Winter is an excellent season for exploring trails, and it shouldn’t be overlooked as it offers some great views and opportunities! Trails are often open year round and some are more conducive to winter walks than others. We’ve compiled a list of 5 of our favorite winter wanders.

Trout Lake

Trout Lake is a 1-mile loop trail, easily accessed at 5580 Shulls Mill Road in Blowing Rock. It’s part of the carriage trail network in Moses Cone Memorial Park. This trail is considered an easy route, and in addition to having a large, paved parking lot, is open and maintained year-round. Perfect for a short walk on a winter day, Trout Lake usually takes just over 30 minutes to complete from start to finish, and also doubles as a popular spot for horseback riding and birding. Dogs are allowed on the trail but must be on a leash. Most of the trail is gravel, so you don’t need to wear your best hiking boots, and in fact, on a dry day you could walk this trail in a pair of comfortable tennis shoes! Please note that in order to complete the loop, some of the trail follows the driveway along the entrance to the parking area.

Middle Fork Greenway – Sterling Creek Park

This portion of the Middle Fork Greenway connects Tweetsie Railroad, Mystery Hill, and Sterling Creek Park. It is an easily accessed trail that allows for walking and biking. It is located 3.3 miles from Downtown Blowing Rock. The surface is paved so hiking boots are not required. There are great spots to fish and awesome views of Tweetsie and Mystery Hill as the trail runs right by them. Sterling Creek Park is full of cute bird houses and has a couple picnic tables for rest and dining. The Middle Fork of the New River runs right by the park making it a picturesque place to stop and rest or have a picnic. There is a culvert that runs under 321 on this trail and it is quite dark so bring a flashlight or use the flashlight on your phone during this portion. Please be aware that the trail can be wet and may become icy during the right weather conditions so use caution. We’re very excited about the nearing completion of the Middle Fork Greenway, which will connect Blowing Rock to Boone! To get there, turn right onto Whitener Mountain Road diagonally across Hwy 321 from Mystery Hill. After the turn, immediately take a sharp right turn down to the small gravel parking lot to the right that provides spaces for 4 vehicles.

The Maze to the Apple Barn

There are about 25 miles of trail in the carriage trail network at Moses Cone Memorial Park. The portion we enjoyed today is called The Maze due to the many switchbacks, twists, and turns taken to get to the Apple Barn. This walk to the barn doesn’t boast big mountain views, but it features many mossy logs, a sun-dappled trail, and the historic Apple Barn. The Cone Estate was a major apple producer for a time, and Moses Cone was quite the collector of varieties! This trail took 2 hours at a very leisurely pace. The trail itself gently slopes upwards so there is some climbing but it is not strenuous. It is mostly well maintained, but has washed out a bit in places.  Due to entering the trail from Bass Lake, you also get great views of Bass Lake, and depending on how you walk around the lake, you can see Cone Manor. It is recommended to wear layers for this hike as areas around the lake and on the Maze can be quite windy in winter. Please also make sure to pack water as it is easy to become dehydrated even in the winter months!

To get there from Blowing Rock, take 221 towards Linville. Before you exit Blowing Rock, there will be a turn off for Bass Lake on the right. Turn off and park in the parking area. The lake is a loop so the trail can be accessed from either side, however, it may be faster to start to the left and access it from there. The turn off for the Maze is located on the left and goes over a bridge with a waterfall before starting in earnest. It is marked with a sign as well.

Blowing Rock History Walk

The Blowing Rock History Walk begins on Laurel Lane at the intersection of Laurel Lane and Main St. The walk then heads down Laurel Lane and goes around Broyhill Park. The trail is paved and handicap accessible. Broyhill Park is a lovely park with a gazebo and a pond with a fountain. The History Walk is marked with stone pillars that have bronze plaques on them. On the plaques is an engraving, a relief picture, and a QR code that links to more backstory and information. These monuments share a place, person, or moment in history that was important to the town of Blowing Rock. The walk is peppered with benches for sitting, relaxing, and taking in the scenery.

The History Walk can be accessed several ways. One is to park on Main Street and head over to Laurel Lane to begin the walk. Another is to park at the Parking Deck beside the American Legion building. Then head down to Laurel Lane via Wallingford Lane and begin the walk there. Last, you can park at the Broyhill Park parking lot and access the walk that way. All of these routes are handicap accessible. 

Duncan Rd.

Moses H. Cone Memorial Park is one of the most iconic landmarks anywhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This week we hiked Duncan Road, one of the main carriage trails connecting Flat Top Manor and Bass Lake. A great walk with some spectacular views, we simply can’t recommend this trail enough!

This trail connects from Bass Lake to Flat Top Manor, making it one of the best routes to access both locations. A gentle trail, the surface is a wide gravel and doesn’t require any special footwear, although you will be gaining and losing some elevation as you go so be ready to climb in some areas. Enjoy a stroll along the historic old carriage trails through rhododendron lined forests, and expect to see at least a couple fellow hikers as this trail is relatively popular throughout the year due to its ease of access.

As we’ve mentioned above, horseback riding and carriage rides are also available to reserve ahead of time. While we were out on the trail, Chad from Carriage Run passed by and was kind enough to ask if we’d like a ride.

Although we don’t recommend getting into just ANY random carriage in the woods with a stranger, we have to admit that it was a wonderful way to spend a crisp afternoon in December and we can’t thank Chad and the folks at Carriage Run enough!

Winter hikes abound in Blowing Rock and we can’t wait for you to try them. Remember to pack water and snacks, and dress appropriately for the conditions. Enjoy getting out and getting active during the winter months with our 5 Favorite Winter Wanders.