The budget-friendly “Bike & Brew” and “Hike & Wine” packages are tempting lures to make the most of fall.
Our Eat & Burn series showcases destinations through their cuisine and inviting ways to burn calories.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Fall is my favorite season.
So when a friend said, “Fall comes earlier in the mountains,” well, it was music to my overheated-by-summer ears.
I headed to Beech Mountain, North Carolina.
At 5,506 feet above sea level, Beech Mountain is the highest town east of the Rockies. The foliage up there typically peaks in late September or early October—at least two weeks earlier than other places in the North Carolina mountains. (If you’re an avid leaf peeper you could plan a trip that strategically hops down altitudes to catch a wave of at-peak color. Send pictures!)
Even in mid-September, the timing of my visit, signs of autumn abound, from picturesque roadside pumpkin and scarecrow displays to the cooler temps and bright-burgundy leaves. Ahhhh.
Best of all from the point of view of a grownup in need of a getaway, it’s off-season in the ski resort town, which translates to having more of the fresh air and nature all to yourself (kids are in school) and at the best possible price (off-season rates). What’s not to love?
“Hike & Wine” and “Bike & Brew” Packages
Two packages are tempting lures for active grownups who appreciate good sips. The “Bike & Brew” and “Hike & Wine” packages are $169 and include two nights lodging for two, trail maps, guest passes to the Buckeye Recreation Center (which boasts a gymnasium, tennis court and more), and a tasting for two at either Beech Mountain Brewing Company or Banner Elk Winery. In 2017, the “Bike & Brew” offer is valid through September 3 while the “Hike & Wine” deal runs through November 12.
Both packages are a bargain, especially considering all the fun and memories are priceless. So grab your gear and get ready to savor the season.
Beech Mountain boasts 28 miles of trails, including eight miles at the top of the mountain in what’s dubbed the Emerald Outback. All trails are available for hiking; several are also open to mountain biking. There’s no charge to use the trails.
“Something for everyone” is how the trails are billed in the official trail guide. Indeed, you can opt for a leisurely stroll through the woods or a vigorous climb up to the peak. You can explore old growth forest, an old logging road and railroad grade, or climb what feels like straight up into the sky on steep inclines. Or take things easy and opt for the quarter-mile handicap accessible trail around Lake Coffey or the third-mile paved path around the Buckeye Recreation Center.
Several trails are loops, some are a straight route so you’ll hike one direction then turn around and retrace your steps to get back to your car (unless you park a car at each end, but you’d need a friend along in order to coordinate that maneuver). You can take all day exploring one long trail or tackle several different shorter trails.
All of the designated trails are well marked. The guide provides the information you need to choose the route that suits your mood and energy level.
Bring water, breathe deep the fresh air, and get moving. Spectacular views fuel motivation.
EAT (& SIP)
The restaurant scene in Beech Mountain is more down-home than haute cuisine, which is just what you’ll crave after a day of hiking or biking in the crisp mountain air.
Getting here offers an excuse to ride the ski lift up to the summit at Beech Mountain Ski Resort. Appreciate the view, snap photos, watch mountain bikers show off some fancy moves, grab a beer and sit a spell. Hungry? Swing by Fast Eddie’s stand for a hot dog or hamburger topped however you want, whether you like yours layered with chili, relish, slaw, cheese and onions or just drizzled with plain ol’ ketchup.
Alpen Restaurant & Bar
This restaurant and bar is part of the Beech Alpen Inn, which was built in the 1970s in a style inspired by the inns typically found in the European Alps. In 2006, new owners added the new modern kitchen and restaurant. Though the indoor dining rooms offer a warm ambiance, if the weather conditions are tolerable opt for a table on the patio for the best views of the whitetail deer who feast on the lawn each evening (and the young fawns play those reindeer games you’ve heard so much about). The dinner menu for humans features American classics like trout, salmon, steaks and chops as well as Italian dishes like chicken marsala, linguine marinara and more.
Banner Elk Winery
The first commercial winery built in Avery and Watauga counties, Banner Elk produces wines that reflect the terroir of North Carolina’s High Country. Using estate-grown and purchased grapes in hearty French-American and American varietals—some of which may be unfamiliar to you and thus especially worth discovering—Banner Elk produces the most award-winning wines in the region. Tastings are $10 for seven pours (included at no additional charge for “Hike & Wine” package participants).
Beech Mountain Brewing Co.
Recently renovated, the facility in the Alpine Village at Beech Mountain Ski Resort is the place to stop for a tasting plus a peek at the production process. The brewery produces several craft brews—some of which you’ll find at the 5,506 SkyBar as well as on taps throughout town—including the Blind Squirrel Nut Brown Ale, a local favorite that several dudes can’t stop raving about. (Tastings are free for “Bike & Brew” package participants.)
Fred’s Backside Deli
This deli is located at Fred’s General Mercantile, which is the heartbeat of town and is open 365 days a year. Fred’s first opened February 9, 1979 and has been open every day since. The general store sells just about everything, upholding the motto, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” The service inside the deli is casual (you’ll be ordering at the counter, eating with plastic forks and filling your own beverages), and the food simple. But simple is satisfying when you’re hungry. After all, how fussy do you really need your eggs or cheeseburger to be?
Mile High Tavern
“Get Tapped” is the motto at Mile High Tavern, and though we’re not convinced a rendezvous here will get you inducted into the mile high club, you can sip your pick among the “most crafted brews on tap in the High Country.” Cheers! to that. Alongside your beverage(s) of choice, munch on quality fire-grilled pizza, cast iron turkey burgers, grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, chili, salads, and other satisfying dishes.
Where To Stay…
301 Pinnacle Inn Rd.
Beech Mountain, NC 28604
The only condo rental property in the area with a heated indoor pool plus dry sauna, steam room, two hot tubs, weight room and movie rentals (for the DVD players in each unit), rental options here include suites, one- and two-bedroom units. All units are fully furnished with standard amenities like fresh linens, coffee makers, hair dryers, soap (but not shampoo), and free parking and free Wi-Fi. Units with wood-burning fireplaces, whirlpool tubs and other luxuries are available. For help choosing the unit that’s best suited to your needs, contact the rental office or explore the options online.
4 Seasons at Beech
608 Beech Mountain Parkway
Beech Mountain, NC 28604
Room options include studios and suites; some corner units boast two levels with living and kitchen space on the main floor and a spiral staircase up to the bedroom plus bathrooms on both levels. All units are furnished with essentials plus basic amenities including efficiency kitchens. Free parking, free Wi-Fi accessible in the lobby.
Odds of Encountering Children: The great outdoor space of Beech Mountain offers more than enough room for everyone who might want to hike any given day. Breweries, wineries and restaurants with bars draw more adults than families with young children. If you want to minimize your encounters with munchkins, check the Beech Mountain calendar to learn when special events aimed at families will be hosted and plan your visit accordingly.
The Beech Mountain Visitors Center can be reached at 800-468-5506
According to FlipKey.com, a TripAdvisor company, Beech Mountain ranks No. 1 for the Most Affordable Vacation Rental Destination in North Carolina. See the full report here.
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.