Biltmore Estate adventures: hiking, biking, kayaking and paddle boarding
Find an outdoor adventure at Biltmore Estate: wander the manicured gardens, hike through grassy meadows, mountain bike through leafy forests, or kayak and paddle board the gently meandering French Broad River at Asheville’s iconic Vanderbilt estate.
Biltmore Estate is a can’t-miss experience in the Asheville area. While the estate is located just minutes south of the hustle and bustle of Asheville’s vibrant downtown, its tranquil setting and picturesque landscape feels worlds away. And while the Biltmore House is the property’s most prominent attraction, and totally worthy of a visit, the 8,000-acre estate offers so much more to do and explore outside of touring the magnificent home.
The estate’s grounds are beautifully scenic, framed by the stately Blue Ridge Mountains. The terrain at the estate ranges from manicured gardens to farmland pastures, sun-dappled woodlands, breezy grasslands, and the scenic banks of the French Broad River. And Biltmore offers many options to explore the great outdoors on its beautifully diverse terrain. Outdoor adventure at Biltmore ranges from mild, with strolls through exceptionally manicured gardens and leisurely bike rides through farm land and over river banks, to a little more wild, with gear-grinding and pedaling on the estate’s mountain bike trails and stand-up paddle board tours of the rippling waters of the French Broad River.
Our favorite outdoor things to do at Biltmore Estate
It’s easy to see why George Vanderbilt selected this spot to build his French Chateau-style summer home. Perched high on a hill overlooking the beautiful southern Appalachians, Biltmore House offers spectacular sunset views and catches cool mountain breezes. Inside America’s largest home, the views are no less spectacular.
Throughout the 178,000 square foot mansion, antique furniture, 16th-century tapestries, and priceless works of art adorn the walls and fill the house’s 250 rooms. And stunning architectural details like massive fireplaces, a four-story chandelier, and spiral staircases showcase the Vanderbilt’s opulent lifestyle. A self-guided or guide-led tour of Biltmore House is a great way to start a visit, and afterward, the estate offers some amazing outdoor activities, too:
French Broad River Kayaking and Paddle Boarding
For fun on the water, the Outdoor Adventure Center offers a host of activities for exploring the estate from the French Broad River. We’re big fans of stand-up paddle boarding, and it’s our favorite way to experience Biltmore on the water. The guided paddle boarding tour pairs guests with a friendly and knowledgeable paddling guide and ultra-high-quality NRS Paddle Boards. Kat, our guide, pointed out landmarks and interesting sights on our three-mile tour, and helped us navigate the river to get a picture-perfect view of the Biltmore Estate from our paddle boards. The tour was great workout with some really beautiful wildlife and landscape views. And while we’re experienced at paddle boarding, we learned some great advanced techniques from our guide.
Biltmore offers a number of other on-water adventures, too. Float the river on a guided raft trip to enjoy an easy guided trip down the gently flowing river with exceptional views of the estate and Biltmore House. Or, for a more hands-on adventure, take a self-guided kayak trip to paddle the river at your own pace. The river and its banks are teeming with riparian wildlife such as heron, turtles, river otters, and deer, so be on the lookout, and quietly float a gentle current near the shore for a chance to spot some of the river’s inhabitants.
Biltmore Bike Trails
Touring Biltmore Estate on two wheels is a great way to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Miles of bike trails meander throughout the property, offering biking adventures for a wide range of experience levels. Bike the Farm Trail and Lagoon Trail to catch beautiful views along the French Broad River and the reflection of Biltmore House in the lagoon. These nearly-level trails explore both paved and gravel pathways, perfect for leisurely rides.
For a more challenging adventure, we biked the Deer Park Trail from the lagoon, meandering through switchbacks and tunneling through beautiful golden fields of grass on a moderate climb. The Deer Park Trail passes the Biltmore Gardens on an elevated ridge, and ends with exceptional views from the southwest terrace of Biltmore House. A side trail leads from the Deer Park Trail to the Bass Pond, a can’t-miss destination to explore by foot, with several tumbling waterfalls, a beautiful wooden boat house, and reflective views of the pond’s iconic arched bridge.
