Best Places to Live in Western North Carolina: Where & Why (2023)

Western North Carolina is no longer a well-kept secret. Visitors flock to this area all throughout the year, and many of them come here with the hope of finding real estate to buy. In this article, we’ll look at some of the best places to live in Western North Carolina, and why those places are so great!

What is Considered Western North Carolina?

Western North Carolina, or “WNC,” consists of the mountainous areas west of Charlotte, NC all the way west to the Tennessee state line, as far north as the border with Virginia, and as far south as the South Carolina state line. The largest city in Western NC is Asheville, which sits right in the middle of Buncombe County.

Why Live in Western NC?

Outdoor Adventure

The Blue Ridge Mountains that cover Western NC provide a lifetime of outdoor adventure! The countless rivers and streams offer world-class whitewater for paddlers, as well as tranquil trout streams for both fly fishing and conventional fishing tackle.

There are also literally thousands of miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, and many are also suitable for equestrian use. At the end of some of these trails are rock climbing and bouldering sites!

If you consider that other national forests and recreation areas in upstate South Carolina, Eastern Tennessee, and Southwest Virginia are also within just a couple hours’ drive, there truly is more than you could explore in a lifetime!

Did We Mention the Beer?

Asheville is consistently ranked as a top destination for beer drinkers, and its booming brewing industry is now a major provider of area jobs. While Asheville has deservedly been named Beer City USA for several years and is’s Top City for Beer Drinkers, many nearby towns also have their own quality breweries. Morganton’s Fonta Flora, Brevard’s Oskar Blues, and Fairview’s Whistle Hop are some of our favorite WNC breweries.

(Video) Great Rural Towns in North Carolina to Retire or Buy Real Estate.

Four Seasons

It’s almost impossible to write an article about Western North Carolina without talking about the weather. The seasons here are incredibly distinct, and each one is very enjoyable.

Spring brings countless rhododendron and mountain laurel blooms, as well as cool nights to complement days in the ’60s and ’70s. Summer offers ideal weather for outdoor recreation, with highs rarely exceeding 90 degrees. The nights could still be cool enough to warrant a light jacket while walking around a downtown area like Asheville, Black Mountain, or Brevard.

Fall is what Western North Carolina is known for, with some of the most spectacular fall colors anywhere in North America, and the days are still warm enough for outside activities and dining alfresco. There may even be light snow in late fall, but usually just enough to remind us that winter is not far away.

Winters are mostly mild, except in the higher elevations. Opportunities for skiing and snowboarding are abundant at WNC’s local ski resorts. Ski season usually runs from December to March.

Highest Mountains in the East

The mountains of Western NC offer incredible hiking and mountain biking with spectacular views! You can climb as high as 6,684 feet elevation at Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the Eastern United States! There are also countless other high peaks in the area, such as Max Patch, a wide-open grassy bald at 4,600 feet with 360-degree views, Black Balsam along the Blue Ridge Parkway (6,214 feet), and Grandfather Mountain (5,946 feet) near Linville, NC.


With so much public land around, it’s no wonder Western NC is known for being dog-friendly. But it’s not just the national forests that will make your pup feel welcome. Urban areas here are also very pet-friendly. Many restaurants allow well-behaved dogs to accompany their owners while they dine outdoors. Shops put out bowls of water and offer treats for dogs, and several breweries have outdoor areas where dogs are allowed. Dog-friendly businesses are now more of the rule rather than the exception. Many offices even have at least one dog on staff, including ours!

Where to Live in Western NC? Popular Towns in Western North Carolina?


Asheville is the de facto capital of Western North Carolina. It’s the largest city in the region, and also the cultural center. A vibrant downtown and central location make Asheville a great option for those wanting more city amenities but with easy access to nearby national forests.

(Video) The 10 Best Places To Live In North Carolina - Job, Retire, Family & Education

Black Mountain

Voted the Prettiest Small Town in America by TripAdvisor, Black Mountain is a must-see small town just east of Asheville. Also known as the “Front Porch of Western North Carolina,” Black Mountain has a very walkable downtown full of shops, restaurants, art galleries, and breweries.


Another small town outside of Asheville, Weaverville offers a walkable downtown with a quaint feel. Smaller than Black Mountain, Weaverville is a great option for golfers (see Reems Creek Golf Community) or those looking for a more rural feel but not too far from Asheville.


