Escape to Beech Mountain
Forget it’s May for a few minutes. Fast forward to mid-July, when the temperatures have been in the upper 90s for a week straight, the humidity is as high as the temperature, but there’s not a cloud in sight, and you think your air conditioner is about to break down from sheer exhaustion.
Now imagine you’re sitting on a front porch of a log cabin, ice-cold lemonade in your hand and a cool breeze blowing through the vibrant green leaves of the shade trees. That’s what you’ll experience in Beech Mountain in the summer. Long known as a great ski spot by native North Carolinians and avid skiers, there’s much more to this quirky little town than just the ski mountain. And the inviting summertime weather, where temperatures rarely rise above 80 and the humidity is low thanks to the mile-high elevation, makes summer the perfect time to visit and explore the area.
The Great Outdoors
Beech Mountain boasts an impressive 26 miles of hiking trails, with something to fit everyone’s style, from easy to strenuous. The trails are easily accessible from Buckeye Recreation Center and are clearly marked and maintained.
I ventured out on the Falls Trail with a 4-year-old, and we both had a great time. Even though it’s labeled moderately strenuous, we didn’t hike the entire trail and took it at our own pace. This is a great trail to explore if you want some places to take your shoes off and have some fun in the creek for a while.
There are also trails for the adventurous hiking families, including the Lower Pond Creek Trail. This is a single-track walking trail with some pretty steep areas, but the waterfalls and magnificent old hemlock trees make the effort worthwhile.
Wary of hiking on your own? Take advantage of one of the group hikes scheduled for the summer. These outings are led by a guide who is familiar with the flora and fauna of Beech Mountain, so not only are you sure to be on the right trail, but you’ll also ensure hike will be educational.
When you go out for that hike, you might want to bring a fishing pole along. There are some great places to practice your fly-fishing skills along the rivers and falls of the creeks that run along the trails. Or enjoy a relaxing afternoon fishing at the stocked pond next to Buckeye Recreation Center.
Biking is another great activity at Beech Mountain in the summer. The town’s 50 miles of bike trails are paved for street bikes, so anyone who knows how to pedal can enjoy the beautiful views. You can even ride along the same route Lance Armstrong took in the Tour Du Pont. Of course, mountain bikers are welcome also, and the same hiking paths double as mountain-biking trails for those seeking off-road adventure.
Have you ever dreamed of walking beside Dorothy as she travels the yellow brick road? It turns out you can do just that at Beech Mountain. The Land of Oz, which used to be a thriving theme park a few decades ago, is undergoing a revival, helping keep the magic of the yellow brick road alive for another generation of dreamers.
A trip to the Land of Oz will take you to a replica of Dorothy’s house, built to a 5/8 scale of the house in the movie. You can see the living room where Almira Gulch paid a visit to Uncle Henry and Aunt Em, take a peek at Dorothy’s bedroom, and then go through the simulated tornado, complete with sound effects, just like Dorothy did, only to end up in a house tilted and trashed by the winds with the yellow brick road right outside the door. Very young children might find the tornado a little scary, but they will soon forget it when they see the yellow brick road.
The beech trees that gave Beech Mountain its name are eerily similar to the enchanted forest that Dorothy travels through, and a beautiful stone rising up from the ground only adds to the magical experience.
It helps to watch the movie before taking the trip to the Land of Oz, especially for young ones who might not have experienced it yet. And whether you’re a life-long lover of the movie or just watching it for the trip, the artifacts collected in the mini-museum are guaranteed to make you nostalgic.
The Land of Oz opens to the public once a year in October for its “Autumn at Oz” festival, but the park is making itself available more often starting this summer. Small groups and parties will be able to make reservations to tour the buildings and museum, walk the yellow brick road and even enjoy a picnic on the grounds. Parties and private tours start at $100.
This year’s “Autumn at Oz” festival will be held Oct. 3-4. Tickets are $15. Children under 2 are free. Hours are Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the gate and also after July 4 by calling the Beech Mountain Chamber of Commerce at 828-387-9283.
Rest and relax
Whether you’re coming for a long weekend, a week or maybe even a month, there are plenty of great places to stay at Beech Mountain. You can choose from a variety of options, from romantic chalets to large lodges and everything in between. In addition, many of the rental properties include access to the Beech Mountain Club, which includes a golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts and a restaurant with a breathtaking view of the mountains.
And while the small population of this town is part of what makes it so attractive for a vacation destination, don’t let that fool you into thinking dining options are limited. You can enjoy a nice evening out, complete with waiters and table cloths, at the Alpen Restaurant or Jackalope’s View. Or take the whole family for dining fun at Fred’s Backside Deli or the Brick Oven Pizzeria and Pasta.
While relaxation is what we parents long for on a vacation, sitting around on a front porch with a book will only keep kids entertained for a minimal amount of time. You can enjoy the best of both worlds thanks to the variety of summer camps available at the Buckeye Recreation Center. All camps are open to the public for kids ages 5-13, with an affordable rate of $125 per week. From a Survivor Camp based on the popular television show to a Nature Camp that explores different aspects of the environment, the camps are educational and fun. They run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., giving parents plenty of time to play a little golf or just enjoy some down time, and then have some quality family time too.
Do something different this year. Forego that annual trip to the beach, save money by vacationing within our own state and try something different with a family vacation to Beech Mountain. You might just find you’ve made a new family tradition.
IF YOU GO
Buckeye Recreation Center
206 Grassy Gap Creek Road
Land of Oz
2669 S. Beech Mountain Parkway