and a very unique, long swinging bridge. [Click for their official website here PRIVATE vs. PUBLIC + read a helpful overview of private vs. paid here].
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park- the most visited national park; there are several sections and a few of them are within a quick drive from Asheville including river, waterfall, and long range views. I’ve noted the areas of the park that are within 1.5 hours of Asheville downtown below, there is definitely more to explore outside that drive-time radius! [Click for their official website here].
- Big Creek Area- home to a popular swimming hole & waterfall, lots of picnic tables for a meal. [Get an idea of the trails here].
- Cataloochee Area- the trails pale in comparison to spotting the elk and historic building. [Get an idea of the trails here].
- Deep Creek Area- a nice waterfall trail loop with a very tube-able river. [Get an idea of the trails here].
- Oconaluftee Visitor Center- paved so more of a walkway than a trail, but along a river and dog-friendly. [Get an idea of the trails here].
- Green River Gamelands- a quiet area with a few blazed trails, including Little Bradley Falls. [Click for their official website here + get an idea of the trails here].
- Gorges State Park– a new and continually developing park with beautiful waterfalls. [Click for their official website here].
- Kids in parks trails– this is a multi-state organization with a few different options in western NC; there are kid-friendly activity brochures at the start of certain trails and you can track them and earn prizes. [Click for their official website here].
- Lake James State Park– a small park with hiking trails and also some lake activity rentals. [Click for their official website here].
- Montreat Conference Center Trails– a private area that shares its trails (and park) with the public, one of the closest to town spots for a very steep hike. [Click for their official website here].
- Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area- a protected area right over the border to South Carolina, home to two different state parks.[Click for their official website here].
- Mountains to Sea Trail– this long-distance trail goes from the Great Smokies National Park all the way to the coast, but there are several local stretches that make for great day hikes. [Click for their official website here].
- Mt. Mitchell State Park– completely free and fabulous, this park hosts the highest peak east of the Mississippi River with a restaurant, observation point, and wooded trails. [Click for their official website here].
- Nantahala National Forest– one of the less visited NFs in the region, with beautiful waterfalls and trails. [Click for their official website here + read about hiking in this area here].
- Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest– the place to go for the biggest, tallest old-growth trees around, this area has a small network of trails. [Click for their official website here].
- Panthertown Valley– a wilderness area with several waterfalls and a dense trail network. [Click for a guide to hiking this area].
- North Carolina Arboretum– support a local organization while hiking their well groomed trail network, check out the gardens after you’re done. [Click for their official website here].
- Pisgah National Forest– another super popular area to hike, this national forest has several different sections that are several hours apart. It’s tricky to list out the different sections when there are so many, but Pisgah has something for everyone! [Click for their official website here + an overview of some of the main trails here].
- Big Ivy– a quieter area of Pisgah with pretty cascades and gigantic rock faces, popular with mountain bikers. [Click for their official website here + a useful overview for trails here].
- Catawba Falls– this is one of the most popular waterfalls in the area; it is just one trail vs. an entire region at this point, but well worth your time. [Click for their official website here]
- Curtis Creek- a quieter area near Old Fort, there are a few trails and waterfalls along established trails here. [Click for their official website here + a useful overview for trails here].
- Linville Gorge Wilderness– this area is full of epic views and steep cliffs, with a unique ecosystem and rugged trail system. [Click for their official website here + a useful overview for trails here].
- Middle Prong Wilderness- a lesser visited,picturesque area with a few waterfalls and steep trails. [Click for their official website here + a useful overview for trails here].
- Roan Mountain– famed for its natural rhododendron and azalea display in summer and snowy vistas in winter, this area spans TN and NC and has a few different trail options. [Click for their official website here].
- Pisgah District- typically if a tourist talks about hiking in pisgah, they’re talking about the section SW of town where Sliding Rock, Moore’s Cove, and Looking Glass falls are; there are plenty of other trails here as well! [Click for their official website here].
- Shining Rock Wilderness- this area is home to giant, white quartz rocks and beautiful trails [Click for their official website here + a useful overview for trails here].
- Shope Creek– this area isn’t flashy, with no notable waterfalls or views, but it is close to downtown and has a large network of trails including some steep ones and quiet creeks to splash in. [Click for their official website here + a useful overview for trails here].
