100 Years, 100 Miles: Rediscover the N.C. State Parks System and Celebrate its Centennial

Published Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at 9:05 am

By Kaitlan Morehouse

Did you know that one of our nation’s first state parks was created 100 years ago at the summit of Mount Mitchell right here in North Carolina? Whether you said yes or no, visit your local state park today to celebrate and learn about how the system has grown to promote conservation, recreation and education.

“Since that time, we have added almost a quarter of a million acres, and that’s quite an achievement for any state,” said Charlie Peek, the public information officer of the state’s Division of Parks and Recreationurl

Your state parks are the best place to get outside and enjoy nature, because all of the land was left in its natural state, benefiting the air and water quality.

Peek said that now is the time to recommit yourself to conserving the best spots in North Carolina.

“It’s time to celebrate the achievement, the citizens of North Carolina,” said Peek. “Mt. Mitchell was preserved because the citizens wanted it to be.”

Preserving the state’s natural treasures helps the economy, too. It brings people to the parks, specifically in the rural areas where many of them are located.

“What we’re celebrating is 100 years worth of growth,” said Steve Livingstone, the processing assistant of the N.C. Parks and Rec.

This year, each state park will hold events celebrating the 100th anniversary of the system.

The best part is that you have four state parks within a short distance from you, and Friends of High Country State Parks can help you connect with each of them. Email [email protected] or call 336-385-6424 for more information.

Ready to celebrate? Set a personal goal to hike a total of 100 miles in state parks over the next year and take on the challenge with other nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Learn more about the state parks system and its history here.


Events Near You:

Read on to learn about events in the High Country in Grandfather Mountain State Park, Elk Knob State Park, New River State Park and Mount Jefferson State Natural Area.

March 4: Grandfather Mountain: 100-Mile Hike, 12-4:30 p.m.

Help Grandfather Mountain kick off its centennial 100 mile hike event with a moderate to strenuous four-mile, round-trip hike.

You’ll meet at Boone Fork Parking Area, which is just due North of the 300-mile post on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Because of the level of difficulty of this trail, the park suggests that children 10 and up join, you accompany children under 16 and you leave any pets at home.

March 13: Grandfather Mountain: Guided Centennial Hike, 2-4 p.m.

Visit the Boone Fork Parking Area again for a guided hike.

Check back online for more information to come!

March 20: Grandfather Mountain: Guided Centennial Hike, 2-4 p.m.

This time, the guided hike will start at the Profile Parking Area on Highway 105 South in Banner Elk.

Event details to come.

March 26: Elk Knob: Becoming a State Park, 2 p.m.

Visit Elk Knob’s park office to learn how it is that it became a state park, how other state parks sprung up and how they’ve evolved over the past 100 years.

April 16: Mount Jefferson: Hiking for a Hundred Years, 2 p.m.

Hike and learn about NC State Parks history in honor of the hundred years of natural wonder. The hike will consist of going up-and-over the ridgeline all the way to Luther Rock, where you will stop and look across the state to other parks with the same horizons.

April 22: Grandfather Mountain: 100-Mile Challenge, 12-4 p.m.

Bring your children 16 and younger to try your hands at the next round of the 100-mile hike challenge with another four-mile, round-trip, moderate-strenuous hike, starting Boone Fork Parking Area to start.

May 14: New River: Nature Hike, 2 p.m.

Hike a mile, guided, easy-moderate nature hike, which will start at the Wagoner Access area and touch on topics like wildlife, plants, park history and New River.

May 20: Grandfather Mountain: 100-Mile Hike, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Bring your children 10 and up to the next round of four-mile, round-trip, moderate-strenuous hikes at the Flat Rock loop, starting at the Boone Fork Parking Area.

June 17: Mount Jefferson: A Living History Night Hike, 8 p.m.

Hike with a park ranger in the dark with only a lantern (and a small flashlight of your own if you have one) to explore the history of the state parks.

June 18: New River: Full Moon Night Paddle, 9 p.m.

Paddle on the New River during a full moon with a park ranger on a two-hour, guided, canoe trip to watch the river come alive at night.

Preregistration is required because of spacing.

