Before the surge in craft beer culture and the rise of outdoor sports, Saluda was a rather unremarkable place, mainly known as a seasonal truck stop offering peaches in the summer and apples in the fall. However, the town’s strategic location near thrilling whitewater rafting and ziplining adventures has breathed new life into its charming downtown. On one side of the railroad tracks, you’ll discover an array of dining and shopping options, while on the other, a welcoming public park awaits.
Strolling through downtown Saluda will only require you to traverse four blocks, each offering a captivating blend of contemporary shops alongside establishments that have retained their nostalgic charm for decades. If you continue down Main Street, you’ll soon find yourself atop Polly Mountain, with the chance to pause at a refreshing swimming hole on your way back.
Saluda, this quaint North Carolina mountain town, has organically evolved over the years. Its most distinctive claim to fame boasts the region’s steepest railroad grade. To truly immerse yourself in the spirit of North Carolina, dig into these amazing things to do in Saluda, plus some suggestions beyond in nearby Hendersonville.
Best Things to Do In Saluda
1. Big Bradley Falls
- Address: Cove Creek, Saluda (GPS)
- Hours: 24 Hours
If you’re at Cove Creek and are looking for a short hiking adventure with a rewarding and picturesque endpoint, then head over to Big Bradley Falls, which is one of the best waterfalls near Asheville. The waterfall is tucked away in a small gorge, and you’ll need to hike about 1.9 miles.
The trail is a bit tricky and, when you see danger signs, that’s your cue to stop. You’ll get incredible views of the 75-foot waterfall and on the way will also see another 50-foot waterfall that has been dubbed Little Bradley Falls.
Don’t go past the danger signs, as hiking to the waterfall has been deemed extremely dangerous by authorities.
2. Saluda Historic Depot and Museum
- Address: 32 W Main St, Saluda (GPS)
- Hours: Thursday – Saturday: 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm, Sunday: 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
- Cost of Admission: Free
The Saluda Historic Depot is one of the sincerest homages to the local history and culture. Short films, dioramas, and artifacts tell the story of Saluda and its importance to the train economy.
The Depot was built in 1903 by Southern Railway, and it has been preserved incredibly to this day, at great cost and effort. In fact, Saluda owes a lot of its development to the railway and the men who helped build it, since it was after that that this mountain town started to prosper. Visitors can learn all about this fascinating history by visiting the Depot. Admission is free!
3. Historic Thompson’s Store
- Address: 24 E Main St, Saluda (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Saturday: 9:00 am -6:00 pm, Sunday: 11:00 am -6:00 pm
Located on E Main Street, Thompson’s store holds the distinction of being the oldest grocery store in North Carolina. While there aren’t a lot of history lessons, the store does sell some choice gourmet foods and has a reputable deli. The signature Charlie’s Sage Sausages are quite popular among locals. The store also sells fine wines, craft beers, and local fresh produce.
Visitors can also purchase souvenirs, including memorabilia for Coon Dog Day, which celebrates the beloved pet dog that so many have used for so long for hunting in the area. The store is open from 9 AM to 6 PM (11 AM to 6 PM on Sundays).
4. Ward’s Grill
- Address: 24 E Main St, Saluda (GPS)
- Hours: Tuesday – Friday: 8:00 am – 3:00 pm, Saturday: 7:00 am- 3:00 pm
Foodies looking for the classic American 1960s diner experience should look no further than Ward’s Grill. Located next to the historic Thompson’s Store, this diner screams authenticity with its bar stools and booth seats and features a menu filled with all kinds of delicious American diner cuisine.
The cheeseburger, fries, and onion rings are a house specialty, and the breakfast buffet is very popular with locals, with the omelet being a favorite. The prices are also pretty reasonable, with a full family eating for under $40.
5. Pearson’s Falls & Glen
- Address: 2748 Pearson Falls Rd, Saluda (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Pearson’s Falls and Glen is a hidden gem, not just of Saluda, but of the entire state of North Carolina. It’s one of the best waterfalls in the state and is a must-visit spot for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts. Because of its natural beauty and wildlife, Pearson’s Falls and Glen holds many accolades such as being a part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Gardens, being a North Carolina Birding Trail Site, and being a Blue Ridge National Heritage Area site.
