Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guided Hikes in Western North Carolina Mountains this First Week in August, 2012

This first week in August, 2012, enjoy guided hikes in the Asheville, NC Area of the Western Mountains of North Carolina and learn more about the history, flora and fauna of our mountain region as well as enjoying a good little hike, amazing views, stunning waterfalls - all with an experienced and knowledgable guide.

The Blue Ridge Parkway offers free guided hikes with a Park Ranger throughout the summer months in the Asheville, NC area. The next will be this Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 from 7-8:30 pm, meeting at Milepost 393 (on the north side of the French Broad River Bridge).    This hike will be an easy one along the Mountains-to-Sea trail with a focus on the French Broad River and its impact and importance to the Asheville and Western NC area.

And if you can't make the Thursday evening hike, another guided hike with a Blue Ridge Parkway Park Ranger will be on Friday August 3rd, meeting at Rough Bald Butt overlook at 10:00 am, Milepost Marker 425 for an easy 3 mile round trip hike through the Middle Prong Wilderness area, focusing on the amazing biodiversity of the Mountain Region of Western NC.

For either of the above Parkway hikes this week, be sure and make a reservation by contacting the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center at 828 298 5330, ext 304.  Bring water, wear good hiking/walking shoes, be prepared for the weather!

Waterfall Fridays, all summer - always a treat at Chimney Rock Park -  this Friday August 3rd, with your park paid admission, join a complimentary guided hike to Hickory Nut Falls, at 404 tall waterfall, the tallest of its kind, east of the Mississippi - sure to be cranking with all this rain.  Meet in front of the Cliff Dwellers Gifts at 11:00 am.  No reservations are needed for this first come first serve hike, but there is a 25 person limit for the hike.  A Park Naturalist/guide will share information about plant and animal life as well as a bit about the park history.

Getting there: To get to the Parkway and/or Chimney Rock Park from Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast and downtown Asheville, take Biltmore Avenue South through Biltmore Village (where it becomes Hendersonville Rd.), go under I-40 and take the right hand clover-leaf ramp that will put you on I-40 heading EAST at exit number 50.  Drive 3 miles on I-40 to exit 53-A and exit towards Bat Cave, Blue Ridge Parkway.  Merge onto 74-A.  Just before the first light (comes up pretty quick) on 74-A, take a right turn onto an entrance ramp to the Blue Ridge Parkway, or stay on 74-A for another 21 miles to Chimney Rock Park.

There are plenty of gas stations, groceries, etc. along 74-A, but be sure and gas and food up if you are getting onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bele Chere 2012 Asheville NC Kid and Family Friendly

Bele Chere 2012 is here going on NOW in downtown Asheville and there is lots to do for the whole family, kids and grown-ups alike.

The US Cellular Center is the place to take your family when you need a break from the vibrancy of the outside Bele Chere and the elements of Asheville in July.  AIR CONDITIONING (!!), shade and shelter, real bathrooms, baby changing station and lots and lots to do.  Many things are even free, like face painting and crafts.  Or buy tickets to the many "blow up" slides, rides, games and climbing tower, all indoors and a great haven and break from the hustle and bustle in the streets, July heat, sun and rainstorms.

But the streets and live music are what Bele Chere is all about.... sights, sounds and smells.  Food, food, food, lemonade, beer, booths with crafts, art, knick-knacks, stages with music galore and people, people, people.  So much fun to just walk around, listen and enjoy.  See you there!

We're full at Oakland Cottage an Asheville Bed and Breakfast and Vacation-In-Asheville, Asheville Vacation Rentals this 2012 Bele Chere weekend, but call us on your next visit to Asheville, reservation offices 9am-7pm daily 7 days a week, or get your plans in order now for Bele Chere 2013!!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Spectacular Waterfall Hikes in the Asheville, NC Area of Western NC and DuPont State Forest

If you are looking for spectacular waterfall hikes near Asheville NC in the western North Carolina Mountains, DuPont State Forest is a winner, with more than a half a dozen waterfalls to hike to, and all within a relatively small area.  Many of the hikes are very easy because of the gravel road system throughout parts of the 10,300 Forest acres.  Besides hiking, this area is also very popular and friendly for Mountain Bikers and Equestrians, with a network of over 90 miles of trails, from single track to wide gravel roads.  The gravel roads are closed to motorized traffic.

Most of the Arena Scenes from the Hunger Games movie were filmed at DuPont State Forest, with film crew taking advantage of the easily accessible creeks and waterfalls for scenes along with the spectacular forest scenes.

