A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

“Rudi, we’ve only been here for five minutes.” All I could see was her bushy brown tail, wagging through the gap in the curtains. “Come on in! It’s cold out!”

Madison County Championship Rodeo

“Rudi, we’ve only been here for five minutes.” All I could see was her bushy brown tail, wagging through the gap in the curtains. “Come on in! It’s cold out!”

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

“Rudi, we’ve only been here for five minutes.” All I could see was her bushy brown tail, wagging through the gap in the curtains. “Come on in! It’s cold out!”

A Winter Wonderland in Blowing Rock

“Rudi, we’ve only been here for five minutes.” All I could see was her bushy brown tail, wagging through the gap in the curtains. “Come on in! It’s cold out!” Her tail kept wagging. My boyfriend, Alex, and I had just arrived at Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock. As soon as we’d checked in to our room, we stepped out into the frosty evening to take a look at the lake from our balcony. Rudi, our large and very fuzzy dog — that is to say, made for the cold — immediately followed us out, and it had been nearly impossible to get her to come back in. It started to snow just enough to make us feel like we were in a snow globe. Rudi looked back through the curtains at us, the still lake reflecting sparkling lights behind her, and I could swear she was smiling.

Later, after the three of us were finally curled up and cozy under a big plaid blanket (and most definitely off the balcony), I planned out the rest of our weekend in the High Country. It’s safe to say that all three of us smiled a lot more over the next few days. In search of your own Fido-friendly Blowing Rock itinerary? Here are eight tried-and-true ways to make the most of a winter weekend in a North Carolina wonderland.



Friday

Check in to Chetola with Your Canine Companion: Whether or not you bring Fido on your getaway, you’ll want to have a home base in a perfect location. At Chetola, a tucked-away, 78-acre resort within walking distance of both downtown Blowing Rock and the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll feel like you’re at the heart of the action and on a peaceful mountain retreat. In the 42-room Chetola Lodge, discover cozy, cabin-esque decor, and in some guestrooms, lakefront balconies complete with rocking chairs (be sure to stay in one of these if you’re bringing your pup!). Check in on Friday afternoon and drop your bags to take a stroll around the lake — from the other side, you’ll have a perfect view of your beautiful new digs.

You’ll feel like you’re at the heart of the action and on a peaceful mountain retreat during your stay at Chetola. photograph by Chetola Resort

Go Skiing or Ice-Skating at Appalachian Ski Mountain: You’ll find frosty fun less than a 10-minute drive from Chetola Resort. In the evening, hit the slopes at the High Country’s first ski area, which opened in 1962, or glide over the state’s only Zamboni-maintained outdoor ice-skating rink while enjoying a view of the ski slopes on one side and the Blue Ridge Mountains on the other. Take a spin beneath the stars, then warm up by the rinkside bonfire.

Have a Cozy Night in: After a long day, defrosting with room service and puppy snuggles is the ticket. Order dinner from Timberlake’s Restaurant, on-site at Chetola, then bundle up to sip aprés-ski drinks on your balcony. If you’d prefer to get out, warm up by the fire on Timberlake’s lakeside patio — which is strung up with bistro lights — or listen to live music at Headwaters Pub.

 

Saturday

Sip Coffee in Downtown Blowing Rock: Just a minute’s drive or a few minutes’ walk from Chetola, you’ll find yourself in charming downtown Blowing Rock. Start your morning off by warming up with a local coffee at Bald Guy Brew or Camp Coffee Roasters. At Bald Guy, order a Caffé Latte made with local milk. At Camp, try the Camp Mocha — which tastes just like a toasted s’more in a cup. Don’t forget the whipped cream.

Take a Stroll Down Main Street: After your caffeine fix, wander down picture-perfect Main Street — and don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re in a Hallmark movie. Shop for one-of-a-kind items at Neaco, ArtWalk, or dozens of other charming local boutiques. Later, when you’ve worked up an appetite, grab lunch at one of the many restaurants downtown. Just off of Main Street, on Sunset Drive, you’ll find Blowing Rock Brewing Company: Warm up by the fire and order the cheese curds, an incredible fried chicken sandwich, and a local brew. If you bring Fido along, sip your beer on the outdoor patio beneath a heater.

Shop for one-of-a-kind items at dozens of charming local boutiques and dine at one of the many restaurants in downtown Blowing Rock. photograph by Amanda Lugenbell

Hike to Glen Burney Falls: Hope you brought your hiking boots! In downtown Blowing Rock, you’ll find an outdoor adventure within walking distance of your shopping pursuits: Cross through Blowing Rock City Park to find the trailhead to Glen Burney Falls on Laurel Lane. You’ll only hike for about a mile through the Appalachian hardwood forest before you arrive at your first waterfall, The Cascades. Turn around here or keep walking toward the base of the dramatic Glen Marie Falls, a three-tiered waterfall that cascades 75 feet from its highest ledge. And while the hike itself is a hidden gem, you’ll also be walking through history — it’s believed that the trail was built in the mid-1800s. (Note: This trail isn’t very long, but it is steep. Come prepared!)

Dine at The Speckled Trout: This restaurant and bottle shop in downtown Blowing Rock is a delicious stop for a mountain meal. In what was once a gas station in the 1950s, you’ll now find a family-owned restaurant serving soul-warming chicken ’n’ dumplings, farm burgers, tomato and basil soup, and much more. And, of course, fresh mountain trout (would you expect anything less?): Order it cracker-, almond and cornmeal-, or cilantro-crusted, blackened, hickory-smoked, or with simple salt and pepper. Then, pick from sides like gouda grits, collards, lima bean succotash, and jalapeño creamed corn.

 

Sunday

Hike Up to the Blue Ridge Parkway: Before you head home, take time for one more adventure. One of the best things about staying at Chetola? You’re just a short walk from the Parkway. For an easy morning, take your pup on a hike from the resort’s connecting trail up to the Bass Lake Loop — a flat, .9-mile gravel path around beautiful Bass Lake that passes through rhododendrons and reveals a stunning view of the Cone Manor (known locally as Flat Top Manor) up on the hillside. The grand estate was once the summer home of textile magnate Moses Cone and his wife, Bertha, and today, is part of Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, a favorite spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway for hiking, horseback riding, and picnicking. For a longer day, head on to Cone Manor and beyond: there are miles and miles of former carriage trails that now provide stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Hike the Bass Lake Loop, which leads you to a stunning view of the Cone Manor, known locally as Flat Top Manor, up on the hillside. photograph by Amanda Lugenbell

This story was published on Jan 07, 2021

Katie Schanze

Katie Schanze is an assistant editor and digital content editor at Our State.