The hike to the 90-foot waterfall isn’t too strenuous, and you get to see many species of birds and wildflowers all along the trail, which can be accessed via US 176. There’s also a picnic area near the Glen if you and the family feel like having an outdoor picnic.
6. M.A. Pace General Store
- Address: 60 E Main St, Saluda (GPS)
- Hours: Monday -Friday: 8:00 am -5:00 pm, Saturday: 8:30 am -5:00 pm,
Sunday: 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
If you’re looking to buy some supplies, all while enjoying a step into the past, then head over to M.A. Pace General Store on East Main Street. In addition to necessities, you can also find some locally produced food goods, some quirky and interesting items, and even some delicious ice cream.
The highlighting feature is the historical memorabilia and decorations, which give the store so much charm and character. If you’re a traveler staying in this town for a holiday and are in need of some necessities, then be sure to head on over.
7. Heartwood Contemporary Crafts Gallery
- Address:21 E Main St, Saluda (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
If you’re looking to buy some souvenirs, pieces of art, or special Christmas presents for loved ones, head on over to the Heartwood Contemporary Crafts Gallery for an impressive collection of handmade ceramics, jewelry, glass items, home decor, wall art, scarves, utensils, and many other types of crafts and decor. The Gallery is also a great (and free) way to kill some time if your family is running errands.
8. Melrose Falls
- Address: US-176, Tryon (GPS)
Another hotspot for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers, the 50-foot cascading Melrose Falls is another destination you should check out during your trip to Saluda.
The entire trail, to-and-fro, is about 1.5 miles and is filled with natural wonders like icicles, brooks, and some incredible rock formations. You’ll also see all manner of wildlife and beautiful wildflowers, making for a very tranquil and picturesque getaway and one of the best things to do in Saluda
You should know that this is a proper hike and not just a walk through the park, so wear proper shoes and make sure you have the right hiking equipment with you.
9. Dine at Purple Onion
- Address: 16 E Main St, Saluda (GPS)
- Hours: Monday, Thursday – Saturday: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm, 5:00 pm,
Sunday: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
The Purple Onion is a local hotspot, with a menu featuring Mediterranean-accented meals and an assortment of drinks and cocktails. Many consider the Purple Onion to be the best restaurant in Saluda, and one would be hard-pressed to argue because of the delicious food, incredible outdoor seating, and live music.
The morning service is every day from 11 AM to 3 PM and, except Sundays, an evening service from 5 PM to 9 PM. Since it’s a popular venue, it might be better to call and make a reservation before you head there.
10. Green River Cove Tubing
- Address: 5200 Green River Cove Rd, Saluda (GPS)
- Cost of Admission: $10.00 for 3 miles, estimated time 2 to 2.5 hours and $15.00 for six miles, estimated time 4 to 4.5 hours
Green River Cove Tubing is a family-owned and operated business providing extreme adventures since 1982. While the adventures on offer take visitors through picturesque areas, this isn’t a lazy, relaxing tube excursion. You’ll be bouncing along class one and two rapids, so be prepared for some extreme adventure.
Out of safety concerns, children must be at least 42 inches tall, and everyone should bring sunscreen, waterproof bags, and a lifejacket with them. Prices are $10 for the three-mile ride and $15 for the six-mile ride.
11. Western North Carolina Air Museum
- Address: 1340 E Gilbert St, Hendersonville (GPS)
History buffs and aviation enthusiasts will love the Western North Carolina Air Museum, with its 19 fill-sized functional antique airplanes on display, on-site active airport, traditional grass pathways, and a full experience showing how passenger flying used to be. The Museum hosts many fun events like an annual air fair, car shows, helicopter rides, and even an apple festival.
12. Aquarium & Shark Lab by Team ECCO
- Address: 511 N Main St, Hendersonville (GPS)
- Hours: Tuesday -Saturday: 1:00 pm -4:00 pm
The Aquarium & Shark Lab by Team ECCO in nearby Hendersonville is a treasure trove for those interested in learning about marine life. With a 2000-gallon shark tank, 300 species of sharks, more than 80 species of fish and reptiles, and 20 displays featuring tortoises, stingrays, eels, lizards, and spider crabs, there’s lots to see!
For such a rich experience, admission is pretty reasonably priced at $6.75 per person. Guests over 65, teachers, and safety service personnel pay $5.75 each, and children aged 1 to 4 are charged $4.75. Children below one and active military personnel have free entry.
