Boone NC Travel Guide

Boone NC is one of those places we had heard about often, but had only visited a few times for some reason.  Even saying we visited Boone would be a stretch, as we often just drove through it on our way to some waterfall or hiking trail.   During one of our more recent visits Boone NC for Tweetsie Railroad, we spent more time exploring, shopping, and dining.   

Boone North Carolina is a beautiful town, full of all of those modern conveniences you would expect, but also retaining that small mountain town feeling.  We love Boone NC, and look forward to going back soon!

Where is Boone NC?

Boone NC

Boone NC is located in Watauga County North Carolina, and is also the county-seat.   Boone is the home of Appalachian State University, which literally sits in the heart of the town.  

Boone NC is about 2 hours north of Charlotte NC, 3 hours west of Raleigh NC, and about 2 hours east of Asheville NC.  Boone is a popular mountain destination for those in the Charlotte and Raleigh areas, due to its close proximity. 

History of Boone North Carolina 

Boone NC in the Snow

Boone is named after the famed Appalachian explorer, Daniel Boone.  Daniel Boone often camped at a location agreed to be within the current city limits on Boone.

Railroads were important to the success of mountain towns.  Boone was no exception, being served by the narrow gauge East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (more commonly called "Tweetsie" by the locals).  This railroad service contributed significantly to Boone's growth.  A major flood in 1940 washed away a good amount of track, and the railroad decided not to replace it.  What remains of the railroad today, can be found at nearby Tweetsie Railroad.  

Boone is the home of Appalachian State University, a "constituent member" of the University of North Carolina system.   Appalachian State is the sixth-largest university in North Carolina's seventeen-campus system.

Today, Boone NC is the largest community of the seven-county region of Western North Carolina, commonly  referred to as "The High Country".  

Things to do in Boone NC

Things to do in Boone NC

Boone itself and its surrounding areas are full of things to do and see.   Things to do near Boone NC include: visiting a local breweries, shopping, and exploring boutiques in beautiful downtown Boone.  Appalachian State University  provides a shot of energy and youth to the streets and sounds of Boone.   Boone also serves as a base for those who wish to adventure into the outdoors for hiking, mountain biking, camping, kayaking, and skiing.

Boone NC reminds us of a smaller and more youthful Asheville NC, mainly due to the university influence.

Regardless of your interest, Boone NC delivers on all kinds of things to do and see foreveryone.  Boone can definitely keep you busy when visiting.  If you're looking for things to do in Boone NC, keep reading, we have lots of options for you.

Hiking near Boone NC

Hiking near Boone NC

One of the most popular outdoor activities by visitors when in the Boone NC area is hiking.  The areas surrounding Boone NC are full of great hiking trails with waterfalls, scenic views, and more!

Here are just a few of our top picks for hiking trails near Boone NC:

Greenway Trail

Boone NC Greenway Trail

Very close to the town center, and part of the town of Boone NC itself is the beautiful Greenway Trail.   This trail is popular with both visitors and locals, and will take you alongside the south fork of the New River.   

This 3.1 mile loop trail is ideal for everyone, including hikers, cyclists, and is ADA accessible.   It's the perfect trail for families looking to get the kids outdoors to burn off some energy as well.  For more experienced and hard-core hikers, looking for that epic hiking challenge, this trail is probably not of interest to you.   

Along the trail, there is a historic ruin, lots of benches for resting, picnic tables and shelters, and signs about natural and human history.

Dogs are allowed on the trail, but must be on leash and picked up after.

While the trail is literally in the town of Boone itself, while on the trail, you'll feel like you're miles away, as the trail's peaceful streams and surrounding forest pull you away from the town and into nature.

The best parking area for the Greenway Trail is located at Clawson-Burnley Park, across from the National Guard Armory.

Boone Fork Trail

Boone Fork Trail

Photo by Helga Kleinert

This trail offers a few different options depending on the type of hike you're looking for.

The full hike is a 5-mile loop at Julian Price Park.  This gorgeous trail will take you through open pastures full of wildflowers, in and around large boulders, through dense rhododendron, and across beautiful and pristine Blue Ridge Mountain creeks.  The trail has several small cascades and waterfalls, and you'll pass by the popular Hebron Falls as well.  The trail is moderate in difficulty.

For a shorter hike to Hebron Falls, you can just take the right side of the full loop hike, out to Hebron Falls and back.  This hike is only 3.5 miles total.

You can also access Boone Fork Trail via the Tanawha trail, and this will allow you to avoid the larger crowds at Julian Price Park.  The downside is this route adds difficulty and mileage.   This is considered a challenging hike, and a 6.9 mile loop.   The hike begins on the Tanawha trail parking area, off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Cascades Trail

The Cascades Trail

This is an easy 1-mile loop hike, that begins at Cascades Overlook at Milepost 271.9.   The trailhead begins just beside the restrooms.  The trail begins paved, but becomes gravel.  Take the right pathway for the loop, and descend through the woods to Falls Creek.   You'll reach a trail junction, go right down some steeper stairs to two really nice overlooks of the cascades along Falls Creek.

