Top Winter Outdoor Activities for Family & Friends

One of the most popular reasons that people visit the High Country is the endless array of recreational opportunities for those looking to enjoy the great outdoors. Lucky for us, we have loads of experience in enjoying this beautiful area and have put together a list of our favorite winter outdoor activities. Then, we have created a few sample itineraries based on how adventurous you feel. Pack your boots, jackets, hats, gloves, sunglasses, and High Country Bucket list- you are going to need them!

Snow tubing
Gliding down the snowy slopes is an exhilarating experience for the whole family. Try Hawksnest in Seven Devils (30 lanes of snow tubing fun!), Sugar Mountain ) or Beech Mountain Ski Resort for the best tubing in the area. Another option when natural snowfalls is the Chetola Sledding Hill, just steps away from the main area of the resort!

Winter Ziplining
Before you leave Hawksnest, be sure to check out their ziplining course, as it offers incredible views, as well as a fun flight over the tubing runs.

Ice Skating
Glide across the ice, while practicing your figure 8’s at Appalachian Ski Mountain’s ice skating rink. They have skates and even training equipment for those new to the experience on ice. And, only 10 minutes from Chetola!

Alpine Wilderness Coaster

Experience a new type of mountain thrill at the Alpine Wilderness Coaster in Banner Elk, NC (right across from Sugar Mountain). This rollercoaster through the trees can be as adrenaline-pumping or relaxing as you want it to be because you control your speed! You can whip down the coaster at up to 27 mph or slowly cruise down and enjoy views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And the best thing, the Alpine Coaster is open in all weather – sun, rain, or snow!

Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Grandfather Mountain
Experience the wonder of Grandfather Mountain with wildlife habitats, including bald eagles, black bears, cougars, elk, and river otters. There is winter hiking, the mile-high swinging bridge, and a museum. All reservations are made online- be sure to also check the weather before you go, as that can be an experience in itself!

appalachian ski mtn
Photo courtesy of Appalachian Ski Mountain

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding
Did you know that there are 3 major ski areas (App Ski Mtn, Sugar, and Beech) within 45 minutes of Blowing Rock? They combine for close to 250 acres of skiable terrain, with Beech Mountain averaging the most snowfall at close to 80” annually! App Ski Mtn. is only 10 minutes away from Chetola and offers some of the most sophisticated snow-making on the East Coast, which allows them to remain open for approximately 135 days each season.

UTV Rentals
Year-round adventure awaits with UTV rentals from Mountain Warriors in Elk Park, NC. They are located directly between Beech and Sugar Mountain communities and offer guided tours of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They have top-of-the line Polaris 4-seaters and focus on safety, as well as exhilarating experiences. This is certainly one for the bucket list!

Winter Hiking or Snowshoeing
One of the simplest and most enjoyable activities is hiking. There are endless trails in and around Blowing Rock and the surrounding areas. Here is a list of our favorite winter hikes. With wide-open views, virtually no bugs, and a wide range of options, winter may be the best season for hiking. And when the snow falls, strap on some snowshoes and explore the high country in its winter coating. From Chetola, guests can enjoy private access to 27 miles of carriage trails in the Moses Cone National Park, which is also a great place to snowshoe or cross country ski (when there’s enough snow)!

There’s a reason God doesn’t freeze the rivers in the Blue Ridge Mountains- it allows for year-round fishing! Enjoy walk/ wade experiences, private waters, or float trips along NC and TN’s pristine rivers and learn from some of the best guides around. Chetola Resort is NC’s first Orvis-endorsed fly fishing lodge and outfitter and offers guided trips year-round.

Chetola Sporting Reserve 5-Stand

Sporting Clays
Did you know that sporting clays are one of the fastest-growing sports among female enthusiasts? This is a great activity to enjoy the great outdoors while creating memories with friends and family. The Chetola Sporting Reserve offers a 5-stand that is covered and heated in the winter season. There is also archery and air rifles for the kiddos, as well as a rifle, pistol, and archery range.

Blue Ridge Parkway
Only 3 miles from Chetola Resort is one of America’s most beautiful and scenic highways, the Blue Ridge Parkway. Winter is a great time to explore the parkway, hike the trails, and picnic at one of the stunning overlooks. Pack a lunch from Timberlake’s Restaurant or a favorite local café and take in the winter views along the way. This is also a favorite for sunrise and sunset experiences.  Please note that the Parkway closes frequently due to snow and ice.  Check here for closures.

A Few Others
Horseback Riding
Star Gazing
Scavenger Hunts for the Kiddos
Boone Greenway for bikes or walking

Sample Itineraries

Blowing Rock Area
Morning Ski at Appalachian Ski Mountain
Afternoon at Chetola Sporting Reserve
Evening Walk in Moses Cone National Park or around Chetola Lake

Seven Devils/ Banner Elk
Morning Tubing at Hawksnest
Afternoon at Alpine Wilderness Coaster
Late Afternoon at Sugar Mountain Skiing or Snowboarding

Banner Elk/ Beech Mountain
Morning Skiing at Beech Mountain
Afternoon UTV with Mountain Warriors
Late Afternoon drive back along Blue Ridge Parkway

Winter is one of the most beautiful times of the year, as the landscape glistens with the occasional snow and ice. There are plenty of things to do outside with friends and family to create unforgettable memories. Or, if you prefer, there is nothing quite like a toasty fire, a good book, and some hot chocolate. We look forward to helping you plan your winter escape to the mountains.