Appalachians have always been a romantic bunch. In private. So when it comes to romantic getaways, they don’t tend to go where the crowds are. They like quiet little spots of beauty for their courtships, weddings and anniversaries.
One such spot is Hot Springs, North Carolina, which offers three main attractions:
- It’s a quaint mountain town surrounded by the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the surging French Broad River.
- It’s not all that far (less than an hour’s drive) from the bustling small city of Asheville, NC, making it relatively easy to get to.
- As its name implies, the town has hot mineral springs, spas and other amenities.
Hot Springs is located in Madison County, with a long history as a resort, due to its “healing mineral springs” and mountain air.
Hot Springs was named “Warm Springs” until 1886, when a higher-temperature natural spring was discovered. People had been “taking the waters” there for about 100 years before that. The town has been a destination and an important stop along the Buncombe Highway, which connected Kentucky and Tennessee to the coast.
About six miles from the Tennessee border, Hot Springs sits in a river valley at 1,300 feet above sea level, surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. In February, snow sometimes caps the peaks. The range provides a breathtaking backdrop to a town that only 560 people call home. But Hot Springs is also part of the mountains: the Appalachian Trail passes right down Main Street, the only place on the trail where this is true.
Normally, hiking, rafting and picnicking are common outdoor activities for visitors to Hot Springs. In winter, however, fewer people venture outside, except maybe to get more firewood or to sit in the healing waters of the hot springs. February is a time to admire the mountains from a distance, and with no leaves to get in the way, the views are exquisite.
Hot Mineral Springs
Hot Springs is one of two sources of naturally heated spring water in the Eastern United States. The other is Hot Springs, Virginia, home of the Omni Homestead Resort. These waters are heated deep underground and hold a very high mineral content, which may have healing properties but definitely have soothing qualities.
As a result, spas have been a highlight of the town since the town began. Modern spas pump hot spring water, which is naturally carbonated, into hot tubs for your pleasure. These tubs are emptied and thoroughly cleaned after each use. So relax with your partner and enjoy the experience of soaking in the natural essence of the hot mineral water.
Getting There Is Half the Fun
Nestled in the mountains, Hot Springs has several access roads, the best of which is Route 209, which winds its way up from Waynesville, some 40 miles to the south. The final 10 miles into town features many switchbacks and curves through the scenic mountains. It’s a thrill on a motorcycle, but even in a car, it’s a pleasure to drive.
From Asheville, the route is an easier 36-mile route, but its proximity to the city is an added bonus. When you’re done soaking, you can dry off on the drive and partake in Asheville’s exciting nightlife. Alternatively, the city can act as a gateway to the more bucolic romantic getaway that Hot Springs offers.
Hot Springs isn’t a one-horse town by any means. Local businesses cater to tourists and those just passing through. Given the small population, the locals like to joke that the town has more restaurants per capita than any other city in the state, and you can find a variety of food choices.
When it comes to getting away for a romantic adventure, Hot Springs, NC, offers exactly what the doctor ordered.