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Visiting North Carolina on Your Next Trip

By the Reynolds Mansion Bed and Breakfast in Asheville, NC

North Carolina’s landscape just keeps on rolling and changing – from granite domes, bubbling streams and falling waterfalls to Piedmont’s storied foothills and then out to sea on Atlantic barrier islands. On the western edge of North Carolina and across the border into near by Tennessee, Great Hazy Mountains National Park has its Carolina HQ at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee. The Smokies contain some of North America’s tallest mountain tops. And with spruce, fir and conifer forests, dogwoods, rhododendron, azaleas and various wildflowers, this state preserve is a botanic wonderland. Plenty of miles of guided nature trails, paved back roads and streams induce visitors to explore the park’s lands and waters, either on foot, on horseback, by RV, or simply on a leisurely floating tube.

Besides Great Smoky’s annual attendance of 9,000,000 human visitors, the park is inhabited by the likes of woodchucks, coyotes, red foxes, a big population of black bears and more than two hundred various species of birds. Trivia Time: twenty-seven resident salamander species confirm the Smokies as the salamander capital of the world.

The Blue Ridge Parkway goes from Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park along the Appalachian Blue Ridge and Black Mountains, on through the Craggies, Pisgahs and Balsams and into North Carolina’s Great Smokies. North Carolina contains 262 miles of this 469-mile-long beautiful byway, including awe-inspiring views of multiple mountain tops, spring wildflower shows of purple rhododendron and flame azalea, summer greenery, forests ablaze with vibrant autumn leaves, and a wealth of local wildlife. Parkway nature trails, designed for hikers and horses, twist thru sundry landscapes with natural water features like pools, meadows, streams and tumbling cascades.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway lies Asheville, a charming town full of arts, culture and things to see and do, including the famous Biltmore Estate, the largest working estate still in existence.  Asheville features many cozy bed and breakfasts, like the Reynolds Mansion, a historic home featuring 13 bedrooms and rated #1 on TripAdvisor.com.

Located in the central heartland, Lake Norman State Park in Troutman is located on the coasts of North Carolina’s biggest synthetic lake or “inland sea.” Besides easy accessibility to the 32,510-acre Lake Norman, this park also offers a second, 33-acre lake that deals with swimmers, boaters, canoeists and anglers.

While Lake Norman fishermen catch their equal share of striped bass, crappie and yellow perch, other sports like sailing, waterskiing and windsailing are widely available thru the park’s public boat launch. However, visitors don’t need to dip into the water to experience the benefits of Lake Norman State Park. Those who’d rather stay on land can enjoy a leisurely picnic or take a walking tour on the Lakeshore or Alder Trails. Also in the center of the state, at Chapel Hill’s U.N.C. Campus, the North Carolina Floral Gardens is a veritable patchwork quilt of regional plant life. 4 distinct areas of the gardens showcase representative species from the Carolina plant kingdom and from all parts of the globe. The shady Piedmont Nature Trails loop through oak and hickory woods, past streams and stands of evergreens, dogwoods, trilliums and redbuds.

The Seaside Plain and Sandhills Habitats represent the ecology of eastern Carolina, including rolling mounds of sand with longleaf pines, myrtles and meat eating Venus flytraps. (Do not make it angry) A Mountain Habitat Garden features southern Appalachian wildflowers like bluebells and mountain laurels and ferns, hemlocks and tulip trees. Eventually, the Mercer Reeves Hubbard Herb Garden presents medical and culinary applications of plants and herbs and a continual project that focuses on the National Rosemary Collection. In North Carolina’s eastern seaside region is the feted Outer Banks. This 130-mile necklace of barrier islands along North Carolina’s northern coast offers untamed beaches, impressive scenery and North Carolina hospitality.

