A Year of Weekend Festivals Celebrating Trails

Weekend trail festivals — a weekend devoted to all things trails — are great fun. Trouble is, what trail festivals there are in the area — AT Trail Days in Damascus, Va.; NC Trail Days in Elkin — are few and far between.

Until this year.

This year, as part of North Carolina’s observance of Year of the Trail, among the hundreds of Year of the Trail events are 11 weekend trail festivals. Most will follow this format:

  • Friday evening: a night hike, maybe a downtown concert, an introductory remark or two. 
  • Saturday: Guided hikes, paddle trips, mountain bike rides. We’ll start around 9 a.m., go until 5 p.m. or so. There will also be a downtown festival, with craft and outdoor vendors, food and live music. There might well be more live music Saturday evening.
  • Sunday: Sunday started out as a EIY (Explore It Yourself) day, with guide material supplied for select adventures. and that will still be the case. But we’re finding we have more and more to offer, so some structured events are sneaking into the mix. Volunteer service events (trail maintenance, trail building, etc.), for one. And we may be adding birding to the mix.

A quick explanation of what I mean by “we.” The 11 events are hosted by the communities and by the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ Hometown Strong initiative. Hometown Strong was created by Gov. Roy Cooper to help the state’s 80 rural counties boost their economies. I joined Hometown Strong last summer to help communities in those counties do just that by helping them showcase their, in my opinion, largely under-appreciated outdoor recreation assets. Hence the 11 Weekend Trail Days Festivals, which are shown below with their festival dates:

  • Elizabethtown/White Lake, Feb. 17-19
  • Morganton, March 3-5
  • Eden, April 21-23
  • Sanford, May 12-14
  • Elizabeth City, June 2-4
  • Old Fort, June 2-4
  • Edenton, July 21-23
  • West Jefferson, Aug. 4-6
  • Shelby, Oct. 13-15
  • Robbinsville, Oct. 27-28

First Festival: Elizabethtown/White Lake

What will these festivals look like? They continue to evolve, but the first one, in Elizabethtown/White Lake southeast of Fayetteville, looks like this:

Friday, Feb. 17

  • 3-7 p.m. –  Check-in at the Trail Weekend Headquarters at the Cape Fear Farmers Market, where you’ll find food, vendors and information on the weekend’s events.
  • 6:30 p.m. – Night hike at Jones Lake State Park, Cedar Loop Trail

Saturday, Feb. 18

  • 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. – Food, vendors, information on events available at the aforementioned Cape Fear Farmer’s Market.
  • 10 a.m. – Hike at Jones Lake State Park on the 4-mile Bay Trail
  • 11 a.m. – Guided mountain bike ride at Browns Creek Nature Park and Bike Trail
  • 12:30 p.m. – Guided paddle on Jones Lake State Park
  • 1 p.m. – Reading by local author at Bladen County Public Library
  • 2 p.m. – Guided hike on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail
  • 3 p.m. – Guided hike at Bay Tree Lake State Natural Area
  • 4 p.m. – Guided hike at Singletary Lake State Park
  • 4-8 p.m.  Trail Weekend Headquarters moves to White Lake. 
  • 4 p.m. – Guided hike on White Lake multi-use path
  • 5:30-7:30 p.m. — Southern comfort cuisine dinner/fundraiser for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail
  • 6-8 p.m.  Live music, White Lake

Sunday, Feb. 19

Sunday is a do-it-yourself day. We will provide maps and route descriptions.  A “hike board” will be at the Trail Weekend Headquarter for people to organize and hike together. Potential hikes include:

More info and registration

Events are free, but registration is suggested since most events are capped. You can also find more information on each event at the registration site, which resides here. Two more sites to be aware of:

  • GetGoingNC.com YOTT page. You can find more information including upcoming Year of the Trail events and news, at our YOTT page, here.
  • Greattrailsnc.com. And, you can find a comprehensive Year of the Trail calendar of events at greattrailsnc.com, the official event aggregator for Year of the Trail.

One last thing. These events are for everyone. We don’t care about your experience level, we don’t care if you’ve been in seclusion for the past three years (which some of you have). The goal of Year of the Trail is to develop a keen appreciation for the outdoors in every North Carolinian, all 10.7 million of us.

Join us.

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