Adventure U.S.

Black Mountain, NC

Black Mountain, North Carolina is known as the “Little Town that Rocks.” And I can’t imagine a better way to spend a day than sitting in one of the hand-painted rocking chairs in this mountain hamlet.

Visitor Center

My visit begins at the Black Mountain Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center located at 201 E. State Street. There is the “Big Red Rocking Chair” in front of the building.

A “Visitor Ambassador” named Gretchen greets me. She quizzes me on how long I will stay in town and what I want to do. I explain that I am only stopping by to walk my dog before going on a tour of the former Black Mountain College campus.

But I can’t resist quizzing her on the big red rocking chair that I just passed in front of their building. It turns out that it is the town’s symbol.

“Our rocking chairs are representative of North Carolina because we are the front porch of western North Carolina. When you enter the mountains, we are your first town. We are the Little Town that Rocks . . .” explains Gretchen.

Sit down and rest your feet at the Visitor Center

The Chamber of Commerce works with local artists who paint scenes. “We put them on the back of the rocking chairs. Some years we auction them, and some years we sponsor them,” said Gretchen.

Kid’s Artwork

In 2022, the Visitor Center will put the spotlight on young talent. “This year we are going in a different direction. We are actually using children’s artwork on the rocking chairs. I teach children’s art classes. So pretty soon we’ll have a whole new set of rocking chairs out there in the community that will feature children’s artwork from grades one through six,” she explains.

Gretchen allowed me to look at the children’s paintings. I was impressed by a fantastical painting of a black cat with orange eyes and whiskers sitting in a wooden chair. Gretchen flipped through the stack of her students’ paintings. Then I gathered up a handful of travel brochures and headed out to see some rocking chairs.

New red rocking chairs featuring children’s paintings

Town Tour

Since I only have two hours to explore Black Mountain, I decide to head down the main street. I feel like I stepped onto the set of The Andy Griffin Show.

Black Mountain could be the small, sleepy North Carolina town of Mayberry RFD except there is so much to do.

I can’t resist taking a photo of my puppy in front of a store with a sign reading “This is my happy place.”

Parker poses outside the store

Parker is happy because Black Mountain is home to the Bone-A-Fide Bakery & Pet Boutique. Sadly, the store is closed this early in the morning, so I can’t buy any dog biscuits for him.

Rocking Chairs

Next, I spy a group of red rocking chairs on an intersecting street. So Parker and I decide that it is time to rest. But I won’t let us sit down until I photograph closeups of the artists’ paintings.

Ann Watcher painted “The Dance of the Butterfly.” Her whimsical painting showcases a butterfly flitting around a red flower. North Carolina’s blue-hued mountains provide the backdrop.

The Dance of the Butterfly painting

“The Blue Tailed Skink” is painted by Shelley Schenker. The black lizard has bright yellow stripes starting at its head and running along its back. The skink belongs to the family Scincidae.

The Blue Tailed Skink

Angie Wagner painted “Blue Bird.” The abstract painting shows the diminutive bird resting on a tree limb. The canvas is awash in pastel shades—teal, peach, yellow, and pink.

Both Schenker and Wagner list SVAL next to their names on the sponsor plaques. The S V A L Studio is located at 1133 Old U.S. Hwy 70 W in Black Mountain.

Parker was a little scared to sit in the rocking chairs.

After I finish photographing the rocking chairs, I let Parker climb up. But it turns out rocking chairs are scary for a puppy. He jumps off immediately.

Red Caboose

Next, we proceed down the street to the train depot, since Gretchen recommended that we visit. Our first stop is the little red caboose. We can’t go inside but I walk around it.

The Old Depot Association is trying to raise money to restore it. “Help Turn Out Caboose Red Again!” The association needs to raise $15,000 in order to restore its caboose in the heart of downtown Black Mountain.

There is a metal sculpture of the locomotive stationed up high. You can see the smoke rising from the engine.

On the side of the building is a 1910 photograph of the depot. It shows a local farmer. His cart is packed with tanbark. It will be transported to a tannery in Asheville.

