Head for the High Country: Adventure and relaxation in the North Carolina mountains

With high temperatures bearing down on much of the country, this is a good time for a mountain getaway. The North Carolina High Country is just the place for cool fresh air, crisp breezes and refreshing waterfalls.

High Country encompasses several small towns along the highest elevations of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the northwest part of the state. Families have been coming to the High Country for adventure and spectacular views since before the Civil War. The oldest attractions are areas of natural beauty such as The Blowing Rock, Linville Caverns and Grandfather Mountain.

The most breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains are found at the majestic Grandfather Mountain and its exhilarating Mile High Swinging Bridge. When the wind blows the bridge actually “sings” in the same way a harmonica sounds.

There are easy walking trails and naturalist programs to see wildlife in their natural habitat. Adventurers can scale ladders, climb steep rocks and edge along cliffs or hike to remote peaks. Calloway Peak on Grandfather Mountain is 5,946 feet above sea level.

More daring exploits are found at Hawksnest, one of the largest zipline parks in the country. It has three swinging bridges and 20 adrenaline-pumping ziplines reaching heights of 200 feet. Participants appear to fly over trees, lakes and creeks at speeds up to 50 mph while watching panoramic mountain views below.

Agri-tourism offers fun ways to experience life down on the farm. In addition to apple picking in the fall, visitors can learn about the production of Christmas trees at Sugar Plum Farm in Plumtree. Swinging Bridge Farm in Deepgap has a walking tour of its Christmas tree farm. High Country has the largest production of Yule trees in the East. It has provided the White House Christmas trees for eight of the last 20 years.

The streets of Blowing Rock are storybook sweet with quaint boutiques, independent restaurants, art galleries and antique shops. Memorial Park and gardens in the town’s center give a magical feel against the backdrop of the Parkway and Pisgah National Forest. Look for the Thursday farmer’s market through October.

The town’s namesake — the Blowing Rock — is a unique outcrop formation with magnificent views and near-constant winds on Highway 321 South.
Just outside of town, the Chetola Resort and Spa is an all-purpose vacation retreat. Located on 87 pristine acres, the name means “haven of rest” in Cherokee. Besides the main lodge, there are a small inn and condos on the estate. For rainy days, an indoor pool and recreation center are located in the main building.

Timberlake’s Restaurant and patio overlook Chetola Lake, a well loved landmark for kayaking, paddle-boating and fishing. The resort is COVID-safety-conscious and offers many outside activities: guided fly fishing trips, a sporting reserve, archery by the lake and evening bonfires.

The 1891 Green Park Inn is a different world altogether. One of the Grand Manor Hotels of the Victorian age, it has catered to such luminaries as Annie Oakley, Margaret Mitchell and Eleanor Roosevelt. Photos of these and other celebrities line the walls of the long, elegant living room. The inn has its own garden, supplying fresh produce and herbs to the restaurant, the Chestnut Grille.

All CDC guidelines and protocols are adhered to at High Country attractions, said Candice Cook of the regional visitors’ center. Face masks are required in public in North Carolina.

For information, maps of hiking trails and attraction websites, go to mountainsofnc.com or call 828-264-1299.

Published at Thu, 06 Aug 2020 10:06:34 +0000

Source: Head for the High Country: Adventure and relaxation in the North Carolina mountains.

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