Whether it’s right around the corner from you or a special place you remember visiting on your travels, an independent outdoor store is a special place to get gear, advice, or even to just hang out or have a beer. Brimming with personality, these small stores are often found in old downtown buildings of small mountain towns or near a trail. Wood floors, beamed ceilings and brick walls are not uncommon. Expert advice is the common thread, and of course great products too. But each of these stores has its own unique character that keeps people coming back time and again. Here are a few of my favorites in the places I frequent. Email me with your favorites so I can check them out! firstname.lastname@example.org
Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap bills itself as “the premier outdoor outfitter on the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia.” Near the parking area for Blood Mountain this cool outpost is visited by hundreds of Thru-hikers annually. Their old backpacks and shoes hang all around the ceiling as a testament to their accomplishments in completing a section or the whole AT.
Wander North Georgia started out as a blog then grew into a social group of outdoorsy friends who loved living and working in the mountains, then it became an online store, and finally a retail shop on Main Street in Clayton Georgia. Ever expanding, this brand is more than just a shop. It promotes a way of life focused on enjoying nature for fans and customers. Check out their website, podcast and more!
DD Bullwinkels in downtown Brevard, North Carolina is where visitors to Dupont State Park, Pisgah National Forest, and the Blue Ridge Parkway like to go before or after a day outside. This shop has so much personality you can’t help but walk through their always open doors to take a look. Soaring ceilings and a beautiful staircase lead up to the second floor loft map room and beer bar where you can watch shoppers below and think about what you’d like to buy. With hiking, camping, kayaking and lifestyle apparel, shoes and gear, it’s hard to leave without purchasing something. Expert advice and hometown warmth are what keep locals and tourists coming back year after year.
Ocmulgee Outfitters in Macon Georgia is where locals go for kayaking, backpacking, hiking or even flyfishing advice and equipment. Located in a beautiful old building in the bustling downtown shopping district, this shop offers more than products and advice. They lead group runs and guided hikes at nearby trails or even day trips to places like Providence Canyon, known also as “Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon”.
Earth Mountain Bicycle, The Hub, Squatch Bikes and Brews, and Sycamore Cycles have taglines like, “pedal, sip, chill” or “purveyors of quality bikes, outdoor gear, beer” on their websites. They all cater to bikers exploring the hundreds of mountain and gravel trails throughout this Western NC region. Located in Brevard, NC these specialty shops offer bikes for rent or purchase as well as provide service, expert advice about trails, and guided or private rides with expert mountain bikers. Need a new helmet, socks, gloves, tires, or water bottle? You name it, they all have it. But don’t forget about the beer or coffee… every shop in town also has a seat at their own little bar for your pre or post ride enjoyment.
Champion Cycling is a bike purists retailer with several shops in Jacksonville, FL providing road, beach, mountain, gravel and e-bikes since 1979. Their shops are packed with every kind of bike, tire, or piece of support equipment you need for your adventure. Didn’t know you could find mountain biking trails in Florida? Ask the people at Champion, some of the best bikers and bike experts come from Florida. Stop in for info and leave with a bike! Then head to the beach or try out Hanna Park trails nearby.
Aqua East is the place to go for Florida locals from Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach and Ponte Vedra. Anyone shopping for a surf board, skateboard, wetsuit, bathing suit, hats, apparel, Vans, Reef, Roxy or all other beach lifestyle needs will find it there. From paddle boards to sunglasses and even ski gear for traveling out west in the winter, this two story favorite is a feast for the eyes and just a fun place to stop in even if you are just visiting.