Summer in Beech Mountain and other unique hidden gems

Although many think of the mountains in North Carolina as a wintertime getaway, more and more folks are heading to Beech Mountain NC in the warmer months, for hiking and mountain biking, as well as the gorgeous views.

Emerald Outback - Beech Mountain NC

photo by Kristian Jackson

While we adore the winter in Beech, we almost prefer this cool mountain town without snow on the ground. Here are a few reasons to visit beyond winter, as well as some of our favorite hidden gems. Bet you didn’t know realize how much there is to do at Beech Mountain in the  off season.

The Buckeye Recreations Center 

Beech Mountain has 30 miles of trails through the beautiful mountains in NC, and the Buckeye Recreation Center on Beech Mountain is a great place to start your warm weather adventure. Buckeye Recreation Center offers an affordable daily pass fee schedule, as well as weekly, monthly and yearly passes.

Indoor facility. This 22,500 square foot Center has indoor tennis, fitness room and classes, indoor basketball court and a foam mat filled room for the little kids.

Outdoor Playground. Outside is an unusual playground built by Beanstalk Builders, the same folks that did the playground and zip line adventure course at Catawba Meadows Park in nearby Morganton NC.

Affordable Rentals. The Center offers special programs throughout the year including free-guided hikes. During summer months, rent a canoe from the Center and paddle around Buckeye Lake, or go fishing.

The Center also rents fishing poles, however, you must provide your own bait, but that shouldn’t be too hard to find in the forest. Rumor has it the trout like corn, so maybe pick up a few ears at the Food Lion on your way in.

Buckeye Lake Trails. The last time we visited Beech Mountain, rainy weather kept us from doing too much hiking, but the rain held off long enough for us to do the moderate 1.5 mile Falls Trail loop which starts at the Buckeye Recreation Center.

We passed gorgeous waterfalls where families can cool off with a swim during the warm summer months. The trail ended at Buckeye Lake, which is stocked with trout. There is plenty of free parking at the Buckeye Recreations Center trails.

The Emerald Outback

The Emerald Outback trail system has a seven mile network designed by former National Mountain Bike Series Champion Todd Branham from Long Cane Trails. It’s available for both hikers and bikers. The trails vary in difficulty and length, from easy to difficult and from under a mile to four-and-a-half miles.

All the trails are at approximately 5,000 feet elevation with a change through the entire system of 450 feet. An old gravel-logging road gives hikers and bikers an easy option to get back to base quickly. Get a map before heading out at the Buckeye Recreation Center or Fred’s General Mercantile.

Emerald Outback Biking. For the Emerald Outback trails, there is parking and easy access to the trails in Downtown Beech Mountain, next to the Brick Oven Pizzeria or the EMO Base Lot as it is called. Another parking lot is the EMO Summit Lot located near the top of the mountain.

Again, weather foiled our attempt to experience the trail, but I read some reviews on a site called Single Tracks that give a decent overview of what you can expect.

Bike Rentals. Don’t have a bike? No problem. You can rent bikes at White Wolf Lodge or Ski Beech Sports at Beech Mountain Resort. Note: If you are bringing your own bikes, be sure they can handle the trails. A front suspension is usually required for mountain trails.

Take a look at this video for a quick view of what to expect on the Emerald Outback.

Family Friendly Summertime Festivals 

Summer also brings several popular festivals to Beech Mountain NC. Although I have not been to these festivals (my favorites are in the fall), these weekend events come highly recommended.

Annual Roasting of the Hog

What better way to celebrate American independence than a pig roast cooked by the local fire department. Held the Saturday closest to the Fourth of July, this event is put on the by Town of Beech Mountain, the Beech Mountain Volunteer Fire Department and the Beech Mountain Chamber of Commerce. In addition to the BBQ, there is also music, children’s activities and of course fireworks.

Crafts on the Green, Beech Mountain NC

This annual event is held the first Saturday in August and highlights craftsman from around the mountain region. There is also food, musical entertainment and children’s activities, but it’s the shopping that really takes center stage.

