19 Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors


Raft the French Broad River

This fun and exciting way to experience the beauty of the natural surrounding offers the view from the water. Guides will take you rafting down the French Broad River through Class III and IV rapids. Or you can choose to float on your own through Class I and II rapids. Enjoy the scenery as your viewpoint is from one of the world’s oldest river gorges. Bring along the family or friends to share the experience.

Ski or Snowboard

Madison County is beautiful in all four seasons.  Spring and Summer bring the new growth of the trees and flowers which decorate the mountainsides and provide the outdoor opportunities of hiking, rafting, and many other experiences. And, that beauty is visible in the Winter from the mountaintop of Wolf Ridge Resort. The 23 ski slopes offer opportunities for both skiers and boarders to try out beginner runs to black diamond runs.


Hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail

You don’t have to take 2 million steps to say that you have walked on the Appalachian Trail.  There are several access points in the 60 miles of the AT that runs through Madison County. There are places where you can walk across a bald and get a 360° view into Tennessee and other places which will challenge you. This is one of those “can’t miss it” experiences and Madison County offers many places to do just that.

Go on a Horseback Ride

Take in the views offered throughout the county from a unique perspective–from a horseback ride.  Quiet and secluded locations throughout the county offer rides through a variety of terrain with experienced and friendly guides on a horse that is suited to your ability. Enjoy the fresh mountain and the spectacular views as you wind your way through trails and forests.  Take a whole day ride and stop for a picnic lunch along the way.


Fish the French Broad River

The third oldest river in the world can offer smallmouth bass, muskie and catfish for the fishermen. So, grab your pole and your waders and find the places to get in the water and fish. There are a few places where you can just start walking until you find the perfect spot–from Hot Springs to Stackhouse or from Marshall heading south to Buncombe County. Or try out the Murray Branch Picnic Area that is handicap accessible.

Hike One of the Many Trails

There are hiking trailsthroughout the county ranging from easy to difficult.  Access  points are mainly in the Pisgah National Forest and some follow the many creeks and rivers which run through it.  Take a day hike or just an hour or two. One of the favorites follows an old railroad bed along the Laurel River.  Huge rocks in the river are spots to sit on and cool off or just enjoy the sound of the river.


Go Tubing or Sledding

Yes, we have snow in the south! And, we have the elevation in our mountains so that on those occasions when the snow is deep enough, you can find a place to bring a sled or saucer and have your children experience the joy of winter. There is a tubing run near the ski resort where the fun includes a rented innertube to coast down the snow-covered hills.

Catch a Fish in a Trout Pond

child fishingIf you visit our county and want to have a fishing experience but don’t have all the necessary equipment, we have the answer. You don’t even need a fishing license or your own pole to try your hand at catching a fresh rainbow trout in the local trout pond. The owners even supply the bait and will even clean your fish for a small fee. You only pay for what you catch. A great way for an introduction to fishing for your kids. They will probably catch a fish and may catch the “fishing bug.”


Camp at a Local Campground

Your vacation to enjoy the outdoors would not be complete without actually sleeping in the outdoors. So, choose one of the beautiful campgrounds and settle in for an experience that you won’t forget. There are several campgrounds in the Pisgah National Forest, situated on one of the many rivers or creeks that run through Madison County. Breakfast on the campstove can start your day and. of course, s’mores around the campfire at night to complete the memory.  Pitch a tent and use it as a base for exploring the many wonderful places there are to see.

Check out the View from Lovers’ Leap

Take a side path off the Appalachian Trail near Hot Springs and you will be treated to a spectacular view from Lovers Leap. The climb up the trail is well worth the panoramic view that this location affords all who make it to the top. The place takes its name from an Indian legend of ill-fated lovers but sadness will not be the feeling that you experience when you reach this spot. Be a part of a legend and make your own personal history by walking the AT and enjoying this vista.


Stand on the AT in Downtown Hot Springs

If you are not a hiker, Hot Springs is one of the few areas along the Appalachian Trail where you don’t have to exert yourself either to walk the trail or even to get to where the trail is! All you have to do is to drive your car to the town of Hot Springs, park and get out and look for the signs for the AT embedded into the sidewalk or streets on Bridge Street.  That’s the main road the runs right through downtown and is perpendicular to the French Broad River.  What could be easier? No exertion and you can now claim that you hiked the Appalachian Trail.

Kayak or Canoe the French Broad River

Enjoy the beauty of the French Broad River with a rented or your own canoe or kayak in a stretch of water that is much more secluded and peaceful than in many of the other areas where it flows through big cities. There are four access points in Madison County for those who have personal craft. You might encounter some challenging spaces of water but, without a doubt, there will be some beautiful scenery along the way.  Drift north of Hot Springs and you will paddle past the same spot that the Cherokee and then the white settlers after them used to travel.


