The Daily Gamecock

Road trip towns: Boone, NC

<p>Stick Boy Bread is a great place to eat&nbsp;breakfast,&nbsp;try scrumptious baked goods and soak up local color.</p>
Stick Boy Bread is a great place to eat breakfast, try scrumptious baked goods and soak up local color.

Tucked in the impeccable Blue Ridge Mountains lies a small town with character and soul enough to excite, entwine and captivate its visitors into a feeling of paradoxical home and adventure: Boone, North Carolina.

Filled with both homegrown mountaineers and the college students of Appalachian State University, Boone is complete with friendly residents, plenty of adventure avenues and inspired cuisine. There is truly something for everyone.

For those adventurous in spirit, there is a plethora of hiking trails with breathtaking views and challenging climbs. One of the most popular is Rough Ridge, a fairly easy trail with quite a rewarding view when you reach the top rock, which offers an almost-180-degree view of the mountain territory. 

On the more challenging side, travelers can visit Grandfather Mountain, so named for the shape of the mountain, which looks like the profile of an old man from a distance. Grandfather Trail isn’t for the faint of heart, though, with steep, hand-over-hand climbing sections following along the mountain's crest.

Although a precipitous drive up the mountain, Howard Knob is an easier trail that can be a short walk through a small field to view the overlook of the ASU campus and surrounding mountains, or a longer trek on a trail from the parking lot. When the weather is just right, the sun hits the grassy field with warmth that welcomes visitors to toss around a Frisbee or nap in an Eno. A rope swing lies just to the side of the overlook for visitors to feel as if they are swinging over the mountains themselves.

In the wintertime, great places to ski, including Sugar, Beech and Appalachian ski mountains, are located 45 minutes or less from Boone.

A fun day out is easy to find in downtown Boone on King Street, where many local shops and unique restaurants reside. For a casual yet delicious meal, Capone’s Pizza offers delicious, hand-tossed pizzas, calzones and to-die-for garlic knots, all made fresh to order. Black Cat Burritos is another local favorite, offering more fresh ingredients and unique flavor combinations than one would think possible for a seemingly simple burrito joint.

For a quicker bite, visitors can stop by Come Back Shack, a local, distinctive, delicious fast-food stop with grass-fed beef hamburgers, turkey burgers, seasonal milkshakes, hand-cut fries and famous “Come Back Sauce.” 

An almost-secret coffee shop, Espresso News, is sure to enchant visitors with its unique, hole-in-the-wall artistic feel and eclectic decor. It offers a bar upstairs, too. It’s open until midnight all week for late-night studiers. 

In the morning, grab breakfast at Stick Boy Bread Company or Local Lion, two local bakeries with fresh bread loaves, pastries, cakes and delicacies made each day.

Those looking for shopping venues can walk farther down King Street to find shops such as the local clothing store Lucky Penny and Mast General Store, a consistent beloved venue for candy, souvenirs and quality apparel.    

It’s rare for anything to take people’s breath away anymore, but catch a sunset or sunrise in Boone’s mountains, and you’ll at least have to let out a long, slow breath with a whispered, “Wow.” You haven’t seen Boone until you’ve seen the wonder of the sun peeking over or dipping past the incredible Blue Ridge Mountains.

The best place to view a sunset is from an obscure location and local secret: The right side parking lot at Caldwell Community College, just 10 minutes down the road from the ASU campus. Thunder Hill Overlook, a quick drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a pasture that provides the ideal view for one of Boone’s unmatchable sunrises and is absolutely worth the early wake-up time. 

Boone is a precious gem of a town, offering unparalleled character, charm and adventure. Its natural beauty is captivating, making it nearly impossible to leave.