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What's the Deal: Enjoying nature right here at home

Photo credit: WLOS Staff

Do you love the fresh air and sunshine, but aren't quite sure how to enjoy our great outdoors?

We live in a nature lover's paradise so we set out to find out What's the Deal with how locals can explore without all the tourist crowds.

Western North Carolina's natural beauty is what draws folks here and outside.

"We are so lucky because we are surrounded by national forests and national parks, just endless possibilities, says Mark File, from RomanticAsheville.com. “Well of course waterfalls. We are in the land of waterfalls and there are so many to see."

If you’re looking for waterfalls, heading to Transylvania county is good start.

"Pisgah forest has so many waterfalls especially around the Brevard area, so you can go to looking glass rock is right on the road so you don't have to hike so everyone can enjoy that," says File.

"I like to get outside so first thing is Pisgah National Forest it's right at our back doors," says nature lover Bree Miller of Asheville.

File says keep in mind, there’s many options when searching for the perfect day outside, "Gorges State Park, the hike to Rainbow Falls, that's a great one. They have parking and restrooms, etc."

If you're going off course, be sure to do your research. Many waterfalls in the area don't have GPS addresses and are often on trails that are not signed. Another good tip, pack a picnic and beat the busy summer crowds. "A lot of times I’m out Saturday morning right after sunrise and there's nobody on the trails," says File.

Looking for more adventure, enjoy a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

"You may say gosh I've been on the parkway lets do something different, but there are so many stops along the parkway that people miss because they get on the road and just drive you miss a lot so go slow," says File.

"We love to go on the mountains to sea trail which parallels the blue ridge parkway,” says Asheville resident Martina Barnes.

"There are also a lot of state byways in WNC like Highway-64 is a waterfalls byway that goes from Brevard out to Highlands," recommends File. "Forest Heritage scenic byway takes you on a loop through Pisgah Forest."

How about some wildlife watching in the Great Smoky Mountains?

“My favorite place to see wildlife are the elk. I just do not get tired of going and watching the elk," says File.

Head west and you can watch the elk right from your car, "there are two places. Cataloochee valley and the Oconaluftee Visitors Center in Cherokee. Just be sure to go right after sunrise or right before sunset because that's when they are the most active. During the day, you probably won't see them at all."

For those water lovers, File knows the perfect place to cool off, "on hot summer days, there's nothing better than a cool mountain swimming hole. Skinny dip falls is one of my favorites right off the parkway and there is a little hike so you don't have as many people there."

Asheville resident Jeff Barfield knows where the fun’s at, "Triple falls and sliding rock, all sorts of stuff. You can go fishing, you can go kayaking and I've seen people tubing up and down the rivers."

"My favorite place to go tubing is Deep Creek over in the Smokies in Bryson City and also down at the Green River in Saluda, that's a great tubing stretch," says File.

Lots of outdoor options at little out of pocket expense, "it's free to enjoy and you'll find a lot of free surprises along the way."

RomanticAsheville.com has 75 Epic Hikes and 60 Waterfalls so you can start narrowing it down from there. No doubt, that ought to keep nature lover's busy this spring and summer.

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