The Old Depot

The yellow wood Old Depot is now the home of the Arts & Crafts Gallery. But it is easy to imagine women in long dresses and carrying parasols streaming out of the building back in 1880. This is when the Western North Carolina Railroad (WNCR) commenced service in Black Mountain.

The Old Depot

The “Up to Black Mountain” plaque hangs on a fence near the Old Depot. I learn that the WNCR was established in 1855. But it took 25 years before the railroad offered service to Black Mountain “stalled by the Civil War, embezzlement, and – finally – by the extremely steep grade between Old Fort, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Black Mountain, at the crest . . .”

I read that it took 10 miles of track to climb the 3.4 miles to Black Mountain as the track “looped back and forth across the face of the mountain through seven tunnels.”

The sepia photograph shows men in round-topped bowler hats and wide-rimmed boater hats standing on the train tracks and hanging off the side of locomotive No. 2.

Outdoor History Museum

I decide to linger and read all the plaques. You could call this Black Mountain’s Outdoor History Museum. The “Slavery by Another Name” plaque describes how the WNCR uses convicts leased from the state to build the track to Black Mountain. “It cost 30 cents per day to house an inmate, whereas a free laborer made about $1.00 a day.”

The convicts, mostly African Americans, were chained together during the day to work. They slept in boxcars at night.

The “Center of It All” plaque tells the story of how this town was renamed after the railroad established its Black Mountain Depot. Grey Eagle, North Carolina was rechristened Black Mountain. The town was chartered on March 4, 1803. The town’s boundaries also expanded one mile in all directions from the railroad station.

The “Comings and Goings” plaque shows a photo of Depot Street from 1915. A huge line of motor car cabs is stationed outside the train station to drive passengers to the nearby inns, boarding houses, and religious retreat centers. “At the height of rail travel, as many as 10 trains a day stopped at Black Mountain,” according to the plaque.

The “Separate, Not Equal” Plaque explains how the passenger cars and the depots in the South were not desegregated until the mid-1960s. The Southern Railway’s Washington office required two waiting rooms—“White” and “Colored”—at the station.

Swannanoa Valley Museum

History buffs will want to visit the Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center to learn more about the valley, which has been hosting visitors since the early 1800s. In fact, French botanist Andre Michaux studied flora in the Black Mountains of North Carolina in 1794.

Historical plaque outside the Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center

In fact, Davey Crockett met his first wife Elizabeth Patton at the Swannanoa Settlement in 1815.

The museum operates in an old firehouse. It was designed and built in 1921 by Richard Sharp Smith, who was the supervising architect at the Biltmore Estate. (He also built many of the cottages at Biltmore Village.)

The museum features exhibits about regional history, including photos, artifacts, and temporary exhibitions.

“We are the primary museum of general local history in Buncombe County.”

Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center

There is a brick walkway map of the Swannanoa Valley in the alley. This Museum Alleyway traces the ridgeline (as well as the height) of the surrounding mountains.

Artist Haven

No visit to Black Mountain is complete without visiting the stores featuring handcrafted artisan wares.

“The Old Depot Gallery, RED HOUSE Studio, the Black Mountain Center for the Arts (BMCA), and White Horse Black Mountain exemplify Black Mountain’s dedication to craft and culture,” according to the visitor center.

BMCA offers public exhibits, concerts, theatre, special events, and a myriad of classes for all ages in music, theater, movement, and visual arts.

THE RED HOUSE is home to life drawing sessions, and art groups, programs, and workshops. The Swannanoa Valley Fine Art League’s mission is to inspire artistic growth and excellence through education and exhibition.

Historic Black Mountain College

On the outskirts of town is the former campus of Black Mountain College. BMCM+AC now offers tours of the historic Black Mountain College campus at Lake Eden, in partnership with Lake Eden Preserve.

The cost is $15/person, free for kids 16 and under. For groups of five or more, please inquire about a group rate ( Click link to purchase a ticket.

