Wracking your brain for unique and low-cost Valentine’s Day ideas? Consider the gift of quality time in nature’s beauty! Our region has so many wonderful, easily accessible outdoor wonders with activities for all ages and ability levels. From beautiful scenic overlooks off the Blue Ridge Parkway, to hikes short and long, the public lands in the Blue Ridge Mountains and foothills offer endless opportunities for adventure and togetherness.
1. Catawba Falls
Pisgah National Forest
This popular waterfall is a great spot to share a Thermos of hot chocolate. The hike to the lower falls is three miles round-trip and low-intensity.
In 2010, Foothills Conservancy purchased and then transferred to the U.S. Forest Service an 88-acre tract of land that enabled the creation of the public trail to the beautiful waterfall.
2. Bear Den Overlook
Blue Ridge Parkway
If a winding road and scenic vistas are more your style, consider a trip to the Bear Den Overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The seemingly endless mountain view is enough to take your breath away.
In 2016, Foothills purchased 208 forested acres to protect this stunning view and 1.7 miles bordering the Blue Ridge Parkway.
3. Lake James State Park
Burke & McDowell counties
While it may not be the season for swimming, Lake James State Park has plenty of other offerings for a great date. Grill up a lakeside meal on one of the outdoor grills at the picnic areas in the Catawba River and Paddy’s Creek areas. Then take a hike on one of the park’s many trails, or bring your mountain bike—Lake James State Park has 15 miles of multi-use mountain biking trails with terrain suitable for riders of all skill levels.
Since 2004, Foothills Conservancy has worked closely with community groups like the Citizens to Save Lake James, Burke County, and state agencies like North Carolina State Parks to protect more than 3,100 acres at Lake James as part of the state park’s Paddy Creek Access.
4. Wilson Creek
If a rugged adventure sounds like the perfect romantic activity, then hiking around Wilson Creek is just the ticket. This National Wild and Scenic River in the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest is surrounded by an extensive trail network with hikes to beautiful overlooks, waterfalls, and along Wilson Creek itself.
Foothills Conservancy and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission have permanently protected 700 acres along four miles of Wilson Creek near Mortimer.
5. Chimney Rock State Park
Celebrate love at one of our region’s most iconic natural sites. Chimney Rock State Park offers eight trails for hikers to explore. Six of these trails are located within the fee-based Chimney Rock Park. The two free trails include the Rumbling Bald Climbing Area off Boys Camp Road and the Riverwalk Trail located in Chimney Rock Village.
Foothills Conservancy helped North Carolina State Parks secure millions in state funding and acquire and protect 1,326 acres in Hickory Nut Gorge—including the 996-acre Chimney Rock Park.