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Sparkling white winters, fragrant springs, cool summers, and brisk, burnished autumns characterize North Carolina's High Country. Skiing in winter gives way in milder weather to swimming, golfing, fishing, tennis, rafting, horseback riding, backpacking, rock climbing, and rappelling.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, a unit of the National Park Service, passes through all five counties of the High Country, offering a vista of natural beauty and rural landscapes.

Moses Cone Memorial Park, near Blowing Rock on the parkway, has 25 miles of easily graded hiking trails. It's also popular for cross-country skiing. The Linville Falls-Linville Gorge area on the parkway has several trails leading to the head of the falls, with views of the cataract and the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. Moderate trails lead to Grandfather Mountain, and challenging hikes take in part of the fabled Appalachian Trail, stretching from Georgia to Maine. In North Carolina, the trail crosses Roan Mountain, Hump Mountain, and Yellow Mountain, all of which are known for their large expanses of meadows with panoramic views. Trail heads are in Elk Park and at Carver's Gap on Roan.

The High Country is also filled with state and federal parks, including Moses Cone Memorial Park, north of Blowing Rock. This 3,600-acre park offers bridle paths, hiking trails, trout streams, and two lakes. The other major park is the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, a 7,600-acre tract set aside to provide a natural environment. The steep walls of the gorge enclose the Linville River, which descends 2,000 feet in only 12 miles. Access is by foot trails via the Forest Service Road off U.S. 221 at the Linville Falls exit.

Cross-country skiing is the finest in the South. Excellent trails are at Moses Cone Memorial Park, Beech Mountain, and several other locations along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

For fishing, area streams and lakes abound in trout, bass, catfish, blue gill, and other varieties. The game fish waters of the Blue Ridge Parkway (Price, Cone, and Doughton parks) are under federal regulation and require a license or permit. The fishing season begins the first Saturday in April and runs through the last day of February.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.