All American Road Trip: 5 Days of Appalachian Skiing & Winter Adventure in North Carolina’s High Country

The North Carolina High Country is filled with quaint towns and hamlets nestled among the vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains. For those in the know, Boone, North Carolina, holds a special designation as the “Ski Capital of the Southeast.” This moniker is due to the city’s proximity to three of the best ski areas south of New England: Sugar Mountain, Beech Mountain and Appalachian Ski Mountain.

While this part of the country is often thought of as a summer or fall destination— and we love the autumn leaves’ explosive colors—the area comes to life in winter. Located along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, Boone and the surrounding region have something for every traveler, from adventure seekers to adrenaline junkies to nature lovers and those just wanting a romantic snow-covered cabin in the woods.

Where to Stay Near Boone

This five-day itinerary will take you through the best Boone, and the High Country, has to offer. Boone’s central location makes it the perfect place to set up a home base when visiting the High Country, and there is a wonderful variety of accommodations. The surrounding mountainsides are dotted with grand vacation homes and rustic cabins offering sweeping views of the area.

The Valle Crucis community offers several outstanding inns and bed and breakfasts for a more intimate winter escape. Our favorites include the Lazy Bear Lodge B&B and the Inn at Little Pond Farm. In the heart of downtown, you can also choose to stay in the stylish Horton Hotel.

DAY 1 – APPALACHIAN SKI MTN.

Your first day in the High Country begins with a day on the slopes. For more than 60 years, Appalachian Ski Mtn. has offered some of the most exciting skiing and snowboarding in the Carolinas. The resort is anchored by a 46,000-square-foot Bavarian-style lodge and includes more than a dozen trails and two terrain parks. The Appalachian Ski Mtn. trail map highlights the multitude of experiences available.

Even novices will have something to smile about at Appalachian Ski Mtn., as it is home to the French-Swiss Ski College, the best-known and oldest ski school in the Southeast. There are classes for everyone that will build confidence on the slopes.

When you’re ready to take a break from the cold, the Appalachian Ski Mtn.’s vast Bavarian-style lodge is ideal for unwinding and grabbing a bite to eat. The lodge is packed with amenities, including a TV and game room, the Alpine Ski Shop, several dining options and a 200-foot observation deck.

DAY 2 – BEECH MOUNTAIN RESORT

Ready to explore some new terrain on day two? The Beech Mountain Resort offers a wide variety of trails for snowboarders and skiers of all experience levels. The highest ski area on the East Coast, Beech Mountain’s 5,506-foot peak towers above nearly all ski areas east of the Rockies. The high vertical drops on some slopes, more than 820′, provide an alpine experience unique in this part of the country.

Two other specialty areas at Beech Mountain are a freestyle progression park with more than 50 unique features and a state-of-the-art snow tubing park for those who want a break from skiing and snowboarding. The 700-foot-long, fast-and-furious chutes in the snow tubing park are an exhilarating thrill ride.

Beech Mountain Village is the place to head when you’re not on the slopes. Warm up, get cozy and admire the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains. The village includes a coffee shop, outdoor retailer and the award-winning Beech Mountain Brewing Co. With ten standard brews on tap, plus seasonal varieties and an outstanding food menu, the Beech Mountain Brewing Co., is a must-try.

DAY 3 – GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN & BOONE

Today, we’re leaving the skis behind to explore the town of Boone and visit Grandfather Mountain. The winter weather can be somewhat unpredictable, but there are often sunny days that are ideal for a winter hike. Begin your adventure at the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery, featuring interactive exhibits where you can learn about the area’s history, wildlife and geology. An on-site gift shop and restaurant are also available if you’re looking for a midday snack or local souvenir to take home. Before you leave, don’t miss out on a photo opportunity by the age-old Split & Sphinx Rock formations.

