Beech Mountain NC is the highest town east of the Rockies, which means it’s a perfect destination for those seeking mountain fun, whatever the season. Most people think of a trip to Beech Mountain NC in the winter to Ski Beech, the surrounding resorts, or just to see snow — but more and more people are discovering Beech Mountain North Carolina during the spring and summer months too. Of course leaf watching in the fall is beautiful and my boys and I enjoyed hiking, as well as the wildly popular Autumn in Oz at the Land of Oz at Beech Mountain.
Beech Mountain NC: Your Guide to Fun in Any Season
Beech Mountain NC: Your Wintertime Guide
With an elevation of 5,506 feet, Beech has the highest elevation in the North Carolina Mountains at 5,506 feet. In fact, it’s the highest in the Eastern United States, which makes Beech Mountain NC perfect for winter vacations. Ski Beech, and the community sledding hill are the main attractions during the winter months, and of course, just playing in the snow itself.
Community Sledding Hill at Beech Mountain
Next to the Beech Mtn. visitor’s center, tucked behind a split rail fence is the Beech Mtn. community sledding hill for kids 12 and under. Sledding on the hill is free and open early December through mid-March, but BYOS – Bring your own sled. If you don’t have a sled, rent one from Beech Meadows Ski Rental (two doors down from the visitors center), or purchase one from Fred’s General Mercantile (short walk).
During our adventure, there were two sides to the hill, one seemed to have more bumps, while the second was a bit smoother. There is a referee who monitors the hill to make sure visitors are adhering to the 12 and under rule and manage crowds if needed. Parents are allowed to go down with their pre-schooler, but otherwise, this is a kid’s domain. There are even clean, warm bathrooms located in the visitor’s center next door. If you are asking ‘does it snow in North Carolina,” don’t worry if there seems to be a lack of the white stuff in the area, the Beech Mountain NC community sledding hill has a snow gun to ensure sledding fun.
More Winter Time Fun in Beech Mountain NC
Beech Mountain North Carolina is also a great place to go snowshoeing and cross country skiing in NC. A well established set of trails called the Emerald Outback give skiers and snowshoers easy, moderate and difficult trails that range from less than a mile to four-and-a-half. You’ll have to bring your own cross country skis, but snowshoe rental is available at the Buckeye Recreation Center on Beech Mountain.
Beech Mountain Ski Resort
Beech Mountain Ski Resort has 16 trails and 95 skiable acres, and just up the mountain from Sugar Mountain ski resort another of the popular North Carolina ski resorts. There are seven lifts including a high-speed quad lift to the top of the mountain. The resort can move over 10,000 skiers per hour! In addition to the slopes, Beech Mountain Ski Resort has two terrain parks, one that caters to beginners, and the other to intermediate and advanced boarders. Both the Powder Bowl Freestyle Terrain and the Meadows Freestyle Terrain feature boxes, rails and snow features. If you don’t know what all that means, join the club. I like to ski North Carolina mountains, not snowboard on them, but you can check out the website for the latest snowboard setup, it all sounds pretty impressive.
Most ski resorts in NC have a resortcams, real time video of location. The High Country webcams show real time conditions in the towns and ski areas. Check Beech Mountain weather, and Beech Mountain Resort snow conditions with their resort webcam.
When snow is scare, the resort has 61 ultra high tech snow guns to keep the slopes white. They’ve even added special emphasis on their most difficult run, called White Lightening. But don’t worry if you aren’t a proficient skier, they also have three easy and six intermediate runs.
Beech Mtn. has some of the best skiing in North Carolina, probably because it is the highest ski area in the Eastern US with a peak elevation of 5,506 ft. It’s also a great place to enjoy some real wintertime fun without having to hop a plane out West. Here is a post on our first adventure skiing Beech Mountain, NC. This posts talks about skiing in NC, Beech Mountain Rentals (including skis equipment and ski clothing), ski lessons, mountain trails and ski sessions.
