Last weekend, we loaded up our vehicle and hit the road for a four day, three night family trip to North Carolina’s High Country. About a month ago our county school board voted to give students a couple extra days off as wellness days during Thanksgiving week, so it was the perfect opportunity to get away to the mountains for a few days of exploration, rest and relaxation as a family. I had been asking my wife about planning a trip to the mountains since the end of summer, but between her weekend work schedule at the hospital and our kids’ school schedule, we couldn’t find a weekend until now.
Lodging and Meals
We booked a townhome in Echota on the Ridge in Foscoe, NC through VRBO. Although we had stayed at Echota Resort for all of our previous trips to NC High Country, we found a different rental in the adjoining ridge section of the gated community. However, prices have nearly doubled since our last trip to NC High Country two years ago, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for meals, we packed all of our own food and prepared all of our own meals, which cut down on the cost of feeding our family of six. My wife made a big pot of chili, a pot of gnocchi, and an egg casserole at home prior to our trip, so all we had to do was heat it up when it was time to eat. We also made sandwiches and packed picnic lunches. We did buy a pizza and some Italian Nachos from Bella Neighborhood Italian Restaurant our first night as a treat.
Elk Knob State Park
The first adventure of our trip was a visit to Elk Knob State Park in Todd, NC, just north of Boone. Opened in the mid-2000’s, it is one of North Carolina’s newest State Parks. At 5,520 feet above sea level, it was once slated for private development, but thanks to concerned citizens, land owners, and The Nature Conservancy, it was saved to become a state park.
We stopped at the park office to get our NC State Parks passports stamped and purchase hiking medallions for our hiking sticks. We then hiked the 1-mile Beech Tree Trail, a 1-mile loop TRACK trail that is perfect hiking for smaller children.
Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster
The highlight of our trip for me personally was the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster in Banner Elk, NC. Opened in 2019, this one of the area’s newest attractions. It is a toboggan style coaster that is built into the side of the mountain. You can purchase a single ride ticket or 3-ride ticket for three consecutive rides. For an additional $10, you can also purchase a digital download video and photos of your adventure! Note: an advanced reservation is needed to guarantee a time to ride.
On the second day (first full day) of our trip, we headed to Grandfather Mountain, one of the area’s most prominent and highest visited attractions. This was our kids’ favorite part of our trip. After checking in at the front gate at our designated reservation time, we started by driving to the top of the mountain. We crossed the Mile High Bridge and took time to soak in the views from the top of the mountain. We then made our way down to the Wildlife Habitats. This included native animals such as Bald Eagles, Black Bear, Elk, and Cougars, to name a few. We then enjoyed a picnic lunch at a pull off along the road, with a spectacular view of the surrounding area. We finished our adventure with a short (0.5-mile) hike around the Woods Walk, located off of the main picnic area.
North Carolina’s High Country is an awesome place to explore and visit. It never gets old! Things have definitely changed since before the COVID-19 pandemic began, mainly the price of lodging rentals and the need for reservations at local attractions. However, with proper planning and preparation, it can make for an unforgettable vacation!
“The mountains are calling and I must go.”John Muir