We are Wilkes and WE ARE the Great Outdoors
By Angela Harrington
Outdoor activities abound in Wilkes County! From hiking and camping to paragliding and boating, it’s all right here in your own backyard.
The world is suffering from a collective case of cabin fever. A global pandemic has reminded people just how great it is to be outside. Outdoor activities have found renewed vigor and entertainment has turned toward adventure as people seek to create new memories with families and friends. No need to travel to other states, the glory of the outdoors awaits.
Camping is a fun and healthy activity for every level of adventurer. Whether you have a large RV, a minimalist style camper van or a tent, there are a variety of choices to call home for a night, a week or much longer. No camper, no problem. There are beautiful lodgings available to rent as well. Book a cabin on the Yadkin River and explore the surrounding area. Plan to stay a while, as there is so much to see and do in Wilkes County, and you won’t want to miss a thing.
W. Kerr Scott Lake is the place to play if you want to get your feet wet with some outdoor fun. The lake is less than 10 minutes west of downtown Wilkesboro and offers a large variety of activities such as fishing, boating, kayaking, boarding, water skiing, hiking and biking trails, and lots of camping. The campgrounds are seasonal, and reservations can be made up to six months in advance, so be sure to check the website for additional information.
“Camping is extremely popular, but our mountain bike trails are world famous,” said Thomas Nicholson, operations project manager for W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir. W. Kerr Scott Lake is a popular boating lake with its 1,475-acre reservoir. Shelters can be reserved for family gatherings and events, or for a quiet picnic. Take in the scenery and keep your eyes peeled to catch a glimpse of some amazing wildlife. Commonly seen in this Blue Ridge Mountain foothill area of mixed hardwood forest are white-tailed deer, eastern cottontails and the occasional black bear. Birds in the area include wild turkey, woodpeckers, Carolina chickadees, red-eyed vireo, ovenbirds, mallards and wood ducks.
When you are ready to purchase an RV or camping trailer to call your own, Robert Handy Camping is ready to assist. In business since 1976, this is a family-owned business you can count on to be there when you need them. They specialize in sales of new and used RV’s and campers, and also offer service and parts to keep the customers stress-free and enjoying the outdoors for years to come.
Cook's Sports is another family-owned business that proudly serves the community. Opened by his grandfather more than 75 years ago (under a different name), the current owner, Mark Cook, is the third generation to be a part of the business. Running and hiking shoes, outdoor apparel, bikes and kayaks are just a few of the essential items that can be purchased or rented. It is a must stop for the outdoor enthusiast to gear up before hitting the trails or the lake.
“The whole town has a sort
of outdoor and athletic
feel to me.”
Mark Cook, owner
On a hot summer day, nothing sounds better than a nice cool leisurely float down the Yadkin River on a tube, in a small group or alone, or in a tub if the group wants to be together. Foothills Outdoor Adventures can make this possible with rentals of all things relating to water fun. At the lake, pontoon boats are all the rage, with the ability to accommodate up to 10 people. Kayaks and canoes are also available. Chris Johnson, owner of Foothills Outdoor Adventure, said they can accommodate large groups up to 200 on the tubes, and up to 85 in the tubs (tubs are used on the river only, no lake use). This is especially useful with groups such as schools, churches and team building activities. Available seven days a week, seasonally, a reservation can be made to ensure that your group can be accommodated.
Leatherwood Mountains Resort is a stunningly beautiful location for family and friends to come together in nature and enjoy each other while taking a break from the stresses of day-to-day life. This resort is a retreat for the soul.
Open year round, the resort rents homes with 1-5 bedrooms, each unique and beautiful, all located inside a gated community. Some are even pet friendly. Bring your horse, if you have one, and make use of the on-site barns. If you don’t have a horse of your own, reserve a trail ride or a riding lesson, and enjoy the outdoors with a new equestrian friend. A stocked fishing pond at the resort is a fun activity for the whole family, as is the splash and play tube trail where kids and adults can float down, then walk back up, and do it again, over and over. A playground and pool are additional amenities to enjoy. With mountain springs nearby, live seasonal music and a fantastic event venue for weddings, family reunions, and gatherings of all kinds, Leatherwood Mountains Resort has outdoor entertainment to engage all visitors and guests.