The Cape Fear Coast is an area of amazing natural beauty, and embodies the city of Wilmington and the island communities of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach. This area is home to unspoiled beaches and is a nirvana for beachcombers and out of doors lovers. Cape Hatteras National Seashore consists of more than 70 pretty miles of barrier islands. With its breathtaking vistas and fascinating history, the Cape is ideal for an RV vacation. Enjoy offshore shipwreck sites and onshore lighthouses. And for those keen on birdwatching, these islands are the ideal spot as they serve as a very important wintering migration area for waterfowl. Found in the town of Nags Head, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is the location of the Atlantic seaboard’s tallest natural sand dune.

At this 426-acre preserve, desert-style walks, hang-gliding and shorebird sightings amuse one million visitors every year. Jockey’s Ridge’s centerpiece dune currently measures between eighty and a hundred feet tall, depending on which way the wind blows. The dune formation endures because of swapping airstreams, which serve to equalize one another by blowing sand backwards and forwards. A trek to the dune’s summit affords a seabird’s viewpoint of Nags Head and surrounding islands. Hikers should permit an hour or so to walk the round-trip loop from the parking lot to the sandy crest of the ridge. From a perch on the top of the big, golden dune it’s fun to imagine how local heroes, Orville and Wilbur Wright, were stirred to fly like birds over the blustery sandscape of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Cape Hatteras National Seashore consists of more than 70 gorgeous miles of barrier islands.

Another winning natural attraction in North Carolina’s coastal region is Croatan National Forest in New Bern. The most coastal Fed. Forest in the eastern US offers something for every ecotourist. Besides Bogue Sound, there are beaches, woods, streams, salt marshes, freshwater lakes and evergreen pocosins, unique raised bogs that were aptly described by Native Americans as swamps on hills. Croatan’s wide variety of habitats provides houses for lots of species, from herons, ospreys and nuthatches to turtles, alligators, bears and deer.

Croatan’s guests can go cruising, canoeing, fishing and hunting or they can select from a wide-ranging trio of wooded nature trails.

When you are next touring North Carolina, be sure to stay with us at the Reynolds Mansion Bed and Breakfast in Asheville, NC for cozy accommodations and lots of Southern charm.

Things To Remember When Hiking With Kids

By the Reynolds Mansion, Your Asheville NC Bed and Breakfast

As a recreational pursuit, hiking has few equals. It is healthy, great exercise, allows you to commune with nature, and it’s free. And to top it all off, it could be a fantastic family outing. You can teach your kids at a very young age to appreciate nature and the importance of hiking as a lifetime activity. But before taking a hike with the kids, stop and consider a few factors that may help make sure that the outing is delightful for all parties involved.

Most importantly, you should always shield your youngsters. One of the risks which slips past many moms and pops is skin damage from the sun. Always lather your little ones up with an acceptable SPF sun screen to avoid a burn.  You might also consider buying kids wear that has built-in sun protection.

If you’re going to be carrying a kid on the hike, it is very important to find a light and snug baby carrier. There is nothing worse than being unhappy when you’re meant to be enjoying a hike.

Before leaving on your journey, check the small ones’ shoes to confirm that they fit well and are cozy.  Keep in mind that children grow very quickly so if you have not been on a hike in some time, they made have outgrown their walking shoes.

Be prepared to keep your kid engaged in the hike. Shop around the web for interactive hiking kits. These are guaranteed to keep youngsters excited while learning a good deal in a hiking trip. Ultimately, remember to bring lots of food and drinks. Hot, hungry children can be more than a little cranky and it’s always best to be prepared. If you adore hiking, think about making it a family activity.

Most families spend very little time together and a lot of time inside. Enjoy the outdoors and start hiking!

Hike the Blue Ridge Mountains, and book your stay in Asheville with us at the Reynolds Mansion.  We’re a top rated Asheville, NC Bed and Breakfast with great access to hiking in the Asheville area.

