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gorgesstateparkrainbowExcerpted from an article by Karen Chavez for Asheville Citizen-Times


“…During November and early December, it seemed like all the Western North Carolina forests were on fire…at different times, all the state parks in WNC were closed due to fires…many trails throughout the Nantahala National Forest and sections of the Appalachian Trail were closed, as were many trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Then the rains came, and the fires died and…(the parks) are open and welcoming visitors once again.  Just in time for the Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s holiday to get out  of the house and burn all that sugar on a hike…

  • Gorges State Park, in Transylvania County is open daily.  Superintendent Steve Pagano will lead the First Day Hike January 1.  It will be a moderate, 2-mile hike from the park visitor center to the Bearwallow Overlook and then down to the Upper Bearwallow Falls observation deck.  It is considered suitable for all ages.  Hikers will get to see several great views, a waterfall, the park’s new picnic shelter and restroom as well as the park’s LEED-certified Visitor Center.  The hike will start at 10- am from the Visitor Center Fireplace, where  hot cocoa will be available compliments of the Friends of Gorges State Park.  Gorges is in the town of Sapphire, approximately 45 miles southwest of Asheville.  Take NC 280 west to Brevard.  Follow US 64 west out of Brevard until you reach Sapphire, then turn left on NC 281 south.  The park entrance is 0.7 miles on the left.  The Visitor Center is a half-mile inside the park on Grassy Ridge Road.
  • Blue Ridge Parkway.  Most of the hundreds of miles that crisscross the parkway, which runs right through Asheville, are open every day, including Christmas, and are always free.  Be aware that the parkway is closed from Milepost 367.5 north of Asheville to Milepost 355 for snow and ice, debris and fallen trees.  For up to date road and weather conditons, visit www. nps.gov/blri.

Some other places to get out and hike over the holidays.

  • Chimney Rock State Park
  • Lake James State Park
  • Mount Mitchell State Park
  • The North Carolina Arboretum

For up-to-date information on all state parks, which all offer First Day hikes, visit www. ncparks.gov and click  on “Find a Park”.

SOURCE:  Karen Chavez for The Asheville Citizen-Times

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