The beginning of March has brought us great weather. And so, for the second weekend in a row, we have found ourselves hiking off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The trees are still bare, so the views are better, looking down into the valleys.
Our intention was to hike a trail called Graveyard Fields, south of Mount Pisgah near marker 418. Unfortunately, the road was closed several miles north of the trail. We should have visited the Blue Ridge Parkway real-time road closures website for current information.
The great thing about the Parkway is there are trails everywhere. Improvising, we pulled over around mile marker 395 where a lot of cars lined the road – a certain indication of trails. We found both a forest road for hiking, biking and horse back riding; and a more challenging trail going up the mountain which we discovered is part of the Mountain to Sea trail.
Mountain to Sea is a project that will connect over 900 miles of North Carolina trails from the mountains in the western part of the state to the eastern coast. Of course the Asheville area is lucky enough to have local access to these trails!
The trail climbed up the mountain and followed a ridge which is the natural border between the National Park land and North Carolina game lands. The trail is well maintained and has views in all directions. Here are some pictures we took along the way.
There’s a saying in the mountains of North Carolina. If you don’t like the weather here, wait 15 minutes; it will change. We do have four distinct seasons, and sometimes two in the same month. This February lives up to that reputation. A week ago, there was several inches of snow on the ground.
Today, motorcycles and bicycles were everywhere. The sky was blue. Children and dogs roamed the trails and water flowed. The temperature was in the mid 60s. We hiked the trails near Craven Gap along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This trail has the notoriety of having been trekked by the President and the First Lady on one of their recent trips to Asheville.
By mid-week, those same trails will be slick and icicles will form once again. The only thing you can count on is rapid weather changes, sometimes without notice. Nevertheless, outdoor activities thrive even in the winter in North Carolina. Come see what makes the Asheville area such a wonderful place to live. For more information on local hiking trails, go to http://www.exploreasheville.com/things-to-do/hiking-trails/craven-gap/
Living in Henderson County, we are spoiled by all the great trails running through both Federal and State forest land. Hiking, biking and horse back riding is in full swing right now as the weather has been conducive to outdoor activities. Dupont State Forest is probably the best known area for such activities. Bent Creek in Buncombe County is also a haven for bike trails. But the less known North Mills River trails are our favorite.
This winter, we purchased multi-use bikes for riding paved and gravel trails in warmer places like Hilton Head. Spring came early, and we have enjoyed riding through Hendersonville and the wonderful trails provided by the parks department. Hendersonville is becoming a very bike friendly community, as is Asheville, and it’s not uncommon to see groups of bicyclist on the roads and trails.
The last month has given us some great weekend weather to experience some of the more advanced trails (for us beginners). The guys at Sycamore Cycles have gently reminded us that when we purchased our bikes, we said we were going to stay on mostly paved, gentle roads. But the mountain biking bug has bitten, so we have been pushing our bikes to their limits.
This weekend, we literally pushed our bikes a few times as we conquered the Trace Ridge Trail – or it may have conquered us. Whatever the case, it was a lot of fun. The vertical climbs are a real challenge, but the fast downhills are both treacherous and exhilarating. Roots, rocks and stumps were frequent obstacles and navigation was pretty tricky at times. One of the wonderful things about the harder trails, however, is encountering other riders is rare, and nature is only disturbed by the narrow trail.
If Trace Ridge sounds a little advanced, rest assured that North Mills River has many easier trails. Many are gravel forest roads closed by gates to motor vehicles, and perfect for bikers and hikers. We purchased the Western North Carolina Trail Guide South Pisgah Ranger District map, which is a necessity on some of these trails, and money well spent for us.
If you live in Western North Carolina and haven’t ridden the trails at North Mills River, then you need to get your bike up there! Don’t have a bike? The guys at Sycamore Cycles have been a great help to us in both sales and keeping our bikes tuned up. If you are thinking about visiting, they rent bikes too, so what are you waiting for?
Western North Carolina has some of the finest mountain views in the southeast. To avid outdoors enthusiasts, mountains equate to hundreds of miles of hiking trails. We are blessed to be surrounded by thousands of federal, state and private acres of scenic beauty.
Dupont State Forest is well known for trails spreading over 10,000 acres. More than a half dozen cascading waterfalls are frequented while a few are harder to find. Trails are shared with leashed dogs, mountain bikers and horseback riders. Whether you live in the area or are just passing through, Dupont State Forest is a must see.
Carl Sandburg Home is an excursion for all ages. In addition to touring the historic home, visitors can walk the 264 acre grounds. Children of all ages will enjoy the goat farm and milking barn. But what makes this site unique is that it sits at the base of Glassy Mountain. Hike to the top and enjoy the spectacular view from the outcropping of bare granite.
Jump Off Rock in Laurel Park is only 5 miles from downtown Hendersonville. For the hiking challenged, you can park within a few hundred feet of a panoramic view that provides stunning views of the valley below nestled between the Blue Ridge and Pisgah Mountain ranges. Hiking trails range from light to challenging. And like the other mentioned trails, there is no admission charged for hiking!
There are so many wonderful places to hike in western North Carolina that it would take a book, not a blog to list them all. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs right through WNC as does the Appalachian Trail, so it goes without saying that you could spend a lifetime exploring these mountains and never run out of adventure.