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Summer is a great time to live in or visit the Swannanoa Valley. The richness of the area's arts, music, culture and outdoor activities is hard to beat.

School is out, so grab the children or grandchildren and consider these great outdoor opportunities, all free or nearly so.

Black Mountain Town Square fountain

Cool off at the Rotary Club-sponsored splash fountain while enjoying the lovely Town Square plantings.

  • Hours: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily 
  • Cost: Free
  • Address: 201 E. State St.

Hiking in Montreat

Hiking trails of various lengths and difficulties are plentiful around Montreat. Pick up a trail map at the front desk at Montreat's Assembly Inn, 401 Assembly Drive.

  • Hours: Daylight
  • Cost: Free
  • Info: montreat.org
  • Tip: Flat with stops to play in the stream, Elizabeth's Path/Gate Trail from the Montreat Gate entrance to the Robert Lake Park is great  for kids.

Warren Wilson College hiking trails

Park by the bridge along Warren Wilson College Road just before you reach the college; pick up a trail at the bridge, which travels along the Swannanoa River. With swimming holes and  small rapids for tubing, it's a good spot for hiking and playing in the river.

  • Hours: Daylight
  • Cost: Free
  • Address: 701 Warren Wilson College Road
  • Info: swangathering.com/downloads/WWCTrailMap.pdf

Boating at Montreat's Lake Susan

Paddle boats and canoes may be rented at Montreat's Lake Susan, with  life vests.

  • Hours:  2-6 p.m. daily
  • Cost: $4 per boat for half hour
  • Address: 401 Assembly Drive
  • Info: montreat.org
  • Tip: For ice cream afterwards, visit the Huckleberry Cafe just beside Lake Susan.

Swannanoa Library and Playground

Enjoy creative park equipment, an open grassy field with a soft walking path and the library with lots of free programs and books for children.

  • Address: 101 W. Charleston Ave.
  • Info: 250-6486, buncombecounty.org

Black Mountain Pool

Cool off from the heat amid a happy crowd.

  • Hours: Mon-Sat: 11am - 6pm
  • Cost: $3 per swimmer
  • Address: 401 Laurel Circle Drive
  • Info: 669-7136; bmrp.recdesk.com

WNC Nature Center

Shaded paths take you to habitats of indoor and outdoor creatures such as bear, coyote, fox and reptiles.

  • Hours: 10-5 p.m. daily
  • Cost: Adults $10.95, seniors 65 and over $9.95, youth 3-15 $6.95, free childen 2 and younger
  • Address: 75 Gashes Creek Road, Asheville
  • Info: 298-5600, wildwnc.org

Black Mountain Library

Enjoy free summer programs for kids, including weekly story times and other special scheduled programs. After four visits and bookmark punches, kids earn a free book.

  • Cost: free
  • Address: 105 N. Dougherty St., Black Mountain
  • Info: buncombecounty.org/library

Azalea Park

Includes great play equipment for all  ages, much of it shaded.  A longer paved path passes along soccer fields, which can be used when not used by soccer camps and teams.

  • Hours: Daylight
  • Cost: Free
  • Address: 395 Azalea Road East; Asheville
  • Info: 251-4024
  • Tip: Bikes and skates are welcome along the paved path circling the play equipment.

N.C. Arboretum

Enjoy 434 acres of beautiful gardens and 10 miles of hiking/biking trails in the adjacent Bent Creek area

  • Hours: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. (entrance gate closes at 8 p.m.)
  • Cost: $12 parking fee
  • Address: 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville 
  • Info: 665-2492, ncarboretum.org

Botanical Gardens of Asheville

Close to UNC Asheville are these walking paths and over 600 native plant species.

  • Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-4 p.m. Sunday
  • Cost: Free; guided tour available at $3 per person
  • Address: 151 W.T. Weaver Bouldvard, Asheville 
  • Info: 252-5190, ashevillebotanicalgardens.org

Montreat Barn Dances

Enjoy inter-generational big-circle square and novelty dancing with the Stoney Creek Boys at the Montreat Barn each Friday  through mid August. The event is coordinated by the Montreat Conference Center.

  • Hours 7:30-10 p.m. Friday
  • Cost: Free
  • Address: 401 Assembly Drive
  • Info: montreat.org

Black Mountain Greenway paths

Walk, bike or skate along several sections of the Black Mountain Greenways paths. Pick up the Flat Creek Trail behind Black Mountain Primary School, or pick up the paths at  Black Mountain Rec Park, including the Oaks Trail and the Community Garden Trail.

  • Hours: Daylight
  • Cost: Free
  • Info: bmrp.recdesk.com

Black Mountain'sPark Rhythms:

Thursday nights each summer mean outdoor music at Lake Tomahawk, with supper concessions available (or bring a picnic). Bring a chair and/or blanket.

  • Hours: 7-9 p.m. 
  • Cost: Free
  • Address: 401 Laurel Circle Drive
  • Info: bmrp.recdesk.com

Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center

Located at Parkway milepost 384, the center features 384 interactive exhibits showcasing the Parkway's long history. Numerous hiking trails are close by, in varying levels of difficulty.

  • Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
  • Cost: Free
  • Info: 298-5330, nps.gov
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