Looking for Things to do in Old Fort NC?
Tucked in the mountains of North Carolina, in McDowell County, you will find a very small, endearing town called Old Fort. Old Fort is often referred to as the “Getaway to the Mountains” and makes for one of the more unique vacation trips you can take. Filled with fascinating history, and beautiful outdoor adventures, Old Fort is not a place to miss out on.
Besides being known as a premier mountain town, Old Fort is also known for its deep history and the important role the area played in the Revolutionary War. The mountain ridge between the town Black Mountain and Old Fort (then called Davidson’s Fort) was a boundary line between land available for immigrant settlements to the east and Cherokee territory to the West.
The town has done a fantastic job at preserving and celebrating its history while becoming an interesting and exciting place for people to visit and see. There are plenty of activities to enjoy in Old Fort, North Carolina.
Where is Old Fort, NC?
Old Fort is located in Western North Carolina. Many people associate Old Fort with the town of Black Mountain, which is only 9 miles away. The closest city to Old Fort is Asheville, which is 24 miles away, and Charlotte is about 106 miles southeast of Old Fort.
Things to do in Old Fort NC
Are you thinking of taking a trip to Old Fort? That’s a fantastic idea, and it will be an adventure for the whole family. Here is a list you should save when finding fun things to do on your trip.
1. Catawba Falls
Address: 3074 Catawba River Rd, Old Fort, NC, 28762
Catawba Falls is the reason many visitors find themselves in Old Fort, NC. The falls are a main attraction in the Pisgah National Forest and one of the most popular sets of waterfalls in the state. These 100-foot cascading falls aren’t something you want to miss.
The trail for the falls is considered easy-moderate, with some elevation gain and mud. It is about 3 miles there and back, and the hike makes for the perfect day trip. The trail is closed (as of spring 2023), and they recently shared that it will not reopen until spring 2024.
The state is renovating the trail with more walkways, bridges, and ropes for an easier and more manageable hike.
2. Mountain Gateway Museum
Address: 24 Water St, Old Fort, NC, 28762
The Mountain Getaway Museum is a heritage center that collects and preserves artifacts from McDowell County to share with everyone who visits.
At the museum, they have a large array of interesting relics, along with living exhibits of people dressed up to talk more about the information displayed. Every Sunday afternoon, the museum holds a live music jam session.
3. Andrews Geyser
Address: 2111 Mill Creek Rd, Old Fort, NC 28762
Andrews Geyser is one of the most popular attractions in Old Fort, besides Catawba Falls. The geyser is a man-made geyser, built in 1879, simply as a tourist attraction and to lure people into visiting the town. The idea of the geyser was that passengers would see the geyser from the train and get off to explore the town.
The geyser is still a main attraction and a beautiful place to enjoy. You can enjoy a picnic in the sun and read the historical plaques in the area. As of this writing in March 2023, the geyser is not in working order; they need to fix some of the pipes.
4. Old Fort Railroad Museum
Address: 25 W Main St, Old Fort, NC 28762
The railroad, like any mountain railway system, was extremely important to Old Fort, as it helped bring visitors and money to the town.
The museum was created to protect and preserve the history of this important railway system and to help teach the public about the history of Old Fort. This museum is temporarily closed with no announced open date. The city is working to make the space of the museum better and more accessible than it was before.
5. Davidson’s Fort Historic Park
Address: 140 Lackey Town Rd, Old Fort, NC 28762
Davidson’s Fort Historic Park is a re-creation park of the old Davidson’s Fort built in 1776 that was used during the Revolutionary War. This re-creation of the fort is built just a mile from where the original fort sat and used real stones from the original fort itself. This is a very neat place to explore and see a bit of history in real life.
The city often holds hands-on demonstrations, talks, and reenactments at the fort. If you are fascinated with history or want to take the kids somewhere to roam, this is the perfect place to visit.
6. Arrowhead Gallery & Studios
Address: 78C Catawba Ave, Old Fort, NC 28762
Arrowhead Gallery and Studios is run by the Arrowhead Artists and Artisans League, a non-profit corporation dedicated to promoting the artists of Old Fort. Classes and networking opportunities are available at the studio, along with a place for local artists to share their pieces.
The studio holds a rotating exhibit that the public is welcome to visit anytime. Visiting Arrowhead Gallery is a great chance to admire local artists and see beautiful art.
