Take a Family Hike in North Carolina Mountains


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Odds are if the weather's good and my family has the time, you'll find us hiking one of the hundreds of fantastic trails in the mountains of North Carolina. We were thrilled to share some of our favorites. Most of our hikes involve waterfalls, so as with all hikes, exercise caution. Rocks and trails can be slippery, so keep an eye on the kids and wear shoes appropriate for hiking. Also check park websites for possible trail closures before heading out.

Stone Mountain
State Park

Stone Mountain, three hours west of Raleigh, is a family favorite for hiking. Not only does it have the mandatory waterfalls that make a hike worthwhile in my 11-year-old son David's mind, it also has a sliding rock for cooling off. Trails range from 1 mile to 4.5 miles and are ranked as moderate or strenuous. The sliding rock can be accessed from the Lower Falls Trail.

If you tackle the Stone Mountain Loop Trail, start in the lower parking lot, which allows you to pace yourself. You'll walk through meadows with views of rock climbers and eventually work your way up the mountain.

Trout fishing is allowed in more than 20 miles of park streams during trout season. (Check with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission for license requirements.) Fish for Fun is a catch-and-release fishing program on the Bullhead and Rich Mountain creeks. Purchase the required daily permit at the Bullhead Creek parking area.

If you are looking for more adventure, consider a canoe or kayak trip. About an hour's drive from Stone Mountain is Zaloo's Canoes, which has canoe, kayak and tubing for families. You'll take a bus up the river to the launching area, then drift down the river back to Zaloo's where snacks — and your car — await.

Stone Mountain is open daily, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. May-August. Hours vary throughout the year. Trips depart Zaloo's at set times, and fees range from $8 to $46. Visit the website for more information about times and pricing.

* Stone Mountain State Park
3042 Frank Pkwy., Roaring Gap, NC 28668
336-957-8185   •   www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/stmo/main.php

* Zaloo's Canoes
3874 N.C. Hwy. 16 S., Jefferson, NC 28640-9264
800-535-4027   •   www.zaloos.com

 

Deep Creek Trails,
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

These trails start at a parking lot just inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, outside of Bryson City, which is five hours west of Raleigh. The trails through the forest are easy to moderate — just one of the features that make this the most kid-friendly option. Juneywhank Falls, an 80-foot waterfall, is just ¼ mile from the parking area. To see another nearby waterfall, start back at the parking lot and head a short distance up the main trailhead to Tom Branch Falls.

Between the hiking, the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad (GSMR) and the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), Bryson City and the surrounding area have something to keep everyone busy. There's tubing on Deep Creek if you want something relaxing or whitewater rafting on the Nantahala. Rafting trips through NOC are open to children as young as 7 years old or 60 pounds.

Several bed-and-breakfast inns in the area advertise being child-friendly. We loved the Charleston Inn, which is close to downtown.

Adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad Depot is Smoky Mountain Trains, a model-train museum with more than 7,000 Lionel train cars, engines and accessories. Admission is free with the purchase of a GSMR ticket, or $5 for children, $9 for adults.

* Deep Creek Trails
Two miles north of Bryson City, off of Lakeview Drive
For park maps, visit www.greatsmokies.com/hiking.asp

* Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
Bryson City Depot, 226 Everett St., Bryson City, NC 28713
800-872-4681   •   www.gsmr.com

 

Catawba Falls

Located on Catawba River Road in Old Fort (off I-40 at exit 73) and four hours west of Raleigh, Catawba Falls Trail is a great hike to the picturesque lower Catawba Falls. This hike involves water crossings, so wear appropriate shoes and be prepared to go knee-deep if it has rained recently. The moderate-level hike is about 2.5 miles round-trip.

The trail leads down into Pisgah National Forest. Only day hiking is allowed, and it's strictly carry in, carry out, so make sure you clean up after yourself. On the way, you'll find a small waterfall over an old dam; keep going and you'll find the falls.

There is no parking lot for the trail. Simply park on the left shoulder of the road before the bridge, making sure you don't block the neighbor's driveway.

Davidson's Fort, a replica Colonial-era fort, is a short drive away and open to the public on Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., April-November. The fort is under construction, so when you visit you'll see modern builders working on the building, but can also meet volunteers in period costumes using skills of the time.

* Catawba Falls
Located on Catawba River Road, take I-40 West to exit 73 in Old Fort
www.foothillsconservancy.org/hikes___outings.htm
www.ncwaterfalls.com/catawba1.htm

* Davidson's Fort Historic Park
Lackey Town Rd., Old Fort, NC 28762
828-668-4831   •   http://davidsonsfort.com

 

Linville

Linville is three and a half hours from Raleigh and only an hour away from Blowing Rock, with its outdoor outlet mall, fudge shop and great restaurants. One of our favorite hikes is at Linville Falls near Blue Ridge Parkway mile marker 316. The falls are gorgeous, and if you park at the visitor's center, the hikes aren't bad. All five views of the falls are within a 4-mile (various difficulty levels) hike. Only one is truly difficult (plunge basin) and there's still plenty to see if you decide to skip it. Public restrooms and a picnic area are available at the visitor's center, as well as plenty of space to run around and a river to soak your feet.

