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Posts Tagged ‘Picnics in Asheville’

Beat the Summertime Heat in the Mountains of Western North Carolina

June 20th, 2015 by abedofroses

Picnic at Craggy Gardens

Picnic at Craggy Gardens

Summertime in Asheville offers so many ways to enjoy your stay, from Summer Festivals and concerts to Shakespeare under the stars. It also has some wonderful ways to beat the heat! Slip down the chilly mountain waters of Sliding Rock, go whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River or take a picnic to Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway, like we did the other day. A short and scenic drive took us from 89 degrees to 72 degrees with a refreshing breeze. The main picnic area has rolling hills and stone picnic tables, with the mountains just over the trees. But a short hike up the Craggy Pinnacle trail takes you to much more dramatic views.

Mountains for as far as you can see

Mountains for as far as you can see

There you will be treated to a 360 degree view of mountain peaks that seem to go on forever. The visitors center, just past the main picnic area, right on the Blue Ridge Parkway has a panoramic view as well, with the peaks you are looking at labeled on an open guide book just below the window, which I just loved.

Asheville’s elevation is about 2,200 feet but we are surrounded by the mountains of the Blue Ridge as well as the Black Mountain Range. An hour north of Asheville along the Blue Ridge Parkway is Mount Mitchell. At 6,600 feet above sea level it is the highest point east of the Mississippi and can easily be 20 degrees cooler that downtown Asheville. An hour to the south of us is Mount Pisgah at 5,721 feet.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

The waterfalls of Dupont State Forest are just 40 miles from downtown Asheville. Four entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are within 60 miles from downtown Asheville. We are surrounded by incredible natural beauty and refreshing mountain streams. At the end of the day you can explore our vibrant restaurant/music and theater scene rejuvenated. But save room for our gourmet breakfast in the morning!

How to Beat the Heat – A Scenic Picnic on Mount Mitchell

July 28th, 2012 by abedofroses

Riding along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway

The highest mountain peak this side of the Mississippi is a quick drive from Asheville. On a fun day-trip the other day the temperature dropped from an unusually steamy 88° in Asheville to a pleasant 66° on the mountaintop. The scenic “slow” route up the Blue Ridge Parkway takes about an hour with spectacular views, woods and scenic overlooks along the way.

Craggy Gardensare definitely worth a stop with scenic trails, picnic areas and a Visitor’s Center. In June and July the rhododendrons are blooming and form a blazing tunnel of flowers along the Craggy Pinnacle trail. The gnarly trees are sweet birch I think- striking in the wintertime.

View from Craggy Gardens Visitor Center

The view from Craggy Gardens Visitor Center

Mount Mitchellis not that far beyond Craggy Gardens. A left on NC Highway 128 from the Parkway takes you right to the summit. Well not exactly. From the parking lot there is a steep little hike along a paved trail to the observation deck, so you can truly say you “climbed Mount Mitchell”! The views from the observation deck are well worth the little climb. At 6,684 feet above sea level you’re likely to see clouds below you and weather forming miles away. The climate at the peak is more like Canada than North Carolina and the vegetation and even the birds are different than just 35 miles away in Asheville.

Climbing to the summit of Mount Mitchell

Climbing the path to the summit of Mount Mitchell

A shaded picnic area at the lower summit parking area was a lovely place to have lunch. There were shelters there as well as picnic tables and grills.

Originally it was thought that Grandfather Mountainwas the highest peak in the area, but in 1835 Dr. Elisha Mitchell, a professor at University of North Carolina calculated the elevation using barometric pressure readings and mathematical formulas to prove that the Black Mountains, the range that Mount Mitchell is a part of, were higher.

Coud moving in over the mountain

A cloud creeps in over the mountain

Of course there was controversy and on a subsequent visit to verify his measurements in 1857 Dr. Mitchell fell from a cliff above a 40 ft waterfall and drowned in the water below. The peak was named in honor of his work in 1858 and he was reburied on top of Mount Mitchell a year after his death.

Until this time the Black Mountain Range was referred to as a single mountain since it’s ridgeline has such an even elevation. Although the elevation of the range is higher, its length is just 15 miles, much smaller than the Blue Ridge Mountains or the Great Smokies. As early as 1787 botanists prized the area for it’s diverse specimens of trees, shrubs and plants. They would bring samples back to Europe to cultivate on royal plantations.

View from Mount Mitchell

View from the summit of Mount Mitchell

The Fraser Fir is named after one such explorer, Englishman John Fraser. The Fraser fir is the most abundant tree along the mountain crest and unfortunately, it has been hit hard by the Wooly Adelgids. An unwelcome visitor that made the trip to the US from Europe around 1900, this tiny insect has destroyed forests throughout the east as well as the northwest. Mount Mitchell was the first place in the southern Appalachians to be invaded by the pest beginning back in 1957, probably because of the high elevation.

Luckily for us the views are still pristine in spite of the Adelgids and the woods are filled with a great variety of trees and shrubs as well as wildflowers. We returned to Asheville refreshed, full from our picnic and a whole lot cooler.

See our Photo Gallery for more pictures!