Here lately I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and I’ve been following an awesome travel blogger (DeeGees Life) who has all of these great stories and guides on some really cool places! Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos just to name a few, and it is making my desire to see the world so much stronger!
I hope one day I can make it to all 7 continents and see all of the different countries that I’ve always dreamed about. But for now I’m really enjoying exploring my own state and seeing all of its beauty, so back to my North Carolina Passport Challenge.
Our next adventure lead us to the mountains of North Carolina, and to some of our favorite areas! There was a good group of parks within a reasonable distance of each other so we were excited to see how many we could get to.
The morning started out nice and sunny and we honestly didn’t even check the weather before we left. I’m not sure if you know anything about Boone, NC but it reminds me of a snowglobe! It literally snows there all the time, all winter long.
The closer we got to Boone, the more fog there was and the darker it got. Then the snow flurries started, and didn’t stop!
The road we had to take to our first park was straight up the mountain and the higher we went, the harder it was snowing. I was starting to freak out just a little bit because the car was sliding and I was begging my husband to just turn around and we could come back to that park later.
We made it to the top and to Elk Knob State Park. Like I said, because of the snow we were pretty much in and out really quick at this one! We didn’t want to get stuck up on top of the mountain.
They had a mailbox set up at the visitors center that had stickers in it for the passports, but there were only three left and we needed four so we went inside and the Ranger stamped them for us.
Elk Knob is one of the highest peaks in NC at 5520 feet tall. Since it is still a relatively new park, there are only a few miles of trails, but they are working on getting more ready.
Despite the winter weather, the park tries to stay open as much as possible. Elk Knob is the only State Park in NC that offers cross country skiing (you must bring your own equipment).
There are also primitive backcountry camping sites available. I wish it wouldn’t have been snowing so much and we could have stayed longer but I honestly don’t feel like we missed too much here.
Next we were on our way to New River State Park. This is one that we have been wanting to go to for years and we just never made it there. We know a lot of people who go there to fish and camp.
The New River runs through some of North Carolina’s best mountain scenery. Once named National Wild and Scenic River, the beauty of this river and park is indescribable.
The visitor center was closed, but I read that they have really nice exhibits inside that are a perfect way to keep your children excited. Mine were really bummed that it wasn’t open. We even had to have our stamps mailed to us.
New River State Park is well known for its camping and fishing. It is also a sought after destination for anyone wanting to use their canoes or kayaks for a fun adventure.
It wasn’t long and we were back in the car, on our way to Pilot Mountain State Park. We’ve been there quite a few times, actually it’s one of my favorite places to go for a day trip and hike.
We stopped in by the visitors center when we arrived and got our books stamped. Then we drove up to the overlooks.
Pilot Mountain is most known for its mountain summit, which is more than 2,000 feet tall. There are numerous trails to enjoy hiking and sometimes you might even get to witness some rock climbers!
Horseback riding and canoeing are some of the main things people come here to enjoy. They also have a campground and paddle-in camping.
If you are ever in the area, Pilot Mountain is one park that you definitely don’t want to miss.
Next we were on our way to Hanging Rock State Park. We have also been here a couple of times before. There is something for everyone at Hanging Rock.
With over 20 miles of hiking trails and 8 miles of mountain bike trails, this is a very popular park and is often crowded. The hikes are relatively easy and many of the trails take you by some really beautiful waterfalls, making them a go-to for many people.
We have discussed going back to Hanging Rock this summer. There is a 12 acre lake with a swimming area that is a hit with everyone in the heat of the summer and I know my kids would enjoy it.
They have a really nice campground and vacation cabins available for rent, as well as canoes and rowboats.
Mount Jefferson State Natural Area was our next stop. There honestly wasn’t much to do here and it was a little disappointing. In all fairness, we couldn’t get all the way to the top because they had everything closed because of the snow.
The park has five hiking trails, and three scenic overlooks. I think we may go back and check it out in the spring because I have heard that many people love hiking here and it has some really beautiful views.
Our last stop of the day was Stone Mountain State Park. I love this park! This is the first place my husband and I went camping when we first got married.
There are so many different things you can enjoy doing here. The actual Stone Mountain is a dome of exposed granite that is 600 feet tall. You can hike all the way to the top and walk around on top of it.
There are lots of different hiking trails, from beginner to strenuous and also horseback riding trails. Looking up at the granite mountain from the bottom is awesome because it’s just massive, but the views from up top are breathtaking!
You really should check out the park’s Mountain Culture Exhibit. They have an old moonshine still, a loom, many animal pelts and a full-size mounted black bear.
My favorite part is the Hutchinson Homestead. It is a complete homestead with log cabin, barn, blacksmith shop, corncrib and meat house, all with many of the original furnishings. The homestead was built in the mid 1800s, and restored in 1998.
I love it because it really shows what the lives of the early settlers to that area lived like. Sometimes I wish we could all go back to living that way, no stores, you grow everything yourself and live off of the land. I think it would be so nice, but I’m sure it would be more difficult than I imagine.
That was the end of our road trip that day and we started home. I always love to reflect on the trip while on the way home. My kids enjoy looking back on the day and we talk about what parks and things that we did and what were their favorites.
Not sure which parks we are going to attempt next, but we can’t wait! Our North Carolina Passports are filling up quickly and I’m loving every minute of it!