EZ Home Search Guide to Living in Madison County, NC
EZ Home Search Guide to Living in Madison, NC
If you're looking to live a mountain lifestyle without sacrificing world-class dining, access to quality education, health care, and other modern essentials, check out Madison County, North Carolina. Nicknamed "Asheville's Backyard," this county is home to the popular outdoor recreation destinations Pisgah National Forest and the Appalachian Trail.
Against the majestic Blue Ridge Mountain scenery is a variety of shopping, employment, and education opportunities. Residents enjoy a blended lifestyle with family activities, access to mountain sports, and proximity to cosmopolitan Asheville. Everything you could want from city living is only 20 miles away via Interstate 26, yet you get to enjoy the miles of hiking, bicycling, and stream fishing right out your back door.
Explore the profile to learn more about life in Madison County, North Carolina.
About Madison County
Madison County is located about 20 minutes north of Asheville. The popular town of Hot Springs is just 40 minutes drive from the city. The county is surrounded to the north and northwest by Tennessee, and then Yancey, Buncombe, and Haywood counties to the east and south.
Thanks to the Pisgah National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, thousands of acres are national protected areas.
Interstate 26 runs through the east side of Madison County by Mars Hill. It makes access to Asheville and destinations beyond more accessible.
When it comes to living costs, Madison County residents enjoy a more affordable lifestyle than other areas in the United States. The cost of living index sets the national average at 100; overall, Madison County scores 97.2. The least expensive category was housing, while the most expensive costs were in health care.
Madison County enjoys a moderate climate thanks to its mountain location. In July, the high averaged 84F degrees, while in January, the low averaged 23F degrees. Higher elevations will obviously be cooler. The rainiest months are in the summer, with June reporting ten days of precipitation.
Madison County History
Once inhabited by the Cherokee, Madison County's first European immigrants came from Scotland and Ireland. The area was sparsely populated, and limited access made initial growth slow.
The county formed in 1851 from Buncombe and Yancey counties. It was named after President James Madison, and the town of Marshall was designated as its county seat.
For most of his history, Madison County has been relatively isolated. This enabled the preservation of vibrant folk traditions from the Scots-Irish pioneers. You can also see evidence of the county's agricultural roots in the Drover's Road, also known as the Buncombe Turnpike, that followed the French Broad River.
Shortly after its founding, Madison County was the site of the Shelton Laurel Massacre, where several men and boys suspected of Unionist sympathies were executed. Because of this event, Madison has a moniker of "Bloody Madison."
Over time, Madison County's mountains became a tourism attractor for their many outdoor recreational opportunities. People came here to enjoy skiing, hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, fly-fishing, and hunting. The warm mineral waters at Hot Springs drew visitors seeking relief for various ailments. The town also briefly held German prisoners of war during World War I.
Madison County Cities And Areas
On the banks of the French Broad River lies Marshall, the designated county seat. The Buncombe County Turnpike passed through Marshall, helping make the city an epicenter for the region's culture and history. Residents appreciate the distinct small-town feeling and access to the outdoor recreation amenities surrounding the town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Enjoy dancing to bluegrass music at the local depot, dine along the French Broad River, and explore the small-town shops.
More popular than Marshall is the destination of Hot Springs, named by Travel + Leisure as one of the top 10 best small towns in the nation. Located at the junction of the French Broad River and the Appalachian Trail, Hot Springs attracted wealthy southerners looking for cool mountain air and relief from their health ailments by soaking in the warm and hot natural springs discovered here. It is the only hot spring known in North Carolina and the southeastern United States. People started visiting the springs in 1778, but visitation increased after the Buncombe Turnpike's construction.
Mars Hill is a college community known for Mars Hill University and its artistic heritage. Here you will find the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theater, the Rural Life Museum, and different festivals hosted by Mars Hills College.
Much of Madison County remains rural, and large sections are dedicated to wilderness areas and national forests.
