Written by Ann Gibson for RootsRated Media in partnership with OrthoCarolina.
When you take off for a weekend in the North Carolina High Country, you’ll only face one big obstacle—figuring out how to fit it all in. From ziplines and waterfalls to brew pubs and spas, the mountains surrounding the historic towns of Boone, Blowing Rock, Banner Elk, and Linville offer some of the best hiking, climbing, paddling, and mountain biking in the Southeast. Use our list of top activities, eateries, and accommodations to mix and match your way to one of the best weekends of the year.
Jump Start Your Morning
The High Country’s abundance of local coffee roasters and legendary bakeries make breakfast a must. Stop by the Banner Elk Cafe and Espresso Bar for a hearty stack of pancakes, plump and cheesy omelets, and breakfast sandwiches on homemade biscuits.
In Blowing Rock, Camp Coffee Roasters serves its fresh-roasted brews and pastries in the historic Main St. building it shares with local outfitter Footsloggers. Boone’s Higher Grounds, Hatchet Coffee, and Espresso News focus on quality and small-batch slow roasting for an artfully-crafted wake-up call.
Local Lion cranks out warm homemade doughnuts all day long. Specialties like sour cream buttermilk cake doughnuts, along with traditional favorites like berry glazed and jelly filled, are preservative-free and heavenly with a cup of fresh-roasted Mountain Lion Coffee.
You can be out on the trails, in the mountain, or on the water from dawn to dusk and still not check off all the experiences the High Country has to offer. Start by hiking the miles of trails just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, like Boone Fork, Price Lake, Tanawha, and Linville Falls. At Grandfather Mountain State Park, you can climb rugged terrain to the park’s iconic swinging bridge, one mile above sea level .
Ride Beech Mountain’s Emerald Outback and Rocky Knob Park in Boone for tight and technical singletrack suited to intermediate to advanced riders, or sail through the tree canopy on Sky Valley’s zipline tour. On the water, you can rent a kayak for a relaxing paddle on Price Lake, or tackle the Class I-III rapids with a guided river rafting expedition on the French Broad, Watauga, or Nolichucky.
The sheer cliffs of Linville Gorge offer some of the most spectacular climbing and rappelling in the region, including numerous routes at popular Table Rock. Guided full-day climbs in the Wilson Creek Recreation Area are an ideal introduction to the sport, while seasoned climbers are going to love the high-quality routes and cooler northwest exposure of Ship Rock.
Vineyards & Taprooms
Cap off your exhilarating day outside with a happy hour tour on the High Country Wine Trail. Enjoy Appalachian wines as the sun sets over Banner Elk Winery’s Tuscan-inspired tasting room and the riverside patio at Grandfather Vineyard.
Trade in your wine glass for a pint glass at Blowing Rock Brewing Company. Award-winning raspberry wheat and breakfast stout & barley wine, along with a seasonal rotation dominated by ales and IPAs, pair well with beer-centric entrees like porter braised brisket tacos and Oktoberfest battered fish & chips. Boonshine Brewing and Basil’s Fresh Pasta & Deli share space and menus, and Appalachian Mountain Brewery’s outdoor patio on Boone Creek is an ideal setting to sample craft beers and ciders.
Sip your beer at 5,500 feet at Beech Mountain Brewing Company. The brewery is owned and operated by the highest-elevation ski resort in the eastern U.S., so you can partake in the resort village taproom or take the ski lift, winter or summer, to the mountaintop Skybar.
Boone is your destination for a late lunch. At the non-profit F.A.R.M. Cafe (Feed All Regardless of Means), you pay what you can for locally-sourced entrees with plenty of vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free options. Customers with the means are encouraged to include a donation that goes to relieving hunger in the area. At Wild Craft Eatery you’ll find inventive dishes like Carolina sweet potato enchiladas and venison shepherd’s pie with plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options as well.
Locally-sourced dishes like rainbow trout, filet mignon, and sushi pair with local wines to make Banner Elk’s Chef’s Table at Sorrento’s a High Country favorite. Lowcountry cooking (think jambalaya and fried oysters) is an unexpected delight at Louisiana Purchase, as is the barbecue brisket, shrimp gumbo, and Cajun sampler at Bayou Smokehouse.
A stone cottage on the grounds of former girls Camp Yonahlossee houses the romantic Gamekeeper Restaurant. Meat and seafood are the highlight, with entrees featuring duck, emu, pheasant, bison, and more. Just down the road in Blowing Rock is another dining destination with historic roots, Bistro Roca and Antlers Bar. Offerings range from burgers and wood-fired pizza to salmon, venison, and trout, along with lots of sharable sides. Antlers Bar is the oldest continuously serving bar in the state, with a former speakeasy in the basement.
If your idea of a perfect slumber includes starry skies and the downy cocoon of your sleeping bag, there are miles of prime camping options along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Just outside Blowing Rock, Julian Price Campground has 193 reservable sites, some directly on Price Lake.
There’s plenty of High Country hotel, B & B, and cabin options at any price point, but for a weekend of true indulgence, book a stay at sprawling Chetola Resort, boutique Gideon Ridge Inn, or the historic Green Park Inn.