The Best Trails Around Asheville, According to a Local Hiker from Outside elessard

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Sandra Aguirre didn’t mean to create a movement. At first, she was just trying to help herself and her family. In an effort to heal from her divorce, she began spending more time outside with her three kids, hiking and searching for waterfalls throughout the mountains of western North Carolina, especially in the scenic terrain around Asheville.

“Going through the divorce felt like my whole world was falling apart,” Aguirre says. “I was married for almost 20 years, and I suddenly became a single mom of three. I was depressed. Then someone introduced me to the mountains. I started hiking to waterfalls. I stopped drinking, came out of my depression, and became a better mom when I started sharing the mountains with my children.”

Aguirre posted photos of those hikes on her social media accounts, which garnered a lot of attention from other moms.

“I kept sharing my experiences with my children, and people kept following me and asking if I could take them out into the mountains,” Aguirre says. “So I started arranging field trips to waterfalls with other moms and their children.”

A decade later, those field trips blossomed into Latinos Aventureros, a 7,000-strong bilingual hiking group dedicated to helping others enjoy the great outdoors. Aguirre’s history—she was born in Honduras and moved to the states when she was 12—led her to focus on serving the BIPOC community, and all are welcome on her weekly hikes that explore the peaks and valleys of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Aguirre spends a lot of time in Asheville and the surrounding area, guiding people through the mountains before spending some “recovery time” at the restaurants in town.

“In my opinion, we live in the most beautiful state there is, and Asheville is gorgeous,” Aguirre says. “I could spend every day exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway and the mountains around town.”

Just consider Mount Mitchell, Aguirre says. “Climb the summit trail during the week and it’s a quiet and lonely place. It’s one of the most unique hikes in the area because of the boulders and evergreens, not to mention it’s the highest peak in the East.”

Aguirre loves introducing others to the area, so we asked her to create a personalized guide to Asheville for all visitors. Here are her recommendations, from the best coffee in town to the best swimming hole in the forest.

Coffee: Old Europe Pastries

I love downtown Asheville, it’s so lively and there are a lot of great bakeries. Old Europe Pastries is my favorite. It’s right in the middle of town. I like to start my day with coffee and a muffin there.

 

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The Swimming Hole: Second Falls, Yellowstone Prong 

My kids like to swim at this waterfall in Graveyard Fields, on the Parkway south of Asheville. It’s pretty, and it can collect a lot of people on a summer day, but I like seeing all the people from different backgrounds. Every time I go there, I meet new people.

The Perfect Sunset: Craggy Gardens

I love sunset and sunrise. I like to explore different areas for that. Around Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway has so many spots that offer a great sunset. Craggy Gardens is one of the best. If you hike to Craggy Pinnacle (1.2-mile out-and-back), you’ll have a dramatic view of the sun setting over the mountains.

The Underrated Season: Don’t Sleep on Winter

Winter is one of my favorite times of the year now. The older I get, the more I appreciate the quietness. There are fewer people, the leaves are off the trees, exposing better views, and the sunsets are even better.

The Can’t-Miss Event: Asheville Half Marathon 

I love running, and I’ve done this half marathon twice. It’s hard, because the course is challenging with so many hills, but the views are beautiful, and you get to see all of the city.

Post-Hike Food: Mamacita’s Taqueria 

Mamacita’s Taqueria belongs on every visitor’s must-eat list. This is an institution in Asheville, for good reason. I love their avocado and plantain burrito.

 

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Post-Hike Beer: Whistle Hop Brewing Company

We’re always dirty after a hike, so we like to hit a casual brewery with space outside. Whistle Hop is a great venue whether you drink or not (I don’t anymore), with lots of outdoor space with games like miniature golf, food trucks, and ice cream. A lot of people like a beer after hiking, and I always send them to this train-themed brewery.

Ready to see for yourself why Aguirre is so passionate about Asheville and the surrounding mountains and rivers? Visit her favorite trails and restaurants on your own trip. Find info on activities, guides, lodging, restaurants, events, and more here.

Surrounding the vibrant city center of Asheville, North Carolina, are miles of off-the-beaten-path adventures. Step outside and discover your own pace through natural wonders that draw you in and call you. Start planning your adventures now by visiting ExploreAsheville.com and downloading the Explore Asheville app.

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