And for the adventure savvy mountain biker, the Westover Trails offer varied terrain through a beautiful forest. Three loops wind and weave through the elevated woodland, offering rides ranging from wild (the 3.5-mile black trail delivers technical singletrack and some sharp, meandering curves) to mild (the 1.7-mile green trail and 2.8-mile blue trail offer a great warm-up or a beginner-friendly ride).
The Biltmore Bike Barn is located in Antler Hill Village, and rents several different styles of bikes for children and adults, ranging from casual, single-speed beach cruisers to more technical hybrid bikes and fully-equipped mountain bikes. And the staff at the Bike Barn is wonderfully knowledgeable about the surrounding trails, and fantastic at helping find the perfect fit when choosing a rental.
More than 2.5 miles of trails wind through the beautifully planted and maintained gardens of Biltmore Estate. Designed by the father of American landscape architecture, Fredrick Law Olmsted, the gardens feature a mix of formal and informal gardens and offer year-round interest.
Stroll through the formal Italian Garden and enjoy beautiful water features filled with lotus, lilies, and giant Koi who come to the surface and greet visitors. Lush expanses of lawn framed by wide gravel pathways and tightly clipped hedges dotted with marble statuary give way to expansive views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Shrub Garden’s paved pathways meander through gently rolling hills planted with a variety of trees, shrubs, and flowering perennials, offering an ever-changing display of colors and textures through out the seasons. And behind the brick walls of the Walled Garden, a dazzling display of seasonal annuals, perennials, and spring bulbs fill the beds with riots of color. In the Rose Garden, over 250 varieties of roses perfume the air all summer. At the garden’s end, the glass roofed Conservatory houses palms, orchids, and other tropical plants.
And, if time and energy allows, explore more than 20 miles of trails on the grounds of Biltmore Estate by foot. Visit the Spring Garden, the Bass Pond & Boat House, or wander the beautiful, grassy meadow of Deer Park or along the breezy banks of the French Broad River.
One of our favorite experiences at Biltmore is touring the gardens after the main house closes for the day. Most guests have left to find dinner on the estate or in downtown Asheville, leaving many of the trails and gardens quiet and peaceful. Dusk from the South Terrace is magical, with the cool breeze whispering through tree tops and the sun slowly sinking behind the layered, blue mountains on the western horizon.
Biltmore offers a number of fantastic restaurants that are perfect for a post-adventure meal. From a casual sandwich to gourmet sit down dinners, light snacks, and sweet confectionary treats, we’ve always enjoyed dining at the estate.
Cedric’s Tavern is our casual favorite, serving up a selection of sophisticated pub fare featuring grilled burgers, sandwiches, and seasonal specials, as well as small bites, and fresh salads. Grab a seat on the covered patio and relax with a cold beer or cocktail from the bar, or check out the live local bands each evening.
No visit to the Antler Hill Village would be complete without a stop at The Creamery for a scoop of ultra creamy ice cream or decadent cupcake. The Creamery’s outdoor patio is the perfect place to take a break and cool down after paddling and biking, and the strawberry shortcake is our favorite reward after a full day of adventure at the estate.
Biltmore for Dogs
The grounds of Biltmore Estate are dog-friendly, and they’re a perfect place to explore with our four-year-old adventure pup, Jake, and his boundless energy. Jake loves exploring the Italian Garden and especially loves peering into the ponds at the beautiful koi, who swim up to him expectantly, waiting for a treat.
The wide, gravel paths of the Azalea Garden and Bass Pond are perfect for a shady afternoon walk. The trails provide plenty to see (and sniff), and benches scattered along the way provide a spot to take a break. The small waterfall on the south side of the Bass Pond makes a great spot to stop and cool down tired paws. To add some more miles to the adventure, follow the trails up hill away from the Bass Pond and walk the Deer Park Trail for beautiful views of Biltmore House and glimpses of the French Broad River below. The packed dirt trail winds through beautiful grassy meadows before descending into wooded forests along the river and lagoon.
Please be considerate of other guests by cleaning up after your pet and keeping them leashed at all times. And, as always, please remember to Leave No Trace and follow these tips to practice good trail etiquette when you’re out chasing an adventure.
Thanks to Biltmore for hosting our fantastic day of adventure at the estate.
Thank you for your support! - the Asheville Trails crew