Jan 23, 2012

Moses Cone Park, NC

Recently Connie and I were driving to the NC Mountains, going from the SC midlands up to Boone and back in one day.  That's 8 hours of driving, so we planned in some time to hike and stretch a little.  I chose to stop at the Moses Cone Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway, right there near Blowing Rock.

I've been to Moses Cone a few times, but have never taken the full hike up to the tower, so that was our goal for the day.   The above photo is the view Moses and Bertha Cone enjoyed off their front porch every morning from the mid-1890's through, for Bertha at least, 1946 or so.......
 Moses died in 1908.

The home, Flat Top Manor was closed for this visit -- late December, 2011. During open hours, you can tour the house and visit the gift shop.  We simply enjoyed the view and walked out past the barn to the trail to the fire tower.

The Cones created 25 miles of carriage trails that are maintained today for hiking, horse riding and cross country skiing.  The trails were busy the day we were there and we saw several people on horseback.

Be forewarned that at this time of year when the house is closed, there is no restroom available.  The house is open daily from April or May to November. During the summer, you can find artisans demonstrating their skills on the front porch.

We passed the barn and began the 5.6 mile hike (round trip) to the tower.  This hike starts on Flat Top Road which goes back under the Blue Ridge Parkway.

This hike will take you past the Cone Cemetery on your left.  You can detour off to visit the cemetery or just keep going.  On my last visit, I hiked to the cemetery and back.  That was a great hike for a family with a 4 year old.  She enjoyed it. It was long enough to get some exercise and short enough for the very young or elderly.

Passing the cemetery, you will soon come upon this field pictured above.  There is a short-cut trail across the field if you'd like a steeper hike and to skip the zig-zag switchbacks designed to make the hike less strenuous.

We discovered several short-cut trails through the woods as well.  These enabled us to skip a lot of the zig-zag on the carriage trail.

The summit of Flat Top Mountain, to which we were climbing, sits at 4,558 feet.  Besides getting exercise, we also wanted to enjoy some great views of the mountains.  Unfortunately, this trail did not provide much in the line of great views unless you climb the tower at the top.

The tower at the top of the mountain was placed there by the Cones for the purpose of getting a great panoramic view of the mountains.  The fact that they had to climb a tall tower to get the view tells us something.

This was the best view we found on the ascent:

After 2.8 miles hiking up hill, we found the tower.  We began to climb it, but I had to stop because I'm very much afraid of heights.  I get vertigo.

Connie climbed a little higher than I, but turned around due to the large crowd.  Kids were climbing up and down rapidly, lots of people all over it and we didn't feel very safe.  The crowd came after these photos were taken.  Really.  It was crowded.

This was one of our other favorite views from the hike:

When you live in the SC Midlands, you don't see much snow.  
Moses Cone offers at least five different hikes, maybe more.  You can park down at the lake and take a leisurely stroll around it.  There are two or three hikes under one mile in length.  There's a 3.6 mile hike up the mountain as well.   If you're traveling through the area and want a little fresh air and exercise, I definitely recommend a stop at Moses Cone Park.

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