2023 is the Year of the Trail in NC, and we’ll be highlighting some excellent local trail experiences all year! For January, we’re starting with a handful of varied trails that are good to enjoy in winter due to easy access. Note that one is reached from the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is occasionally closed to vehicular access in winter due to inclement weather. It’s always a good idea to check the Blue Ridge Parkway closure list when planning any activity on the Parkway.
Cone Manor Wander
On the first day of the year, we took a stroll around the grounds at Cone Manor, then up to the Cone cemetery. This walk follows Flat Top Trail about half way up to the top of the trail. Taking the trail to the pasture at the graveyard cuts the distance and difficulty by about half. The distance from the manor house to Cone Cemetery is about 1 mile, with a gentle incline, making this wander a 2 mile round-trip.
This trail offers lots of pretty pastoral views. The first day of the year was beautiful and mild; perfect for a first-day hike. See more images from the hike on our Facebook page.
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.
Downtown History Trail
Not all trails are hiking trails! On chilly winter days, sometimes it’s nice to stay in town, close to a warm drink or cozy shops. A tour of historic buildings and locations in town is a great way to enjoy an afternoon. We enjoyed a closer look at spots on Blowing Rock’s History Trail, a downtown historic walking tour. This 1.3 mile loop starts at the Robbins House on Park Avenue and continues down one side of Main Street and up the other. There are 20 locations, including Rumple Memorial Church, the Ice House, and the Reinhardt Building. Please note that the Randall Memorial Building isn’t viewable in winter months as its resident business, The Village Café, is closed November-April.
See the full trail details on the History Trail page, along with links for more exploration of local history!
Chetola Lake Trail
Blowing Rock WinterFest is always the last week in January, and one of the most anticipated events is the Polar Bear Plunge at Chetola Lake. A brisk walk around the lake was a nice treat as we were looking forward to the coming events. The trail is paved, offering an easy, mostly-level path for folks of all ages and mobilities. It starts from Chetola Lake Drive, and extends about 0.25 miles to the spillway at the south end of the lake. From there, one could take the stairs up to access the end of Chetola Lake Drive and continue along the sidewalk to downtown Blowing Rock. But if you’re just enjoying a walk around the lake, turn back to return to the starting point and enjoy views of the estate house, lodge, and gazebo across the water. We returned, making the walk around a half mile. Chetola Resort is open to the public for walking the resort grounds, attending events, or enjoying meals at Timberlake’s Restaurant.
For February, we’ll continue exploring some great winter trail options. Local greenways, ski runs, and state parks have plenty to offer this season!