Take a trip to the river mountain town of Spruce Pine in the heart of the Toe River Valley. A two-hour drive from Lake Norman will take you to the historic mining town situated between Mount Mitchell and Grandfather Mountain, the two highest points east of the Rockies.
Historically known as the Mineral City, Spruce Pine continues to supply close to 100 percent of the world’s ultra-pure quartz and the majority of a mineral called feldspar, which can be found in an abundance of common items from soda bottles to building materials. Today, the town of Spruce Pine offers dining, scenic views, arts, and outdoor recreation. Not to mention, the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway is nearby for a stunning drive through the beauty of the mountains.
Riverside Park, 305 Tappan St.
The Toe River flows directly through the center of Spruce Pine. Pack a picnic and take in the day at Riverside Park. Enjoy the beauty of the walking trails that hug the Toe River, walk across the Spruce Pine Footbridge or grab a fishing pole and head to the fishing pier for a relaxing day of trout fishing.
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Explore the bounty of natural minerals in the Blue Ridge Mountains and learn about the rich gem mining history of Spruce Pine with an excursion to Gem Mountain. Gem Mountain offers mining trips and tours where the whole family can dig for treasures. Sift through the silt for aquamarine and other precious gems like garnet, citrine, and amethyst. 13780 S. Hwy 226 www.gemmountain.com
Toe River Arts Gallery
Find a rotating roster of artist exhibitions inside the Spruce Pine Gallery, also known as the Toe River Arts Gallery, some who have studied at the renowned Penland School of Crafts nearby. Twice a year, in June and December, the Toe River Studio Tour offers a free self-guided tour of more than 100 craftspeople and artists in Western North Carolina. 269 Oak Ave. www.toeriverarts.org
Knife & Fork
Chef Nate Allen and his wife opened this small Locust Street eatery in 2009, producing surprising seasonal dishes that combine Allen’s big-city experience from his days cooking in acclaimed restaurants in L.A. with the bounty of the Appalachian terroir. Allen’s talent is allowing incredible ingredients to speak for themselves. Open for dinner Tuesday through Friday and brunch on Sundays. 61 Locust St. www.knifeandforknc.com