7. Fonta Flora Trail
Address: From Morganton to Asheville
The Fonta Flora Trail is a state-funded hiking and biking trail that begins in Morganton and ends in Asheville. The trail is 100 miles altogether and was designed to be one of the more established mountain biking trails in the state. This trail runs directly through Old Fort if you are going from start to finish.
8. Old Fort Ride House
Address: 59 Commerce St, Old Fort, NC 28762
The Old Fort Ride House is a cute, upscale, but casual coffeehouse in downtown Old Fort. The coffeehouse started as a place specifically for cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts to meet up, share a cup of coffee, and talk about their love for the outdoors.
They have a great selection of food, and bakery items, an excellent espresso bar, and a wide selection of Kitsbow cycling apparel for sale.
Drinks and Restaurants in Old Fort, NC
✅ Hillman Beer
Address: 78 Catawba Ave, Old Fort, NC 28762
Hillman Beer has a large industrial-style taproom serving tons of freshly brewed, award-winning beer and great food. The restaurant/brewery started in Asheville and now has a location in Old Fort and Morganton.
This dog-friendly taproom has any kind of beer a beer lover could ask for, including delicious freshly made burgers, sandwiches, and salads. All of their food is made using fresh local ingredients.
Hillman Beer is not only a great brewery and restaurant but also one of the best places in Old Fort to catch some live music! They host many different local artists very often for some weekend entertainment.
✅ Gogo’s Cinnamon Rolls
Address: 212 E Main St, Old Fort, NC 28762
Gogo’s came from a dream the owner had for many years of starting her own pastry shop. After losing her job during COVID, she saw it as the perfect opportunity to make that dream a reality. The shop is located in a cute little house that has been in the owner’s family for over 72 years and is just the perfect place to sit and enjoy a warm cinnamon roll.
At Gogo’s, you’ll see cinnamon rolls you’ve never seen before and flavors you probably haven’t tried before, either! Everything is delicious and made fresh each morning. You can even have things pre-ordered and made special just for you.
✅ Whaley Farm Brewery
Address: 178 Catawba Ave, Old Fort, NC 28762
Whaley Farm is owned and operated by two farmers who work hard to showcase local flavors through their beers. They specialize in Appalachian farm beers, English pub ales, and continental lager styles.
The location is a beautiful old farmhouse where you can sit back, and enjoy the view and your drinks. Simply no-nonsense, quality beverages.
✅ Whistle Stop Pizzas and Subs
Address: 27 E Main St, Old Fort, NC 28762
If you are looking for a good pizza, or a quick sandwich, Whistle Stop Pizza and Subs is the place you are looking for. They are your classic pizza and sandwich shop with homey, family vibes, fantastic service, and a large, to-the-point menu. You can’t go wrong at Whistle Stop.
✅ Black Beary’s Cafe
Address: 14 W Main St, Old Fort, NC 28762
Black Beary’s Cafe is a local favorite with just about anything you can ask for. This restaurant/cafe is a comfortable, casual place to hang out, and it is also the best place to get Southern food, burgers, gravy, fries, and ice cream. Black Beary’s is small-town vibes mixed with a modern approach.
✅ Catawba Vale HUB
Address: 37 E Main St, Old Fort, NC 28762
Catawba Vale HUB is one of the most recent places open in Old Fort. It is an exciting, artsy place where business professionals, artists, and anyone else can gather to meet, learn, and team up to help the community. Coffee by N.C Roasted Counter Culture is always ready to serve fresh.
Catawba Vale HUB has teamed up with Malaprops Bookstore, located in Asheville, and the store also has a large variety of books focused on authors of color.
Anyone is welcome to bring their laptop, curl up with a book and a cup of coffee, or contact the HUB to talk about hosting a meeting or conference.
Annual Events in Old Fort, NC
Several community-building events and festivals take place in Old Fort. Here are some you won’t want to miss.
✅ Pioneer Day (dates for 2023 are yet to be announced)
For the past 36 years, the community of Old Fort has gathered downtown for a family-friendly festival. During the festival, there will be games, food trucks, bouncy houses, arts and crafts, and pioneer-style activities like washboards, ice cream making, and corn husk dolls. Everyone is invited to come and have a great time.
✅ North Carolina Gold Festival (June 2023)
North Carolina was once the most popular state for mining gold before the California gold rush. There are many gold rush festivals held throughout the state during the summer, and old Fort has their very own.