Mural of famous professors who taught at Black Mountain College

Black Mountain College was founded in 1933 as a radical experiment in education and community. The one-hour walking tour showcases the college’s historic Dining Hall, Lodges, The Quiet House, and The Studies Building. Participants also see the iconic and recently conserved frescos painted by Jean Charlot and BMC students in the summer of 1944.

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  • Habiba
    May 28, 2022 at 2:12 pm

    Looks like a fun town! Thanks for writing this.

    • Terri
      May 28, 2022 at 2:47 pm

      You are welcome!

      • Annie
        May 30, 2022 at 8:49 pm

        Wow, this place looks incredible! I’m totally adding it to my list. Thanks for sharing all this great info!

        • Terri
          June 11, 2022 at 10:04 am

          You could spend a week in western North Carolina exploring little mountain towns every day. Great region!

  • Bejal
    May 28, 2022 at 2:29 pm

    Wow Terri! Another great introduction to a place I’ve never heard of! Love the look of this place, what a gem!

    • Terri
      May 28, 2022 at 2:47 pm

      Western NC is packed with these arty mountain towns. It will take me years to explore all of them.

  • Brittany
    May 28, 2022 at 4:06 pm

    Wow, this looks like such a great place to explore! I love going places where there is so much information to learn and soak in. And Parker is looking adorable, as always! 🙂

    • Terri
      May 28, 2022 at 7:45 pm

      Parker is happy to be the Cutest Dog Guide ever to show you around NC. Black Mountain is a charming town to visit if you get back East.

  • Lisa
    May 28, 2022 at 4:09 pm

    I live in NC and would love to plan a weekend trip to Black Mountain! It reminds me of Blowing Rock, NC or Bryson City! Thanks for sharing Terri!

    • Terri
      May 28, 2022 at 7:44 pm

      I am so excited a shared a new place to visit for a NC resident! This is my second road trip to western NC during the pandemic. I just love the region. I need to visit Blowing Rock and Bryson City on my next trip.

  • Erin
    May 28, 2022 at 4:33 pm

    Oh, this article came at the right time! We are driving through North Carolina next month! This looks like a lot of fun and even Parker had a great time I see!

    • Terri
      May 28, 2022 at 7:43 pm

      I am thrilled! I have been covering different towns as well as places to hike in western North Carolina. Please be sure to stop in Black Mountain. Come early so you can grab a rocking chair.

  • Katy
    May 28, 2022 at 4:55 pm

    Black mountain village looks pretty interesting! North Carolina certainly looks appealing

    • Terri
      May 28, 2022 at 7:42 pm

      For such a little town, there is a LOT to do in Black Mountain. It’s a great escape.

  • Stephanie
    May 28, 2022 at 5:16 pm

    What an adorable little town! It definitely rocks! I’ll have to add it to my list of places to visit in North Carolina!

    • Terri
      May 28, 2022 at 7:41 pm

      I highly recommend visiting western North Carolina if you get the opportunity. It offers everything – Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville, and charming mountain towns!

  • Emma
    May 28, 2022 at 5:48 pm

    So much great history here, and I love all the art work. What a lovely looking place. I think the rocking chairs are my favorite

    • Terri
      May 28, 2022 at 7:41 pm

      I too was charmed by the red rocking chairs found around this little town.

  • Mayi
    May 28, 2022 at 6:31 pm

    Black Mountain looks like the perfect American small town. It’s charming and has a great history too. Parker, for sure, is exploring interesting g places.

    • Terri
      May 28, 2022 at 7:45 pm

      Parker loves to go on all my walking tours whenever we travel!

  • Shannon
    May 28, 2022 at 10:17 pm

    This is such a cute little town! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Krista
    May 28, 2022 at 11:03 pm

    I like how artsy everything is here! It looks like a great place to spend a day.

    • Terri
      May 29, 2022 at 6:51 am

      It is an artists’ town. I wish I had time to take an art class.