Montreat, NC may be the most unique town in this list. Montreat is home to a college, a conference center, and the town itself, and all share the same name. Montreat’s incredible hiking trail system is open to the public and is also home to the famous Mt. Mitchell Challenge, a 40-mile trail race that attracts runners from all over the United States.


Located in Transylvania County about 30 minutes west of Asheville Regional Airport is the outdoor paradise of Brevard, NC. Brevard is often called “Land of Waterfalls,” as it is surrounded by Pisgah National Forest, and is home to approximately 250 waterfalls! Brevard is also home to many summer camps, and that’s one reason so many families from the southeast know the area and vacation there.

Brevard is another quintessential mountain town with a cute downtown, offering a variety of restaurants and shopping. Brevard College also brings a lot of events to the town. There are also several breweries, including one of our new favorites, Brevard Brewing Company.


Going south towards South Carolina will take you right through Hendersonville, North Carolina. Hendersonville is a medium-sized town by Western NC standards (population 14,000 in 2017), but still offers a lot of amenities and a rather large downtown area. Hendersonville is another summer camp hotspot, and its proximity to Dupont State Forest makes it a good option for outdoorsy people.

Waynesville/Maggie Valley

In Haywood County (west of Asheville) is the Waynesville/Maggie Valley area. These two towns are located very close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making them a popular vacation area in the summer. Maggie Valley is more seasonal, focusing more on tourism than Waynesville. It also has the Cataloochee Ski Area, a winter favorite among locals due to its easy access, especially from Asheville. Waynesville’s downtown is one that is well worth checking out, as we frequently hear folks say they were pleasantly surprised at how nice it is.

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Nestled along the banks of the French Broad River, Marshall, NC is an old mill town with several buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In recent years, the downtown area has been revitalized. It’s a very convenient location for people that work in Asheville and want their own community in a quieter, slower-paced town.


The largest town in Burke County, Morganton has become increasingly popular in the last few years. Lake James is not far away, and there are great amenities in a town like Catawba Meadows Park.

Lake Lure

About an hour from Asheville is the well-known town of Lake Lure. The movie Dirty Dancing helped put it on the map, but the incredible golfing, hiking, and boating keep tourists and real estate buyers coming back.


Boone is a college town (home to Appalachian State University) just north of the Blue Ridge Parkway. At 3,333 feet elevation, Boone has cooler summer weather and several nearby ski resorts to take advantage of its more alpine winter environment.


Located in McDowell County (west of Asheville), Marion is a growing town with still relatively affordable real estate, lower elevation (1400 feet), and easy access to Lake James. If you’re looking for a lakefront property or public lake access, Marion should be on your list.

Where is the Safest Place to Live in North Carolina?

In 2018, home security company Safewise released a list of the safest towns in North Carolina. Several Western NC towns made the list, including Fletcher (#3), Woodfin (#12), and Black Mountain (#20). Similar lists have been published by other websites, including this one that also includes Boone, Brevard, and Morganton.

(Video) NC Mountain Towns You Can Actually Afford to Live In

One contributing factor to the overall safety of Western NC may be the small size of the towns and cities here. As mentioned earlier, Asheville is the largest city in Western NC, and its population is only 92,000 (based on 2017 data). And since so many of our towns have walkable downtown areas, it really helps create a sense of community.

Are there any Counties in Western North Carolina where Real Estate is Still Reasonable?

It’s no secret that real estate in Asheville, NC has taken off! The average price for a single-family home in the Asheville region continues to increase. And if you talk to a builder, there’s a good chance they can’t start a new project for several months. But real estate is still relatively affordable in the more rural surrounding counties, including Madison, Haywood, and McDowell Counties.

Finding Your Best Place to Live in WNC

Of course, there are many other towns and several other counties in Western North Carolina to consider. But these are some of our favorites and represent a wide mix of prices in our real estate market. If you’re new to the area, we highly recommend an exploratory visit or two. We’d love to discuss these areas with you and give you some direction as you learn which areas best fit your lifestyle and budget. Contact us to find the best place to live in the greatest part of North Carolina!

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Where is the best place to live in Western North Carolina? ›

Asheville. Asheville is the de facto capital of Western North Carolina. It's the largest city in the region, and also the cultural center. A vibrant downtown and central location make Asheville a great option for those wanting more city amenities but with easy access to nearby national forests.

Where is the most desirable place to live in North Carolina? ›

Locals have rated Ballantyne East, Ballantyne West and Providence Crossing some of the best places to live in North Carolina for families.