13. The Gorge Zipline Canopy Tour
- Address: 166 Honey Bee Dr, Saluda (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Sunday: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
With 11 ziplines spanning 1.25 miles, three rappels, and a sky bridge, thrill seekers can satisfy their adrenaline kick by visiting the Gorge Zipline Canopy Tour. This is also a great activity for families and is easily one of the best things to do in Saluda.
Just make sure all of you are at least 10 years old and weigh between 70 and 250 pounds. It costs $129 per person, which is reduced to $119 per person for groups of eight or more persons. The only downside is that you can’t take pictures, and cameras and phones are not permitted on the tour. Pictures are available from the staff.
14. Hendersonville’s Mineral & Lapidary Museum
- Address: 400 N Main St, Hendersonville (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Friday: 1:00 pm -5:00 pm, Saturday: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Aspiring scientists, geologists, and dinosaur enthusiasts should rejoice as the close town to Saluda has something to offer them. Hendersonville’s Mineral & Lapidary Museum is a short drive from the town center and boasts an impressive collection of rocks and minerals, many of which are native to the county and state, which isn’t surprising considering North Carolina has one of the country’s most diverse mineral deposits.
Also on exhibit are the Hendersonville meteorite, a fluorescent mineral display, and a rich collection of fossils which include a wooly mammoth leg bone, the tusk and teeth of a mastodon, and a a tyrannosaurus rex skull cast.
15. Green River Adventures
Thrill seekers have yet another place to visit in Saluda in the form of Green River Adventures, located on E Main Street. With a variety of water activities like whitewater trips, waterfall rappelling, zip-lining, paddle boarding, and kayaking, this is an incredible way to experience the nature and sights around Saluda.
There’s also a zipline for those wanting a more aerial view of the beautiful surroundings. With more than 13 different experiences, you won’t get bored if you decide to visit Green River Adventures. Due to rough seasonal waters, Green River Adventures remains closed from October till April.
16. Grandad’s Apples
- Address: 2951 Chimney Rock Rd, Hendersonville (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Sunday: 8:00 am -6:00 pm
If you like to eat organic and want a taste of the North Carolina farm life, be sure to plan a trip to Grandad’s Apples, a 120-acre apple and pumpkin farm. Visitors can select from pre-picked apples that are picked fresh daily or, on the weekends, pick apples directly from the trees themselves.
In late September, you can even get pumpkins and jack-o’lanterns in different designs. As one of the best apple-picking sites in the state, you can expect an on-site bakery that sells apple pies, hot cider donuts, cookies, and hot cider. The apple cider slushies are a specialty and a must-try.
17. Flat Rock Playhouse
- Address: 2661 Greenville Hwy, Flat Rock (GPS)
The town of Flat Rock is just a 10 minute drive from Saluda and offers a unique experience for theatre nuts. The Flat Rock Playhouse deserves its official status as the State Theater of North Carolina, with its history going back to 1937 with its founding by a struggling group of artists led by Robroy Farquhar, known as the ‘Vagabond Players.’ What started as a summer theater has now expanded to a full-fledged theater with a 9-month-long season of Broadway musicals and plays.
The Playhouse also emphasizes education, with year-round classes and workshops, a summer and fall college apprentice and intern program, and even a professional series. All manner of people, from kids to adults, can avail of these classes!
18. Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
- Address: 1800 Little River Rd, Flat Rock (GPS)
- Hours: Thursday – Sunday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
- Cost of Admission: Free
Also in Flat Rock, another place for history enthusiasts and nature lovers to come together is the Carl Sandburg Home. Not only is the home incredibly beautiful (yes, tours are offered), but there are more than 260 acres of natural North Carolina beauty to enjoy.
The estate has a five-mile hiking trail and even a dairy farm that visitors can explore. The Site is open from 9 AM to 5 PM and exploring the entire place takes a good three to four hours, so plan accordingly.
19. Appalachian Pinball Museum
- Address: 538 N Main St, Hendersonville (GPS)
- Hours: Tuesday, Thursday & Friday: 2:00 pm – 9:00 pm,
Saturday: 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Sunday & Monday: 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm
People aged 35 and above will appreciate this little gem of history, taking you back to the days of arcades and rolls of quarters. Located in downtown Hendersonville, the Museum is free to enter, and visitors can look around and learn about pinball machines and their history.
