Etowah, North Carolina has just enough urban hustle to delight any doggo, but the real reason to visit is the miles and miles of mountain splendor that surrounds this lively town. Though technically an unincorporated community within the metropolitan Hendersonville area, Etowah sits just 25 miles south of Asheville — easily one of the hippest cities in the US — and 50 miles from the Smokey Mountains.
There’s no reason to head for the hills right away, though. First, you'll want to try the Old Etowah Smokehouse. This classic Carolina BBQ joint has all the carnivores in town begging (plus comfy dog-friendly patio seating). If your pup can handle life on the edge and has a really good leash, the Jump Off Rock in Laurel Park offers vista views and three walking trails of different difficulty levels. Be careful, though: the steep ledge is dangerous and maybe even haunted, according to a local legend about an Indian maiden’s leap from the cliff.
Etowah is growing fast; the population has nearly tripled since the year 2000, thanks to Asheville’s bustling economy and rising real estate prices. With Asheville’s laid-back, dog-loving culture spilling over, we’re confident that Etowah’s canine comforts will be on the rise, too. For now, there’s plenty of variety available in Downtown Hendersonville, less than 9 miles from Etowah.
Did someone say cheese? OMG, CHEESE! In the nearby town of Mills River, just 7 miles from Etowah, your fur family will discover some friendly people and outdoor doggy seating at the Mills River Creamery. Share some of the the homemade ice cream made from local milk, or shop for locally-sourced eggs and yogurt — and plenty of cheese. You’ll earn it at the Mills River Dog Park, inside Mills River Park. The park offers separate off-leash play areas for larger (25 lbs. or more) and smaller dogs, plus fresh water. The leashed area of the park also includes a half-mile walking trail if you still have more cheese to work off.
Only nine miles from Etowah, Downtown Hendersonville is a major hub for business and dining in western NC. A whopping 27 of those restaurants offer dog-friendly outdoor seating, including Sanctuary Brewery and Southern Appalachian Brewing Company. (Yep, Hendersonville is a beer town.) Hendersonville’s off-leash dog park, Pet’s Own Place, offers separate fenced areas for large and small dogs and waste removal supplies. It is located just behind William H. King Memorial Park, which has additional on-leash play areas. Got a big day ahead that doesn’t include Rover? A Pet’s Day Out offers drop-in doggie indoor/outdoor supervised play sessions for full and half days, so your pup can have a blast while you struggle through your temporarily lonely and dogless existence.
Just 22 miles away, near Asheville's Hall Fletcher neighborhood, the French Broad River Park is worth exploring just for the riverfront scenery. The fenced off-leash dog run, though, makes the park a must-see. Poop bags are provided, but fair warning that there is no separate play area for small dogs. The park does, however, have swimming access in the French Broad River, so a towel would probably come in handy. If he’s too wet to get back in the car, walk it off on the 2-mile French Broad River Greenway trail that connects the French Broad River Park to the nearby Hominy Creek Park.
The North Carolina Arboretum knows what dogs like. Dogs like trees. Lots and lots of trees. The arboretum is a sprawling 430-acre preserve of wild forest and experimental garden less than 17 miles from Etowah. This leashed-dog paradise can wear out even the most energetic pups. The Arboretum's ten miles of hiking trails await, including the gentle hills of the 2.4-mile Carolina Mountain Trail. Note that a parking fee applies at the Arboretum, but these funds help maintain the lush greenery that Rover definitely appreciates. (And contrary to popular myth, dogs are not color blind, just a little more limited than humans in their color perception.)
Let’s hope your pup appreciates the finer things. The Biltmore Estate was built by George Vanderbilt II in the 1890s to resemble a European palace, and it's 24 miles from Etowah. Though now a museum (no dogs allowed inside, unfortunately), Biltmore remains the largest privately owned home in the USA. The stunning grounds draw just as many visitors as the house itself: they were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the landscape architect behind NYC Central Park. There are 250 acres total to explore, and Rover is welcome to join you in outdoor areas. He’s also invited to dine at the patio restaurant seating available in Antler Hill Village (tuxedo not required).