For information on other NC ski resorts, see our post titled North Carolina Ski Resorts: Comparing High Country Resorts.
Off the Slopes at the Beech Mountain Ski Resort
There are several ski resorts in North Carolina, but Beech Mountain Ski Resort is the only one with an Alpine Village that includes shops like Ski Beech Sports and Beech Village Gifts, as well as restaurants, including the Beech Mountain Brewing Company and the View Haus Cafeteria.
The Alpine Village also includes a 7,000 foot ice skating rink, kids 4 and under skate free with a paying adult. And the latest addition for playing in the North Carolina snow is a tubing park, located adjacent to the Alpine Village at the base of the mountain. Here chutes are up to 700 feet long. There are daily sessions lasting an hour and 45 minutes. Riders must be at least 42” tall and this is an activity to do before or after skiing, as no ski boots are allowed.
Beech Mountain NC: Your Spring and Summertime Guide
Although many think of the mountains in North Carolina as a wintertime getaway, more and more folks are heading to Beech Mountain NC in the warmer months, for hiking and mountain biking, as well as the gorgeous views.
The Buckeye Recreations Center on Beech Mountain
Beech Mountain has 33 miles of trails through the beautiful mountains in NC, and the Buckeye Recreation Center on Beech Mountain is a great place to start your warm weather adventure. They offer an affordable daily pass fee schedule, as well as weekly, monthly and yearly passes. This 22,500 square foot Center has indoor tennis, fitness room and classes, indoor basketball court and a foam mat filled room for the little kids.
Outside is an unusual playground built by Beanstalk Builders, the same folks that did the playground and zip line adventure course at Catawba Meadows Park in nearby Morganton NC.
The Center offers special programs throughout the year including free-guided hikes. During summer months, rent a canoe from the Center and paddle around Buckeye Lake, or go fishing. The Center also rents fishing poles, however, you must provide your own bait, but that shouldn’t be too hard to find in the forest. Rumor has it the trout like corn, so maybe pick up a few ears at the Food Lion on your way in.
The Emerald Outback trail system is an eight plus mile network designed by former National Mountain Bike Series Champion Todd Branham from Long Cane Trails for both hikers and bikers. The trails vary in difficulty and length, from easy to difficult and from under a mile to four-and-a-half miles.
All the trains are at approximately 5,000 feet elevation with a change through the entire system of 450 feet. An old gravel-logging road gives hikers and bikers an easy option to get back to base quickly. Get a map before heading out at the Buckeye Recreation Center or Fred’s General Mercantile.
The last time we visited Beech Mountain, rainy weather kept us from doing too much hiking, but the rain held off long enough for us to do the moderate 1.5 mile Falls Trail loop which starts at the Buckeye Recreation Center. We passed gorgeous waterfalls where families can cool off with a swim during the warm summer months. The trail ended at Buckeye Lake, which is stocked with trout.
If you do the Buckeye Recreations Center trails, there is plenty of parking. For the Emerald Outback trails, there is parking and easy access to the trails in Downtown Beech Mountain, next to the Brick Oven Pizzeria or the EMO Base Lot as it’s called. Another parking lot is the EMO Summit Lot located near the top of the mountain. Again, weather foiled our attempt to experience the trail, but I read some reviews on a site called Single Tracks that give a decent overview of what you can expect.
Summertime Festivals at Beech Mountain NC
Summer also brings several popular festivals to Beech Mountain NC. Although I have not been to these festivals (my favorites are in the fall), these weekend events come highly recommended.
Annual Roasting of the Hog
What better way to celebrate American independence than a pig roast cooked by the local fire department. Held the Saturday closest to the Fourth of July, this event is put on the by Town of Beech Mountain, the Beech Mountain Volunteer Fire Department and the Beech Mountain Chamber of Commerce. In addition to the BBQ, there is also music, chilren’s activities and of course fireworks.
Crafts on the Green, Beech Mountain NC
This annual event is held the first Saturday in August and highlights craftsman from around the mountain region. There is also food, musical entertainment and children’s activiites, but it’s the shopping that really takes center stage.