Mile High Kite Festival, Beech Mountain NC

This is the one I’d like to see, The Mile High Kite Festival held each Labor Day weekend. There are kite flying demonstrations, contests and free kites for the first 200 children.

Autumn at Oz Beech Mountain NC

 

Autumn Fun at Beech with Amazing Fall Festivals

Fall in Beech Mountain is beautiful with the changing leaves and temperatures cool enough for a jacket. It’s also the time when the town hosts my favorite festivals, the Woolly Worm Festival and Autumn at Oz.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Land of Oz

Follow the yellow brick road to Beech Mountain and the Autumn at Oz festival. In the 1970’s a Wizard of Oz theme park sat at the top of Beech Mountain. The theme park closed, but it’s memory lives on in this annual fall festival.

A note for those who need assistance, the Oz property has uneven paths, ramps and stairs and therefore is not wheel chair or stroller friendly (late afternoon sessions work better for folks needing assistance and small strollers or backpacks work best for children).

Pro Tip: In addition to that jacket, you may want to dress in layers. It can be cold and blustery in the fall at the top of Beech Mountain. The weekend we visited, my children dressed at the bottom of the mountain in shorts and t-shirts, but by the time they took the lift to the top, it was quite cold.

Woolly Worm Festival

Technically the Woolly Worm Festival is in Banner Elk, not Beech Mountain. But since you have to go through Banner Elk to get to Beech Mountain, I’ve included it.

This fantastic festival has grown in popularity in the last few years, and has even been featured in Southern Living magazine.

Be sure to read all about the Woolly Worm races and – if you don’t find a “wild” woolly worm, leave time to make a purchase when you arrive.  Head straight for the race sign up booths if you plan to race – the races fill early and you don’t want to miss your spot, or wait around all day for your chance.

It costs a few dollars to race and they will give you all the rules.  Legend has it the Wooly Worm winner can predict the weather for the winter by his or her stripes.  They have a pretty high accuracy rating!

Valle Country Fair 

Although the Woolly Worm Festival has plenty of festival food options, we recommend, if you can wait – to hold out and head back over to Valle Crucis for the Valle Country Fair, which is held the same weekend.

While the Woolly Worm is more “festival” – games, kids stuff, arts and crafts and kettle corn (and oh, did we mention the FANTASTIC apples, right off the truck?), Valle offers an old timey traditional country fair.

You’ll find some of the best barbecue you’ve ever eaten, as well as other food. There is entertainment, as well as artisans and higher quality crafts as a general rule.

Plan carefully. Valle closes earlier than Woolly Worm. No need to rush around, but be thoughtful about where you want to spend your time, especially if you want to have quality time at both events. And be sure to bring some cash for parking, little odds and ends, etc.

Shopping at Fred’s General Mercantile 

My favorite part of traveling to smaller towns is meeting the people. No visit to Beech Mountain is complete without a stop at Fred’s General Mercantile. Fred Pfohl is an interesting fellow and you’ll find him at Fred’s General Mercantile. His motto is “If you don’t see it, ask for it… If we don’t have it, you don’t need it,” and he’s right.

This store has everything from ski equipment (including rental clothes and sleds) to groceries and even items literally displayed in a kitchen sink. You’ll also find trail maps for the Emerald Outback.

There are three floors of shopping, so make sure to check it all out. The bottom floor also includes a deli where you can get sandwiches or that awesome bacon, egg and cheese breakfast biscuit I was talking about earlier.

Don’t leave without meeting Fred and his wife Margie. If you have any questions about Beech Mountain, they can help. In addition to his stint as Mayor, Fred was instrumental in bringing a free community sledding hill to Beech Mountain, and playing a major role in making Beech a year round vacation destination, having built several hiking trails in the area.

 

365 Daily posts are short and sweet, designed to highlight the discoveries we unearth on a daily basis as we explore Atlanta, the South, and the world! Thank you to Beech Mountain TDA for partnering with us on this post. If you’d like to be featured in the 365 Daily, contact Sue Rodman at sue@365AtlantaTraveler.com.

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