My favorite waterfall is High Falls so the directions and photos here will be mostly about this amazing waterfall.  The photo above shows a booming High Falls, just after heavy rains - a great way to cool off on a hot summer day. The mist and breezes from the falls are refreshing

Getting to High Falls and DuPont State Forest from Asheville, NC:  Take I-26 East and take Exit #40 at the Asheville Airport.  At the end of the ramp, turn right onto NC 280 (the Airport will be immediately on your right).  Stay on NC 280 for 16  miles.  There will be a major 4 way intersection (fast food, ice-cream, WalMart, grocery store, outdoor shops and outdoorguides may all be found here).  At this traffic light and 4-way intersection, turn left onto US 64 and travel 3.7 miles to a traffic light at a Triangle Stop (gas station and quick mart in Penrose).  Turn right here onto Crab Creek Road and go 4.3 miles to DuPont Road (old very blue, 2 story building on your right at this turn) and go 4.2 miles on DuPont Road.  You will notice that DuPont Road changes names to Staton Road.  Go past the Hooker Falls Access (on your right) to the High Falls Access Area which will be a bit further up on your left.  There are restrooms at this parking lot.  Trails are well marked, there is lots of signage everywhere in DuPont State Forest.  

This gravel parking lot is pretty fancy for State Forest parking - the entrance is complete with fancy gates and rock pillars.  There is a reason for this – DuPont State Forest land was almost a private, large and exclusive residential development.  The developer had the intention of closing all of the trails and waterfalls to the public.  Through a series of events and public outcry, the site was acquired by the State in the year 2000, after the North Carolina Council of State, led by Govenor Jim Hunt, voted to invoke its power of eminent domain.  Before being seized by the State, many well graded roads and buildings were put into the property by the developer (be sure and visit the Covered Bridge at the top of High Falls, part of the work of the private developer).  DuPont State Forest is here for us to enjoy today, and it is indeed always enjoyable to visit and especially appreciated since it was almost lost to the public forever.
High Falls: At the end of the parking lot continue down the gravel road (Buck Forest Road) and follow signs to High Falls.  It is about a 15 - 20 minute walk from the parking lot to the base of High Falls, mostly on gravel roads.  A well marked left turn will take the trail downward and past two wonderful views of High Falls. The last bit of trail is a sharp right turn into the woods and along the Little River and will end at the base of High Falls.  The views will take your breath away. 
Many easy side trips are recommended.  The High Falls hike may be made into a longer 3 mile loop hike by adding in side trips to Triple and Hooker Falls.  Trails to these two falls are well marked along the way.
From High Falls, on your return to the parking lot, turn left at a well marked intersection and add a trip to the Covered Bridge at the top of High Falls.  It is not far from this intersection.  You can't see the falls from the vantage point on the bridge, but watching and listening to the powerful drop-off of the river is enjoyable and the bridge will provide shade and usually a breeze.  From the Covered Bridge, Grassy Creek Falls is an easy add on hike as well and will likely be much less crowded than the very popular High Falls and Triple Falls areas.  After crossing the Covered Bridge, stay on the main gravel road (Buck Forest Road) for about another half mile, passing a right turn for Conservation Road.  Once across Grassy Creek, turn left onto Lake Imaging Trail (road) to the marked Grassy Creek Falls trail on the left to the top of the falls.  A trail will take you down the creek to the base of the waterfall.
Easy hiking, multiple falls to see, well graded roads closed to motorized traffic, lots of water, swimming holes, gorgeous scenery, make this a family friendly hike as well as a pet friendly hike.  Do be cautious with yourself, children and pets, as deaths occur every year in Western North Carolina due to overconfident and careless hikers at waterfalls.
If you are looking for a place to stay in Asheville, NC, Oakland Cottage B&B is a family friendly bed and breakfast, as well as a pet friendly bed and breakfast.  And if you need more private accommodations, Vacation In Asheville can help you with Asheville Cabin Rentals and Asheville Vacation Rentals.  The reservation offices are open 9am to 7pm daily and you may reach the very helpful staff at 828 994-2627 during these times.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Point Lookout Greenway Bike Trail near Asheville, NC

A section of Old Hwy 70 is now a 3.6 mile paved trail near Asheville, NC, connecting Ridgecrest (near Black Mountain) with Old Fort.  It is wonderful little section for walking on, road biking and/or mountain biking and can easily be made into a 10 mile round trip ride.