Mile High Kite Festival, Beech Mountain NC
This is the one I’d like to see, The Mile High Kite Festival held each Labor Day weekend. There are kite flying demonstrations, contests and free kites for the first 200 children.
Autumn Fun at Beech Mountain NC with Fall Festivals
Fall in Beech Mountain NC is beautiful with the changing leaves. It’s also the time when the town hosts my favorite festivals, the Woolly Worm Festival and Autumn at Oz.
Land of Oz: Beech Mountain NC
Follow the yellow brick road to Beech Mountain and the Autumn at Oz festival. In the 1970’s a Wizard of Oz theme park sat at the top of Beech Mountain. The theme park closed, but it’s memory lives on in this annual fall festival.
To avoid long lines, timed tickets are given, and visitors must load during their timed session. So if you have a timed session from 9:30AM-10:30AM, you may arrive any time between 9:30AM and 10:30AM.
Once you reach the top of the mountain, a ticket is required to enter Dorothy’s House. Get your ticket before perusing the vendors or watching the entertainment.
A note for those who need assistance, the Oz property has uneven paths, ramps and stairs and therefore is not wheel chair or stroller friendly (late afternoon sessions work better for folks needing assistance and small strollers or backpacks work best for children).
Also note the weather on Beech can be cold and blustery, so please be prepared by dressing in layers and wearing comfy shoes. Bring a jacket and an umbrella, just in case. For current weather, go to www.beechmountainchamber.com and click on weather. The weekend we visited, my children dressed at the bottom of the mountain in shorts and t-shirts, but by the time they took the lift to the top, it was quite cold.
Woolly Worm Festival
Technically the Woolly Worm Festival is in Banner Elk, not Beech Mountain NC. But since you have to go through Banner Elk to get to Beech Mountain, I included it here.
This fantastic festival has grown in popularity in the last few years, and has even been featured in Southern Living magazine.
Be sure to read all about the Woolly Worm races and – if you don’t find a “wild” woolly worm, leave time to make a purchase when you arrive. Head straight for the race sign up booths if you plan to race – the races fill early and you don’t want to miss your spot, or wait around all day for your chance.
It costs a few dollars to race and they will give you all the rules. Legend has it the Wooly Worm winner can predict the weather for the winter by his or her stripes. They have a pretty high accuracy rating!
Make time for the Valle Country Fair too
Although the Woolly Worm Festival has plenty of festival food options, we recommend, if you can wait – to hold out and head back over to Valle Crucis for the Valle Country Fair.
While the Woolly Worm is more “festival”, games and kids stuff and arts and crafts and kettle corn (and oh, did we mention the FANTASTIC apples, right off the truck?), Valle offers an old timey traditional country fair. You’ll find some of the best barbecue you’ve ever eaten, as well as other food. There is entertainment, as well as artisans and higher quality crafts as a general rule.
Plan carefully. Valle closes earlier than Woolly Worm. No need to rush around, but be thoughtful about where you want to spend your time, especially if you want to have quality time at both events. And be sure to bring some cash for parking, little odds and ends, etc. And don’t forget your CAMERA! Lots of fun and beautiful places to get great shots!
Where to Eat in Beech Mountain NC
Although I stay at different places when I go to Beech Mountain, I tend to eat at the same restaurants. Maybe that means I’ve already discovered the best locations, or maybe it just means I’m a creature of habit. Either way, here’s the places I return to again and again when I’m vacationing at Beech Mountain.
Fred’s General Mercantile: Start your day at Fred’s Mercantile with a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit (don’t worry, you burn lots of calories skiing and hiking). If you don’t want all that, just get a side of bacon. Fred knows how to cook it up right.
Brick Oven Pizzeria: For a break from sledding on Beech Mountain’s Free Sledding Hill, or biking the Emerald Outback, head to the Brick Oven Pizzeria. In addition to good pie, they have an arcade for big kids, as well as the little ones. Don’t take my word for it though; see all the notes and messages left by former patrons hanging from the walls.
