Banner Elk Mountain Escape | RTX Traveler Magazine

A four-season destination, Banner Elk is situated in the pristine Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery Mother Nature has to offer. Plenty of outdoor activities and a quaint downtown put this High Country destination on your exchange radar.

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The charming town of Banner Elk is located in Avery County, one of the seven counties that make up a designated tourist destination known as the North Carolina High Country. Situated in the northwest corner of the state in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Banner Elk and the High Country region offer plenty of entertainment options throughout the year.

Cool temperatures in the summer months are perfect for exploring the area whether you’re hiking, fishing or shopping, while the fall foliage paints unforgettable vistas during the autumn months. Winter provides the local ski resorts with plenty of snow while springtime offers festivals and special events, which makes Banner Elk the ideal location for your next RTX exchange.

Boone Downtown ShopsBANNER ELK

Start your Banner Elk vacation by exploring The Village Shops, a cozy downtown area where local art galleries, boutiques and restaurants are waiting to be discovered.

Find a keepsake for a loved one at Hardin Fine Jewelry where designer and unique hand-crafted pieces are available. Next head over to the Art Cellar Gallery & Frameworks to browse through their extensive collection of  pottery, glass work, paintings and sculptures all for sale by local, regional and state-wide artists.

Next, find your way to Erick’s Cheese and Wine Shop for a quick snack. A community staple for more than 30 years, the shop  has everything for a picnic, from rare cheeses and salamis to a wide variety of specially selected wines, all stored in a specially designed temperature controlled room.

Wine lovers can continue  their day with a stop at the beautiful Banner Elk Winery. Opened in 2006, the winery was the first in the region and has won multiple awards for their Marechal Foch, Cabernet Sauvignon and  Seyval Blanc. Tastings are only $7 and the views of the surrounding mountains are priceless so be sure to  stop by for a relaxing afternoon.

Families also enjoy a plethora of options to keep the little ones busy. The Grandfather Trout Farm is a great way to spend the afternoon. License and fishing gear are provided and with three well-stocked ponds everyone is guaranteed to catch something. Best of all the trout farm employees will clean, filet and pack the fresh catch on ice to be enjoyed later.

Children will also love exploring the depths of Linville Caverns. The only caverns open to the public in the state, the caverns are a maze of awe inspiring stalagmites and stalactites.

463612711OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES

If one thing can be said about the High Country, it’s that the scenery is simply breathtaking. Mother Nature sets the stage for outdoor enthusiasts with soaring mountain peaks, lush green valleys, cool flowing creeks and rivers and an abundance of wildlife and plants.

One of the best ways to experience the striking beauty  of the area is by hitting one of the many hiking trails that traverse the mountainous terrain.

Grandfather Mountain features 12 trails varying in difficulty from a gentle walk in the woods to a rigorous trek across rugged peaks. For stunning 360 degree views seek out the  Grandfather Trail which ends at MacRae Peak.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, a National Scenic Byway, also runs through the area and is dotted with hiking opportunities. Park at milepost 302.8 to access the popular Rough Ridge Trail. The climb to the top does require some ascension, but the 1.2 mile long the trail is not too arduous and offers multiple observation points along a wooded boardwalk path to rest and take in the views.

Another  parkway favorite is the less strenuous Linville Falls hiking trail. Located at milepost 316.4, the 1.4 mile loop includes very little elevation change and offers a variety of views of the 150-foot waterfall as it plummets over four drops.

Anglers will love visiting Banner Elk as the small town is quickly earning a reputation in the Southeast as a fishing destination. A strong hatchery program which is run by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and ideal water temperatures combine to create the perfect environment for brook, brown and rainbow trout along with other varieties like smallmouth bass and musky.

Swing by Elk Creek Outfitters or the Foscoe Fishing Company where a variety of guided float and wade fishing trips on the picturesque Watauga, Elk, Linville, Toe and New rivers are available.

TubingIf you’re not looking to fish the mountain waters then spend your day floating or rafting down them. Both High Mountain Expeditions and Edge of the World Rafting offer canoe trips, white water rafting adventures and inner tube trips down the Nolichucky River, Watauga River and New River amongst others.

The fun doesn’t stop when the winter months roll around as Banner Elk is also in the heart of the best skiing in the Southeast with three resorts located within a 20 minute drive.  Directly in Banner Elk, Sugar Mountain Resort is the largest and most challenging in the area and a favorite among more experienced skiers and snowboarders.

Families with less experience can head over to the snow tubing area for an exciting sledding adventure or strap on a pair of snowshoes and explore the  wintry forest on a guided tour.

For those wanting to learn the ropes of skiing or snowboarding head over to Appalachian Ski Mountain in Blowing Rock. Home to the French Swiss Ski College and Burton Learn to Ride Center, the smaller mountain is less intimidating and is known for having the best groomed snow.

WEST JEFFERSON

Perfect for a half day visit or full day adventure, the charming town of West Jefferson is just a 30 minute drive north of Banner Elk via the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Begin the day with a visit to the Ashe County Cheese Factory located downtown. Watch cheese being made and learn the process at the viewing room and then head across the street to the cheese shop where everything from sharp cheddar to smoked gouda can be sampled.

Art lovers will enjoy perusing the overwhelming number of studios and galleries that have sprung up in recent years. Fifteen original murals can also be found throughout the quaint downtown area. Adorning the outside walls of local businesses, the colorful murals were all painted by local and regional artists and reflect the area’s mountain heritage and character.

Other must-see stops for art enthusiasts are the Churches of the Frescoes works painted by world famous artist Benjamin Long. Fresco painting is a difficult and dying art form where the artist paints directly on a wall or ceiling while the plaster is still drying. St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in West Jefferson and the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in nearby Glendale Springs boast a total of four frescoes, most notably the “Mystery of Life” and “The Last Supper.”

Finish your West Jefferson experience with a visit to New River State Park or Mount Jefferson State Park and enjoy a relaxing picnic. Mount Jefferson State Park provides long stretching vistas of the surrounding mountains while New River State Park sits on the banks of the world’s second oldest river and is perfect for a quick swim.

99752871WOOLLY WORM FESTIVAL

When: Oct.18-19, 2014

Throughout the year Banner Elk hosts a variety of festivals and events but none are more notable than the Woolly Worm Festival.

How does a worm attract more than 23,000 visitors to Banner Elk each year? Simply put, by accurately predicting the winter weather forecast for the past 36 years and counting. Named one of the top 10 fall festivals in North America by the Society of American Travel Writers, the festival includes more than 140 food and arts and crafts vendors along with live entertainment and of course the main event, the woolly worm races. Not only does the winning worm take home $1,000 cash they also predict the weather based on the color of their 13 segments, each representing the 13 weeks of winter. With the splendor of the fall foliage on full display the Woolly Worm Festival is the perfect time to visit Banner Elk, so book your RTX exchange today.

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