Why are people moving to Western North Carolina? ›

Affordability, mild climate, large job market, as well as the convenient location of North Carolina are only some of the reasons why the Tar Heel State is considered to provide younger people with the quality of life they are looking for! Keep reading for the five top reasons why people are moving to North Carolina.

What is the best small-town in North Carolina to live in? ›

1. Hendersonville. Ideally situated near the Blue Ridge Mountains, Hendersonville makes a wonderful base for exploring the area's tourist attractions, including waterfalls, hiking trails, apple orchards, and the town's pedestrian-friendly Main Street.

Why Asheville is the best place to live? ›

Asheville, NC is an artsy city that brews fantastic beer and is home to award-winning chefs, two of its traits making Asheville one of the best places to live in the U.S. Cradled by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville draws in outdoor enthusiasts who love to be sprayed by the mist of waterfalls while on their hikes and ...

Where can I retire in western NC? ›

Top 10 places to retire in NC
  • Hendersonville.
  • Hickory.
  • Marion.
  • Brevard.
  • Roxboro.
  • Pinehurst.
  • Williamston.
  • Forest City.
16 Sept 2021

What is the safest area to live in North Carolina? ›

West of Greensboro in Forsyth County you'll find Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Full of historic museums and homes to explore, Winston-Salem also ranks number one on our list for the lowest rate of nonviolent crime and sixth for violent crime and overall safety.

Where do the rich live in North Carolina? ›

Cary came in first place just above Centennial, Colorado, and Frisco, Texas, according to HomeSnacks, which is a website that combines and analyzes data from multiple sources to document the best and worst places to live in the United States.

What are the cons of living in North Carolina? ›

Cons of living in North Carolina
  • There is limited public transportation. Public transportation in North Carolina is not as developed as in other states. ...
  • The state is prone to natural disasters. ...
  • There is traffic in larger cities. ...
  • The roads and infrastructure are in poor condition. ...
  • The weather is unpredictable.
6 Jul 2022

Is it better to live in North Carolina or Tennessee? ›

Based on this index, Tennessee has a slight edge over North Carolina. Both have an overall cost of living about 10% below the national average. Tennessee has an overall score of 89.9, while North Carolina is 90.6.

Is the weather better in North or South Carolina? ›

You can't go wrong for the most part when it comes to comparing the weather between North and South Carolina. They are both mild, comfortable places to live. Since South Carolina is closer to the equator, it has a bit warmer temperatures than North Carolina and is likely more ideal for going to the beach year-round.

What is the warmest part of North Carolina? ›

Warmest: Southport, North Carolina

A town south of Wilmington on the Atlantic coast called Southport is the warmest in the state of North Carolina. It's got great beach weather, with an average annual high of 76 degrees.

What are winters like in Asheville North Carolina? ›

Winter: Asheville is protected by the surrounding mountains, so we seldom have a major snowfall in the city. Highs usually run in the 40s and 50s. January, February, and March are great months to visit since these are the slowest months for visitors coming to our area.

Why is everyone moving to Asheville? ›

Climate haven: More people moving to Asheville to escape more severe climate change impact. ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — When it comes to climate, the mountains have always been an attractive place to live. Now -- even more so -- as climate change makes severe weather events even worse elsewhere.

How cold does it get in Asheville NC? ›

The cold season lasts for 3.0 months, from November 30 to February 28, with an average daily high temperature below 54°F. The coldest month of the year in Asheville is January, with an average low of 29°F and high of 47°F.

How much money do you need to retire in North Carolina? ›

To retire comfortably in the state of North Carolina starting today, you will need to have saved at least $65,000. Here's how we came to this amount.

Is North Carolina a tax friendly state for retirees? ›

North Carolina exempts all Social Security retirement benefits from income taxes. Other forms of retirement income are taxed at the North Carolina flat income tax rate of 5.25%. The state's property and sales taxes are both moderate.

Why is crime so high in Asheville NC? ›

“Violent crime is on the rise,” Asheville police spokesman Bill Davis said. “It's primarily due to the rise in aggravated assaults.” APD reports the city has had 11 killings so far in 2022. The number surpasses the seven killings in 2021 and the 10 reported in 2020.

What part of North Carolina is safe from hurricanes? ›

While North Carolina often gets hit by hurricanes, Charlotte is located far enough inland to avoid the worst of it. The area is also considered low risk for other dangerous natural disasters, including earthquakes, fires, and tornadoes.

What is the best coastal town to live in North Carolina? ›

1. Edenton. Set on Albemarle Sound, Edenton is a peaceful escape from the stress of everyday life. The first Colonial capital of North Carolina, this 300-year-old town is replete with wonderfully restored historical homes and buildings.