Jackalope’s View: I am consistently impressed with Jackalope’s View, a fine dining restaurant that is part of Archer’s Mountainside Inn, a group of lodge rooms and vacation homes. The menu offers a tasty selection of fish, chicken, beef or pasta dishes with beautiful views of the mountains. Our waitress recommended the bleu cheese encrusted pork chop, which was exceptional.
Jackalope’s doesn’t have a kids’ menu, however, the chef created a special kids pasta for my youngest who proclaimed it “the best pasta ever.” I like being able to have a nice glass of wine and a super meal after a day on outside without feeling like I have to leave the kids at home. If you do leave the kids behind, grab a nightcap at the upstairs Vault Bar. It has pool tables and a fun atmosphere.
The 1861 Farmhouse: If you are up for traveling a bit, head to Valle Crucis to the 1861 Farmhouse. They also have a great wine list – including wines made on-site. The house was once owned by the proprietors of Mast General Store, a wonderful tourist attraction across the street and perfect for a day of shopping.
Ask the proprietors about the farmhouse history and ghost stories. The 1861 Farmhouse also welcomes kids with an extensive kids menu. During summer months, let the kids run around the yard while enjoying a cocktail on the scenic wrap around porch.
No visit to Beech Mountain is complete without a stop at Fred’s General Mercantile. Fred Pfohl is an interesting fellow and you’ll find him at Fred’s General Mercantile. His motto is “If you don’t see it, ask for it… If we don’t have it, you don’t need it,” and he’s right.
This store has everything from ski equipment (including rental clothes and sleds) to groceries and even items literally displayed in a kitchen sink. You’ll also find trail maps for the Emerald Outback.
There are three floors of shopping, so make sure to check it all out. The bottom floor also includes a deli where you can get sandwiches or that awesome bacon, egg and cheese breakfast biscuit I was talking about earlier.
Don’t leave without meeting Fred and his wife Margie. If you have any questions about Beech Mountain, they can help. In addition to his stint as Mayor, Fred was instrumental in bringing a free community sledding hill to Beech Mountain, and playing a major role in making Beech a year round vacation destination, having built several hiking trails in the area.
Where to Stay In Beech Mountain NC
Each time we go to Beech Mountain, we stay somewhere new. During the winter months if there is natural snow, all the resorts offer enough room to build snowmen, have a snowball fight and generally play outside. No matter what time of year, most resorts have gorgeous views of the mountains.
Archer’s Mountain Inn, Beech Mountain NC
Archer’s Mountain Inn has hotel rooms, adjacent to the upscale Jackalope’s View restaurant and The Vault Bar. If you are going without kids, I’d stay here. If you have children, they also offer rental houses.
On our first visit we stayed in a large three-bedroom house with a hot tub on the deck. The kids loved throwing snowballs outside and thought it fantastic to be in the hot tub with snow all around them. Of the places we stayed, this one had the least amount of space to play in the snow, but the most living room.
Klonteska Condos, Beech Mountain NC
On my last visit we stayed at Klonteska condos. This was a modern condo with a gorgeous view of the mountains, located directly across the street from Beech Mountain’s free sledding hill, prime location for playing in the snow.
The Pinnacle Inn Resort, Beech Mountain NC
The Pinnacle Inn Resort offers a heated indoor pool and hot tub, perfect for cold winter nights and sore muscles from skiing. A washer and dryer inside the unit is perfect, even if all you do is dry wet clothes. Note: Some buildings at the Pinnacle Inn Resort are being renovated. Management expects renovations on guest condos will be complete by June 2017. Work will continue in the recreation building (which houses the pool and meeting room) throughout the summer months, with an expected completion date of October 2017.
Charlie’s Beech Mountain Realty, Beech Mountain NC
A friend of mine who has since purchased a second home in Beech Mountain highly recommends Charlie’s Beech Mountain Realty.
Got a favorite lodging option in Beach Mountain? Tell us about it.