You can also pay $13 and play as much as you want on the 80 different pinball machines and a variety of classic video arcade games. The Museum also sells some snacks, sodas, and adult beverages like beer and hard seltzers.
20. River Dog Run
- Address: 46 E Main St, Saluda (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Saturday: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sunday: 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
If you’re looking for a store that sells souvenirs and gift items of a different, odd, quirky, or interesting nature, then look no further than River Dog Run. Located on E Main Street, If the name is any indicator, this vintage shop sells a variety of items for the home. Even though it’s a vintage store, there are many artisanal items on sale as well.
Also, even though the items might be upcycled or reclaimed, you’re bound to find a beautiful piece for yourself or a loved one here, and that too at a great price.
21. Saluda Outfitters
- Address: 435 E Main St, Saluda (GPS)
- Hours: Monday- Sunday: 10 :00 am – 9:00 pm
Many would categorize Saluda Outfitters as an outdoor gear proprietor, but it is so much more! This is THE PLACE for outdoor enthusiasts, with its impressive store stocked with quality outdoor gear, an incredible restaurant, a tap room, and a music venue.
Saluda Outfitters is conveniently located one mile off Interstate 26 at Exit 59, at the intersection of Ozone Road and Highway 176, and is so popular that it welcomes visitors from all over the world. The menu at Green River Eddy’s Tap Room & Grill is incredible, with specialties including half-pound burgers and smoked pork barbecue.
22. Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards
- Address: 588 Chestnut Gap Rd, Hendersonville (GPS)
Just a few miles outside Saluda, Saint Paul Farms is a working vineyard and orchard located in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. Many of the Vineyard’s wines, ciders, and spirits have won numerous awards, made all the more noteworthy considering they grow their own fruit as well.
Visitors can enjoy tours and take part in a tasting of the different varieties of Normandy-style hard Cider and French Vinifera. There’s also a BnB in a five-bedroom farmhouse, which is perfect if you want to enjoy more NC wineries that are near Hendersonville.
23. Look Homeward Angel Statue
- Address: Oakdale Cemetery -US-64, Hendersonville (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Sunday: 7:00 am – 6:30 pm
This is a stop for art lovers, located in the Oakdale Cemetery in Hendersonville, almost 11 miles from the Saluda town center. The Look Homeward Angel Statue is a true work of art, carved out of Italian marble. The Statue was even heavily referenced in Thomas Wolfe’s first novel, “Look Homeward, Angel.”
The cemetery is located on Highway 64 West and, for convenience, a historical marker has been put on the side of the road, making it easier to find. There is a wrought iron fence protecting the statue, but visitors are still able to see the statue clearly and appreciate the artwork.
- Address: 234 N Main St, Hendersonville (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
‘Vessel’ is a store located on Main Street in Hendersonville that carries a variety of gemstones, fossils, sterling silver jewelry, home decor, and artisanal works from more than 45 artists. If you’re looking for beautiful and unique gifts or souvenirs, or just another piece of jewelry to add to your collection, then this is the place to go.
25. Apple Valley Model Railroad Club
- Address: 650 Maple St, Hendersonville (GPS)
- Hours: Wednesday: 1:00 pm-3:00 pm, Saturday: 10:00 am -2:00 pm
Located in the historic train depot in Hendersonville, train lovers can indulge themselves by visiting the largest model railroad in western North Carolina. You can see a 100′ X 20′ HO scale model railroad representing western North Carolina in the mid-1900s. There’s also a 60′ X 12′ outdoor G-scale layout and a Thomas the Tank Engine layout to keep kids preoccupied.
Another great activity to keep the kids busy is the scavenger hunt, which can be availed by speaking to the staff. The great part is that admission is free, but the drawback is the limited (and somewhat odd) hours. Visitors can only enter between 1 PM and 3 PM on Wednesdays and 10 AM and 2 PM on Saturdays.
EXPLORE THE AREA
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Plan For Your Trip to the South!
- We like to use VRBO when searching for vacation apartment rentals and Booking.com when searching for hotels.
- See our favorite cooler for the road!
- Get Around: We suggest renting a car for traveling the Carolinas. Check Prices on RentalCars.com
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always Allbirds.
- Check out our favorite North Carolina Souvenir!
- Fly For Free: Turn your spending into airline miles and points with travel credit cards (that’s what we do!). See our favorite travel credit cards.