At the state museum grounds in Old Fort, the town and many others will join together to celebrate gold, the history of gold, and much more! There will be games, treasure hunts, gold panning, demonstrations with gold mining equipment, food, and crafts.
✅ Jerdon Mountain Challenge (June 22, 2023)
The Jerdon Mountain Challenge is a backcountry mountain biking event. It is a shorter course that has the same challenges as a long course and is well worth the race. Racers take on 3,600 feet of climbing over 26 miles of Jerdon Mountain. The trails include Kitsuma, Star Gap, and Jarrett Creek. The event and the after-party take place at Gateway Museum Grounds in Old Fort, NC.
✅ Pisgah Enduro (August 19 & 20, 2023)
Pisgah Enduro is a two-day singletrack racing event in the Pisgah National Forest. The race isn’t for the faint of heart or beginners to racing. There are high vertical climbs and winding downhill plummets that racers will face in the Grandfather Mountain Range of the national forest.
The event offers bunkhouses or camping accommodations. There will also be food, a lake, a swimming pool, a pump track, and lots more action at this big event. The venue is held at Camp Grier in Old Fort, NC.
✅ Annual Off-Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell (May 22, 2023)
This off-road assault is a 60-mile mountain biking race with over 10,000 feet of climbing through Mt. Mitchell State Park. This is one of America’s largest and hardest gran fondo events and sells out almost every year.
If you plan on joining in the assault, you’d better start training now! This isn’t a race for beginners, though anyone can watch the race from the sidelines.
✅ Old Fort Trails and Trains Festival (June 3, 2023)
This is a newer event that is being put on to celebrate Old Fort’s connection to the Pisgah National Forest and its railway systems.
There will be live demonstrations teaching kids, and adults about trail survival skills, demonstrations on how to operate outdoor equipment, exhibits honoring the railroad, food trucks, arts and crafts vendors, and lots more! Happening in downtown Old Fort, this is a town event you don’t want to miss.
Where To Stay in Old Fort, NC
📍Relaxing Getaway in Old Fort – If you are looking to stay directly in the quaint downtown of Old Fort, this is the perfect stay for you. This relaxing getaway is a budget-friendly, charming two-bedroom that can sleep up to four guests.
The house has full amenities, including a full kitchen, bathroom, comfortable bedding and furniture, a large beautiful yard, and a lovely outdoor porch. It’s a simple mountain home that will make your vacation feel complete.
📍Blue Ridge Mountain Air – This beautiful cottage home is the perfect mountain escape for your family vacation. The Blue Ridge Mountain Air Cottage is tucked away in the mountains, just under four miles from Old Fort.
The home sleeps up to six guests, making it perfect for a family trip, and there are two full bathrooms, a large kitchen, a living room, and a beautiful yard space with an amazing patio/porch that everyone will love. Sit by the fire pit, fire up the grill, sit back and relax while soaking in the mountain air.
Old Fort NC: FAQs
📌 What is in Old Fort, NC?
Some may think there isn’t a whole lot in Old Fort, but there are hidden gems everywhere if you just take the chance to look. Many historic buildings are preserved and share the rich history of the town, not to mention the many outdoor activities and things to see.
📌 Why is it called Old Fort?
Old Fort came from its original name, “Davidson’s Fort,” which was the name of the fort situated in Old Fort. The town was renamed Old Fort in 1873 as tourism to the town had drastically slowed, and the town downsized.
📌 Was there a fort in Old Fort NC?
Yes. It was called Davidson’s Fort.
📌 What is the closest larger city to Old Fort, NC?
Asheville, NC, is the closest large city to Old Fort.
📌 How far away is Old Fort, NC from the Blue Ridge Parkway?
Old Fort is about 20 minutes or 18.5 miles from the nearest Blue Ridge Parkway entrance.
📌 How far away is Old Fort, NC from Lake James State Park?
Old Fort is 30 minutes or 27.8 miles from Lake James State Park.
📌 How far away is Old Fort, NC from Little Switzerland?
Old Fort is 36 minutes or 25 miles from Little Switzerland, NC.
Don’t let the small size of Old Fort steer you away from all the wonderful things the town has to offer. It is one of the quaintest mountain towns in the state, and you are bound to see and do things you won’t get to do anywhere else!
Learn a bit of history, stop by a local brewery, and take an adventure to one of the most popular waterfalls around! There is always something fun going on in Old Fort.