Is it cheaper to live in Florida or North Carolina? ›

Florida is 6.1% more expensive than North Carolina.

Where is the most affordable place to live in North Carolina? ›

Hickory, NC is country's No. 1 city for low costs: List | Charlotte Observer.

Where do most millionaires live in NC? ›

List: 10 Richest Places in North Carolina
  1. Weddington, NC. Shutterstock. Population: 10,794. ...
  2. Marvin, NC. Shutterstock. Population: 6,553. ...
  3. Davidson, NC. Shutterstock. Population: 12,735. ...
  4. Wesley Chapel, NC. Shutterstock. Population: 8,974. ...
  5. St. James, NC. ...
  6. Oak Ridge, NC. Shutterstock. ...
  7. Waxhaw, NC. Shutterstock. ...
  8. Stallings,NC. Shutterstock.
14 Feb 2022

Why are so many New Yorkers moving to North Carolina? ›

North Carolina offers low rent, affordable real estate, and low taxes making the overall cost of living in the state significantly more affordable than other states. Compared with real estate prices in New York, North Carolina is drastically cheaper.

What are the tax benefits of living in North Carolina? ›

1. Great tax breaks for seniors. In North Carolina, there is no tax on Social Security Income, income taxes have been lowered a flat rate (and that rate has been decreasing), there is no State Estate Tax, and a low corporate income tax.

How much money do you need to live comfortably in North Carolina? ›

Average Annual Per-Capita Cost in North Carolina

All told, North Carolinians may need about $3,191 per person, per month.

What do I need to know about living in North Carolina? ›

15 Things to Know Before Moving to North Carolina
  • Basketball is a big deal. ...
  • So is barbecue. ...
  • The Biltmore Estate is worth a visit. ...
  • North Carolina is a tech hub. ...
  • The Blue Ridge Parkway will blow you away. ...
  • If you like waterfalls you'll like North Carolina. ...
  • Higher education plays a big role in the state's economy.
28 Feb 2022

Why is North Carolina a good place to retire? ›

North Carolina is an attractive state for retirees and its low taxes allow you to stretch your savings. Undiscovered beaches let you enjoy a leisurely coastal retirement without a massive Florida or California price tag. Plus, vibrant cities give you an exciting place to spend your time.

Which state is better Georgia or North Carolina? ›

Georgia has an overall score of 93.4, while North Carolina is 90.6. This means that, on average, living in North Carolina is slightly more affordable than living in Georgia.
Cost of Living.
North CarolinaGeorgia
7 more rows
15 Aug 2022

Is NC A tax friendly state? ›

North Carolina Income Taxes

For 2021, North Carolina has a flat rate of 5.25% of state taxable income. However, the rate is decreased to 4.99% for 2022, 4.75% for 2023, 4.6% for 2024, 4.5% for 2025, 4.25% for 2026, and 3.99% for 2027 and thereafter. Social Security benefits are not taxed by the state.

Is South Carolina better than North Carolina? ›

While North Carolina has the bigger population, this usually translates to a higher cost of living, since there are more people in that area.
Cost of Living.
South CarolinaNorth Carolina
Overall Cost of Living88.5%90.6%
7 more rows
27 May 2021

Which is safer North Carolina or South Carolina? ›

In the South Atlantic region, South Carolina has the highest rates of violent and property crime, ahead of Delaware (4.3) for violent crime and North Carolina (22.3) for property crime. South Carolina's crime rates are higher than the national rate.

Why are people moving to South Carolina? ›

But why South Carolina? It's no secret that the further south you go in the United States, the less expensive housing becomes. This is why many people are turning to South Carolina. The cost of living is around 11.5% cheaper than the national average.

Which is colder North Carolina or South Carolina? ›

Climate and Weather

Yes, the northern reaches of NC get a bit colder than the most southerly tip of SC, but the major difference comes from the way the climate differs from the eastern beach regions to the western, more mountainous regions.

What is the best County to live in in North Carolina? ›

Wake County

#1 Best Counties to Live in North Carolina.

What is the hippest town in North Carolina? ›

Asheville. This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning Asheville, the most popular “cool” city in North Carolina.

