Asheville Urban Trail: a free tour through Asheville’s history, culture and architecture
Walk or run the charming streets of Asheville on a free self guided walking tour, exploring Asheville's history, notable residents, architecture and local art.
The urban trail is a great (and free!) way to sightsee in the city, and get a feel for the unique culture that represents Asheville. It also passes by some amazing restaurants, bars and shops making for a fun afternoon of lunch, shopping and exploring.
The Asheville Urban Trail: the details
Departing Pack Square, the trail follows Patton Ave to the west. The trail’s first 14 stations tell the story of Asheville’s Gilded Age (1880-1930) and are marked by pink granite blocks with a carved feather motif set into the sidewalk. Along this length of the urban hike, the trail visits past monuments celebrating Asheville’s early 20th century boom period, architectural achievements and success as a cultural and economic center in the area.
The Asheville Urban Trail makes a right turn on Haywood Street and passes Pritchard Park. Pritchard Park offers a great spot to stop and people watch or take a quick break on a shady park bench. The park is surrounded by shops and restaurants giving the area a lively, energetic atmosphere. Stop by Tupelo Honey Cafe, on College Street, for a bite and enjoy fresh, made-from-scratch Southern comfort food before continuing on the tour.
From Pritchard Park, the trail proceeds a short distance before hanging a left on Battery Park Avenue. The trail takes another quick left onto Wall Street at station number 8, a large sculpture of a flat iron that stands in front of Asheville’s flat iron building.
Wall Street, aptly named for the wall that holds up its southern edge, has a charming feel and is home to a number of shops and restaurants including the Laughing Seed Cafe, serving up organic, local, vegetarian cuisine. It’s a fantastic stop for lunch or dinner.
The trail crosses Wall Street, climbing stairs before exiting onto Battery Park Avenue. Station 10, The Grove Arcade, is directly across the street. The Grove Arcade, an ornate Art Deco building, is home to dozens of shops and restaurants as well as an outdoor market under the covered portico.
The Grove Arcade is a great place to shop, dine, or grab a cup of coffee while enjoying the architectural history and beauty of the building. The Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar is well worth a stop: browse the seemingly endless shelves of new, used and antique books while enjoying a glass of wine. (And, if a rainy day foils your great Asheville-area hiking plans, there’s no better place to cozy up to a great book and wait out the drizzle!)
The trail continues north on Page Avenue, passing the historic Battery Park Hotel. The nearby Basilica of St. Lawrence featuring the largest freestanding elliptical dome in North America.
The trail crosses Haywood Street towards the Civic Center to visit life-sized bronze dancing figures representing Asheville’s rich culture. The trail follows Haywood Street south, reaching the last station marking the Guided Age which honors this area’s history as a vibrant shopping district.
The trail hangs a left on Walnut Street and enters the Frontier Period (1784-1880) section of the tour. Two stations, marked with a horseshoe symbol carved in pink granite, reminisce of Asheville’s early days when the street was frequented by farmers bringing their crops to market. The last station on this section of the tour celebrates the life of Richard Sharp Smith, an architect, responsible for a number of buildings in the city.
After a quick walk north on Broadway, the trail turns right onto Woodfin Street to explore the times of Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938). Stations along this section of trail, marked with an angel carved in pink granite, reflect on the life of one of Asheville’s most famous authors. The trail turns right onto Thomas Wolfe Plaza to visit ‘Dixieland’, a famous boardinghouse run by Wolfe’s mother.
The trail turns right onto Walnut Street, passing an abstract metal art exhibit celebrating Asheville’s theatrical history. The last station on this section of tour, number 21, honors the city’s last remaining brick street with an art-in-motion sculpture on the corner of Walnut and North Market Street.
The trail heads up North Market Street entering the section of trail titled The Era of Civic Pride. The 5 stations in this section tour through Pack Square Park and honor the local government’s role in shaping the city of Asheville. These stations are marked with pink granite, feature a carving of the Buncombe County Courthouse, and offer stunning views of Asheville’s Art Deco architecture framed against the backdrop of nearby Beaucatcher Mountain.
The trail picks back up across Pack Square on Market Street, passing the Jackson Building with its gargoyles looming high overhead. This last section of the urban trail is titled The Age of Diversity and is marked with an eagle symbol celebrating Asheville’s cultural diversity. The trail turns right on Eagle Street passing the last two stations on the tour before returning to Pack Square with a right turn on Biltmore Avenue, completing the 1.7 mile loop.