There's Great Winter Hiking in the NC High Country

Published: 10/22/2014

Boone Area winter hiking can be a short walk through last fall's leaves-or a deep-snow trek on the Appalachian Trail.

Serious snow fanatics often find significant snow on the highest peaks. If you want that-or just an atmospheric, easy-to-walk in dusting of the white stuff-check out our Nordic ski report for the latest on natural snow conditions.

The Boone Area norm is a yin and yang of winter landscapes, from stark leafy hillsides fringed with gray tree trunks, to the white of winter snow. Either way, winter brings brilliantly clear distant views.

But you don't have to be a mountaineer to add a memorable winter walk to your High Country ski vacation. Easy trails are everywhere, and they're easy to reach in winter weather.

Beginners won't need heavy boots for easy, snowless trails. Just carry a light pack, an extra layer of clothes, a water bottle, snack, and flashlight just in case. When there's snow on the ground, an easy path warrants light hiking boots with a grippy sole, perhaps even trekking or ski poles.

If you're headed to the high peaks or backpacking overnight, expert gear and experience should be in your pack. Consider snowshoes in really deep snow-they're available for purchase at the High Country Ski Shop in Pineola. Start out right with a guided snowshoe tour at Sugar Mountain Resort (rental snowshoes and poles included). One try and you'll be convinced that snowshoeing is easy and fun. This winter, the town of Beech Mountain's Buckeye Recreation Center rents snowshoes for use on the mountain's diverse system of snowy trails, including the new, more than mile-high Emerald Outback paths.

Best of all, snowshoes permit hikers to avoid arduous "post-holing" into deep snow that saps energy-and can ruin trail conditions for cross country skiing in places like Roan Mountain (check out the Nordic ski report for high elevation snow conditions).

Give the trails below a try-or click to our detailed Trail Guide for deeper info on the hikes below.

Easy Trails:


Under heavy snow, the Town of Boone's Greenway trail can be a great winter hike.

The Blue Ridge Parkway

Trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway can be a great hiking option when the road is clear of snow. Luckily, the Parkway is maintained for winter use in the Blowing Rock area, from US 321 8 miles east of Boone, south to the US 221 exit where the road is often gated at Grandfather Mountain. One steep stretch of this section can also be closed but US 221 provides easy access.

Price Lake Trail

2.5 miles. Start from the Boone Fork Overlook at Milepost 297.2 south of Blowing Rock. Take the descending handicapped accessible path past the boathouse and the first half-mile is an easy hike or cross country ski for even the youngest kids. The rest of the lakeshore walk is easy (with the possibility of wet ground half way around where a stream feeds the lake). The lakeshore walk offers great views of Grandfather Mountain and often frozen Price Lake.

Figure Eight Trail

0.7 mile. Start at Moses Cone Manor, reached at Parkway Milepost 294 near Blowing Rock. Walk down to the manor house, then down the front steps to take a right at the sign into the woods. This is an easy meandering walk or even cross country ski trail.

Beech Mountain

The town of Beech Mountain maintains a diverse system of winter trails, and there are guided hikes throughout the winter.

Expert Trails:

The Appalachian Trail

A spectacular meadow-covered portion of the famed Maine-to-Georgia footpath is one of the best hikes in the High Country. Drive to Banner Elk, then go left on NC 194 past the road to Beech Mountain. Turn right on US 19-e into Tennessee, and in the town of Roan Mountain, turn left on TN 143 and drive 14 miles to the ridge-top trailhead. Nordic skiers often ski to the right, up the gated road to Roan Mountain, but go across the highway and hike up the alpine-like meadows of Round Bald. The 2-mile hike out-and-back is truly spectacular. Click here for trail guides to Roan Mountain/AT area in winter and summer.

Taking a Winter Hike on the Profile TrailGrandfather Mountain

The Profile Trail

Start on NC 105 near Banner Elk (.7 mile toward Boone from the 105/184 junction on the right). Even in deep snow this trail is well worth the 2.3-mile hike (4.6-mile roundtrip) to the famous view of the Grandfather Mountain profile face. More dedicated hikers could also reach Calloway Peak (3.5 miles; a 7-mile roundtrip).

The Summit Ridge

From the Black Rock Cliffs Parking Area near the top of Grandfather Mountain (entrance fee charged/not always open in winter), the Grandfather Trail climbs up ladders across the snowy crags of this magnificent ridge crest. The 2-mile loop over MacRae Peak takes a few hours but requires expert gear and the use of cables that descend icy, very steep, potentially dangerous areas. You could hike all the way to Calloway Peak and back for a 4.8 mile hike.

Click here for more on Grandfather Mountain hiking.

(For more detail on these and other Boone area trails, pick up a trail guide by local outdoor expert Randy Johnson.)


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