  • Mona
    May 28, 2022 at 11:49 pm

    This is so cute and quirky! Love little towns like these 🙂

    • Terri
      May 29, 2022 at 6:50 am


  • Sinjana
    May 29, 2022 at 12:05 am

    Such a great place to have a leisurely trip. The hand-painted chairs are beautiful.

    • Terri
      May 29, 2022 at 6:50 am

      You definitely slow down and relax in these small NC towns.

  • Jyotsna Ramani
    May 29, 2022 at 12:33 am

    Big time nature lover here so digged this post. look at that pretty lake and lush greens all around. I cant wait to visit!

    • Terri
      May 29, 2022 at 6:49 am

      If you are a nature lover, western NC is for you. The Blue Ridge Mountains are heaven.

  • Katie Diederichs
    May 29, 2022 at 1:35 am

    Sounds like a place with lots of art and nature — two of my favorites! I had never heard of Black Mountain before, but I may be going to NC this fall, so I’ll keep it in mind! Great tips!

    • Terri
      May 29, 2022 at 6:48 am

      There are so many great mountain towns to visit in western NC. I hope you can visit Black Mountain.

  • Sue
    May 29, 2022 at 3:43 am

    Looks like a lovely place to explore & spend a few hours learning about the history. I love those rocking chairs too, what a great way to celebrate the local artists & especially special to use the children’s art. Thanks for sharing.

    • Terri
      May 29, 2022 at 6:47 am

      I can’t wait to see the children’s paintings on the town’s rocking chairs.

  • Aga
    May 29, 2022 at 9:20 am

    What a great little town. I’ve never heard of it before, but will be sure to put it on my list when I make a road trip through North Carolina.

    • Terri
      May 29, 2022 at 11:29 am

      It is so charming.

  • Nicola Lavin
    May 29, 2022 at 10:32 am

    Thank you for introducing me to this beautiful part of the world. Adding it to my never ending bucket list.

    • Terri
      May 29, 2022 at 11:28 am

      I hope you get to visit one day!

  • A Capone Connection
    May 29, 2022 at 11:44 am

    Such a cool post! I have been to NC, but never to Black Mountain. I recently moved South so I’m exploring more areas on the weekends. Definitely saving this for a weekend trip. Thanks!

    • Terri
      May 30, 2022 at 6:14 am

      You should devote a weekend for western NC. Stay in Asheville then fan out to visit these little mountain towns!

  • Ketki
    May 29, 2022 at 12:08 pm

    Such a cute town! I had never heard about this so thank you for writing about this 🙂

    • Terri
      May 30, 2022 at 6:13 am

      There are so many cute little mountain towns in this region.

  • Katy
    May 29, 2022 at 6:13 pm

    Black Mountain does indeed seem like Mayberry (from the Andy Griffith show). Looks like a charming place to visit with a lot of interesting history. The thought of your dog sitting in a rocking chair gave me a chuckle 🙂

    • Terri
      May 30, 2022 at 6:13 am

      Parker was so cute jumping on the rocking chair then scrambling off!

  • Rachael - A City Girl Outside
    May 29, 2022 at 11:46 pm

    This place has such a history – really interesting to read about. Thank you for sharing.

  • Sarah
    May 30, 2022 at 9:40 am

    You really do find the best cute towns to visit! Black Mountain reminds me of a Hallmark movie set. Love the history behind it! Give Parker a pat for me 🙂

    • Terri
      May 30, 2022 at 11:54 am

      I do seek out small towns off the travel grid! But western North Carolina is full of these charming mountain towns. Parker says woof!

  • Denise
    June 4, 2022 at 12:38 am

    I’d love to grab a rocking chair in Black Mountain, NC! What a cool place!

    • Terri
      June 11, 2022 at 10:03 am

      I love to escape to these little mountain towns in western North Carolina!

  • Mohana and Aninda
    June 5, 2022 at 3:42 am

    What a pretty town! The painted rocking chairs are such a lovely addition to the townscape and a great way of promoting local artists. We’d love to visit the antiques shop and eat at the local diner.

    • Terri
      June 11, 2022 at 10:03 am

      The painted rocking chairs really “rock”!