Best-Kept Secrets

Best of the Best-Kept Secrets: The Northwest corner

Even overcast days can’t diminish the beauty of an autumn canoe trip around Julian Price Lake on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Even overcast days can’t diminish the beauty of an autumn canoe trip around Julian Price Lake on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Charlotte Observer file photo

See & Do

Doughton Park,

Blue Ridge Parkway

At this 7,000-acre park, where the mountain landscape opens up to reveal less forest and more rolling meadows. The North Carolina Birding Trail is a great place to monitor the migrating streams of hawks, falcons, merlins, eagles and other birds of prey each fall. The National Park Service also has preserved, on its original location, the 1885 Brinegar Cabin that was home to a family of subsistence farmers. 49800 Blue Ridge Parkway, Laurel Springs. 336-372-8877,

Hiddenite Arts & Heritage Center, Hiddenite

William Hidden searched in vain for a source of platinum in North Carolina, but in 1879 he met Alexander County farmers who showed him pocketfuls of a green crystal they were turning up with their plows. The gem eventually was named in his honor. Tourists and schoolchildren still come to the Emerald Hollow Mine to pan for gems. The center is a culture hub and museum. 316 Hiddenite Church Road, Hiddenite. 828-632-6966,

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Glendale Springs

This church’s door is always open, and Benjamin Long IV’s rendition of the last supper covers the front wall of the sunlit sanctuary. Long and 20 of his students painted the piece in 1980 as a finishing touch in the restoration of the church. The basement holds another fresco by Jeffrey Mims. 120 Glendale School Road, Glendale Springs. 336-982-3076.

Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway

Hiking, fishing, canoeing and kayaking are available at this 4,200-acre park off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rock-studded creeks beckon visitors to take off their shoes and sit under the oaks. Price Lake has seven trails of various lengths and difficulties. Milepost 297 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. 828-963-5911,

Pilot Mountain State Park, Pinnacle

Anyone who has ever driven north on U.S. 52 has seen this isolated, 1,400-foot peak looming over the interstate. But not as well-known is the state park that surrounds the mountain. The park offers multiple hiking trails, camping, canoeing, fishing and picnicking. The “Big Pinnacle” – that rounded top you see from the freeway – is a sanctuary for ravens and raptors, who put on a nice show. 1792 Pilot Knob Park Road, Pinnacle. 336-325-2355,

Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park, Boone

This 185-acre bike park was developed by the Watauga Tourism Development Authority with $2 million in grant money and 4,000 volunteer hours from cyclists and other residents who helped build its 8 miles of wooded mountain trails. There’s a playground that draws families with small children, too. On U.S. 421 just east of Boone city limits.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, West Jefferson

Standing just south of West Jefferson (400 Beaver Creek School Road), this little white building is the sister church of Holy Trinity Episcopal. Ben Long graced this one with his brush, too, with paintings of Jesus on the cross, a pregnant Mary and John the Baptist. 400 Beaver Creek School Road, West Jefferson. 336- 982-3076.

Wilkes Heritage Museum, Wilkesboro

This museum sprawls over both floors of the old county courthouse and into two buildings nearby. Among those honored are Chang and Eng, the original “Siamese twins” who settled here for several years. A prize exhibit is the first race car driven by NASCAR godfather Robert Glenn Johnson Jr., better known as “Junior” Johnson. The Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame is here, too. 100 East Main St., Wilkesboro. 336-667-3171,

Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River, Collettsville

Wilson Creek tumbles down steep mountain slopes, losing nearly a mile in altitude in its 23-mile run from Grandfather Mountain to the Johns River. For decades it has been a draw for fishing, hunting, camping and hiking. There are surging rapids for kayakers, broad pools for swimmers and a few wide beaches. 7805 Brown Mountain Beach Road, Collettsville. 828-759-0005,

Browse & Shop

The Blair Fraley Sales Store, Crossnore

Dubbed the Saks Fifth Avenue of thrift stores, it carries the usual used clothing, housewares, books, appliances – just a lot more quantity and variety than the norm. It’s housed in a massive, two-story building that’s nearly the size of a department store. 100 DAR Drive, Crossnore. 828-733-4228,

Downtown Boone

On West King Street, thrift shops, co-ops and art galleries mingle with bars and restaurants. Hands Gallery, at 543 W. King St., is Boone’s oldest cooperative crafts outlet ( The store is celebrating 40 years of selling pottery, baskets, paintings and more from member and consignment artists. The nearby Dancing Moon Earthway Bookstore and Funky Folks Collective ( has been around roughly 27 years. A new kid on the block, Art of Oil, has more than 45 varieties of organic and unfiltered olive oils and balsamic vinegars on tap. (

Phipps General Store, Lansing

This general store in a restored building has local arts and craftwork. On Friday nights, it hosts a mountain string-music jam. 2425 Silas Creek Road, Lansing. 336-384-2382.

Sally Mae’s on the Parkway

Also known as the Northwest Trading Post, this is a rare commercial outpost on the Blue Ridge. It has a pretty impressive selection of cabin-chic art, jewelry and baked goods. It reopens for the season on April 16. Milepost 259 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. 336-982-2543.

Eat & Drink

Black Jack’s Pub & Grill,

West Jefferson

Serving a pretty mean, handcrafted burger in a laid-back bar room in downtown West Jefferson. 18 North Jefferson Ave., West Jefferson. 336-246-3295,

Farm to Flame, Boone

This wood-fired street food truck has pizzas – regular or gluten-free – that are thin and crispy, the right size for sharing with a travel buddy. It also sells strombolis, dessert pizzas, salads and appetizers. The mobile business practices environmental responsibility, running on biodiesel from High Country Biofuels and powering the “kitchen” with an array of 20 240-watt solar panels. Find the truck every day at Appalachian Mountain Brewery, except Saturday’s when it heads down to the farmer’s market. 163 Boone Creek Drive, Boone. 828-851-1712,

Kitchen Roselli, East Bend

In a re-purposed former general store, Laura and David Roselli dish up classic Italian recipes – with fresh local ingredients and a contemporary twist – Thursday through Saturday nights. Specialties include his granny’s famous “Sunny Italy” salad dressing and her specialty cream puffs. But the restaurant only makes about 50 of them a night, so you’re wise to order your dessert when you arrive to ensure you get one. 105 E. Main St., East Bend. 336-699-4898,

Vidalia, Boone

Southern, seasonal and local fare is accessorized it with a reclaimed wood bar and other comfortable touches. Good bets for dinner are the Vidalia onion rings, chicken and waffles, and homemade pimento cheese. 831 W. King St., Boone. 828-263-9176,