- Wilson Creek- the water here is designated a National River and the area is home to several popular waterfalls. [Click for their official website here + a useful overview for trails here].
- South Mountains State Park- a park full of trails and a tall waterfall; the visitor center allegedly has regional exhibits as well. [Click for their official website here].
- Table Rock State Park– right over the border in South Carolina, this park connects to the long-distance Foothills Trail along with other hiking opportunities. [Click for their official website here].
- Rocky Fork State Park– located in eastern TN, this park has access to the AT along with other trails. [Click for their official website here].
These are local organizations that I personally have volunteered with or have heard allow kids to help volunteer; you’ll need to contact them to confirm any age minimums. Also consider looking for opportunities through the local Hand On/United Way database or the nation-wide Volunteer Match site.
- Bounty and Soul– we have helped deliver meal boxes to folks and there are other kid-friendly opportunities as well.
- Manna Food Bank– help pack food boxes or organize a food drive
- Meals on Wheels– deliver meals to folks at home.
- Mountain True– take your kids and help take water samples to monitor quality.
- Riverlink – help clean up the french broad by organizing a group clean-up or borrowing supplies to do one with your family or co-op.
- meals on wheels
Annual one time events to be aware of
- Asap farm tour weekend– in fall, this isn’t during the school week but has lots of youth educational opportunities and is very popular, sign up for their newsletter so you don’t miss it.
- Asheville Makerfest– a growing science festival for everyone, held on a weekend.
- Biltmore homeschool day– typically in fall, you have to check back on their site for updates.
- Blue ghost firefly tours– once a year in spring, these rare fireflies hover by the ground and Cradle of Forestry offers tours to see them, sign up for their newsletter for dates to release, these always sell out.
- Bullington Fairy Garden Walk– a sweet ‘fairy door’ display at a small garden down in Hendersonville.
- Caesers Head State Park raptor migration– in early-mid September, go check out the bird migration!
- Chimney Rock State Park homeschool day– typically in fall, you have to check back on their site for updates.
- Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage– nearby at the Great Smoky Mountains NP, an educational summit that is open to families.
- Synchronous firefly display– in late spring at the Great Smoky Mountains NP; there are lotteries for day tickets or you can camp at Elkmont and walk over (but you’ll have to reserve a spot months in advance and guess at the prime times!
- Wortham Center matinee series– this theater does matinee, school performances that homeschoolers can organize a group for or buy individually; the schedule releases in fall through spring of the next year, and tickets often sell out, check back on their site for updates.
Other local education opportunities & resources
- Blue Ridge Parkway junior ranger program– stop into one of the BRP visitor centers and grab a free booklet, this program requires you stop at a few different places along the parkway, then turn it back in for a patch/badge. [Click for their official website here].
- Career and College Promise program- AB Tech lets high school juniors & seniors take college courses to earn credit for free. [Click for their official website here].
- Carl Sandburg Home junior ranger program– grab your free activity booklet at the gift shop and complete the activities while on site, and turn it back in for a patch/badge.[Click for their official website here].
- ecoEXPLORE- a gamified nature initiative where kids observe nature and participate in classes to earn points and redeem them for prizes, run locally. [Click for their official website here].
- Great Smoky Mountains NP junior ranger program– this is one of the few junior ranger programs you pay a small fee for the booklet, but then fill it out while you’re in the park and turn it back in for a badge! [Click for their official website here].
- Haunted Asheville self-guided tour- organized by Western North Carolina Historical Association, this is a driving tour to see local haunted historical spots [Click for their official website here].
- Kids in parks trails– this is a multi-state organization with a few different options in western NC; there are kid-friendly activity brochures at the start of certain trails and you can track them and earn prizes. [Click for their official website here].
- NC State Park passport program- a paper booklet you can collect and get stamps for each state park; the prize-redeeming phase has ended but the stamps continue. [Click for their official website here].
- Waterfall Keepers junior keeper program– join this local waterfall conservation agency and work on some of their nature challenges with your kids, work through a waterfall passport, or dig into some of their nature curriculum [Click for their official website here].