“Life is to enjoy,” said Merin Sazinas, owner of Sky Retreat. Steps from the front door of Sky Retreat is a multitude of hiking opportunities, from waterfalls in a temperate rainforest of lush foliage to beautiful vista views along winding paths. Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Mountains to Sea Trail are both accessible just one mile from the retreat. Cascade Falls is a must see with interesting historical sites on the trails leading to it. Tubing and kayaking on the New River is facilitated with drop off and pick up service available along scenic sections of the river. Check out the stars in the night sky. The Appalachian Dark Sky Observatory is located nearby.
Situated on 30 acres of pristine natural beauty, including a pond, Sky Retreat has 14 cabins that can be rented. These cabins range in size from tiny homes to 4 bedrooms that can accommodate up to 8 people. The grand ballroom provides an enchanting venue for weddings and event gatherings. If you have ever dreamed of flying, as many people have, paragliding is the activity for you. Flight of this type is exciting and relaxing at the same time. Soaring over the stunning landscape, silently, taking in the panoramic views, could easily become your new favorite memory.
A stone’s throw away, Stone Mountain State Park is a plethora of outdoor fun, including hiking, camping, picnicking, fishing, mountain climbing, waterfalls and horseback riding. Stone mountain, a 600-foot dome of exposed granite, is the centerpiece of the park. More than 14,000 acres of natural wonder beckon visitors to stay and play. The campground has 90 sites, some with utility hookups, and backpacking and group sites nearby. With more than 18 miles of trails, and 20 miles of designated trout waters, Stone Mountain State Park is a dream playground for the outdoor adventurer.
Yadkin Valley Heritage Corridor is a four-county outdoor initiative focused on connectivity, walkability, trails and blue ways. Commencing at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this vibrant and thriving region stretches east into the Piedmont, full of history and heritage.
The Yadkin River Greenway is an 8.1-mile track from W. Kerr Scott Dam in Wilkesboro to Smoot Park in North Wilkesboro. The majority of the greenway track is paved and perfect for family walks (strollers are pushed easily on this path). Biking and skating is encouraged and the track is designed to be wheelchair accessible. Sections of the greenway are color coded for safety purposes and, in the event of an emergency, these color codes can be used to help locate an individual that needs assistance.
Greenways promote healthier lifestyles by encouraging physical activity and encourage alternative modes of transportation, which help to preserve the environment. Many fun and family friendly activities are held on the greenway. At Halloween time, treats are shared along the route. And you will not want to miss the annual Turtle Regatta where, with the purchase of an adoption ticket, prizes are won and the Yadkin River Greenway is supported.
Over at Smoot Park take a dip in the swimming pool, play around for a while at the splash pad, or show off your tricks at the skateboard park. Let the kids burn off some extra energy at the playground and bring lunch to enjoy at one of the picnic shelters. To get your game on, there is a basketball court and a spot to play volleyball. The baseball and softball fields are a popular place to play in the spring through summer months and several tennis courts are ready to help get cardio and motor skills in tip-top shape.
Cub Creek Park is a 117-acre park situated next to the downtown area. The park is home to six baseball fields, two batting cages, three basketball courts, two tennis courts, eight pickleball courts, four mountain bike trails and three well-manicured walking tracks. With a community garden, Hidden Oaks Dog Park, and hatchery-supported trout waters, there truly is something for everyone. Be sure to take a gander at the butterfly garden and the blue bird houses which may be aflutter with activity. Restrooms, water fountains, grills, picnic tables and shelters round out this beautiful park and create a space for family fun and outdoor activities.
Disc Golf is a popular pastime and with three courts in the area, there is ample opportunity to try your hand at a fun and healthy activity. Highland Hills Disc Golf Course is a no-charge, 18-hole course that will challenge and invigorate.
If learning to golf has been on your list of things to do, Oakwood Country Club golf pro, Holden Abrams, can help achieve that goal. His reputation as a great teacher precedes him and his love of the game and desire to create positive impacts on the lives of those he instructs makes him the go-to guy for lessons to learn or improve your game. Schedule ahead, grab your clubs and swing on over to Oakwood Country Club.
There is so much to see and do in Wilkes County, and these spectacular places are the tip of the iceberg. From fly-fishing, trail hiking and mountain bike riding, to camping, boating, tubing, and paragliding, Wilkes truly is the great outdoors.
So, say goodbye to cabin fever, grab some gear and family or friends, and get outside to make some new memories the wild, wonderful, Wilkes way.