Diversity in North Carolina ranges from oceans to mountains and choosing a base camp for your Adventuring can be a difficult. We recently came to North Carolina for a visit and chose Hickory, NC for our location to explore from. Hickory, North Carolina in Catawba County, is a charming town with great locations to have a base camp at. We stayed in a home but there are many other places to stay near the foothills of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hickory will provide lodging at least $50.00 less a night than if you were up by the more touristy areas.
Our first day in Hickory, we decided to stay local. I wanted something authentic and true to the area and my friend, Aimee’, told me about this local spot that we just had to try. The local joint is called , Kool Park Pool, and it has been around since 1935. You read that right, 1935! “This came about because the state wanted the gravel for the paving of nearby Springs Road for the first time. Founder “CAC” Carpenter, allowed the state to take the gravel in return for each load of gravel the state took they did a load for him so he could fulfill his dream or vision of a swimming pool. Much of the excavation was done with mules and dray pans and after two long years the original pool, 120 feet by 85 feet was complete. In the early 1960’s the pool was expanded to 235 feet long and today this pool is known worldwide. “CAC” Carpenter, also founder of Carpenter Decorating Co., died in 1974. His son, “Squally” Carpenter, born the year the pool opened, has owned and operated it every since his father’s death” (info from the Kool Park Pool website)
We LOVED this place! They have changing rooms, snack bar, water slide, wooden loungers and a boat load of fun to be had. This is a well maintained local landmark and if you want something to do or a place to cool down, Kool Park Pool, is the place to be! It still has the rustic charm of a 1960’s era pool and I would put this on your to do list in Hickory! We would definitely return to the Kool Park Pool on a return trip.
Day 2 in the Hickory area had Bakers Mountain on tap. I chose this location because it was close to our base camp, we wanted to go on a picnic in the area and it is the highest elevation in Catawba County at 1,780. Bakers Mountain did not disappoint! We were challenged with the elevation changes on our hike and the beautiful view at the top was breathtaking. The trails here were well maintained and easy to hike, with nice places to rest on the way UP! (Thank God!) We decided to picnic at the top of Bakers Mountain at the Pavilion and over look area. I can highly recommend you take a light picnic up and enjoy the view. Please note the word, light picnic. You will not be toting up a large cooler to the top of Bakers Mountain, unless your Hercules. I would recommend using backpacks to carry your food and gear up to the top. We used our day packs from Osprey Packs which worked out great!
After our adventuring in the Baker Mountain area the day before, we took a small rest during the early part of the day to be ready for boating on Lake Hickory. Yes, this area has a lovely Lake with restaurants, parks and boating available to you. When you think of Hickory, you might not think of the Lake, but it is an amazing asset to the area. We had friends who owned a boat for touring around the lake, but I did some research for my readers and Lakeside Marina can help you get your Lake Hickory adventure off the shores and into the water! We LOVED our time on the water here and really enjoyed seeing the shore line from a different perspective. It was relaxing, beautiful and FUN with the tubing! This was certainly a high light from our time in Hickory. I would not come to this area and not take time to enjoy Lake Hickory.
Our last day in the Hickory area was going to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Julian Price Memorial Park. We had been looking forward to this on our whole trip and finally the day trip to the mountains was here. The drive up is beautiful and short, so we were in Blowing Rock, NC before we knew it! We went to the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce first thing to confirm the choices we had made for the day. The gentleman there was helpful and really helped us cement our planned fun. It’s worth the stop here to get acclimated.
We left there with our map and headed out to the Blue Ridge Parkway and to Julian Price Memorial Park. Siri, was not helpful in finding the Parkway and so we were glad we had those maps to look at. Once we found our way to the entrance of the Parkway, finding Julian Price Memorial Park was easy. Our plans for this location were kayaking using, Price Lake Boat Rentals. The Kayak rentals were reasonable and we really LOVED being here. Being on the lake was refreshing to my soul and just quietly paddling on the water looking at the shore line really was a reflective time for me on the beauty of nature. There were not a lot of people on the lake or in the area, so we were really spoiled with serenity here. The hour rental flew by and before we knew it we had to be off to the next part of our day trip adventure! **PLEASE NOTE, there are no facilities at Julian Price Memorial Park. There is a campground nearby where you can go to the bathroom. I highly suggest you do this before you go to Julian Price!!**
After getting the kayaks returned we all piled back into the Adventure vehicle to head up the Blue Ridge Parkway to the nearest Visitor Center. The drive is just gorgeous and we were loving every minute of it! At the visitor center we grabbed our Jr. Ranger books, souvenirs and a Blue Ridge Parkway COFFEE mug! We pulled off into many of the scenic views and we did a short hike, as well. We had not slated a large amount of time for this and that was a mistake. There are DAYS AND DAYS worth of things to do between Blowing Rock and Linville , you can see on the link of the map how short the distance is between these two locations and all the things there is to do between them. Linville Falls, Grandfather Mountain, and tourist trap things that look pretty amazing too! I guess we are saving those till next time.
We left the visitor center and headed back towards Blowing Rock to stop at Bass Lake where you can get a stupendous view of Moses H. Cone’s Manor and walk the lake trail. This was so lovely and quaint. The lake trail is completely flat and it does not take a long time to do and it’s perfect for families with strollers! We saw on the board that the Moses H. Cone Manor was open for self-guided tours that afternoon and so we headed up there as soon as we finished our hike around Bass Lake. It was a real treat to be able to do both activities that same day. The Cone family was and still is amazing and have done so much for the area.
I don’t think any adventure we take is complete without a dose of history and this place was teeming with it! The video on the Cone family was informative, the home was beautiful and sitting on the porch was delightful! We even got to put a stamp in our National Park Passport book here. I would put this on your list as a must stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway!
As you can see in the pictures above, Mother Nature was not on our side for the rest of the evening. We had intentions of going to The Blowing Rock and being true tourists of the area, but the storms made it so we could not go. We will certainly put that on the list for our return trip to the area! What’s a mom to do with disappointed kids? Give them ice cream and chocolate, and that’s what I did. I love Kilwin’s and have loved it ever since we toured the factory in Petosky, Michigan. We saw the Kilwin’s when we had driven through Blowing Rock earlier in the day, so we knew right were to go. We parked the car on the street and ran through the rain to get our sugary fix of happiness! You can’t ever go wrong with Kilwin’s. It was a great way to end an amazing day.
Just like every adventure, our time in the area had come to an end, but we have a laundry list of things we want to do the next time we come to Hickory, North Carolina! We can’t wait to return and finish up all the fun and adventure that they have there.
Our return list of things to do:
High Gravity Adventures in Blowing Rock