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Polk County: The First Peak of the Blue Ridge Has Plenty to Offer!

Pearson’s Falls, Nina Simone & International Horse Shows

Just easy 45-minute drive south of Asheville, and only an hour-and-a-half west of Charlotte, you will find lovely Polk County. With breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and excellent outdoor experiences, the natural offerings have called visitors to this special part of Western North Carolina for over a century. The small towns provide locally owned accommodations, fine dining and drink, along with a vibrant craft community. The people who call Tryon, Saluda, and Columbus home have nurtured a culture of creativity in everything – from growing grapes to horse shows, music, and a historic toymaker industry. Tryon was even the birthplace of Nina Simone, the “High Priestess of Soul”!

Nina Simone Got Her Start in North Carolina – Blue Ridge Music Trails (blueridgemusicnc.com)

Columbus Area:

At Dacey Porcelains, Doug Dacey employs a career’s worth of knowledge in ceramics as he creates his naturally inspired pots with unique color and textures.

Ben Seymour keeps music history alive at Kudzu Patch Productions. Ben can build many instruments, but he’s an expert on all things dulcimer as well as being one of the few remaining makers of the traditional Galax style of dulcimer.

BJ Precourt calls himself a folk carver. His work brings the stories and characters in his mind to life with his characteristic style and aesthetic.


Upstairs ArtSpace  was founded in an “upstairs” bedroom of a local artist, but today it’s a beautiful facility on the main street with 3,000 square feet of space to show and sell fine, handmade craft.

Nest Artisan Market was once a pharmacy with a snack and soda bar where F. Scott Fitzgerald hung out! Today you can find a vast array of handmade craft in this lovely open space.

Tryon Painters & Sculptors is an arts and craft cooperative that’s been in operation for more than 50 years. Members can show work in the gallery and take classes in a range of styles and techniques. Anyone can enjoy the shop of member creations!

Saluda Forge looks over downtown Tryon, offering the wonders that blacksmithing holds. Bill Crowell is a master. He produces multiple product lines and intricate custom work.

At S. Oliver Pottery, Sam Oliver creates work full of patterns and color. The floral motifs in much of her work were inspired by the favorite dishware of her childhood.

Tryon Fine Arts Center: The Tryon Fine Arts Center is a magnet for artists and art lovers. The Center is committed to life-long education in the arts for all members of our community. The building houses a large auditorium, classroom space, meeting rooms, and a gallery with informative and entertaining exhibitions.

Tryon Arts & Crafts provides a wealth of classes and studio space for artists pursuing all aspects of craft. Resting in a beautiful valley rimmed with high ridges, the former school facility features a gallery, multiple instructional options, and an artisan retail shop.


Heartwood Contemporary Crafts Gallery is full of light and color. This gallery features some of the best contemporary craft from across the country.

Resources for more information: 

First Peak of the Blue Ridge  – Official Visitor Center for the Area

Town of Columbus 

City of Saluda 

Town of Tryon 

Tryon History Museum and Visitor Center


Block House Steeplechase

Historic Thompson’s Store

House of Flags Museum

Mill Spring Agricultural Development Center 

Pearson’s Falls & Glen

Polk County History Museum

Saluda Historic Depot & Museum 

Summer Tracks and Rogers Park

Tryon Christmas Stroll 

Tryon International Equestrian Center 

Tryon Toy Makers


Mountain Brook Vineyards

Overmountain Vineyards & Winery

Parker-Binns Vineyard

Iron Key Brewing Co. 

Looking Glass Cheese & Cider 


Local Restaurant Directory

The Purple Onion – Saluda

The Rural Seed – Columbus

Huckleberry’s – Tryon


Lodging Listings – First Peak of the Blue Ridge


Block House Steeplechase – Green Creek, April

Saluda Arts Festival – Saluda, May

Fabulous 4th Celebration – Columbus, July 

Coon Dog Day –  Saluda, July

Tryon International Film Festival – Tryon, October

Tryon Beer Fest – Tryon, November

Shadrack Holiday Light Show at Tryon International Equestrian Center  – Mill Spring, Nov-Jan

Dacey Porcelains

Forty years’ worth of creating pottery started when Doug Dacey was studying Marine Biology in...

BJ Precourt

After years of owning and running a glass business in Hackensack, NJ, B.J. Precourt and...

Upstairs Artspace

Upstairs Artspace is a non-profit contemporary art gallery located in downtown Tryon. The gallery was...

Saluda Forge

Bill Crowell started blacksmithing as part of a mid-life crisis. Traveling sales wasn’t cutting it...

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The Regions of the Blue Ridge

In planning the best use of your NC mountains vacation days, know that the region can be divided into three sub-regions for ease of exploration:

Far West

  • Cherokee
  • The Nantahala Gorge
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park


  • Asheville
  • Hendersonville
  • Chimney Rock State Park
  • The waterfalls of Transylvania County
  • Many more highlights

High Country

  • Grandfather Mountain
  • Linville Falls
  • Boone
  • Blowing Rock
  • High northern mountains


  • Mt. Airy
  • Lenoir
  • Elkin