Local: Eric Woolridge, Watauga County TDA
Pick: Yancey Ridge Trail
The Yancey Ridge Trail is the epitome of a classic, cross-country, Pisgah Forest ride. The combination of the cross-country ridge riding, the nice climbs and fast descents mixed with some really technical terrain. Most of the trail you’re cruising along a stunning ridge, it isn’t too crazy, but down at the bottom there are these crazy erosion gullies that make for some really challenging, technical riding. All throughout that trail are tough challenges and crazy obstacles mixed with nice views. You’ve got log crossings, rocky boulder fields, deep gullies, all sorts of different types of terrain and then you get to these nice open hardwood forests and tight mountain laurel corridors. It’s got great climbs, good downhills, and really nice parts in between. If you like climbing, or you like downhill, you’ll probably like this place. Afterwards, if you’re not too worked hit the nearby Gragg Prong Trail which offers some of the coolest swimming holes in the area..
Local: Zika Rea, Zap Fitness
Pick: Moses Cone
The Moses Cone Trails are one of our favorite places to run. The footing is perfect, the trails are really well groomed, and the scenery is just beautiful. You can mix it up by running the flats along the lake or you can do some long climbs through the woods and come out into the open spaces up at the top with great views. There are a lot of different options out there. A great one is running up past the Moses Cone Manor House toward the Fire Tower. It’s a really challenging run – about five miles uphill – but when you get up to the top it’s just beautiful. You can see forever. The park itself is just great with many options for you to do. The trail through the Maze is also one of my favorites because it gives you a little bit more variety.
Local: Hanes Boren, Footsloggers
Pick: Cragway, Grandfather Mountain State Park
I really like the Cragway trail at Grandfather Mountain State Park. You access it by parking at the Boone Fork Trail Parking area on the Blue Ridge Parkway. What I love about this trail is that it is a loop trail that takes you up through one of the most scenic areas at Grandfather. The Nuwati trail leads back toward Storyteller Rock in the Boone Bowl, aka Medicine Valley. When you get out there, there are a few really nice campsites, and the view from Storyteller’s Rock is really nice. You can look out and see the surrounding Boone Bowl and get a good view of the rock outcroppings that make up the Cragway Trail. The Cragway offers some excellent hiking – it’s short, but steep, and along the way there are some great views from some really neat rock formations. At the top you reach the Flat Top View, which is really incredible. At that point you can intersect with the Daniel Boone Scout Trail and either head on up to the summit of Grandfather, or head downhill back to your car. I really like that area because of the diversity of the wildlife. It’s wonderful in the spring with the wildflowers and the rhododendrons are absolutely beautiful.
Local: Lynn Willis, Mast General Store
Pick: The Profile Trail
The Profile Trail on Grandfather Mountain is one of my favorite hikes as it has a variety of terrain that runs through an enchanted forest. It has some pretty big elevation gain with 1,900 ft. in 3 miles with the top out view from Calloway Peak being one of the best in the South. In the beginning, the trail follows along the headwaters of the Watauga River, then ascends up the steep trail past amazing rock formations and a view of the “profile”. Ahead, there’s more rock hopping, switch backs and ladders to climb near the top. In winter conditions, this trail is prime training ground in an alpine environment, especially if you climb the trail without the aid of the ladders. By the time you reach the bottom of the mountain again, the knees let you know that they were along for the ride too!
Local: Slate Lacey, Foscoe Fishing Co. & Outfitters
Pick: Holston and Watauga Rivers
I’m an equal parts Holston, equal parts Watauga fan. I like them both. The tailwater sections of those rivers are constantly cold and constantly flowing, which makes it a much more consistent fishery. The average size fish on those rivers is a lot bigger than what you’ll find on some of the other rivers. The fact that those rivers are larger allows you to float them in a drift boat, which makes for some really fun days on the water. You can’t beat either one of those rivers when it comes to catching a lot of big fish.
Local: Ryan Beasley, Rock Dimensions
Pick: Shiprock, Grandfather Mountain
I like going to Shiprock because it’s a great place for people who are just getting into climbing. The area has some really nice single-pitch climbing. One of my favorites is the Upper Tier area. This particular area has some great routes that are really spectacular. Lost at Sea, a 5.8, and Edge of a Dream, a 5.7, are two of the best climbs in the area. The area is above the tree line and the exposure and views there are really incredible views. It’s a good area to hit in the summer, and usually it isn’t too crowded because you have to be able to lead trad in order to climb there.
Local: Grant Seldomridge, River & Earth Adventures
Pick: Watauga River
The Watauga River is my favorite river. It’s coming out of some of the oldest mountains in the world, so it’s got this aura of mystique and the energy on that river is really special. As far as the whitewater goes, you can’t beat that. It’s got a variety of different river features that challenge everyone from entry level paddlers to experts who’ve done it a hundred times. From rapids like Stateline Falls to Hydro to the other rapids, the Watauga Gorge is just non-stop action. The further and further you get into the gorge, the wilderness aspect of the river really presents itself.