With our abundance of kid-friendly things to do, Hot Springs is a great place for a North Carolina family vacation. We are centrally located in the mountains of Western North Carolina so you can easily take advantage of regional attractions with just a short drive.
If you have time to explore more of Madison County, there are all sorts of opportunities within a 30- to 90-minute drive. Check out the Madison County Tourism website for more information.
Natural Amusement Parks
A favorite Hot Springs summer activity is a trip on the Laurel River, a natural water amusement park just five miles from town. The Laurel’s headwaters are 20 miles back in the mountains so it’s not surprising that it runs very clear and clean and is home to wild mountain trout. As it approaches the French Broad River, it descends quickens and the waters tumble over huge boulders carved in various shapes from thousands of years of water flowing over them. There are rapids, small waterfalls, deep still pools, and places you can slide on slippery rocks covered with algae. Families often spend the majority of a day sunning, swimming and picnicking on a sandy beach on the Laurel.
Hot Springs was voted the Best Small Mountain Town from Georgia to West Virginia by the readers of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine because of the abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities.
Not only does the Appalachian Trail run right through town, there are a number of hikes you can do right from downtown. Lover’s Leap Trail is the most popular with the walk along the French Broad River and then the turn up the mountains edge with switchbacks taking you to great views of the river and valley below.
The French Broad River, one of the oldest rivers in North America and one of the few that runs east to west, flows right through the middle of Hot Springs. We are the center of whitewater rafting in the mountains of North Carolina. Rafting companies will equip, train, shuttle and guide you down the river on a raft, a sit-on-top kayak or a tube on a quiet section of the river. Take a ½ day trip or stay out all day. It’s great fun and, while exciting, it is very safe.
Jackie Ball at Sandy Bottom Trail Rides has over 20 horses and offers rides for all skill levels and ages. Take a 1-hour, 2-hour or 3-hour trip. Visit his garnet gem mine and keep the semi-precious stones you find.
Soar through s wooded mountain forest on an exciting but safe zip-line canopy course hundreds of feet above ground. No experience necessary and the Canopy Rangers provide all the necessary instruction and assistance and use state-of-the-art equipment, including helmets, full body harnesses, trolley, gloves, and tether safety lines.
There are some great mountain biking opportunities in the area from riding along River Road to Murray Branch Park or Paint Rock (where, if you look hard enough, you will find 5000-year-old petroglyphs) or the loop up on Mills Ridge. So put the bikes on the back of your car and enjoy the fun.
Experience Mountain Culture and Tradition
Spring Creek runs right through Hot Springs and is stocked with mountain trout. Pick up a license at C&H Fishing Supplies and head off to fish. Catch it, cook it, eat it….all in the same day. What could be better?
Visit an Organic Farm
There are plenty of organic farms in and around Hot Springs and tours can be arranged. Many kids don’t make the connection between the food you buy and where it comes from. This will help them to make that jump.
Check out an Old-Time Hardware Store
It’s an incredible experience. Keith Gentry runs the family hardware store which was first opened by his Dad, James, in 1945. He has everything you can think of, knows where it is without relying on a computer, and will spend 30 minutes to sell you 5-cent screw. He’s got moon pies, hard candy, and even a treat for your dog. THIS IS A MUST.
We have several shops in town which feature area crafts and locally made items from tie dyed t-shirts to postcards.
Take in Some Mountain Music
On any given night there is likely to be live mountain music in one of the downtown taverns and eateries. So head down, enjoy a burger or mountain trout, and take in some mountain music with the whole family.
Get Back to Nature
Hot Springs is blessed to have an abundance of nature: wild mountain flowers and a wide variety of birds (some migrating and some calling this home). Due to minimal light pollution, our night time shines with stars like nowhere you see in or around a city. Our mountain streams are bursting with fish and water-life. Plan a day out with nature. It will be educational, fun and free.
Picnic on a Mountain Top
Pack a picnic lunch and head off to Max Patch, the 5000-foot bald mountain with 360-degree views as far as the eye can see. It’s an easy walk up and always 10-degrees cooler with a nice breeze.
A Day of Pampering for All
Take some time off and take the family to the hot mineral baths for a restful, rejuvenating soak in the 103-degree water with views of the French Broad River. If you want to really splurge you and the kids might enjoy a foot treatment or half-hour or hour-long massage. Afterwards, a trip to the ice cream shop downtown for a scoop of your favorite flavor might be in order.