The northern mountains of North Carolina have the least amount of public land in the high country, yet the few places that are open to exploring offer some of the best adventures in the state.
Elk Knob State Park, for instance, located between Boone and West Jefferson, has one of the best mountaintop views in the state (see photo at top) from its 5,520-foot summit, a sweeping look east, north and west into Virginia and Tennessee. (And the 2-mile climb to get there is swell as well.)
Mount Jefferson State Natural Area towers above the town of Jefferson, and if you’re not up for the 1,000-foot vertical climb to the top, you can drive to the top and hike around this 4,465-foot mountaintop.
Pond Mountain. Love Mount Rogers in Virginia but aren’t crazy about the crowds? Pond Mountain, a joint venture by the Blue Ridge Conservancy and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, is a similarly open and exposed mountain that also has that wide-lonesome feel of the West.
New River. One of the oldest rivers in the world and one of the most relaxing to paddle (you can even hike along its banks).
That’s just a taste of the adventure to be had at the Year of the Trail Weekend Festival in West Jefferson Aug. 4-6. The event is sponsored by the towns of West Jefferson, Lansing and Jefferson; Ashe County; the Blue Ridge Conservancy; the New River Conservancy; and, the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ Hometown Strong initiative.read more
Saturday is National Trails Day. Which, anymore, has become more the anchor for National Trails Day Weekend.
For the uninitiated, National Trails Day is the first Saturday of June, and has been for at least three decades. Sponsored by the American Hiking Society, it’s a chance for us to officially celebrate the trails — hiking, biking, paddling, horsing around, whatever — that we unofficially celebrate every day. In the beginning, NTD was seen primarily as a day to blaze new trail and tidy up existing trail. There’s still a lot of that, but more and more it’s become a celebration of hiking, biking, paddling — of simply enjoying the trail.read more
You likely can tick off all the great adventures you’ve had at the coast, in the Piedmont, in the mountains. But what about in the far northeast corner of the state, where perhaps the state’s most unique adventure challenge awaits — the Great Dismal Swamp.read more
It was the late 1990s whengot my first introduction to the Sanford outdoor scene. I was mountain biking more than anything else at the time and the Triangle had yet to develop it’s extensive network of trails (legal ones, at least). Lake Crabtree, Umstead, UNC North — that was about it. Then a friend suggested we try Sanford.read more
What’s more important to nurturing Mother Earth than anything?
So in a way, it’s appropriate that we shall spend Earth Day this year getting drenched. A week of sun, a day of rain: What better prescription for the planet we love?
That being the case, instead of kvetching about our plans for tomorrow — which is Earth Day, btw — on the verge of being rained out, we instead make the most of what, in Mother Nature’s view, is a good thing, we make the proper adjustments. In our case, that means tweaking the Year of the Trail Weekend Trail Days Festival we’ve been planning with the city of Eden, the county of Rockingham, and the Dan River Basin Association over the past eight months. (“We” incidentally, being the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ Hometown Strong initiative, of which I am employed.)read more