After spending two nights in Boone in May, we knew we had to go back and explore more. We barely scratched the surface of the town, just briefly strolling the main drag and then hitting one brewery. So this time we ate and drank and ate and drank and hiked and cycled and ate and drank.
In May, we stayed at Flintlock Campground and it was glorious: the campground was sparsely populated, and our campsite was on the creek next door to our buddies. There were so few other campers there that we could park our truck in the campsite on our other side rather than trying to cram it into our smallish spot. We loved it.
This time was a liiiiittle different. The campground was packed, and we felt like sardines crammed into our campsite. We were so close to our neighbors that when the people behind us were in their “yard” smoking, we had to close all the windows on that end of the Airstream. The creekside spots weren’t available, so we were in the middle row, which actually seemed quieter–perhaps the road noise bounced off the hill behind the creek and into the creekside RVs. The campground is very shady and the trees are fantastic, but don’t plan on setting up your satellite TV receiver at Flintlock. There are a few pull-throughs, if you need that, and if you have a pop-up camper, ask about sites 51-54: they’re big, creekside, and weight-limited, so regular RVs can’t use them.
The people at Flintlock are just the absolute nicest. Except for our neighbor who insisted on watching cartoons on her phone at high volume very close to where we were sitting. The campground is about 10 minutes from downtown Boone and 20 minutes from downtown Blowing Rock. We recommend it IF you can snag a creekside campsite, but be prepared for tight quarters.
We focused our eating time on Boone this trip, but we did eat some food in Blowing Rock, especially after hiking and biking, since the trailheads and ride starts are closer to Blowing Rock.
Getting lunch in Boone and Blowing Rock was strangely the biggest problem we had on this trip. On Monday, we took Bugsy into Boone for a late lunch and struck out at Lost Province Brewing Co (the patio was closed) (we ate there and had a beer in 2016 and were curious to try it again), Melanie’s (they close at 2; lovely patio), and Boone Bagelry (they closed an hour early at 2).
We landed at The Local with a 25 minute wait for a patio table. In the meantime, we tootled around in the dog-friendly Mast General Store, always a fun place to shop. The lunch menu at The Local has a little of everything: salads, sandwiches, pizzas, tacos, beer, cocktails; our salad and sandwich were delicious. Sure, we were starving, but I think the food is legitimately good.
Booneshine Brewing Co was a repeat from last visit, but for a good beer with a yummy and healthy meal in a cool place, you can’t beat it. My sour and J’s IPA were fab and we really love the warm grain bowl they do there. We snacked on the ridiculously good fried cauliflower with onion dip at the bar, and took our dinners home to eat at our picnic table.
Our last dinner in Boone was at Vidalia, a recommendation from blog reader Deb. It was a fantastic recommendation. We enjoyed sitting at the bar for the quick and attentive service, and the food was SO good, and the servings were SO huge. Highly recommended!
Finally, we didn’t actually get food here, but we wanted to. Just down the road from the campground, Boonies Old Country Store is a really neat shop full of local artsy goods, prepared foods, and local cheeses and produce. When we stopped by, we were on our way to hiking and didn’t have a cooler, and they were closed when we came back by. But you should go.
The fastest, easiest food option in Blowing Rock is a sandwich from Blowing Rock Market. Order a deli sandwich or build your own, and sit outside with your lucky pupper. The market sells all sorts of snacks and beer and wine too, and you are allowed to open a beer while sitting out front.
Two doors down from the market you will find the best ice cream sandwiches ever built in the whole world ever. Blue Deer ice cream sandwiches are so good and so fast. What a great concept! You choose your cookie flavor and your ice cream flavor and boom, there’s your ice cream sandwich. Yes we went there last visit, and yes we went twice this visit. They also have a location in Boone, and one on Highway 321 between Boone and Blowing Rock.
Foiled again! We twice tried to lunch at Famous Toastery and twice they were closed unexpectedly. Not sure we’ll try them again. The upside was that we were forced to go back to Blowing Rock Market for another sandwich, and then, poor us, we consoled ourselves with second ice cream sandwich from Blue Deer.
Again, we focused our nutrient intake on Boone this trip, but walking through Blowing Rock is really lovely and should not be missed. If you need to stop for a beverage while you’re meandering through town, we have suggestions below!
I already mentioned Booneshine under the Eating section. The food is delish, and the beers are too! I’m a sour girl, J is an IPA boy, and we were both happy. And it’s just a super cool place to hang out. The patio is dog friendly, and there’s a huge beer garden with picnic tables (but no shade) with a food truck (not the regular brewery menu). It’s a great spot.
Appalachian Mountain Brewery is just as cool as Booneshine! Maybe cooler? And we think AMB has the best beer in the Boone-Blowing Rock area! It’s in a neat building with a big patio with games and lots of space to spread out. For the sour lover, there’s a whole line of fruity goses, and for the IPA drinker, regular and session hazies. We had pizza from the food truck and enjoyed live music while we sipped. Bugsy wasn’t with us but she would have loved it there!
