A Visitor Guide to Marion NC - NC Blue Ridge

Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the town of Marion is a place where visitors are able to get off the grid and enjoy the slower pace of a small mountain town. Surrounded by natural beauty, a charming downtown invites guests to explore the many restaurants, historical interests, art galleries, breweries and tap rooms lining the streets. In 2018, the N.C. Rural Center named Marion the “North Carolina Small Town of the Year,” and while it may be small, it offers access to big adventures.

Outdoor Exploration Near Marion

Linville caverns

Exploring Linville Caverns

The backdrop of Marion is the Pisgah National Forest, which boasts miles of hiking trails, gorgeous waterfalls, and the highest peak east of the Mississippi. Within a short drive of downtown you’ll find yourself immersed in the natural wonders of the area. The nearby Catawba River runs through Marion, and offers a number of ways to cool off on a warm day. Take the plunge is a  swimming hole, rent a tube or kayak, or find your perfect peaceful spot to go bass fishing.

Stretch your legs with a hike through the Mount Ida Wilderness Area. This hike takes you one-half mile up a moderate to strenuous trail, and the payoff is a nice view of downtown Marion and the surrounding mountains. There’s a picnic shelter so before you go stop by Bruce’s Fabulous Foods in downtown and pick up some healthy, fresh-cooked food to take with you.

Further north in McDowell County, take a tour through the Linville Caverns, a subterranean network of limestone caverns that allow visitors to get a close look at the inside of a mountain. This tour is safe for all ages and has a few surprises throughout the guided expedition, but no spoilers here – you’ll have to go see for yourself! Take a light jacket as water naturally drips off the stalactite and stalagmite formations.

There are a couple of waterfalls in the region worth exploring as well. North of town in the Pisgah National Forest you’ll find Tom’s Creek Falls and Linville Falls, both located off of Highway 221. These beautiful waterfalls are easy to access and suitable for all ages.

Mr. Bob's DonutsStroll Through Downtown

Like many Blue Ridge Mountain towns, Marion has maintained its small town vibe, while continuing to increase entertainment options for locals and visitors. Music venues, craft breweries, and a cinema are newer additions to downtown alongside long-time favorites like Mr. Bob’s Do-Nuts and the McDowell Arts Gallery and Theatre, which showcases the work of local artists living throughout Southern Appalachia.

Special Events in Marion

Throughout the year, Marion hosts a number of festivals. Make plans to attend one of these family-friendly events: Sweet Treats of the Carolina’s Festival (April) | Livermush Festival (June) | WNC Bigfoot Festival (September) |  Mountain Glory Festival (October) | New Year’s Eve Golden Nugget Drop (December).

Calling All History Buffs

The area has a rich history to explore. The Historic Carson House Museum offers a glimpse into what life was like for the Carson Family beginning in the 1700s. This two-story mansion is a testament to our past with records detailing the history of the region during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the North Carolina Gold Rush.

Another home of significance belonged to the family of Joseph McDowell, the man for which McDowell County gets it name. He was a Colonel in the American Revolutionary War, and his home site, which was built in 1787, is one of the oldest surviving frame homes in Western North Carolina. This house is located along the Joseph McDowell Historical Catawba Greenway.


Header Image: Linville Falls Plunge Basin – Courtesy of Greg Dollyhite.