#45 of 79 Asheville Things To Do

French Broad Adventures

See all photos (8 Photos)
French Broad Adventures: The Ultimate in Outdoor Fun
Staff Score:
5.0 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Stunning views, knowledgeable staff, and enough options that everyone in your party will have something they’re excited to do (and brag about later).

- The SmokyMountains.com Local Expert Team

Once you’ve been on enough outdoor adventures you might become a little jaded. We found French Broad Adventures surprising and it left us wanting more. That, of course, is the ultimate compliment paid to a business that caters to outdoor enthusiasts.

The French Broad River, around which the experience is built, is simply stunning. It runs a total of 70 miles (ca. 113 km) through North Carolina and proceeds west 102 miles (ca. 164 km) where it helps form the Tennessee River near Knoxville. Eventually, it flows into the Mississippi. The French Broad is not only one of the oldest rivers in the world (predated only by the Nile and New Rivers), but it is one of only two rivers in the U.S. that flows north. It’s hard not to geek out a little about its rarity.

French Broad Adventures in Marshall (approximately 25 minutes from Asheville) offers a full day’s worth of activities.

Here’s what we found:

Whitewater Rafting
Have you ever been terrified and in awe at the same time? That was our experience whitewater rafting through the Pisgah National Forest. Our experienced river guide was funny, smart, and full of interesting trivia. After being taught a basic paddling technique and drilled on river safety, we set off. In between rapids, the guide shared a piece of information about the river, it’s origin, and the people who once lived along its banks. He told us about other whitewater rafting trips he’d taken part in, and occasionally he would stop to fetch someone in our party out of the swirling water. There’s a good reason they require you to wear a life jacket on this adventure.

In spite of being exciting, it never felt out of control, a fact anyone who has ever had an out of control whitewater experience can appreciate. And somehow, in the midst of it all, we were able to appreciate the peaceful beauty of the forest.

It was enough fun that we would have happily gone back upriver and started all over, if only we had enough time.

Calm Water Float Trips
Like a good twin and a naughty twin, the French Broad River has wild sections and calm sections. The calm section gives visitors a chance to learn about river rafting and nature enthusiasts the opportunity to float through a peaceful, pastoral portion of the river. It is strictly for those who are looking to relax, or for families with younger children. We were told that children four and up were welcome to take part.

Canyoneering
If you’ve never done it before, canyoneering essentially combines hiking, boulder-hopping, and waterfall rappelling into a single experience. Western North Carolina is home to some of the most exquisite canyons and crystal-clear waterfalls in the country, making the French Broad Adventure even more appealing to those with the courage to give it a try.

Anyone with an existing medical condition will be asked to skip this adventure, given how long it takes medical care to reach the wilderness setting. Anyone with a chronic condition, such as asthma, diabetes, or serious allergies is to bring their fast-acting medications with them.

A word of advice: no matter how much fun canyoneering sounds, only take part if you’re in great physical condition. This particular tour takes between three and four hours, most of which is spent pushing your body to the limit.

Zip-Lining
It may be a sign that we’ve zip-lined too often when half the fun was experiencing the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains as we road our UTV up to the top. One there, instructors guided us through the basic techniques of zip-lining and gave us enough safety instructions to fill a small notebook.

The adventure began as our guide lead us to our first zip-line and clipped us in. In fact, the guide assisted us every step of the way, a fact that some members of the group seemed to appreciate more than others.

Nearly every vacation we take offers zip-lining, and we’re pretty sure we know why. There is no better way to take in the view than to soar above it.

Climbing
It’s a little tough to get excited about a climbing wall when there are so many adventures to be had outdoors, but the people taking part seemed to be having fun. And again, having fun is the name of the game.

Insider Tips:
– If you’re going to take part in a river activity, wear shoes that won’t come off in the water. Old tennis shoes or sandals with a strap on the back work well.
– Complimentary wet suits are available, but you need to wear a swimsuit underneath. They also provide splash gear free of charge.
– You must weigh between 70 and 250 pounds (ca. 113 kg) in order to zip-line. Plan on being discreetly weighed upon arrival. They make no exceptions to this rule.
– Remember to budget for tipping. As your adventure ends you will likely see other visitors giving their guide a tip. It’s not mandatory, but it’s nice to have cash with you if you do choose to tip.