Trails of Montreat

By Abbey Barden | Jul 30, 2014

It was one of those 90-plus days in Weaverville; with no A/C in the house it felt more like 110 degrees.

The husband and I were miserable, and our poor baby’s head was so sweaty she looked like she had just gone for a swim.  So, we loaded up the baby, put some lunch provisions in a pack, and headed to Montreat to find some refuge in higher elevations.

Montreat Conference Center is home to the Montreat Wilderness, and hosts more than 20 trails that extend nearly 30 miles.  The trails range from very easy with little to no elevation change to strenuous trails that summit the mountains surrounding Montreat.

Due to an impending storm, we opted to take the short Lookout Mountain Trail, a definite favorite judging by the number of people we passed. A sign at the trail head said that the trail was 0.7 miles and had an elevation gain of 1,000 feet.

Although the trail is listed as moderate on the map, I can tell you that 1,000 feet of elevation gain in under a mile makes for a steep trail.  Undaunted, we soldiered on, my husband carrying our toddler in the baby backpack and I carrying the food and water.

The trail is well-maintained and blazed and includes stairs with railing over rocky climbs.  It took about 30 minutes to reach the lookout point near the peak where we were met with a breathtaking view of Montreat and the surrounding mountains.

We found a nice, flat shaded area close by to enjoy our picnic and let the baby wander around a bit.  It was still warm, but the temperature was comparably more pleasant than our stuffy little house in Weaverville.

After we had eaten our fill and soaked in the natural beauty of our surroundings, we began our trek back to the car, opting this time to take the Old Mitchell Toll Road down. This former road was a nice, gentle route back to our car.  We had a very pleasant hike overall.

The trails were immaculately maintained and accessible – we passed several families with small kids hiking as well as older hikers.  While the climb was steep, there were plenty of places to rest if one wished.  The view near the top was stunning and certainly worth the hike.

Lastly, I was impressed with how the trails were clearly marked with both blazes and signs at intersections.  Even though it would be difficult to lose your way, an easy-to-read, printable map is available on-line at http://www.graybeardgraphics.com/images/TrailDescriptionsLegal1109.pdf.  This map also includes descriptions and mileage for all trails in Montreat.

On a different note, while Christmas is still months away, it’s never too early to think about gifts for the hiker or scout in your life.  A local startup company based in Marshall has created an Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker game.  Called Thru Hike: the Appalachian Trail Game, the game is, as creator Mark Hanf describes it, “Candy Land mixed with Trivial Pursuit.”

Players advance on the Appalachian Trail by answering questions about hiking topics like plant identification and Leave No Trace trail ethics.  Just like hiking the Appalachian Trail in real life, the game includes surprises in the form of Chance and Bonus cards that either slow your progress or advance you.

You can order your game through their website, www.theATgame.com or help them raise funds to create extension packs and distribute the game more widely by going on Kickstarter.com and searching for “the AT game” where you can purchase a copy or pledge your support.

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