Swannanoa is a fast-growing unincorporated community between Asheville and Black Mountain, NC. Part Appalachian small town and part hipster hangout, Swannanoa is a friendly, funky place to show furbabies a good time. Some of the nation’s most beautiful mountain wilderness is on your doorstep and Asheville is just down the road; you’re all set for a challenging hike or a day of puppy pampering.
There's a one-mile loop trail at Charles D. Owen Park in Swannanoa, plus the Warren Wilson River Trailhead adding 2.5 miles of trail along the Swannanoa River. The pretty views and unflattering name of Big Butt Trail make everyone want to work out a bit harder. This 10-mile segment of the Mountain-to-Sea Trail is accessed from milepost 359 on the Blue Ridge Parkway north of town; it is steep, rugged, and well-maintained. If anyone gets bumps and bruises along the way, though, you have two good veterinary hospitals in the middle of town.
Take a different kind of hike on the sidewalks of Downtown Asheville. This city is so pawpular with canines that it has its own Doggy Visitor’s Center at the Dog Door Behavior Center & Dog Hugger Outfitters; Fido can grab a welcome package there, including tips to help you select from the city’s hundreds of dog-friendly restaurants, art galleries, and shops. He’ll also get walking maps, and the Asheville Urban Trail is a guided 1.7-mile trek through this urban jungle with artworks relating Asheville’s history.
Just a few miles east of Swannanoa, the town of Black Mountain has a history of cultivating talented artists. You can take your pups with you to many art galleries and craft workshops in the area, including the Visions of Creation jewelry gallery on Cherry Street. If you've all been very, very good, pick out something sparkly for yourself and then head across the street to Bone-A-Fide Pet Boutique, where your pups can sniff out some delicious handmade creations of their own at the doggy bakery counter. It’s okay if they overindulge! Riverwalk Park is just three blocks away, and its fenced dog park means your buddies can run off the calories while you sit in the shade. Or, join them for an on-leash walk on the park’s half-mile trail.
On the northern edge of Black Mountain, sizable Lake Tomahawk Park has room to roam. A walking trail circles the 9-acre lake, perfect for barking at ducks. If no one is fishing from the pier and you brought towels, you can even try some dock diving into Lake Tomahawk. The park also connects to Black Mountain’s Greenway trail system. Follow the sidewalk east on Laurel Circle Drive to reach the Flat Creek Trail for some extra adventure. The trail extends north to Cotton Avenue and plans are in the works to lengthen it all the way to Montreat. Need to refuel? Share some nachos with your doggos at the outdoor tables at Ole’s Guacamoles, just south of the trailhead.
The off-leash Azalea Dog Park, just 5 miles from Swannanoa, will have your pups slobbering all over themselves with excitement (not that it takes a whole lot). Azalea Park’s small- and large-dog fenced play areas have water and waste disposal stations, and the large-dog enclosure has a comfy gazebo for summer shade. Back on-leash, your dogs can also join you on the 155-acre park’s loop trail or disc golf course. If you or your pups have a literary bent, stop and check out the restored cabin on the park’s property. It was home to author Thomas Wolfe for the summer of 1937 during the final visit to his native Asheville before his untimely death.
On the southern edge of the Pisgah National Forest, Catawba Falls Trail has a satisfying effort-to-view payoff, at least if you like waterfalls. And, it’s just a 17-mile drive from Swannanoa. The trail itself is a 2.6-mile roundtrip from the parking area following the Catawba River north. You’ll pass the ruins of an early-20th century hydroelectric station, and then a series of scenic waterfalls as you climb about 300 feet in elevation. There are plenty of good splashing spots for your pups to cool off in the water, but keep them on-leash and far away from the slippery top of the falls. For a full day of adventure, note that the Pisgah National Forest's Kitsuma Creek Trailhead and Point Lookout Trailhead are both nearby.
Why walk when you can drive? Better yet, do both! The Blue Ridge Parkway — one of America’s most scenic drives — intersects with Highway 77 just a few miles west of Swannanoa. At a total length of 469 miles spanning from NC to Shenandoah National Park in VA, you can see miraculous mountain vistas from the comfort of your car. Your pups will appreciate some pit stops, though, and there are plenty of side trails to try. One of the most accessible is at Craggy Gardens, due north of Swannanoa. The Craggy Pinnacle Trail (trailhead at milepost 364) takes you on a short but steep climb, and the views from the 5,892-foot summit are well worth the 1.5-mile roundtrip. The comparatively flat one-mile Craggy Gardens Trail explodes in color in early summer when the Catawba rhododendrons bloom.