If you're willing to pay the entrance fee, Grandfather Mountain has 12 miles of great hiking trails (various degrees of difficulty), including the one that takes you up to the Mile-High Bridge. There's a gift and snack shop at the top. On the drive through the park, you can stop in at the animal habitat area and see black bears, river otters, cougars, deer and eagles, or stop in at the Nature Museum and learn about the natural history of the area. Trails are accessible from outside the park without paying the entrance fee if you're not interested in the animals and exhibits. You're also close to Linville Caverns, with its natural 52-degree air temperature for a cooler summer guided tour.

Linville Falls is open year-round, weather permitting. The Visitor's Center is open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (closed for lunch 12-1pm through May 26). Grandfather Mountain is open in the summer, 8 a.m-6 p.m., adults $15; $7 for children 4-12. Linville Caverns is open daily in the summer 9 a.m.-6 p.m., $7 for adults; $5 for children 5-12.

* Linville Falls
Blue Ridge Parkway, 66 miles north of Asheville, near milepost 316.4
www.blueridgeparkway.org

* Grandfather Mountain
US 221 & Blue Ridge Parkway, Linville, NC 28646|
1-800-468-7325   •   828-733-4337   •   www.grandfather.com

* Linville Caverns
19929 U.S. 221 North, Marion, NC  28752
800-419-0540   •   www.linvillecaverns.com

North Carolina is full of many great hikes. Most are free and many are listed by mile marker on the Blue Ridge Parkway. So grab your camera and a bottle of water and head out to enjoy some of the best North Carolina has to offer.

Kim Justen is a freelance writer who lives in Advance, N.C., with her two children.

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August 2019

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: 24.00

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

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Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: 24.00

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Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Experience the vibrant Latin American culture through music, entertainment, arts and food. Enjoy dancing, music, authentic Latino food, kids’ activities and much more. A two-hour outdoor...

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West Weaver Street
Carrboro, NC  27510


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Hundreds of artisans from across the Southeast, festival foods, demonstrations, a kids' play area and live music highlight the town's signature arts and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Town Hall Campus
316 N. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27513
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Geocaching is a treasure hunt where participants use GPS coordinates to track down hidden "caches." We will learn how to use traditional GPS units and the Geocaching App (by Groundspeak) and then...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Discover Historic Yates Mill—a place of business, community, and exciting local history! Watch a brief slideshow, then explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

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Flaherty Park Community Center
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Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Ages 11 and older with disabilities make spaghetti, meatballs and a salad. Register online. Choose course #1247467.

Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

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101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
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These programs are open to students 6–12 years old. Parent/guardians are welcome to stay for the program or drop-off. Preregistration is required. Learn about predator and prey...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online. Choose course #124969.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Unexpected NC is hosting a Mommy Meet-up at SnickerDoodles. This event is for new and experienced moms alike. Kids are more than welcome to attend and make some new friends.    ...

Cost: Free with registration

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SnickerDoodles
3721 Lynn Road
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 99-717-7298
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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Cost: Free

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Learning Express Falls Pointe
9660 Falls of Neuse Rd
#130
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Telephone: 919-325-6057
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Enjoy tea time for the whole family. Samples of hot tea, cold tea, and kombucha will be provided, along with games and family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
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514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
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Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
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Read the story by Laura Numeroff and make brownies. Register online. Choose course #124737.

Cost: $23/resident, $30/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Listen to a story about Johnny Appleseed, the legendary character who's based on John Chapman, the American frontier nurseryman who planted apple trees in many states. Play the game of fruit...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Enjoy a showing of the movie as Indiana Jones himself leads an expedition into the jungle, where explorers like yourself will search for the artifact: The Ark of the Covenant.  We’re...

Cost: $2 members, $5 nonmembers

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919-707-9965
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Families take part in an unconventional family adventure race on a muddy obstacle course. Spectators may watch families compete. Parking is $5/car.

Cost: $30-$40/person for race

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Hill Ridge Farms
703 Tarboro Rd.
Youngsville, NC  27596
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Cost: Free

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Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Cost: Free

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Downtown Raleigh
Fayetteville Street
, NC  27601
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Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1:00, 1:30, 2:00, 2:30 & 3:00 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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East Cloud Kungfu hosts a Parent's Night Out event, featuring a safe environment for kids as they about the wide world of kungfu.   Check it out!...

Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

Where:
East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
5655-A Western Blvd
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
Telephone: 252-646-7053
Contact Name: Imari Colon
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Enjoy a charity radio controlled model flying event and fundraiser benefiting Meg's Smile Foundation. See all sizes/types of electric radio controlled aircraft and watch a drone...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sugg Farm at Bass Lake Park
2401 Grigsby Avenue
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Holly Springs Skyhawks RC Group
Telephone: 919-270-8467
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