The village of Flat Rock lies in some of Western North Carolina’s most scenic terrain near Hendersonville and Asheville. While the permanent pawpulation is a little over 3,000, visitors stream through Flat Rock throughout the year to enjoy the nearby parks and trails. As a matter of fact, Flat Rock began in the 1820s as a resort for wealthy coastal Carolinians looking to escape the summer heat; it was even dubbed “the Little Charleston of the Mountains.” Those Dog Days sure feel a lot better up here!
Whether your pups want a Sunday drive with stretch breaks or a hardcore hike in the wilderness, Flat Rock has plenty to offer. Highway 276 takes you northwest through the Nantahala National Forest past a number of waterfalls. Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock Falls are reachable with a short walk from the road: even a lap dog can enjoy these views. The Looking Glass Falls trail, meanwhile, gives you a three-mile uphill hike to the summit: take plenty of water. A mile away, the Moore Cove Falls Trail is more moderate, and worth it for the 50-foot falls.
Back in Flat Rock, the Hubba Hubba Smokehouse in the center of town is a carnivore's sweet dream. This outdoor-only joint serves classic Carolina BBQ on picnic tables in the yard of an old farmhouse. Dogs are always welcome, because BBQ tastes better when you have someone to share with.
Famous Beat Generation poet Carl Sandburg wrote, “There is a wolf in me . . . I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.” We all have a little wolf in us, right? Take your pups along to visit Sandburg’s estate Connemara in Flat Rock, now a destination for literary pilgrims and nature lovers alike. You’ll need to leave the pups at home to tour the house or the Goat Barn, but on-leash dogs are welcome outdoors on the stunning 256-acre estate. There is no admission fee and, with more than 5 miles of trails ready to explore, you’ll be back again and again.
The massive Green River Game Lands lies just to the east of Flat Rock, providing 16 miles of trails for the outdoor enthusiasts in your pack. The 1.9-mile round trip to Little Bradley Falls Trail is a Spot-on choice if you’re looking for maximum scenery for moderate effort. You can find a Green River trail map through a quick web search; given the remote terrain, we highly recommend it. Be sure to bring water and a strong leash, too. Since Green River is frequented by hunters, it’s essential that you use caution, especially during the hunting seasons from September to May. Bright colored garments are a good idea for both you and your buddies.
Less than 4 miles north of Flat Rock, the city of Hendersonville offers all the creature comforts your pups could need, including almost 30 dog-friendly restaurants with patio seating. The Flat Rock Wood Room is an upscale smokehouse whose friendly staff are always ready to welcome pups with a bowl of water. Hendersonville also has a 24-hour emergency veterinarian and several pet supply stores, including locally-owned Hendersonville Pet Shop. Once you’ve taken care of business, have some playtime at A Pet’s Own Place Dog Park on 7th Avenue. Water and waste bags are provided at the fenced, off-leash areas with separate space for small dogs. The dog park is just behind a people park, the William H. King Memorial Park, which also has a great loop trail for an on-leash run.
Just 7 miles from Flat Rock, on the western outskirts of Hendersonville, the town of Laurel Park is home to the scenic but tragic Jump Off Rock. There are three short hiking trails at Jump Off Rock, all of which lead to spectacular views. According to local legend, the steep cliff is haunted by a Cherokee maiden who leapt to her death after her lover was killed in battle. Do make sure pups stay on leash at all times: the terrain can be dangerous, and you don’t want any accidents if they get spooked. If your excitable pups (or your own nerves) can’t be trusted near a ledge, Laurel Park is also home to Rhododendron Lake Nature Park, with walking trails and a pedestrian bridge in a much flatter setting.
The Dupont State Forest — all 10,473 acres of it — begins just 13 miles from Flat Rock. This hiker’s paradise is pawfect for your trail hounds. There are 83 miles of hiking trails to select from, so you might need some guidance. The Friends of Dupont Forest has an excellent trail guide on their website with suggested walks for various fitness levels, from the easy 6-minute walk to Hooker Falls, to the slightly-tougher uphill climb to High Falls, to the challenging Ridgeline Trail. All trails require dogs to stay on-leash, and that’s important for their safety. Hunting is allowed in the forest, so wear bright colors and stay alert, especially during autumn deer season.