Madison County Job Market
Madison County's top employing industries are health care and social assistance, retail trades, public administration, and construction and manufacturing. Local employment opportunities are increasing in healthcare, construction, and manufacturing. As of June 2021, the county's unemployment rate stood at 4.5%; for comparison, North Carolina reported 4.6%.
Mars, Inc., Mission Health Systems, Madison County Schools, and Thermo-Fisher Scientific were top employers by size inside Madison County.
Madison County Real Estate Market
Data from August 2021 demonstrates the Asheville region is in high demand with home buyers. The number of new listings remains low, even though year-over-year (YOY) it increased by 1.5%. The median sales price for an Asheville regional home was $352,375.
Looking specifically at Madison County, new listings increased by 37% YOY. Still, demand remained higher as the county had a 2.6 months' supply of inventory, which was a 48% decrease from August 2020. The median sales price for a Madison County home was $408,000, a 28% price increase. Homes were on the market an average of 49 days before sale.
Historically, housing prices in Madison County have been trending upward since about 2014. After a small decline in 2019, housing prices accelerated through 2020 and into 2021.
North Carolina does not have a state property tax rate. Madison County's property tax rate was 0.50 per $100 in value. Additional property taxes were charged for residents of Hot Springs, Marshall, and Mars Hills. Each fire district also levied a property tax.
EZ Home Search has the latest information on the Madison County real estate market. Our database updates from the MLS every 15 minutes.
Madison County Demographics
The 2020 US Census counted 21,193 people living in the county. It added just 429 new residents in the ten years from 2010-2020. The median age of a Madison County resident was 44 in 2019. Most residents (91%) lived in rural areas.
The vast majority of the residents identified as white alone, some 94% of residents. The next represented demographic was Hispanic or Latino at 2.4%, while just 1.5% identified as African American. Of the residents aged 25 and older, 29% held a bachelor's degree or higher. The median household income was $45,873.
The Madison Economic Council expects the population to grow by 1.9% between 2020 and 2025, adding 412 new residents.
Madison County Education
Madison County Schools provides around 2,400 students with public education. The school district operates three early childhood education centers, three elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, and one early college high school.
Three private schools were available in Madison County. All of them were religiously affiliated.
Madison County is home to Mars Hill University, a private four-year liberal arts university founded in 1856. It is the oldest college in Western North Carolina. Students can choose from 34 majors and seven bachelor's degrees. The school also offers a master's program in education.
Madison County Health Care
The primary care provider for Madison County residents is the Hot Springs Health Program. It has five facilities throughout the county, staffed with medical doctors, physician assistants, and nursing staff. You can find locations in Mars Hill, Hot Springs, Laurel, and Mashburn. There are no emergency service hospitals available in Madison County.
Another healthcare provider is the Madison County Health Care Department. Its purpose is to provide medical services and disease prevention for all residents. It includes care for children, women, maternity, family planning, substance awareness, laboratories, and dental care.
Madison County Things To Do
If you enjoy outdoor recreation, Madison County is a great place to live. Here you'll find all kinds of sports activities. The options include hiking, ziplining, golf, horseback riding, and mountain biking. Those are just a tiny taste of what is available for residents and visitors alike. In the winter, enjoy winter sports like skiing and snow tubing.
When you're done playing outdoors, visit Hot Springs to soak away the soreness in the mineral waters. The hot springs serve as a way station for hikers and people who want to enjoy the healing power of the springs.
Hot Springs is one of the few trail towns along the Appalachian Trail. The trail runs down downtown Bridge Street and climbs up the mountains on either side of the French Broad River.
Speaking of the river, the waters are a destination for fun. People come from all over to enjoy rafting and kayaking on the French Broad River. Various outfitters offer rentals and guided trips.
The Pisgah National Forest and its 55,000 acres are a place for sightseeing, mountain biking, backpacking, and getting in touch with nature.
Madison County also has several venues that host its vibrant Bluegrass and Mountain Music Scene. Live music happens at the Depot in Marshall every Friday and at the Zuma Bluegrass Jam every Thursday at Zuma Coffee.
