We get out about once a week to hike usually in central to western North Carolina. We hike slowly and stop often to enjoy the views and the little treasures that nature offers. We enjoy waterfall, river, and mountain hikes frequently visiting The Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Moutains National Park, and Pisgah National Forest.
We wanted to enjoy the Fall color along the Blue Ridge Parkway while including a relaxed walk so we headed for Price Lake. Starting the 2.3 mile loop from the overlook parking we headed counterclockwise. The trail stays close to the parkway passing a small fishing platform, a section of the campground, the amphitheater, and the boat rental area with additional parking.
At this point the trail moves deeper into the woods with several bridges crossing the creeks feeding the lake. The water was clear but we didn't see any minnows at this time of year. There was much evidence of beaver activity both old and recent. The lake is in clear view along most of the trail. The trail on this side was mostly level with only a little mud.
This trail was busy today with family groups enjoying the views, picnicing, and fishing. We have hiked here at other times of year and seen far fewer people. It was still a peaceful walk with many ins and outs of coves so that the trail did not feel crowded. On the back side we came to one area that was quite wet from the rains this week. This area is not normally this wet.
The last portion of the trail stayed really close to the lake with good views. There were a couple of spots where we had to watch our footing as the trail crosses rocks sloping down to the river. This is an easy trail but not obstacle free. It is a fun trail for children. The trail leaves the woods right beside the parking and across from the dam.
The Grandsons, Matthew and Daniel, joined us for a walk around the Franklin County Nature Preserve of the De Hart Botanical Gardens south of Louisberg, NC. The trail map that we picked up at the gazebo by the small gravel parking lot stated that there were 1.8 miles of hiking trails in each side of the preserve. The trails for the two sides meet only at the parking area.
We walked the area to the right first. This section has plants that have been brought here from other parts of North Carolina. The trail leads up a small hill past some rocks to an overlook of the lake. There were several varieties of flowers blooming. Judging from the azalea bushes and the mention of other flowers including wildpink and Crane Fly Orchids this must be a beautiful place in the Spring.
Beyond the overlook the trail goes down to the lake and crosses on a footbridge. The boys spotted Bass, Brim, minnows, and turtles in the lake. We followed a loop trail through the woods and up the hill on the other side of the lake before finishing the loop around the small lake. The last section of the trail led us through a stand of bamboo and back to the parking area.
We crossed the parking area and took the Waterfall trail. This side of the preserve remains a natural habitat. The trail is a loop except for a short section at the beginning. We were disappointed to find the waterfall almost completely dry. On a short side trail to a historic home site I spotted this log that looked like a alligator to me. What do you see?
Beyond the short detour we passed a smaller lake. This one is much more natural then the one on the other side of the preserve. A frog jumped in the water from the bank as I approached. The trail continues around and follows powerlines back to the beginning of the loop. This whole area is peaceful with easy well maintained trails.
We had planned a day of hiking on the Tanawha trail but after the clouds rolled in we decided on lunch in Blowing Rock and walks around two lakes. The first lake is the one that you see from the Moses Cone Manor. There is parking for the lake off of 221 between Blowing Rock and the parkway. The trails connect from here to the manor but today we just walked the lake loop.
This trail is wide and mostly level. There were lots of water lilies around the edges. Ducks were scattered around in the lily pads and near the island in the lake. A number of people were fishing from the banks. The loop is a total of .8 miles and appears to be popular for walking dogs and exercise walking. For most of the walk you have a clear view of the lake.
From here we followed 221 to where it met the parkway. Instead of entering the parkway we crossed it and turned right. Just past this point was an access road for the Trout Lake parking area. The 1 mile loop around this lake has a different feel from Bass Lake. Although still mostly level this trail is more natural and there were trees blocking the open views of the lake for much of the walk.
Turning left from the parking the trail follows the stream that supplies the lake for a time until reaching a foot bridge allowing us to cross and return to the lake. At the far end of the hike the trail follows the entrance road for the parking lot for a time. We had a good time strolling around the lake looking for touch-me-nots that were ready to pop.
We headed up to the Grandfather mountain area of the Blue Ridge Parkway planning to hike several sections of the Tanawha Trail. The first stop was the Beacon Heights trail head at milepost 305.2. The trail enters the woods and climbs gently. It wasn't raining but it was cloudy and the trail was damp. At the first intersection we turned right on the Mountain-to-sea trail.
We turned left at the second trail intersection and were soon at a fork in the trail with a bench. Straight ahead was a large open rock outcrop with views to the south. To the left was a stone stairway to another open rock area with views of Grandfather mountain. The leaves were already starting to show color at the upper elevations. The clouds were moving over the peaks.
This was an easy hike of less then a mile round trip with nice views as a reward. There is enough of a challenge for young children to feel that they have accomplished something and some room for them to explore.. This would make a pleasant spot for a picnic on the rocks. It is a popular spot and there were quite a few people on the trail.
Our second stop was a short drive north at the Linn Cove Viaduct visitor center. The Tanawha trail passes through the parking lot here and continues north. The first section is level and handicap accessible. This section ends with a view point below the viaduct. Even this late in the season there were a variety of flowers by the visitor center and along this section.
Beyond here the trail climbs up into the rocks and roughly parallels the parkway. We passed a ranger who cautioned us to be careful on the wet rocks. This is a very rocky area with lots of small caves. After a short distance we crossed a bridge over Linn Cove Branch. The trail climbs a ridge beyond this point appearing for a short time to be leaving the parkway.
At about a half mile from the visitor center there is a very short side trail on the right. There is a sign beside the trail at this point. The side trail leads to a rock with an open view back along the viaduct. You need to climb up on the rock to get the view and there is a drop off on the other side. This trail would be fun for children but they would need to be carefully supervised.