You'll continue on the loop on the way back to return to the trailhead and parking area.

Shop Downtown

Downtown Boone NC

Downtown Boone NC is full of unique shops, restaurants, and unique businesses to explore.   We spent some time exploring downtown Boone recently, and during a spring snowstorm!   We found most of the shops on King Street, with additional shops on Howard and Depot Streets as well.  

Some of our favorites include:

There are so many others, it would be too much to list, at least for this article.   But the bottom line is that walking around downtown, visiting the shops and exploring all that downtown Boone has to see and do, is an adventure it and of itself.

Explore Mast General Store

Mast General Store

No mention of Boone NC shopping would be complete without mentioning the Mast General Store location in downtown Boone NC.   Mast General store has a number of locations, with the original being in Valle Crucis NC.

A visit to Mast General Store is a wonderful trip back in time, to the old general stores many of us remember as children.  You'll even find the creaky old floors!

In Mast General, you can find canned goods, old fashioned candies, sodas, home decor items, toys, and much much more.   You'll even find a number of more modern items, including clothing and outdoor gear.  They even have ice-cold RCs and moon-pies!

We love visiting the various Mast General Stores, and the one in Boone NC is one of our favorites!

Go Mountain Biking at Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park

Rocky Knob Mountain Biking Boone NC

If you are looking to mountain bike, look no further than Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park, just a short distance from Boone NC.  This award winning park really delivers.

Rocky Knob Park has 5 different trails:

  • 1.6-mile Rocky Branch Trail loop
  • 1-mile Middle Earth Trail
  • 4-mile Boat Rock Loop
  • A Downhill PBJ Trail, which comes off the Middle Earth Trail -  It's a exciting ride, named for its pumps, berms, and jumps.
  • Ol' Hoss - the highest elevation trail at Rocky Knob, and rated very advanced.

In addition to the mountain trails, the Sunset Skills Area "pump track", on the right as you drive into the facility, provides a scenic area to warm up.   Trails are open to both Mountain Bikers and Hikers, just be sure to follow the recommended direction of travel for safety.  Helmets are required.

Rocky Knob Park  has paved parking areas, bathroom facilities, a large picnic pavilion and a playground for kids.  The playground equipment is built from natural wood and ropes.  

Their address is: 285 Mountain Bike Way, Boone, NC 28607

See the incredible views of Boone from Howard's Knob

Howard's Knob County Park is located above Boone NC at 4,406 feet in elevation.  The park offers the best views of both Boone NC and Appalachian State University.  

The area has few short trails, scenic views, and picnic tables.  The main attraction is the view, which is breathtaking.

Visit Tweetsie Railroad

Tweetsie Heritage Weekend

No visit to the Boone or Blowing Rock areas would be complete without a visit to Tweetsie Railroad, especially if you have kids.  

Tweetsie is an Old West themed amusement park combining classic family fun with old West nostalgia.  Tweetsie is located just to the south of Boone NC, near Blowing Rock.  The Park features a historic steam locomotive train ride around the amusement park, live shows, amusement rides, the Deer Park Zoo, a chair lift, food, shopping, and much much more!

Daniel Boone Native Gardens

Daniel Boone Native Gardens Boone NC

Located in the heart of Boone NC and near downtown, this hundreds of native species from North Carolina are represented at the Daniel Boone Native Gardens in Boone.

The 3-acre gardens officially opened to the public in 1963, 2 years after the original ground breaking in 1961.

The wrought iron gates at the entrance were given by Daniel Boone VI, a descendant of famed American frontiersman Daniel Boone. The garden's main features include a bog garden, stone gatehouse, rockery, grassed allée, wishing well, reflection pool, prayer shrine, rustic bridge and Squire Boone Cabin.

Squire Boone Cabin is typical of the cabin in which Daniel Boone lived. The logs are from the cabin of Jesse Boone, Daniel's brother, where Daniel spent much time. The newest addition to the garden, the bog, was dedicated in June 1992.

The gardens make for a nice visit and excursion when visiting Boone NC, and are a great way to see numerous native plants in one location.  The gardens are located at  651 Horn in the West Drive in Boone and open from May to October, admission is $2 for adults and free for children younger than 16.

Mystery Hill

Mystery Hill

Located between Boone and Blowing Rock NC, this popular and fun attraction is well known as one of North Carolina's most "unique attractions" and for good reason.  

The main Mystery Hill attraction is the Natural Gravitational Anomaly ... yea, that's a mouth-full.    See, Mystery Hill was once an old Apple Orchard, but the workers began noticing that strange things were happening, like things rolling uphill, and people feeling funny or out of balance.  Turns out, Mystery Hill is the only naturally occurring gravitational anomaly in North Carolina.

Mystery Hill provides guided tours that are fun, educational, and well ... a bit of a Mystery.    You'll explore the Anomaly itself in a room where balls roll uphill, water flows uphill, you have trouble walking, and gravity just seems to be a bit off.   You'll also explore the Hall of Mystery, full of hands on science experiments, and encase your family and friends in bubbles at Bubblerama.