Not only do the rustic tobacco barns add character to the Madison landscape, but you can visit a working farm and pick your farm-fresh produce. In the winter, cut down your own Christmas tree.
Each year, the Hot Springs Resort and Spa hosts a Civil War reenactment of the Skirmish at Hot Springs. People dress in character during the weekend event.
Other festivals include the Madison Championship Rodeo, which features exhibition barrel racing, team roping, and bull riding. Trail Fest celebrates the outdoors over three days with live music, a duck race, a spaghetti dinner, and a pancake breakfast.
The French Broad River Raft Race is one of the biggest mass start white-water races in the Southeast. It launches in Barnard, North Carolina, and ends in Hot Springs. Over the nine-mile race, people experience class I-IV white water, bumping boats, and a lot of heckling.
Madison County Local Attractions
The Rural Heritage Museum at Mars Hill University contains artifacts relevant to the greater culture of the area. See exhibits about what life was like in southern Appalachia.
Anderson Rosenwald School is in the corner of Mars Hill. The school is an integral part of black history from the turn of the century, and it is one of the few remaining examples of a Rosenwald School built in the North Carolina region.
Hot Springs Resort and Spa is a destination for tourists and locals. The warm and hot water is piped to outdoor tubs built against the French Broad River and Spring Creek. The water is warmed from deep in the earth and is believed to have special healing properties.
The French Broad River winds through the Pisgah National Forest and into Hot Springs. It is the third oldest river in the world, behind the Nile River in Africa and New River in West Virginia.
The Appalachian Trail crosses through Madison County. You don't have to be a thru-hiker to enjoy one of the many scenic sights along its route and side spur trails. Some popular options include Sam's Gap to Big Bald, Lover's Leap, and Max Patch.
Fly fishermen can test their skills in the different creeks around Madison County. Several hatchery-supported or wild fishing spots are available, like Roaring Fork, Upper Shut-in Creek, Puncheon Fork Creek, and the Laurel River.
Madison County Dining
Your dining options may not be as diverse as in Asheville, NC but you will still find some excellent family-owned and operated restaurants that make use of the area's local produce. Here are some choices you have for eating out in Madison County:
- The Stackhouse in Mars Hill is a local favorite for its burgers, barbecue, and on-tap brews.
- Baa'd Sheep Burritos is the place to go for Tex-Mex. It's a family-owned restaurant.
- Hickory Nut Gorge Brewery is a gathering place with craft brews and live music.
- Zuma Coffee in Marshall is a local favorite for a local cup of joe or a scratch-made meal.
- The Old Marshall Jail is a spot for lunch and dinner in downtown Marshall overlooking the French Broad River.
- Star Diner in Marshall is like taking a step back in time. It's located in the old Gulf filling station.
- Dave's 209 is known for its signature fries topped with your choice of mountain dust or bacon dust.
- Big Pillow Brewing serves up tacos and cold beers in downtown Hot Springs.
Madison County Shopping
Your best bet for a unique shopping day is in historic downtown Marshall. Surrounding the historical county courthouse are vintage stores, art galleries, and local boutique retailers with home decor and gifts. In addition, Marshall is becoming a hub for local artists. Explore the galleries on the island and in downtown.
Starting in late spring and running through the fall, the Madison County Farmers & Artisans Market is held on the island from noon until 4 p.m. on Sundays. Here you can select from homegrown and homemade products. More farmer's markets are available in Mars Hill and Hot Springs.
You will find stores with antiques and handmade crafts located in all three of the main towns. If you like a deal, the area is also home to many thrift stores.
Living in Madison County
Madison County is an epicenter for the mountain lifestyle. With large swathes of protected lands, three small-town communities, and ample room to roam, this is the place for those seeking mountain adventure. At the same time, you are close to the urban amenities of Asheville if you ever decide to venture further afield. But with so much to do out your back door, why ever leave?