I stopped and took a deep breath after ascending a portion of the steep, rocky trail deep in the forest with the sound of waterfalls in the background. Chris and I had descended to the bottom of Glen Burney Falls Trail, one of our favorite things to do in Blowing Rock, NC.
While the views of the waterfalls at the bottom were spectacular, we earned that view with this aptly described strenuous trail that starts from the small, flower-filled Annie Cannon Gardens.
Hiking is just one of the activities that draw visitors to this small town in western North Carolina who also come for its proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway, views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and its charming Main Street.
We enjoyed other hikes, kayaking, shopping and dining. And yes, we saw the famous cliff called Blowing Rock. Here are 5 things to do in Blowing Rock, NC.
Hike the trails for incredible mountain and waterfall views
While there were plenty of other hiking trails closer to Blowing Rock, we had always wanted to visit Grandfather Mountain, less than 20 minutes away. At almost 6,000 feet, the mountain is quite tall by East Coast standards.
The attraction has hiking trails, nature museum, wildlife habitats and daily programs. You can either stop at the visitor center and take a shuttle to the top, drive the super twisty and windy roads, or opt to do what we did and hike up the last portion to the Mile High Swinging Bridge.
The hiking path, like others in this part of North Carolina, is mostly rocks and I was glad I had brought my hiking boots along. After taking the short hike I got up my courage to cross the swinging bridge. Although I’m not afraid of heights, the swinging part of this bridge did unnerve me a bit.
After crossing the bridge, we encountered huge boulders we could climb over for 360-degree views of the valley below. The views were worth the climb.
We descended back down to our car and were rewarded for our efforts. We’d had lunch in the café at the visitors’ center and because they were out of what my husband ordered, the nice server gave us a huge chocolate chip cookie.
It was a warm day in June, so the cookie had melted slightly and was warm. Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite food group and I’m harsh in my judgment of them. This cookie ranks as one of the best ever. Don’t miss it on your next trip.
Leave time for a visit to the famous Blowing Rock, This giant cliff hangs over the Johns River Gorge with incredible views. Stroll through the gardens and the short hiking trails, ending with a visit to the gift shop.
Stroll around the shops on Main Street
Its charming downtown and collection of shops and restaurants is one reason why Blowing Rock has been called one of the best small southern towns. We wandered in and out of the dozens of shops that line Main Street and were greeted by friendly shop owners.
I’m not a big shopper when I travel and having just moved and painfully gotten rid of tons of stuff, I wasn’t in the mood to acquire more. But a few items caught my eye: a cute plate that read “Bless Your Heart” and a rustic dough bowl that would be perfect in our new home.
Chris’s favorite purchase was two foldable caps. I spotted them in a gift shop, and he was thrilled with them as he folds his caps to put in his back pocket when he’s not wearing them.
If you’re into outlet shopping, Tanger Outlets Blowing Rock are just a few minutes away.
Dine at fabulous local restaurants
We had asked for recommendations for places to eat and more than one person had told us to go to Blowing Rock Brewing Company.
I was surprised to see fried cheese curds on the menu, an item I associate with Wisconsin. While they have obsessed fans, I am not one of them – the texture is just not for me. We stayed with more mainstream orders of salads and sandwiches.
We sat outside and enjoyed a bit of cool mountain air one night at The Speckled Trout where we really enjoyed the signature dish. Order it one of six ways, including cilantro crusted – a preparation I’d never heard of. I stuck with the almond and cornmeal crusted.
Enjoy a stellar location and comfortable rooms at Meadowbrook Inn
Amenities at the 62-room Meadowbrook Inn include an indoor pool, hot breakfast and fitness center. I liked our spacious room with fireplace, desk and mini fridge, and particularly enjoyed our location, just one block from Main Street.
To promote sustainability the Inn created a rooftop apiary in 2019 with two hives of honeybees. Bee Kind Family Farm maintains the hives and harvests the honey, which is used by the Executive Chef in dishes and sauces. You can also purchase it from the front desk.
Kayak the New River with Wahoo’s Adventures
It was only about 20 minutes away, but we questioned whether we were going the right way as the roads got narrower and more overgrown. We took a hairpin curve onto a gravel road and arrived at Wahoo’s Adventures.
Around since 1978, the outfitter offers rafting trips, paddle boarding, cave tours and other recreational adventures.
They also have campsites and the New River Treehouses, four treehouses with showers and a bathroom close by. Just bring camping gear and a sleeping bag and you’re all set to stay in one of these treehouses that sleep from three to six adults.
If you’re thinking of renting a treehouse, see our story with 5 Tips for Amazing Treehouse Rentals. See more options for treehouses in North Carolina in our story 12 Stunning and Unique Treehouses in Asheville, NC
After checking in we got on the shuttle for a ride through rolling hills and farmland to our drop-off point for a four-hour ride on the New River. After the helpful guides got us launched in the kayaks, we were off to float and paddle at our leisure.
We saw birds, cows, a turtle, horses and what were either beavers or otters. We also saw a momma duck with lots of ducklings in a row and stalked two blue herons for much of the trip. They flew ahead of us and just as we got close, took flight and flew away again. My efforts to capture their graceful exits were unsuccessful but I enjoyed having their company.
Spotting of humans were much rarer until we got close to the end of the trip where we ran into a few tubers. It was a relaxing, peaceful way to spend an afternoon.
A Few More Things to Do in Blowing Rock, NC
The one thing we didn’t fit in that I really wanted to do was visit the 3500-acre Moses Cone Memorial Park, a family estate that was donated in 1949 and includes the historic estate, hiking trails and the Southern Highland Craft Guild craft shop. Just adjacent to it is Julian Price Memorial Park and the 47-acre Price Lake.
For family fun, take a 3-mile ride on a historic steam locomotive at Tweetsie Railroad, which includes a Wild West amusement park.
If you’re looking for more adventure of the aerial kind, check out High Gravity Adventures, with ziplines, rope course and a giant three-person swing.
For more information on Blowing Rock, visit blowingrock.com