From there, make a stop at the iconic Forrest Gump Curve. Grandfather Mountain is featured in the 1984 film, and today, is marked by a sign that reads “Forrest Gump Curve.” Next up, a walk across the Mile High Swinging Bridge. The attraction is generally open if you’re looking for a heart-pounding experience on a 228-foot suspension bridge. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings—elk are incredibly stunning against the snow-covered backgrounds, and cougars can even be seen frolicking in the snow.

Just outside the park is the Grandfather Vineyard and Winery, the perfect spot to transition from the wilds of the High Country to an afternoon on the high street in Boone. The vineyard is more than five acres and produces a lovely Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

King Street in downtown Boone is a vibrant area filled with local shops, boutiques and galleries. An afternoon stroll through the dozens of shops is an ideal way to relax and get some well-deserved rest from your outdoor adventures. Notable sites include the historic Mast Store, also known as the Old Boone Mercantile, and the Hickory Ridge History Museum. Today the Mast General Store operates as a department store, selling a variety of goods ranging from outdoor gear to pet supplies to candy.

Take aim, Elwood’s Hatchet House on Jefferson Street offers excellent food and a fun evening of throwing hatchets. Let your competitive side out and see who can hit the bullseye the most times! Boone is also the epicenter of a thriving culinary revival; drawing on the abundance of local farms and wild produce, chefs throughout the city are creating best-in-class dining experiences from casual to fine dining.

DAY 4 – SUGAR MOUNTAIN RESORT

Sugar Mountain Resort has the largest snowboarding area in the Southeast and one of the larger ski areas with more than 115 skiable acres. The resort boasts 20 slopes ranging from expert to beginner and also includes a terrain park, a tubing park, ski and snowboard rental shops and cafeterias, making it an ideal place to spend the day in the fresh North Carolina air.

Beyond skiing and snowboarding, the resort offers several opportunities for those who want a break from the slopes. In winter, Sugar Mountain’s golf course is transformed into 700 feet of snow tubing lanes.

Snowshoe tours are another memorable experience at Sugar Mountain. These guided tours will have you snowshoeing through the peaceful backcountry in no time. There is also a 10,000-square-foot ice skating rink near the tubing park just waiting for you to try your best triple axel jump.

Once you’re done on the mountain, explore some of the local shops and restaurants near Sugar Mountain Resort. For a fun, family-friendly experience, mine for North Carolina gems at the Sugar Creek Mining Company. Learn about the mining process and turn your discoveries into jewelry! Afterward, make a stop at the Banner Elk Soap & Candle Co. to purchase locally-made candles, bath bombs and soaps. You’ll be rewarded with amazing scents the moment you step inside.

Last stop of the night: dinner! Make your way to Kettell Beerworks for craft beer brewed on-site and delicious pub food. Have some extra fun during dinner with a variety of board games you can play with the whole family.

DAY 5 – HAWKSNEST SNOW TUBING AND ZIPLINING

There is just enough time to fit in one more snow-covered adventure before heading home, and we’ve saved one of the best for last. In Seven Devils, a quick 25-minute drive from Boone is Hawksnest Snow Tubing. One of the largest snow tubing parks on the East Coast, Hawksnest has more than 30 tubing lanes. The varied terrain is perfect for all ages, with slopes for smaller kids, adrenaline-seeking teenagers and exciting options for the whole family.

Hold on tight! There is one more surprise at Hawksnest; their zipline experience is open during the winter. While ziplining is typically a summer activity, Hawksnest will have you flying over the top of the tubing lanes all season long. The Snow Bird Tour is a four-cable adventure with the longest zipline in the area, at more than 2,000 feet. This experience is for kids eight and older, and there are some physical requirements for adults, too, so please plan accordingly.

As our winter adventures in the High Country come to a close, we hope that the Appalachian Mountains’ striking beauty, the region’s southern-style hospitality and the uniqueness of Boone will bring you back in summer or fall. This remarkable destination transforms with the seasons and is the starting point for many road trips along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Shenandoah National Park.

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