In Sway Guides

We’re less than a week away from the time of year where the North Carolina mountains get all dressed up in their autumn best. Peak week in the North Carolina mountains is Oct. 11-14 (here’s an interactive map).

Whether you want to take in all the festive foliage this month or plan a visit for later, there’s plenty to see, hike, eat and drink in the our state’s mountain regions.

The Uwharrie Mountains

The closest to home, the Uwharrie Mountain Range peaks at 1,188 feet at the top of High Rock Mountain. The Uwharrie National Forest covers about 54,000 acres across Central North Carolina, and boasts plenty of hiking trails, campsites and mountain peaks. Here are the highlights:

Where to Hike

:: Morrow Mountain State Park: Visitor friendly and about 45 minutes from Moore County, you’ll find about 106 campsites throughout the park, 15 miles of hiking trails, lakes for kayaking and plenty of rustic cabins to rent for extended stays.

:: Dutchman’s Creek Trail: This 12.1-mile hiking and mountain biking trail is a loop off of the much larger Uwharrie Trail. If you’re up for a challenge, the hike is rated as “difficult.”

What to Do

:: Badin Road Drive-In: Located in Albemarle, N.C., the Badin Road Drive-In theater has two movie screens to play both new films and the classics, but its stage also hosts socially-distant drive-in concerts. Admission for movies is $7 for those over 12 years old, $5 for ages 6-11 and free for kids under 5.

:: Reed Gold Mine: Reed Gold Mine is home to the first documented gold find in the United States. Their gem mine is still closed, but you can tour the site, check out the exhibits and hopefully learn a thing or two.

Where to Shop

:: Pottery Row: Take a drive through nearby Seagrove and you’ll find some of North Carolina’s best pottery. Make your first stop at the North Carolina Pottery Center and check out their displays from potters across the state and pick up a map to help you find the best spots to shop.

The Blue Ridge Mountains

A piece of the much larger Appalachian Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains span for about 550 miles from southern Pennsylvania to Georgia. Known for its tall peaks, high altitude and, you guessed it, blue ridges, the Blue Ridge Mountains are home to some of the state’s best sightseeing. Here are the highlights:

Where to Hike

Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain has 11 trails to choose from with difficulty levels ranging from “what, like it’s hard” to “I surrender.” Grandfather Mountain got its name because its profile literally looks a stoic, human face.

If you’re really feeling brave, try hiking the profile. Yes, that’s the profile of the entire mountain. But, like, only if you’re actually in shape. Your morning walk at the Southern Pines reservoir will not prepare you for the profile.

Elk Knob State Park

Elk Knob State Park is located in Todd, N.C., and it’s about as high as you can get in North Carolina at 5,520 feet in the air. There are plenty of campsites and plenty of IG-worthy views.

Moses Cone Memorial Park

Named for the textile entrepreneur that saved the majority of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Moses H. Cone’s summer house is the home base and visitor’s center of this scenic park.

Big hiker? Park at Moses Cone Memorial Park and set out to hike one of its many trails to Flat Top Fire Tower. Not a big hiker? Hit up Come Back Shack in Boone, get your burger to-go with extra comeback sauce and eat on the steps of the manor while taking in the views.

Where to Visit

Asheville, N.C.

Where can you find grown men dressed in jorts juggling oversized q-tips, a street poet who’ll find a way to make your name rhyme with orange and enough breweries to please even the snobbiest of craft beer connoisseurs? Asheville.

Take a ride on a pub cycle, tour Wicked Weed Brew Pub, visit the Biltmore Estate and soak in alllll the good vibes that come from grownups walking barefoot down city streets. We mean this in the most endearing way. Here’s more on Asheville.

Boone N.C.

Home of Appalachian State University, Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Mast General Store and more, Boone sits 3,333 feet in the air and has plenty to do and plenty to see.

Take a walk through the college campus and browse the shops on King Street, or take a short 10 minute drive and you’ll find yourself on the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. Here’s more on Boone.

Blowing Rock, N.C.

Blowing Rock is a short drive from Boone. Take a walk through its charming downtown area and eat at the original Mellow Mushroom, visit THE Blowing Rock and enjoy all the views of a town that looks like it’s straight out of a Hallmark movie.

Brevard, N.C.

A low-key mountain town in Transylvania County, Brevard, N.C., offers a hometown feel with plenty of reasons to act like a tourist.

Dubbed “North Carolina’s Land of Waterfalls,” you’ll never run out of things to chase in Brevard. It’s also home to Oskar Blues Brewing and plenty of art galleries. Learn more about Brevard.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Situated on the North Carolina and Tennessee line, Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts 142 hiking trails between the two states ranging from .8 to 37.2 miles long. Here’s what to hit inside of North Carolina:

Clingman’s Dome

The highest point of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, you can be in two states at once while 6,643 feet in the air at Clingman’s Dome — which somewhat resembles a tower out of The Jetsons. It’s seven miles total to the top, and while hiking up the winding roads, you’ll find pullouts for photo ops of the entire Great Smoky Mountain Range.

Cherokee, N.C.

Located on a Cherokee Reservation, Cherokee, N.C. is home to rich Native American history. Spend your day elk watching, chasing waterfalls, browsing Cherokee art or — gambling. Learn more.

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort is a 21-story hotel and casino equipped with 1,108 rooms, a spa, a conference center and most importantly, a casino. Cha ching.

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