Ride your bike in the Hot Doggett 100

Are you a bicyclist who can bike for 100 miles or 100K? The roads of Madison County offer some of the most challenging climbs along with the most beautiful views on the way. The Rotary Club of Madison County sponsors this annual bike ride each July for serious bikers. The scenic roads included on this closed loops are lightly traveled and it makes for a pleasant ride–even though strenuous at times. Put this on your list of challenging rides.  Or, if you are not a biker, just stand by the road and cheer them on.  You may even catch sight of the unicyclist who tackles these mountain climbs.

Fish on Blannahassett Island

Blannahassett Island is a great place for the family to spend the day.  Walking trails, disc golf practice, picnic spots all under the shade of huge trees and surrounded by the French Broad River.  The Island also has a wonderful fishing pierto spend a few hours or the day casting your line into the river in hopes of catching a fish. It’s a great place to teach young children the art and skill of fishing. You might even be lucky enough to pull in a muskie, small mouth bass or catfish.  But, if you don’t catch anything, it’s still a fun way to spend the day.


Climb Rich Mountain Fire Tower

A relatively easily accessible spot on the Appalachian Trail near Hot Springs can provide one of the best 360° views ever. During the Depression, the young men from the nearby Hot Springs CCC Camp manned this fire tower.  Today, it is just off where the Appalachian Trail runs through Tanyard Gap and presents a valuable side trail to stop and appreciate what a nature walk really means. Walk to the top and you will never forget the view.

Grab your Gear for Downhill Bike Trails

Bailey Mountain Bike Park Mars Hill NCOne of the few year-roundgravity bike parks in the southeast, Bailey Mountain bike park offers over 1000 vertical feet of elevation amidst hardwood trees and giant boulders. Downhill trail segments (and adding more each year) are developed for all levels and interests. This mountainside land was designed specifically for downhill mountain biking with a desire to create a great place to ride.


Play a Round of Disc Golf

Someone was clever enough to develop an actual game with that frisbee–a game where you can measure your skill by keeping score. Give disc golf a try at the Mars Hill University Disc Golf Sanctuary. Yes, there are 18 holes and a number that determines if you make par on each of them. The rules follow the standard ones of ball golf but you are using a weighted disc slightly smaller than a frisbee. The game is FREE and the course is beautiful as it winds its way through the Mars Hill University campus.  If you want to practice, there is that opportunity on Blannahassett Island in Marshall, too.

Practice your Shooting Skills

A Spring Creek farm has been transformed into a preserve for both quail hunting and for sporting clays. From beginners just learning to experts perfecting their skills, the sporting clays course has enough for everyone to practice shooting.  Each station is designed to simulate challenging shots that you might encounter when hunting. And, it’s in a beautiful setting at the end of a scenic drive in Spring Creek.  Try your hand at this fast-growing sport!


Fish in One of the Secluded Creeks

The solitary nature of the sport of fishing can be easily enjoyed in one of the many secluded smaller rivers or creeks throughout the county. Travel the back roads to the areas where the water is pure and the surroundings are peaceful. The creeks are stocked and the natural environment can provide the perfect setting. Just walking along the rivers makes for a great day, but catching a fish will just add to that pleasure.The choices range from trout streams with pools to the larger Shelton Laurel and Laurel Rivers.


Featured Businesses in Madison County

Mosaic Gourmet

159 Bridge Street Hot Springs, North Carolina 28743

Mosaic Gourmet

Wolf Ridge Ski Resort

578 Valley View Circle Mars Hill, North Carolina 28754
(828) 689-4119

Wolf Ridge Ski Resort

Mad Co. Brew House

45 North Main Street Marshall, North Carolina 28753

Mad Co. Brew House

French Broad Rafting and Ziplines

9800 Old US highway 25-70 Marshall, North Carolina 28753
(800) 570-7238

French Broad Rafting and Ziplines

The Berry Farm, LLC

2260 Revere Road Marshall, North Carolina 28753
(828) 656-2056

The Berry Farm, LLC

Toops Photojournalist Services

774 Wilson Cove Branch Road Marshall, North Carolina 28753
(828) 649-3276

Toops Photojournalist Services

Sweet Monkey Bakery & Cafe

133 South Main Street Marshall, North Carolina 28753
(828) 649-2489

Sweet Monkey Bakery & Cafe

Walnut Creek Gallery

2970 Walnut Creek Road Marshall, North Carolina 28753
(828) 649-0568

Walnut Creek Gallery

Sandy Bottom Trail Rides

1459 Caney Fork Road Marshall, North Carolina 28753
(828) 649-3464

Sandy Bottom Trail Rides

Hot Springs Rafting Company

22 U.S. 25 Hot Springs, North Carolina 28743
877 530-7238

Hot Springs Rafting Company

Madison County Tourism Development Authority

56 South Main Street
Mars Hill, NC 28754

Click here for Driving Directions


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Local: (828) 680-9031

Toll Free: (877) 262-3476

Mailing Address: PO Box 1527
    Mars Hill, NC 28754