The TApp Room is kind of college-divey, but with good beers. We sat at the bar and watched the Olympics and ate fried pickles and were very happy! Next door is Lily’s Snack Bar, which is on our list for next time.
We love a rooftop bar, and Boone has one! The Horton Hotel has a small bar on the roof, and a nice-looking lobby bar too. We went up top and enjoyed the scene and interesting drink menu, but the service was sooooooooo slow. It was fun but a little frustrating!
Blowing Rock has a brewery just off the main drag, so you know that was our first stop in town. The front patio (which looked more interesting) at Blowing Rock Brewing has full service, and the back patio is more of a beer garden where you order from a window and self-serve. The hazy IPA was drinkable, but I didn’t like my seltzer, and the patio tables were wobbly and dirty, so we didn’t finish our drinks.
Across the street from the brewery, the Inn at Ragged Gardens is beautiful. And lo! They have a bar at their Best Cellar Restaurant that serves cocktails that you can carry out into the garden. The cocktails were nice and all, but sipping in the garden amongst the flowers was just lovely.
When we first visited in 2016, our friends took us to their favorite restaurant, Bistro Roca. We stopped by to check out the bistro’s Antlers Bar and loved it. It was bustling on a Monday night, with good cocktails and beers and the best thing: the walls are covered with portraits of dogs sitting at tables in the restaurant!
It’s so cool: once a year, the restaurant brings in a professional photographer and for a $95 donation to the Humane Society, you get a photo of your dog posing, and they’ll put a copy up on the wall for at least a year. Love it!
It was rainy on day 1, so we did waterfall hikes. There are a couple short hikes nearby: a 1.5-miler near Banner Elk, and a 2.3-miler from downtown Blowing Rock.
We started with the Banner Elk hike, to Crab Orchard Falls. The hike was short and sweet, just an up and down over a big hill to pretty falls. We saw only one other group on the trail.
But then we stopped by the original Mast General Store location in Valle Crucis and found all the people. It was super cheesy and touristy but a fun stop.
The other waterfall hike is the Glen Burney Trail, which starts in downtown Blowing Rock. You can’t beat the convenience, but that means you’ll be sharing the trail with a lot more people. This trail is tougher and steeper than Crab Orchard, and the falls aren’t super exciting, but again, location. Don’t bother going beyond the last view from below the falls, there’s nothing better, just a steep descent to a dead end.
After our two little hikes, we wanted to get more miles, so we went for a known quantity. In May, we hiked to Flat Top Tower in Moses Cone Park just outside Blowing Rock. The rain had blown away, and in the cool, overcast weather, we had a pleasant walk a mile or so up the carriage trail to the edge of the woods.
We weren’t sure we should do it, but then we did it: we paid $22 per person to visit Grandfather Mountain. Yes, $22 per person. Bugsy was free, though! There are several hiking trails, a touristy mile-high swinging bridge, a nature museum, and views views views. If you’ve read this blog, you know Hiking Rule #1: GO EARLY. This park gets really crowded!
After you’ve done the requisite walk across the swinging bridge and admired the views from other side, you can choose your adventure. We chose to start with the Grandfather Trail to Calloway Peak, a seriously brutal 4.5-mile out-and-back that’s basically a rock scramble with ladders bolted to cliffsides.
It was fun and hard and not dog friendly (Bugsy waited in the cool, shady car for us). We thought the views from the much-closer McRae Peak were better than those from Calloway.
Can someone please explain to me what the giant eyesore building on the mountain across the way is? Who let them build that? Ugh.
After eating PBJs in the parking lot, we moved down the hill to the Black Rock Trail and we loved it. There were many fewer people away from the swinging bridge area, and the 2-mile out-and-back led to bonkers views. We hiked through banks of rhododendrons, over a couple dog-friendly springs, and scrambled up rock faces to the vistas–Bugsy did need our help there.
After experiencing the park and seeing all the ladders, cables, and support systems that have to be maintained–not to mention the mile-high swinging bridge–we were happy to pay the entrance fee.
Our last hike was another recommendation from Deb: Rough Ridge from the Tanawha Trail, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Again: go early! This one is popular too! The big, insanely gorgeous views are about .6 miles up the hill, and there’s not much payoff for going beyond there, but the woods are pleasant and there’s a pretty creek at the end. We walked a bit in the other direction on the Tanawha Trail too and it’s nice, but there are no views and lots of road noise, but no people!
Last visit, we did a cycling route that started in Boone and looped up through Blowing Rock. The ride was wonderful, but there was a stretch on the highway heading back into Boone that was uncomfortably busy. So this time we chose a different 30-mile ride from the same local cycling group, Boone Area Cyclists, that started and finished in Blowing Rock, and avoided big roads. It was awesome! Very little traffic, no scary highways, Blue Ridge Parkway views, big fast downhills, and a killer climb to finish. We’ll do that loop again for sure.
We love this part of North Carolina and will definitely be back. Uncle Jim wants us to check out Horn in the West, so we definitely have to go back and do that. We’ll also have a drink and snack at Lily’s Snack Bar. What else should go on our to-do list? Thanks for all the recommendations so far!