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Find Your Park in North Carolina

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From the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail in the mountains to the Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout on the coast, the National Parks in North Carolina are varied in landscape and diverse in beauty.

nc-2.jpgThroughout 2016, we’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park System by exploring the history of the parks, offering ideas about how to Find Your Park in the southeast, as well as tips to help you make the most of your park adventure.

An easy way to explore the park system is to head over to FindYourPark.com, select the state where you plan to explore, and the site will give you a variety of options from which to choose. You may also filter your search by selecting Family Friendly or Virtual Experience. Further down the page, you can narrow down your search by entering your zip code. Get started in NC, by clicking HERE.

There are many stunning national park units to choose from in Western North Carolina, but here are a handful of our favorites:

nc-5.jpgThe Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) is lauded as "America's Favorite Scenic Drive." If you've ever enjoyed an afternoon driving through the mountain valleys and peaks (reaching over 5,000 feet in elevation in some places), you know how special this stretch of road truly is. Did you know there are 250 stops along the Parkway? You can explore so much more from the other side of your car window by selecting any number of beautiful trails.

Beacon Heights is one of our very favorite hikes along the BRP in Linville, NC near Boone. A short walk to the summit offers spectacular views of Grandfather Mountain and the foothills below. Beacon Heights is located at BRP milepost 305. Click HERE for more information. There's a complete list of trail options HERE.

The Appalachian Trail
It's truly amazing that the Appalachian Trail (AT) is the largest and longest running volunteer conservation project in the world... and some of the most beautiful spots on the trail are located right here in North Carolina. Around 88 miles of the trail run through NC with another 200 miles running along the NC and TN state line.

One of our favorite hikes along the AT is Max Patch Mountain in Hot Springs, NC.  In the 1800s, this 4,600-foot mountain was cleared for pasture, and it remains a 350 acre bald today. The summit offers sweeping 360 degree views that will thrill you every season of the year. The trail is an easy 1.4 mile loop with plenty of room for picnicking and camping at the top. Plan your hike by clicking HERE.

nc-3.jpgCarl Sandburg Home
One of our lesser known National Historic Sites that’s absolutely worth a visit is the Carl Sandburg Home.  The former home of one of our nation's most prolific writers, this national park offers a wonderful variety of things to enjoy and places to explore.

Located in Flat Rock, near Hendersonville and 30 miles south of Asheville, you can take a guided tour of Sandburg's home, called Connemara, with over 60,000 artifacts on display. It's like stepping back in time to your grandparent's house that’s been frozen in the 1950s. The 30-minute tours are offered daily.

Just a short walk from the house, Mrs. Sandburg owned a dairy goat herd and over a dozen of its descendants are cared for by the park service to this day. Enjoy an afternoon lazing with the goats in the pasture, help feed baby goats in the spring, and take a tour of Mrs. Sandburg's former dairy goat operation. The goats are as tame as house cats and are a wonderful and safe way to introduce children to farm animals.

There are also five miles of trails throughout the property including a trail to the top of Big Glassy Mountain. To plan your visit, click HERE.

In celebration of the Centennial, the park system is hosting special events throughout the year. Here are a couple in North Carolina that you may find interesting:

nc-6.jpgJoin the Classic Guided Hikes of the Smokies Series
Each month throughout the year, Friends of the Smokies is offering hikes that feature history and information about park projects as well as trail interpretation. Register for your guided hike by clicking HERE. There are over 100 miles of incredible trails to choose from, so check out the list and mark your calendar.

The Centennial Challenge
The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is funding five Parkway projects in 2016. These projects include renovations to the Mt. Pisgah Amphitheatre near Asheville and improvements to the picnic area at Price Park near Blowing Rock and Boone. Your donation and/or your time will help make these goals a reality. Every little bit helps.

Next month, we’ll help you Find Your Park in South Carolina. We look forward to exploring this beautiful state and a few more of our favorite National Parks in March!