Six High Country Hiking Gems
Despite growing up in this area, I somehow never got to experience the joys of hiking until I was 19 and a friend dragged me outside. I fell in love- ever since then, it’s impossible to keep me inside if it’s a pretty day and I’m not working! Today I operate http://blueridgencguide.com/, a website dedicated to information about this area not easily found on other websites, including detailed information about hiking trails.
The Boone & Blowing Rock areas of North Carolina , popularly known as the High Country due to our elevation, are a haven of outdoor activities year-round. One of the most popular activities, for people of all ages, is hiking these beautiful mountains. This can be done in all seasons (yes, even in snowdrifts for the brave!) and you are always rewarded with a beautiful vista and time spent recharging in nature. There are many hiking trails in this area, some better known than others. Below I’ve highlighted some of my favorite trails. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so please feel free to tell me about your favorite trail in the comment section. For each trail I’m highlighting below, I have included a link for further information as well as directions.
1. Boonefork Trail
This trail is a beautiful 5-mile loop in the Julian Price Memorial Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway . You’ll wander alongside the Boonefork Creek, climb through a boulder garden, and make your way through pristine National Forest lands. Even better, there is a spur trail leading down to the Hebron Colony Rock Falls , one of the only climbable waterfalls in the region. The Boonefork Trail is pet friendly, so be sure to bring the four-legged family members along. For more info about the Boonefork Trail please click here. For more info about the spur trail to Hebron Rock Colony Falls please click here.
2. Rough Ridge
Possibly the best known trail in the area, Rough Ridge is actually part of the 13-mile-long Tanawha Trail that runs along the Blue Ridge Parkway . Just north of the famous Linn Cove Viaduct, climb the trail to the boardwalk and soak in the majestic views, as pictured here. You can stop here if you want, but the trail continues on up the mountain. Words to the wise here: Rough Ridge did not come by its name by accident! Sturdy boots are a must here. I’m an experienced hiker and have fallen on the jagged rocks that make up this trailbed. If you make it all the way up to the top, nearly 360 degree never-ending views await you. For more info about Rough Ridge please click here or click here.
3. Flat Top Mountain Fire Tower Trail
Years ago, platform towers dotted the landscape in order for people to stand watch for fires in the valley below. Very few of these towers remain today, and we are lucky to have the tower from the old Cone Manor Estate in this area, and even luckier to have a lovely 2.8 mile trail to it. This trail is moderate and wide, so it’s ideal for anyone less sure of foot or those looking for a trail to run. The trail switches back and forth through meadows and lush woods, eventually opening up to the clearing at the top. You’re not done yet- climb the open stairs to the top of the fire tower and enjoy the 360 degree panoramic views. For more information about the Flat Top Mtn. Fire Tower Trail , please click here.
4. Cascades Falls Trail
The Cascades are one of four waterfalls in this area, and they have the easiest access trail. Just half a mile down the hill from the parking area, the falls are beautiful in high and low water levels. It’s an idea photo spot for couples and families, and because the trail is not extremely steep and is well maintained, it’s a good one for younger children. For more information about the Cascades Falls , please click here.
5. Elk Knob State Park
The biosphere preserve known as Elk Knob State Park is gradually getting better known, seeing as it’s rather the new kid on the block. This 2 mile trail to the top of Elk Knob is a lovely gradually ascending trail through woods, eventually breaking through the tree line to the bald on top of the mountain with two viewpoints, one to the north and one to the south (North pictured here). In winter, this trail is great for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. For more information about the Elk Knob State Park , please click here or click here.
6. Linville Falls
The ever-popular Linville Falls has three different trails on site. There is a little .3 mile loop trail off the parking area, a strenuous trail down to the river itself where you can soak in the sun on car-sized boulders in the river (note: do not swim in the river due to strong currents!) and a moderate trail with three different viewing stations to see the double upper falls (pictured below) and the powerful lower falls. For more information about Linville Falls , please click here.
There you have it: 6 of the High Country’s prettiest hiking trails! All are free to access. All of them are sure to leave you in awe of the grandeur of this area. Get out there and enjoy these majestic mountains!