The majority of Western North Carolina tourists who hit the trails are usually seeking a tranquil moment to commune with the trees; or perhaps they want to picnic or ponder the great beyond at one of Transylvania County’s 250 waterfalls. But there is a new kind of tourist heading for the hills of Appalachia: fans of the best-selling trilogy and recent box office smash, Hunger Games, are arriving in droves to explore the lush and mystical environment that hosted the movie’s filming.
Katniss Everdeen, the film’s protagonist, is from the 12th district of rural Appalachia in a post-apocalyptic North America. Producers selected a small ghost town called Henry River Mill Village outside of Hildebran (just 70 miles from Asheville, NC) to portray the Everdeen hometown. Katniss leaves home to follow her fate into the Hunger Games – a state-sponsored fight to the death among youthful representatives from each of the 12 districts. This grueling competition was shot entirely within DuPont State Forest, and is drawing in fans from all over the country.
Tourism businesses in Transylvania County are already up in occupancy by as much as 10% from last year as fans flock in to find Katniss’s hidden pool at the base of Triple Falls, stop by the epic sword fight that took place at High Falls and hike up to the Bridal Veil Falls across which Katniss traversed (suspended by wires, mind you). The NC Division of Tourism is even offering a self-guided four-day itinerary that leads Hunger Games groupies through Henry River Mill Village, the hot spots in artsy Asheville where stars spent their down time, DuPont Forest, and other shooting sites in Shelby and Charlotte. Hunger Games Fan Tours is taking the adventure a few steps further and packaging deals for more adventurous enthusiasts to take part in a survival course and competition including archery and fire-building (minus the whole fight-until-death aspect).
With so much glorious nature to share, the tourism industry is expanding its outreach to those who want a peaceful saunter through the woods and to those who are looking to connect with a more hair-raising adventure. In whichever category you find yourself, or perhaps somewhere in between, the Appalachian Mountains await you this spring.
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