Contact 336-982-2587 for more information.

June 24: Mount Jefferson: Sensational Centennial Sleep-over, 6:30 p.m.

Bringing your camping gear and enjoy a free, overnight camp-out, which will include an evening of fun, stories, songs and rocky slopes.

July 23: Elk Knob: 100th Anniversary of NC State Parks Celebration, 10 a.m.

This summer, visit Elk Knob for food, games, music and centennial information at the field by the front gate.

Food will be common to the area 100 years ago and s’mores, and games will be tug-o-war, corn-hole, game of graces and more.

For more information, call 828-297-7261.

July 30: New River Celebration Day, 10 a.m.

Celebrate 100 years of State Parks with an all-day event filled with fun and festivities at the Visitor Center on US Highway 221 Access.

Aug. 26-27: Grandfather Mountain: Centennial Celebration, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Event TBA.

Oct. 8: New River Living History Hay Ride, 10 a.m.

Bring warm clothes and a blanket on the fall hay ride with a park ranger and enjoy some Old Tales along the way.

Space is limited, so preregister early!

If you want more information, call 336-982-2587.

Oct. 15: Mt. Jefferson 60th Birthday and NC State Parks 100th Birthday Celebration, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Help NC State Parks and Mt. Jefferson celebrate their anniversaries (after they were established in 1916 and 1956, respectively). You can enjoy birthday cake, listen to some stories, make a craft or join a nature hike with this special, free event at the picnic shelter.


About the Parks Near You:

Grandfather Mountain State Park

Nestled in 2, 456 acres of backcountry with stunning scenery, biological diversity, severe weather and challenging terrain is Grandfather Mountain State Park. The park offers 12 miles of trails and camping sites from the Profile Trailhead on NC 105 and trailheads along the adjacent Blue Ridge Parkway to the adjacent Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation Park.

The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation Park offer a mile-high swinging bridge and other attractions that require a small fee for access.

For more information, contact [email protected] or 828-963-9522.

Hours of operation are 8 a.m.-8 p.m. from March-May.

Elk Knob State Park

Featuring one of the highest peaks in the High Country at 5,520 feet is the relatively new Elk Knob State Park. Because the park attempt to stay open throughout the winter months, it is the only park in the state to offer cross-country skiing, as well as some of the finest trails and backcountry campsites for individuals and groups

The park is open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. from March-May.

Contact [email protected] or 828-297-7261 for more information.

New River State Park

Named a National Wild and Scenic River in 1976, New River winds through the NC mountain scenery. You can base camp at two principal spots that offer walk-in camping: Wagoner Road Access and US 221 Access. New River offers a visitor center with an exhibit hall and interpretive programs, rentable community building, canoe-in camping downstream and brief- or multi-day excursions with private outfitters to give you the best experience as you combine paddling, camping, fishing, picnicking and wildlife viewing.

Call 336-982-2587 or email [email protected].

The park’s hours of operations include 7 a.m.-9 pm., March-April.

Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area

If you’ve been on the Blue Ridge Parkway, chances are you’ve already seen Mt. Jefferson’s 1,600 feet of landscape. The natural landmark includes five hiking trails, which include a child-friendly TRACK trail and a strenuous scramble along the mountain’s ridgeline, overlooks to neighboring states and picnic grounds with shelters.

Want more information?

Email [email protected] or call 336-246-9653.

The park is open from 8 a.m. until sunset.

About NC Division of Parks and Recreation

The NC Division of Parks and Rec deals with state parks, natural areas, trails, lakes, natural and scenic rivers recreation areas, along with the NC Trail System, the NC Natural and Scenic Rivers and the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. The division offers grant programs for park and trail projects and technical advice for park and trail planning and development.

Its mission is:

Conservation: to protect NC’s natural diversity through careful selection and stewardship of state parks system lands

Recreation: to provide and promote outdoor recreation opportunities in the state parks system and throughout the state

Education: to encourage appreciation of NC’s natural and cultural heritage through diverse education opportunities for all citizens of and visitors to the State of NC.

Visit the website for more information.

“It’s important to get out and enjoy your state parks this year,” Elk Knob Park Ranger Kelly Safley said.

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