Sunday, August 24, 2014



One of the largest parks on the Blue Ridge Parkway is the Moses Cone Memorial Park located at Mile Post 294 between Blowing Rock and Boone.  Its convenience for vacationers and students at nearby Appalachian State University makes it a popular weekend destination.  

The centerpiece of the 3600 acre park is the summer home of Moses Cone, the "denim king" of North Carolina textile fame. The home, known as Flat Top Manor, is now a popular craft and mountain arts center.  But surrounding this magnificent old home is a wonderful park filled with great hiking paths.
The view from the front porch of Flat Top Manor provides a panoramic view of Blowing Rock, N.C.
The trails crisscrossing the park are mostly former carriage trails, all seemingly leading to the Carriage House where are constructed some well used restrooms.  We chose to hike the Flat Top Mountain Tower Trail which is a 5 mile round trip hike to the top of Flat Top Mountain where stands a 70' observation tower.
The trial leads beneath the Blue Ridge Parkway and winds its way through mountain pastures and meadows on the way to the top of tree covered mountain ridge.

Moses and Bertha Cone were considered "naturalists" before the term became popular and the park's beauty is a tribute to their foresight and care.  The paths are adorned with wildflowers and there is a variety of white pines, hemlocks and sugar maples interspersed with natural mountain foliage, including 32,000 apple trees.  

We happily shared our trail with horse riders.  The carriage trails are wide and graveled and provide a great bridle path for horse riders of all ages.

My Hiking Companion was quite jealous especially when she saw a group with a saddled but riderless horse. "Maybe I can hitch a ride?"

Moving up the trail from the Carriage House we were entertained by a herd of cattle grazing in the warm sun.

One cow begged my Hiking Companion to make her famous by putting her smiling face in the Hiking with a Fat Bald White Guy blog and being the tender-hearted animal lover she could she refuse?

Leaving the pasture, the trail winds through some woods and soon emerges into a large mountain meadow teeming with wildflowers and butterflies.

The trail winds up the mountain in a gradually steep climb designed to make it easy for a horse to pull a carriage.  Thus the trails though steep were much easier than we were accustomed for a hike of this length.  

Every switchback contains a cut-through for hikers which we used on the way back, cutting an half mile off the trail.                                                           


About 2 miles into the trail is a rock overlook where we took a water break and took in a wonderful view of the town of Blowing Rock in the distance.  Not far from the rock cliff overlook is a more formal overlook guarded by this solitary tree.

From the overlook the carriage trail becomes much steeper but still not a very stressful hike at all.  The trail ends at the top of the mountain in a small grass clearing where stands a 70 foot observation tower, evidently converted from a formerly abandoned fire tower.

Eagerly climbing the tower, the FBWG left his Hiking Companion behind.  The tower is much sturdier than it looks and the 360 degree view from the top is magnificent

Grandfather Mountain was kind enough to emerge from the clouds.  We even could see the silhouette of Table Rock, Hawksbill and Shortoff Mountains in the distance.

You meet the nicest folks on the trail.  Today we met Elizabeth a sophomore at App State from Shelby. She is studying to be a nurse.  She was surprised to be able to see the campus from atop this tower.

We also met Sydney and Patrick, two UNCC grads who are now working at App State.  They were looking for some trails to hike and were happy to make the acquaintance of the FBWG and learn of his hiking exploits.

Coming down from the mountain we got another great view of Grandfather framed by the mountain meadow.

Looking back at Flat Top Mountain, one can only imagine what it must have been like to live in this park during the summers during the 1920's.  A horseback or carriage ride through this undisturbed mountain meadows must have given folks great pleasure.  In fact Moses Cone is buried on a hill top in this meadow.  I think I understand why.

Returning to the trail head, we noted that we logged 4.53 miles and there was a trout lake but 1.25 miles away, we decided to stretch our hike to take a visit.

Downhill all the way a wooded carriage trail weaved its way to a magnificent trout lake, which glistened in the afternoon sun.  Pausing to catch some rays on the grassy dam, the FBWG took time to thank God for the beauty of His creation and rest my aching dogs.

Moses Cone Park is a wonderful gift to visitors of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It is a 3600 acre park with 25 miles of carriage trails winding through meadows and peaks and pastures.  It is adorned by wildflowers and glistening mountain lakes.  

So how do I rate this hike.....First the effort to view ratio is good...for a 5 mile hike it is really not very strenuous at all and the view from a top the observation tower is one of the best in the area; the paths are well maintained and marked - 9;  the access is right off the Parkway, some 30 minutes from downtown Boone and Blowing Rock - 9; the scenery though not as spectacular as the Gorge provides much variety and interest - 9; overall grade is a 9;  


  1. Thanks for the nice guide and the ratings. Your guide definitely helped me in preparing my trip to NC in coming November. Question for you: Do you think some of the Blue Ridge Parkway could be closed during 11/8-11/2014?

  2. John: thanks for the nice comments.....November will be late for the peak leaf season....but don't worry...the Blue Ridge Parkway rarely closes and all the hikes I have profiled off the Parkway will be open for you....and most likely without a lot of folks on the trail.....November is a great time to hike North sure to take the Plunge Basin hike to the base of the Linville Falls and Hawksbill Mountain as well...two of the most accessible and picturesque places in the area....if you are ambitious take the Daniel Boone Scout Trail to Calloway Peak atop Grandfather Mountain...