A Day Out in Northwestern North Carolina

Northwestern North Carolina has a little bit of everything a mountain getaway could want.  If you find yourself needing a countryside and mountain fix in the summer (or spring, or fall), head up to Ashe County for some quiet, peaceful time.  Here's a roundup of things you can do.

Stroll the downtown West Jefferson area.  it is full of art galleries and little shops.  Stop to appreciate the murals that line so many street corner buildings.

Drop in to Ashe County Cheese, the oldest cheese manufacturer in the state of North Carolina.  Grab some cheese and other goodies for a picnic lunch.  And, if you have a cooler or refrigerator handy, I highly recommend getting the homemade butter.  Highly. And bread and butter pickles -- without all the chemicals.  They are great.

 If you're in town on a Saturday during summer or fall, stop by the farmer's market on the back street for lots of fresh, local produce and handmade goods.

Before you head off to picnic, be sure to stop by Smoky Mountain Barbecue for fresh, local, delicious proscuitto made by local A.B. Vannoy Ham.  It's been made the same way since the 1930s, and it is really good!  They cure it naturally without nitrites or other preservatives, only salt, sugar, and "fresh mountain air."

One more stop:  the regional grocery store, Ingles, to grab anything else you're lacking for a picnic.

You have several options for picnic spots.  One of my two favorites is at Mount Jefferson State Natural Area.  Drive the long, winding road to the top, and snag a nice, private picnic spot like this:

Then, take a hike along the ridge of the mountain in the cool shade, and head out to the rock to take in a view of the town of Jefferson from above.

The next picnic suggestion is anywhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  If you'd like to incorporate a walk afterwards, head to E.B. Jeffress Park and the Cascades waterfall trail at mile post 279.1.

Not far from there, check out one of the old settler's homeplaces in a pretty little field.

There are gorgeous views everywhere along the Parkway.

Another fun summer activity in the area is tubing or kayaking down the New River.  There are several outfitters in the area that can hook you up.

Photo Credit here

A little further afield, take a paddle on Julian Price Lake, close to Blowing Rock, also on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Or, for a bit further drive, head through Boone, and just across the Tennessee line to Watauga Lake (below) for a paddle.  The lake is surrounded by undeveloped Cherokee National Forest, and the water is really refreshing.

If disc golf is your thing, you can go to the Ashe County Park, where there is a 18-hole course.  Even if you're not into that, it's a nice place to walk, throw a frisbee or football or for the kids to play on the playground.  It's also in a lovely setting with a small pond in the center of the park.

Whatever you choose to do (or not do -- unwinding is one of the prime reasons for coming here!), it's a great place to experience.  I'll leave you with a few more images of the area.

Have you visited this area?  What's a favorite get-away for you?