Sponsor Content: Explore Asheville

The Locals’ Guide to Asheville

Outdoor industry leaders of Asheville, North Carolina, share their secret spots and give you a chance to win their gear


There’s a lot to love about Asheville, but maybe nothing gets our heart pumping like its location. The thriving city sits in the epicenter of some of the South’s best adventures. Hundreds of miles of world-class singletrack are yours to explore in Pisgah National Forest, rivers form some of the most iconic stretches of whitewater as they tumble through the mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers road cyclists endless climbs and views…it’s all within reach when you stay in Asheville. And nobody knows this city and its surrounding mountains quite like the people that call it home. We talked to the founders and CEOs of some of Asheville’s most adventurous companies who have made a business out of playing in and around the south’s most vibrant city. Not only are they giving you insider tips on how to experience the area like a local, but, you have a chance to win free gear from all these brands courtesy of Explore Asheville. Enter the sweepstakes for the chance to win! 

Gregory Hardy, founder of Rockgeist, makers of custom bikepacking bags that help cyclists ride longer and farther. 

What’s your favorite aspect of living in Asheville? 

All of the incredible singletrack nearby. There’s a trail or ride for every rider and whatever mood you’re in, from smooth Blue Ridge Parkway miles to long descents on technical singletrack.  

Trail systems like Bent Creek are really popular. Any rides you recommend as alternatives? 

You can’t overlook the convenience of Bent Creek. There’s lots of good stuff there, especially for a quick spin after work. But recently I’m enjoying trying to get back in shape by climbing up the switchbacks to Eagle Rock on Weed Patch Mountain Trail in the Hickory Nut Gorge, near Lake Lure. It’s rocky and technical, but worth the effort. 

What do you wish more visitors would do when coming to Asheville? 

If you can, leave the car at the hotel and explore the city on your bike. Biking is a great way to experience downtown in a more intimate way and makes it easier to find all the small businesses that make Asheville so great. I’m also enjoying the new bike lanes on Riverside Drive for safe and quick access to all the great breweries and coffee spots in the River Arts District

David Bilstrom, CEO of Kitsbow, a mountain bike apparel manufacturer located in Old Fort. 

Kitsbow makes amazing mountain bike apparel. Do you have a favorite trail you like to ride? 

It’s not singletrack, but Old 70 is a paved road that’s been decommissioned for car traffic and open to bikers. It runs for about four miles between Black Mountain, where I live, and Old Fort, where I work. I ride it everyday. It’s invigorating and has beautiful views. And if you’re looking for singletrack, you can pick up Kitsuma, which is a classic Pisgah ride, just off Old 70’s pavement. 

When’s the best time to visit Asheville? 

There isn’t a bad time, but all cyclists should come in the winter so you can ride up the parkway when it’s closed. It’s worth it to ride until the snow and ice stops you, take pictures and then ride back down. 

Your favorite hidden gem restaurant? 

Laguinguette, in Black Mountain. It’s a low key Argentinian and French fusion restaurant with amazing crepes and empanadas. 

Tom Dempsey, founder of Sylvan Sport, makers of the GO Trailer

Your trailers let people spend more time in the forest, but do you ever make it into Asheville at all? 

I love going to Asheville for live music. The Salvage Station is my favorite venue in town. It has an outdoor stage right next to the French Broad River and gets some great bands. 

Any secret spots in Pisgah National Forest you can share? 

I’m going to keep my secret spots in the forest secret, but I’ll tell you that the best doughnuts are at Ava’s Donuts, and it’s located on your way to Pisgah National Forest from Asheville. Get there early, because they sell out most days.

Shane Benedict, founder of Liquid Logic, a manufacturer of kayaks based in Fletcher. 

What makes Asheville special in your opinion? 

There’s water everywhere. Within an hour of Asheville, there are several great rivers and creeks that run year-round. Real classics, like the Green River. That’s what brought me and a lot of other paddlers here. It’s a unique situation, regular releases on a class V section of whitewater. 270 days a year. Asheville sits in the center of all this great whitewater, which is why a lot of boaters have moved to the area, and why the city has such a rich boating culture.

What’s your favorite river to paddle? 

I’m still a hardcore Green guy, but I know a lot of kayakers who live in town will head to Ledges for a quick workout. It’s a collection of class II drops and waves on the French Broad River just a few miles north of downtown. Kind of a natural park and play whitewater park. 

Any suggestions for a post-paddle beer? 

I like New Belgium a lot, and you can’t beat the brewery’s location. It hangs over the French Broad River, right in the River Arts District. A lot of people like to tube that section and hop in for a beer. 

Tell us the perfect day in the mountains around Asheville. 

For me, it would include paddling the Green, but even if you don’t paddle the Green River, the Green River Game Lands have some amazing hiking and biking and it’s not as crowded as some other spots in the area.