If you try only one trail in the Boone Area-make it the Boone Greenway.
This fully accessible trail is either paved or gravel surfaced and mostly flat. It welcomes walkers and runners, cyclists and wheelchairs, strollers and hikers. It follows and crosses the South Fork of the New River through open meadows and colorful forests. There's a historic ruin, plentiful resting benches, picnic tables and shelters, and interpretive signs about natural and human history. Two easy loops invite a quick stroll, one of them, with great bird-watching and flower viewing. The entire slideshow above features Greenway scenes.
The trail may be a little tame for serious hikers intent on high adventure, but it's perfect for novice hikers, families or anyone wanting to sample the beauty of the Boone Area without going to extremes. Dogs must be on leash (and picked up after), and rollerbladers and bikers should yield to walkers and runners.
The best in-town trailheads for the core greenway area are the Watauga County Recreation Complex or adjacent Clawson Burnley Park. Turn off State Farm Road on Hunting Hills Lane. Turn left just beyond the Watauga County Recreation Complex for some parking at the complex, or park to your right, by sports fields.
Get closer by passing the National Guard Armory (on your right) to make a left into Clawson Burnley Park. Not far away, near Watauga Medical Center on Deerfield Road, there's parking for a paved loop that connects to the Greenway.
The trailhead at the opposite, most rural end of the Greenway, beside the Boone Wastewater Treatment Plant, is easy to reach from U.S. Highway 421. Head east on US 421 out of town past the New Market Shopping Center and the NC 194 intersection. Turn right just before the New River Bridge on New River Hills Road. Curve around with the river and turn left across a low water bridge at Casey Lane. Parking is on the right.
The most urban part of the Greenway is accessed behind Southgate Shopping Center near the area visitor center on Pride Drive.
Download a PDF map of the Greenway Trail at the top of this page on the town of Boone Web site.
Use the mileages visible on the maps on this page to determine the length of various hikes or rides from the many starting points. As you read the hike descriptions, follow along on the maps.
The core part of the Boone Greenway (map at left) explores an almost backcountry watershed tucked between neighborhoods. From many places along the greenway, surrounded by forest, green summits, and a remarkably clean mountain stream, you might not imagine that Boone even exists. The trail, with three bridges, provides a wonderful barrier-free route through open fields blooming with goldenrod in late summer, past meadows, and along shady stream banks near the sound of rippling water. There is ample evidence of wildlife.
About 0.6 mile from both the Casey Lane access and the covered bridge near Clawson Burnley Park, there is a historic site and picnic area with two tables, one with a roof.
The stone ruins visible here are the remains of a hydroelectric generation station that produced the first electricity in Boone from 1915 to 1924. It served Appalachian Training School, now Appalachian State University, and 6 houses in Boone. The site sits in the middle of the woodsiest part of the trail. The plank ruins of an 11-foot high, wood dam are still visible in the river. Another stone structure stands on the opposite bank.
This early-1900s electrical generation system, was the first to serve any residence or institution in the northwestern mountains of North Carolina. The station served as the basis for the New River Power and Light Company. This picnic area is reached most quickly from the Casey Lane trailhead (about 1.2 miles, round-trip).
Hiking the entire core part of the trail makes a nice out-and-back hike of about 3 to 3.5 miles from either terminus, so only one car is necessary.
Heading north from the covered bridge near the Watauga Recreation Complex, a connector crosses the athletic fields if you don't want to amble along a big bend in the river. There are benches at intervals, and vistas of green ridges dipping into a little valley.
North from the covered bridge, the trail crosses the river, hugs the tree-lined bank to the next bend and the picnic area at the historic dam site, about 1.3-miles from the complex. Not far beyond, a side trail to Watauga High School goes left. This is a nice 1.2-mile out and back to the school for cyclists or walkers (there's no parking at that trailhead). The path follows a quiet side valley along a rushing tributary stream. Continuing north, the main trail crosses another bridge and goes left along the river through rhododendron and white pines past the town's wastewater treatment plant to the Casey Lane trailhead.
Between the covered bridge and the connector to the High School, and entire trail system of woodsier gravel or dirt paths lie on the other side of the river and are attractive to more serious hikers and mountain bikers. A trail sign at the covered bridge shows the trails (accessible across the adjacent sports field at the edge of the woods.) There's also a connector at a sign that says "Kennedy Trails" at the middle bridge along the main greenway.
Perhaps the best parking area for the Greenway is located at the Clawson Burnley Park (map at right) across from the National Guard Armory. The Greenway is accessible from that parking area in two places-which creates a really nice 0.7-mile loop. South of the lot, a 0.2-mile Greenway link flanks the park to join the main Greenway near the covered bridge (the triangle on the map at right). Take that link, or go north a short distance on Hunting Hills Lane, cross the South Fork of the New River, and go left along a beautiful white pine forested and paved section of trail 0.3-mile to the covered bridge. This trail also boasts woodsy side paths. Start either direction and make the loop using the covered bridge.
Clawson Burnley park is a great destination in itself with wonderful interpretive signs about Boone Area riverside flora and fauna that make this a nice place for nature study and birding. A handicapped-accessible picnic shelter, roofed picnic tables, and many benches afford spots to soak up the scenery.
The more urban side of the Greenway lies south from Clawson Burnley Park (see map below) and the Watauga Recreation Complex. The trail crosses Hunting Hills Lane and runs past sports fields and the National Guard Armory then along Winklers Creek to a "trail cloverleaf" at State Farm Road. The trail goes under the road to other sports fields, but also across the stream on the trail bridge to greenway sections that go east and west.
East (a left across the cloverleaf), the greenway parallels Winklers Creek and ends in a landscaped 0.4-mile loop at the Deerfield Road trailhead. This is a great wheelchair accessible spot to just relax, stroll. or jog, with benches, picnic tables, and a doggy waste pick-up station.
West (a right across the cloverleaf), this side of the greenway crosses State Farm Road following a bike lane along Furman Road past physicians offices (Watauga Medical Center is a few blocks east). The Greenway turns away from Furman Road and continues creekside ( but a short continuation along Furman Road reaches the Holiday Inn Express, the closest lodging with easy pedestrian and bike access to the path). Continuing creekside, the pedestrian-only greenway goes under Blowing Rock Road (US Hwy 321/221) to exit on Pride Drive amidst shopping centers with a dozen popular restaurants.
Best Kept-Secret Strategy: The restaurants in Southgate Shopping Center and nearby make it easy to start your walk or bike ride at a distant greenway trailhead-and create a wonderful day trip to have lunch, refreshments, or a summertime dinner before heading back to your car. If you started at Casey Lane, this memorable day could be a nearly 7-mile round-trip.
Zoom in close on the map below (use the plus/minus signs and directional arrows at upper left), or repeatedly double click near, but not on, the map symbols. You can literally dive down to see the parking lots and landmarks for the Boone Greenway. Click any map symbol and information balloons pop up. In the trailhead parking balloons, click "Directions," add your address or location, and step-by-step directions will guide you to the Greenway from wherever you are. This map permits satellite view so click that to see photographic map. Us this map for added info when comparing with the maps above. (Be forewarned: Both the satellite and map view don't show Burnley Clawson Park or the new Watauga High School and the Greenway that leads to it. Use the maps above for more information.