Getting there: From Asheville, NC via I-40 take the Old Fort exit #72, go 1 mile, turn left onto Old Highway 70, go 2.4 miles to the Mill Creek Road intersection and pull into the Old Fort Picnic Area on your left.  From May to October the Old Fort Picnic Area is open and the closest place to park.  It will add another 1/2 mile to your walk or ride each way.  There are picnic tables and bathrooms available at the picnic area.  If closed, Andrew's Geyser or the Depot in Old Fort is another good place to park, especially for cyclists.

Old Hwy 70 was closed many years ago when I-40 was completed and re-opened in 2008 as The Point Lookout Greenway.  Prior to the completion of I-40, US 70 was the primary east-west link across the country.  My mother recalls many drives up this section of 70.  Automobiles would stop at Point Lookout to add water to the overheated radiators after the steep uphill climb.  The old asphalt remains underneath the new blacktop.  The trail still climbs 900 feet in elevation and the views all along the way are wonderful, particularly at Point Lookout, now with benches, flagpole and information kiosk.  Many organized runs and rides now use this section.

If you are visiting Asheville, NC, lodging alternatives include Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast, Cabins and Vacation Rentals through Vacation-In-Asheville.  Reservation offices are open 9am - 7pm daily.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Catawba Falls, A Great Little Waterfall Hike Near Asheville NC

Near Asheville NC, about 20 miles east near the sleepy town of Old Fort, is a lovely waterfall hike to Catawba Falls, a 3 mile round trip trek.  The Catawba Falls hike is a pet friendly hike, especially in hot summer months, as there are several creeks along the way and a great deal of shade for the entire hike.

Getting there: From Asheville NC head east on I-40, taking exit #73, the second Old Fort exit.  Just before the end of the exit ramp, turn right onto Catawba River Road.  If traveling west on I-40, take exit #73, turn left at end of the ramp onto Bat Cave Road going back under the interstate, turn right on the short two way section of the east bound ramp and make a quick left onto Catawba River Road.  Drive 3 miles to the end of Catawba River Road and park in the designated parking lot there.

The parking lot is new and there are now bathrooms there.  The trailhead begins out of the northwest corner just past the trail and information "kiosk."  Most of the trail follows a nicely graded and shaded trail bed; there are three creek crossings along the 1.5 mile hike out, and a couple of places where there are scrambles through rocks, but most of the trail is easy walking.  Almost immediately there is the first creek crossing that will put the headwaters of the Catawba River on your left side for the rest of the walk.  If there has been a recent rain, you might just need to take off your shoes and wade across (or wear good hiking/wading shoes for this hike).  A second and easier creek crossing will take you across Clover Patch Branch, another small tributary that joins into the Catawba.  After this creek crossing you will pass an old concrete dam, allegedly built in 1923 as part of a small hydro-electric facility.  While interesting, it is also quite dangerous, so if you choose to explore, do not get onto the dam wall itself and move about with great care.  A fall here would be debilitating if not deadly.  Shortly after the dam wall is a third creek crossing, taking you across the Chestnut Branch tributary.  After this crossing the trail gets rougher so pick your way with care.  You will see the 100 plus foot Catawba Falls through tree branches and come out in a bit of an opening right at the base of the lovely falls.  Looking up you can see that the falls cascade down for quite a distance.  Rough trails continue up along the right side of the falls.  If you continue to explore, again, pick your way with care.  I myself have not been to the top to see if it is worth the view, but it appears that many scramblers have headed upward.  Turn around when you wish for the 1.5 mile hike back to the parking lot.

It is wonderful to see the new parking lot and US Forest Service designation for this beautiful hike, forest and falls, as this land was bought in two stages rather recently by the Foot Hills Conservancy, in 2005 and another portion again in 2007.  Later it was sold to the US Forest Service.  The parking lot will be formally dedicated on July 20th from 11am - 12pm, and the public is invited.  We are glad that this beautiful headwaters will remain open to and accessible by the public.

If you are looking for a place to stay nearby, or an Asheville Bed and Breakfast, you might enjoy the pet friendly Oakland Cottage B&B, or for more private and independent lodging options, call or email Vacation In Asheville about an Asheville Cabin or Asheville Vacation Rental.  Reservation office hours are 9am - 7pm daily, 7 days a week, 828 994-2627, email info@VacationInAsheville.com and/or visit our website at www.VacationInAsheville.com where you may book directly online.