Blue Ridge Mountain Hiking On The Appalachian Trail

Your Gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Reynolds Mansion Bed and Breakfast Inn, Asheville NC

The passing of the Blue Ridge Parkway and The Appalachian Trail through the Blue Ridge Mountain Host Area provides 2 different types of access to this beautiful destination. The Parkway makes it easy for motorists to explore all that this area of the Blue Ridge Mountains has to offer . For the adventurist, there is The Appalachian Trail. The “A.T.,” as it is called by hikers, is much more than merely a path thru the woods. It’s a countrywide pretty trail, part of the same national park system that includes Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Great Hazy Mountains. Its official name is the Appalachian State Breathtaking Trail. However unlike those famous parks, it is not a concentrated preserve, with campgrounds and paths within its bounds.

As the longest, skinniest part of America’s national park system, the A.T. Stretches over fourteen different states and passes through more than 60 Fed, state, and local parks and forests. Hundreds of roads cross it. In some pieces, the Trail “corridor” is only a few hundred feet wide. In the Blue Ridge Mountain Host area, The Appalachian Trail passes from one end of Madison County to the other with many access points, giving day hikers a great opportunity to walk short segments of the trail. As it winds itself thru Madison County it passes through the picturesque town of Hot Springs, home of Hot Springs Resort and Spa. Visitors can pick up the A.T. Here and hike north or south for as far as they would like – and then return to this relaxed hamlet to unwind under the stars with a calming mineral bath along the banks of the French Broad River.

A popular destination on the Appalachian Trail near Hot Springs is Max Patch Mountain, a 350-acre tract of open land on a high knob with 360-degree perspectives. On a clear day visitors can see to Mt. Mitchell on the east, and to the Great Hazy Mountains on the south. A perfect place for a picnic, flying a kite, star gazing and enjoying wildflowers.

In addition to hiking the Appalachian Trail, the Hot Springs area offers other outside activities like whitewater rafting. In and around Hot Springs are “put-ins” and “take-outs” for the French Broad River. Outfitters like French Broad Rafting Expeditions, Huck Finn Rafting Journeys, Nantahala Outdoor Center and USA Raft offer guided brook trips and outfitter buying the out of doors experience. After a day of adventure, visitors can turn in at one of many camping sites, cabins, cottages, or bed and breakfast inns the area has to offer.

Book your stay at the Reynolds Mansion, a top visitor-ranked bed and breakfast in Asheville, NC.

Biking and Hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains

One man’s account of a motorcycle tour in the Blue Ridge Mountains

One hot, sweltering day last summer in the flat lands of North Carolina, me and my biker buddy believed that it was time to plan for a weekend trip. Not wanting to spend too much time getting there, but definitely needing a change of views and to flee the stifling summer heat, we made a decision to try the Granddad Mountain area in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains, just roughly an hour and half drive from home in Mooresville N.C. That Friday we took off work two hours early, packed our saddlebags and jumped on our hogs heading up 77 to I 40, destination Banner Elk, North Carolina. We turned off the Interstate in the foothills at Morganton, and after some cruising thru the little Mayberry like town, shortly found ourselves leaning into the curves, past Table Rock and numerous mountain vistas, the summer heat already melting away. Now and then getting trapped behind a local, never in a rush to get anywhere, we soon faced a brief lane and sped on our way. We got on 105 in Linville and we knew we were just about there. Cruising the subsequent seven miles in the shadow of Granddad Mountain, we turned up at the stone buildings of Tynecastle, turned left heading down the valley past Sugar Mountain and into the city of Banner Elk. Being the cocktail hour, we stretched our legs with a pleasant cool walk into city and visited some local bistros, then crossed the street and headed to Stonewalls were we enjoyed a good steak dinner.

Saturday was to be a day to cruise the area. After a good breakfast at the Inn, we saddled up and headed back to Linville Falls, were we caught up with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Heading north towards Blowing Rock, the Blue Ridge Parkway is chocked full of twisting roads and stunning mountain perspectives, one of the finest methods to tour the mountains of North Carolina. Right after hitting the Parkway we came upon the Linn Cove Viaduct.

