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AAA Carolinas GO Magazine....


The winding roads heading into the valleys and peaks of the mountains of North Carolina and South Carolina lead to lots of interesting hidden gems. It's just a matter of knowing where to find them. Here are 12 top hidden mountain gems in the Carolinas:


1 The Gamekeeper
Just outside the village of Blowing Rock on the way to the Blue Ridge Parkway, The Gamekeeper, rated Four Diamond by AAA, is a woodsy restaurant specializing in creative mountain cuisine, with trout, bison, house made sausages, and much more from the Carolinas on the menu. Fresh ingredients, wood-fired preparation, and pretty presentation combine to make this a hidden mountain gem worth the drive, but Yonahlassee Resort & Club is also just across the road. www.gamekeeper-nc.com; www.yonahlossee.com

2 Apple Hill Farm
Apple Hill Farm is a pretty alpaca farm sitting atop Valle Mountain between Banner Elk and Boone. The old apple orchard is now home to alpacas, goats, llamas, chickens, dogs, cats, and more. Visitors are welcome during regular opening hours spring to fall, when there are also great farm tours, and the popular Farm Store features yarns, sweaters, blankets and much more. www.applehillfarmnc.com

3 Grandfather Mountain
*Everyone knows Grandfather Mountain and the famed Mile High Swinging Bridge, but very few head up their winding road on days with low cloud cover because they assume they won't see anything. The late Hugh Morton, founder of Grandfather Mountain, loved these "hidden" days, which made for a quiet and eerie setting--and stunning photography for which he was famous. www.grandfather.com

4 Emerald Village
Emeralds and other gems are often found hidden in the North Carolina mountains, but Emerald Village makes it easier to explore these sparkling additions to state's underground landscape. Located down a country road outside Little Switzerland, Emerald Village features the North Carolina Mining Museum and The Gemstone Mine, both located in one-time mines. There's an underground mine tour, gold panning, gem mining, black light tours, and many special events, including May's "Miner's Heritage Day" and August's "RockFest." www.emeraldvillage.com

5 Grovewood Gallery
Many guests of the fabled Grove Park Inn (celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2013) never make it over to Grovewood Gallery, a complex located in the woods near the resort's rock-laden entrance. Those in the know find a great gallery featuring an array of art, working artist studios, an outdoor sculpture garden, the North Carolina Homespun Museum (honoring Biltmore Industries and their fabled wool cloth), the Estes-Winn Memorial Automobile Museum, tasty Grovewood Cafe, and more. www.grovewood.com

6 The Swag
Situated outside Waynesville way up a winding road more than 5,000 feet into the mountains, The Swag features an array of quite upscale rooms, suites, cabins, and amenities right next to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Nearby trails lead to a pond, waterfall, and various "hideaways" with views, hammocks, and "Vacant/Occupied" signs awaiting lucky visitors. Their website says it best: Remote. Rustic. Refined. Remarkable. www.theswag.com

7 Yurt Village at Falling Waters
Tucked into the woods just outside Bryson City, the Yurt Village at Falling Waters Adventure Resort features eight yurts with canvas shells and exposed framing. Blending into the mountain setting, the large interiors of the tent-like structures offer queen beds, sitting areas with futons, and a small refrigerator and coffee maker. Shared bathrooms and showers nearby make for a glamorous camping ("glamping") experience in the mountains. On-site ziplining, hiking, rafting, and more enhance the adventure. www.wildwaterrafting.com

8 Pinnacle Park
Though there are plenty of places to hike in the mountains of Western North Carolina, dogs aren't allowed on many trails (including those in sprawling Great Smoky Mountains National Park). That's not the case at quiet Pinnacle Park, just outside Sylva, where four-footed friends on leashes are welcome on the trail, which is an old logging road. With or without a dog, the 3.3-mile hike up to Pinnacle Peak is well worth the 360-degree view. www.hikewnc.info/trailheads/pinnacle


9 The Red Horse Inn
The Red Horse Inn north of Greenville near Landrum up near the North Carolina state line is truly pastoral in every sense of the word, thanks to luxurious inn rooms and cottages with stunning views of endless fields and woods. The AAA Four Diamond property is perfect as a romantic hideaway, including lots of varied packages for a truly hidden getaway. www.theredhorseinn.com

10 Campbell's Covered Bridge
Even though it's the only remaining covered bridge in South Carolina, the Upcountry mountains setting of Campbell's Covered Bridge means the historic site outside Landrum remains hidden from many visitors to the "Dark Corner" region. Constructed in 1909, the 38-foot-long and 12-foot-wide pine structure spans Beaverdam Creek. The bridge site and surrounding acreage also include the foundations of an old mill and home site, interpretative signage, and perfect picnicking spots. Campbell's Covered Bridge is often included in the popular Dark Corner tours of the area, which visits historic sites-ranging from the Civil War to moonshining. www.greenvillerec.com/parks/campbells-covered-bridge; www.squireofdarkcorner.com

11 Perdeaux Fruit Farm
Located on winding Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway, Perdeaux Fruit Farm is tucked into a hillside filled with apple trees and many other fruits of the labor of owner and founder Dick Perdue. With more than a dozen different types of fruit and 100-plus varieties, plus lots of other purchase possibilities, Perdeaux Fruit Farm has something for everyone. Along with seasonal apples, blackberries, raspberries, pears, peaches, persimmons, prunes, plums, figs, muscadines, and more, visitors to this South Carolina foothills gem can find preserves, honey from the farm's bees, boiled peanuts, local vegetables, local blueberries, apple butter, and applesauce, and, of course, fresh apple cider in season. www.carolinafarmers.com/perdue

12 Hagood Mill Historic Site & Folklife Center
Hagood Mill Historic Site & Folklife Center, down a country road near Pickens, features a restored 1845 grist mill that remains the only mill in the state still using the original grinding wheel components. Mountain farmers came from near and far to grind their corn here, as well as catch up with "holler" gossip. Today, the 50-acre site also includes a reproduced Cherokee home site, a blacksmith shop, several historic cabins, Native American petroglyphs, and much more. The third Saturday of every month means "grinding day," including demonstrations in milling, blacksmithing, cotton ginning, spinning, weaving, quilting, chair caning, open-hearth cooking, bee-keeping, moonshining, music and more. There are other popular events throughout the year and guided tours are also available by appointment. www.upcountrysc.com/links/5/400