What is the most walkable city in North Carolina? ›

Top 5 Walkable Towns in North Carolina
  • Asheville. ...
  • Wilmington. Credit: Carolina © Paul Brady | ...
  • Davidson. Credit: © Jon Bilous | ...
  • Blowing Rock. Credit: Blowing Rock Brewing. ...
  • Carrboro. Credit: © Kelley Albert |

What is the coolest part of North Carolina? ›

The Coolest Air & Views

The best views and coolest temps are found along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Known as “America's Most Celebrated Motor Route,” the Parkway spans 469 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains and has more than 70 miles that run along Jackson County's Northeast border.

What is Asheville NC known for? ›

The city's rich architectural legacy with its mix of Art Deco, Beaux Arts and Neoclassical styles is the perfect retro-urban backdrop to the edgy energy that emanates from the locally-owned shops and art galleries, distinctive restaurants and exciting entertainment venues.

What is the number one attraction in North Carolina? ›

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the top attraction in North Carolina and a must-visit place during your trip. With over 12 million visitors every year, it's the most visited national park in the US. It's located near several major cities, so it's easily accessible.

What is the coldest month in North Carolina? ›

Average Temperature in Raleigh

The cool season lasts for 3.0 months, from November 30 to February 28, with an average daily high temperature below 59°F. The coldest month of the year in Raleigh is January, with an average low of 33°F and high of 51°F.

What city in North Carolina has the best climate? ›

Charlotte ranked number one, and Raleigh followed closely behind in second place. Charlotte got first place due to a moderate living cost, high-paying jobs, affordable housing and mild weather all year.

Where is the nicest weather in North Carolina? ›

I generally agree with Bobby McBride and other responders that the southeastern coast of North Carolina, around Wilmington south, has overall the mildest weather.

Where is the best place to live in the mountains in NC? ›

1. Hendersonville. Asheville may be the best-known destination in the mountains of North Carolina, but Hendersonville is a wonderful small-town alternative. Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, on the doorstep of great hiking trails, scenic drives, and spectacular waterfalls, the location is hard to beat.

What is the most affordable city to live in North Carolina? ›

Hickory, NC is country's No. 1 city for low costs: List | Charlotte Observer.

Is Western North Carolina a good place to retire? ›

US News and World Report ranked Asheville as #16 in their list for the Best Places to Live and #4 for the Best Places to Retire. Asheville, North Carolina, consistently lands in top spots for similar lists by other national outlets.

Is Western North Carolina a good place to raise a family? ›

Western North Carolina is a fantastic place to live, retire, raise a family, and more. Here are some popular cities to live in Western North Carolina: Asheville. Brevard.

Which Carolina is best for retirement? ›

South Carolina Is Tax-Friendlier to Retirees Than North Carolina. My colleagues on maintain the incredible Retiree Tax Map -- a state-by-state guide to taxes on retirement income, state sales taxes, property tax breaks for seniors, estate taxes, and more.

Where is the safest place to live in North Carolina? ›

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) — A town in the Triangle has been ranked the safest city in the country, according to a new report.

Where is the cheapest and safest place to live in NC? ›

10 Most Affordable Places to Live in North Carolina
  • Cary. Having a low unemployment rate is just as important as a city's affordability. ...
  • Durham. Durham is a city that has everything wrapped into a single location, all the while maintaining its affordability. ...
  • Concord. ...
  • Wilmington. ...
  • Chapel Hill. ...
  • Morrisville. ...
  • Wake Forest. ...
  • Raleigh.
13 Jan 2019

How much money do you need to live comfortably in North Carolina? ›

Average Annual Per-Capita Cost in North Carolina

All told, North Carolinians may need about $3,191 per person, per month.

What is the best coastal town to live in North Carolina? ›

1. Edenton. Set on Albemarle Sound, Edenton is a peaceful escape from the stress of everyday life. The first Colonial capital of North Carolina, this 300-year-old town is replete with wonderfully restored historical homes and buildings.

Is it better to live in North Carolina or Tennessee? ›

Based on this index, Tennessee has a slight edge over North Carolina. Both have an overall cost of living about 10% below the national average. Tennessee has an overall score of 89.9, while North Carolina is 90.6.

Where do most retirees live in Asheville NC? ›

Walk-to-Town Areas like Black Mountain, Weaverville, and Biltmore Park have become incredibly popular in recent years, especially when the home is within walking distance to a town center. Amenity-filled communities like Biltmore Lake.

Where in North Carolina should I live? ›

Raleigh. Raleigh is one of the best places to live in North Carolina and some are calling it the best place to live in the country - In Bankrate's recent article they give Raleigh the honor of being the best place to live in the entire country!


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3. One Reason People Love Western NC
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