An engineering wonder, the viaduct is an elevated bridge that wraps around Granddad Mountain for some eight miles, and has some of the finest mountain perspectives on the Parkway. Built to mix in, the bridge is a good example of Mother Nature and the man made coexisting. We stopped to take a walk on the trail that goes under the Linn Cove Viaduct to get a better view of some truly provoking architecture. Julian Price Park was the next stop on the Parkway, with a primitive campground and a beautiful lake that offers some wonderful trout fishing. The park covers over four thousand acres and has twenty-five miles of hiking trails. An amphitheater, picnic grounds, and canoe rentals make Julian Price a brilliant place to spend the day. We spent a couple of hours, then moved on towards Blowing Rock.

We exited the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Moses Cone Memorial Park, checked out the Crafts Center, and moved on to Blowing Rock for lunch. On the way back, we took the road to Boone, home of Appalachian State Varsity, and turned up 105 back to Banner Elk. Back at the Hotel, there had been masses of daylight left so we took a little break, hopped back on our bikes and headed up the mountain to Valle Crucis. A very fun narrow winding mountain road with one truly mean switchback at the top, the ride down the mountain had some great mountain perspectives as we passed farm homes, retreats, pony farms, and some quaint small bed and breakfasts tucked away in there own mountain nooks.

Valle Crucis is a very agricultural community, its heart being the Mast General Store were we stopped for a look see.  Here’s where you come when you really want to run away from it all. A mountain retreat with two quality horse farms for those that like to ride. On the way back to Banner Elk via 105, we were having so much fun on these tight small roads that we made a decision to head on up to 7 Devils, a holiday resort area with the Hawksnest Ski Resort and Golf Coarse at the top of the mountain. After a full day of riding, back in Banner Elk we headed to cheap cocktails hour at the Bayou Smokehouse and Griddle and stayed all night, scarfing down brewskis, Texas style Bar-B-Que, and some great Louisiana Cajun Cuisine. Sunday was the day to conquer the gigantic daddy of all of them, Grandfather Mountain.

Having been on the road all day Saturday, today we were about to do some major hiking. With the tallest top in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Grandfather Mountain sits on the eastern continental divide and hosts the once a year gathering of Scottish clans, and the Highland Games. We passed McRae Meadows and paid the $14 per individual to enter the privately owned mountain. We parked momentarily at the nature museum and took a quick tour of the wildlife habitat, which features animals native to the region on display in their natural habitat. As we headed up to the mile high swinging bridge, we could see the clouds racing through the spaces between the tops.

It was a cool, foggy cloudy sort of day as it so regularly is in the mountains of North Carolina, and visibility was patchy at the very best. But we were here for a hike, and hiking is what we did. We started the trek towards Calloway Top, and being in the middle of the summer, we had plenty of company. The well marked trail led us thru some straightforward to difficult terrain with ropes and wooden ladders to aid us in ascending the rock faces, and several open vistas where we could recognize Mt. Mitchell on the horizon, and the Sugar Top apartments at Sugar Mountain as we viewed the cloud cover below us. We never made it to the very top of Calloway Top, the higher you go the harder it gets, but we did wind up getting a good workout, and the hike down was just about as tough as going up. We received back to the swinging bridge carpark, caught our breath, then mounted our bikes for the trip back home.

It was good to have the vibration of the road under us again, and by the time we left the foothills of Morganton, the cool mountain breezes were already becoming a enjoyable memory. Whether by motorbike, car, or lorry, a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina is a way to beat the heat. The area surrounding Banner Elk and Grandfather Mountain is peppered with vacation homes of people from every area of the south east, a large proportion escaping the hot, damp summers of Florida. Out of doors activities abound all year with skiing and snow-boarding in winter, and hiking, fishing, kayaking, white water rafting, tennis and golf, camping, or merely plain cruising the roads in the spring, summer and fall.

No matter what your pleasure, Banner Elk and Grandfather Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a great destination for the great American road trip.

Also, visit us here in Asheville, NC at the Reynolds Mansion, your gateway to the Biltmore Mansion and the Blue Ridge Parkway.