In addition, Mystery Hill offers mechanical bull riding, axe throwing, gem mining, Appalachian and Native American museums, old time photos, food, and nature trails.   

We were skeptical about visiting, but decided to go anyway, and really enjoyed it! Highly recommended for everyone, and especially those with kids.  Tickets prices vary by package, based on the attractions you want to visit.

Whitewater Rafting

Whitewater Rafting Blue Ridge Mountains

When many think of the Blue Ridge Mountains, outstanding Whitewater Rafting comes to mind, and visiting Boone NC is no exception.  Crashing through and over rapids, while in the crystal clear waters of the Blue Ridge Mountains, surrounded by beautiful forest and ridges, will get anyones adrenaline rushing!

Boone NC offers some of the best white water rafting that the Blue Ridge Mountains have to offer.  Boone area outfitters offer river adventures for every skill level. Whether you want to float slowly through small rapids or drop off a shelf into foaming and rushing whitewater below, you'll find it in the Boone area.

Boone area outfitters we recommend include:

Skiing and Snow Tubing at Appalachian Ski Mountain

Skiing the Blue Ridge Mountains

Grab your snow gear, skis and poles, as a visit to Boone NC offers some of the best skiing and snow tubing in the state of NC, and the southeast in general.

Boone is very well known for it's winter sports action, and specifically skiing and snow tubing.   There are a few nearby options, but Appalachian Ski Mountain is the closest, and the best.  

Appalachian Ski Mountain is the first Ski Area in the "High Country", opening in 1962.  The resort features 12 different slopes for both beginners to more advanced skiers.  At a peak elevation of over 4,000 feet, Appalachian Ski Mountain offers 3 beginning courses, 6 intermediate courses, and 3 advanced courses.  Regardless of your skill level, you will find a trail that you'll enjoy.

Additionally, Appalachian Ski Mountain offers an ice rink, and snow tubing.

Visit nearby Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain Mile High Swinging Bridge

One of the most popular attractions in North Carolina is just a short drive from Boone NC, and offers incredible scenic views, a wildlife preserve, hiking, picnic areas, and the famous Mile-high Swinging Bridge.  Grandfather Mountain, at 5,946 feet in elevation, with its rocky and jagged peaks, really delivers on the full mountain experience.

Visit Grandfather Mountain, and drive up to the top summit parking area, where you can explore and walk across the famous swinging bridge.  For more adventure, visit Grandfather Mountain State Park, for some of the best and most challenging hiking on the east coast.

Grandfather Mountain is fun and adventure for the whole family, and something you won't want to miss.

Drive the Scenic Blue Ridge Parkway

Fall on the Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the most famous scenic drives in the world, the  Blue Ridge Parkway runs through Boone NC.  Boone is also a very popular access point for those wishing to drive and explore this amazing and scenic road. 

Along the parkway, near Boone NC, you can explore:

  • Moses H. Cone Memorial Park
  • Julian Price Lake
  • Bass Lake
  • Drive across Linn Cove Viaduct, and beautiful engineering marvel
  • Hike up to the top of Rough Ridge for incredible long distance views.

Where to stay in Boone NC

They key to enjoying your stay in the beautiful bavarian themed town of Helen GA is to find the perfect place to stay.  Options for where to stay in Helen GA include riverside, downtown, resort and park locations, and even remote out of the way options.  Options for where to stay include:

  • Cabin Rentals/AirBnBs
  • Hotels
  • Camping

Cabins in Boone NC

A very popular choice for visitors traveling into Boone NC are cabin rentals.   The popularity of cabins due to VRBO and AirBnB has just exploded.  Honestly, it's our favorite stay option as well, if we can find something that meets our travel budget.

Cabins provide safe and clean accommodations and often with numerous amenities, at very reasonable prices.  You'll find lots of different cabin rental options in and around Boone NC.  

Here are our top picks:

Hotels in Boone NC

The most popular place to stay when visiting Boone NC are hotels.  Hotels offer may nice features at a reasonable price and additionally often place you right in the middle of everything to do..  Boone offers a number of commercial hotel options, that are highly rated.  Here are our top picks:

Horton Hotel, Courtyard by Marriot, Chethola Resort, Hampton Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn, LaQuinta

Camping in Boone NC

Whether you're looking for luxury RV hookups, or a simple tent camping site with a great spot to hang that hammock, Helen GA campgrounds provides you with a number of great options.    You'll enjoy relaxing outdoors in one of the many quiet campgrounds, going to sleep with the crackling sound of a fire, waking up to coffee and the sounds of nature at its best.  Camping allows you to not just adventure into the outdoors, but to experience it during your entire stay in Helen GA.  

Best Restaurants in Boone NC

Given the university and student focus of Boone NC, we arrived to expect typical college fair food.  You know, quick, cheap, but decent.   While where are certainly many options like this, there are also some excellent and locally owned dining options for tourists and visitors.  Boone offers anything from Sushi to Italian, and pretty much everything in between.  

Here are our selections for the best restaurants in Boone NC:

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