Beech Mountain–Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Think you need snow on the ground for a good winter hike? Not at all! When leaves and undergrowth have died back, winter reveals much beauty that is obscured during warmer months. The Town of Beech Mountain is home to twenty-seven miles of public hiking trails which offer everything from an easy stroll through the woods to a strenuous hike with sweeping views.

With elevations in town ranging from 5,506’ to 3,500’, Beech Mountain’s multiple micro-climates provide outdoor opportunities all year long. In general, the temperature decreases with higher elevations. The change is an average of 5.5 degrees less per 1000 feet gained if there’s precipitation, or 3.3 degrees less per 1000 feet gained if it’s not raining, snowing or foggy. On a day when the Emerald Outback trails, the town’s highest system, are too cold for a fun hike, the Buckeye Lake trails may be more than 10 degrees warmer. The lake region is also sheltered in a valley, that protects it from the winter winds, which bring a briskness to the highest part of the mountain.

There are several trails around the Buckeye Lake Recreation Area that are popular for winter bird watching, and that part of town is listed on the North Carolina Birding trail. Before heading down to the Buckeye Lake area, birders can stop by the Beech Mountain Visitor Center at 403A Beech Mountain Parkways and pick up maps and a birding checklist. Over 137 species of birds have been identified on the mountain. While many of them are migratory, bird watchers are sure to see plenty of wildlife, including juncos, cardinals, nuthatches, and doves.

Winter fishing is also popular on the mountain. Trout season is closed during the month of March but re-opens each year on the first Saturday in April. Canoes and kayaks are available to use at no charge. To arrange to use one on Buckeye Lake, call the Buckeye Recreation Center at 828-387-3003. For those without a North Carolina fishing license, a three-day license can be purchased for $5 by calling 888-248-6834. This special license is good for designated Mountain Heritage Trout Waters, and a brochure on this can also be found at the Visitor Center. For more information, stop by seven days a week from 9-5 pm, call 828-387-9283 or visit beechmtn.com.

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