Hiking in North Carolina
December 13, 2004 10:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be in North Carolina for two weeks over Christmas and, well, bored out of my mind. I want to do a few day hikes or something. Preferably it'd be in the mountains, as I like mountain views and I've never really been to them in NC, but anywhere is fine. I'll be in Chapel Hill, so anywhere within about 2-3 hours of there would be great.
posted by borkingchikapa to Travel & Transportation around Chapel Hill, NC (15 answers total)
Not related to hiking, but there are some decent record shops on main street in Chapel Hill, and a decent independant theatre near there somewhere (been a long time since I've been there, though ~5 years.)

I can't recall off hand how far Chapel Hill is from the Appalachian Trail, but that'd be a good place to look for a good day hike.
posted by pemdasi at 12:03 AM on December 14, 2004

Chapel Hill is about a three or four hours drive from the Appalachians, depending on where you go in them. Happily, the ocean is also about that far away. If you head to the mountains, be sure to travel some of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It's beautiful.

As for in the Triangle area, check out the Eno River. As I recall, there are alot of good day hikes in the Eno River State park.

And yes, Chapel Hill is a wonderful college town. If it's still open, check out Monster Records on Franklin street, stop in at the Ramshead Rathskellar, and catch a show at the Cat's Cradle.

Why, oh why, did they have to close Rock Art?
posted by jammer at 12:08 AM on December 14, 2004

This has nothing to do with hiking, but a little-known factoid about North Carolina is that it is home to one of the nation's premier areas for potters. Seagrove, south of Greensboro just off U.S. 220, has excellent clay deposits and more potteries per square mile than you would think possible. I did a journalism fellowship at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2001, and Seagrove was a great day trip for my wife and me.

Chapel Hill has an outstanding gourmet shop, A Southern Season. And if you happen into Zorba's Greek restaurant, which I recommend unreservedly, tell Iris and Louie that Gene said hello from Texas.
posted by key_of_z at 1:03 AM on December 14, 2004

Ouch. That fellowship was in '98.
posted by key_of_z at 1:20 AM on December 14, 2004

Asheville is about 3 1/2 hours from Chapel Hill: we're kind of the hub for the whole mountain/waterfall scene (not to mention being one of the most wildly eclectic/artistic enclaves in the south). To access the AT, you need to put in about 45 minutes to get to Hot Springs. If your 2-3 hour guideline is strict, Boone might be a better option: it's about 2 hours from CH and kinda like Asheville but smaller. If you do head in this direction, email me from my profile and I'll give you plenty more tips!
posted by moonbird at 3:46 AM on December 14, 2004

Off the hiking path, I'll second the Cat's Cradle suggestion. Other places for music if you're interested in a drive to Raleigh: King's Barcade, and for blues, Berkeley Cafe. For movies, Carolina Theatre in Durham usually has some good things going on, as well as Chelsea Theatre in Chapel Hill and The Rialto in Raleigh. [despite the cheesy websites or lack thereof].

There's also a Matisse-Picasso exhibit at the NCMA in Raleigh if you're into art. For hockey, the Hurricanes have some games scheduled over the holidays. The arena is on Raleigh's West side just off 40, and easy commute back to Chapel Hill.

And back to hiking - there is always Umstead Park or Schenck Forest if you didn't feel like going all the way to the mountains.

If I were headed mountainward I'd personally shoot for the West Jefferson Area near the New River, although as Moonbird says, Asheville is a great place too.

I've been taking tour guide tips from jessamyn and needed to practice.
posted by yoga at 5:28 AM on December 14, 2004

Monster Records has been gone for a while, but Schoolkids is in that location now and they are excellent. For hiking, don't forget Duke forest which has miles of great trails. And Elmo's Diner = best breakfast in town.
posted by Who_Am_I at 5:38 AM on December 14, 2004

I'll second Asheville. It's been a while, but it seems like it was convenient to both the Appalachian Trail and a variety of other good hikes, and was a really hip, funky town to boot.
posted by saladin at 6:00 AM on December 14, 2004

Proper mountains will be more than 3 hours away. Asheville is nice enough; another jumping-off point is Boone, which is farther north.

For less impressive luxury mountain-ettes, you could go to Hanging Rock or Pilot Mountain. Both of these are not far from Mt. Airy, which appeared in fictional form as Mayberry. In Mt. Airy you can and should stop by the Snappy Lunch for a pork chop sammich.

A good day trip from Chapel Hill is the NC Zoo in Asheboro, about an hour away. It's not the biggest zoo in the world, but it does a good job with what it has -- unless it's expanded in the past few years, it just does North America and Africa, but it does them *well*. It's new enough that it's almost entirely naturalish-habitat with very few cages/plexi-cells. It's also very near the Uwharrie National Forest, but I've not been there.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:23 AM on December 14, 2004

I'll be in Charlotte myself... any suggestions as to what to see in that town?
posted by kindall at 8:29 AM on December 14, 2004

If you want mountains close to Chapel Hill, Uwharrie State Park is pretty cool--they're a geologic oddity, worn-down nubs of some of the oldest mountains on earth.
(Kindall: I grew up in the Charlotte area. My favorite place to take people is the Carolina Raptor Center, just north of the city, to see crazy eagles, hawks, owls, and vultures. Downtown, the NoDa arts district is pretty nice for wandering around in.)
posted by hydropsyche at 9:03 AM on December 14, 2004

Try Geocaching for an alternative to ordinary hiking. There are a bunch of caches in North Carolina. I'll be in the Greensboro area for Christmas, visiting my mom, and we're planning on going on our second semi-annual Christmas Geocaching Adventure. It's usually nice-enough weather in NC to do some good hiking, unlike December weather in Massachusetts.

By the way, it is possible to do geocaching without a GPS receiver - using topographical maps - but if you want to get a GPS receiver they can be found on ebay for cheap. The Garmin eTrex Venture is a good basic model.
posted by acridrabbit at 9:07 AM on December 14, 2004

Stop in to Townsend & Bertram Adventure Outfitters in Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro (adjacent to Chapel Hill--they're practically one town). I'd give you their website if they had one, but their phone is 919/933-9712. Their staff is usually very knowledgable about all manner of outdoor fun, nearby and a ways away. Lots of maps, some free -- in all, there is no better local resource for outdoor adventure.
posted by butternut at 9:18 AM on December 14, 2004

Eno River is a much under-rated little nugget of goodness and it will be right at your doorstep.

Hopefully you'll manage, seeing as how you hate NC so much.
posted by glenwood at 10:53 AM on December 14, 2004

Disclaimer: I actually lived in Chapel Hill for eight years. I'm pretty familiar with the area, so I'm really looking for things to do outside the triangle area.
posted by borkingchikapa at 11:37 AM on December 14, 2004

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