16 NC Trails That Take You To Something Awesome

Barrique in Goldsboro, NC. (Image via Larry Lynn)

By Vanessa Infanzon

May 2, 2023

In 2023, it’s the “Year of the Trail” in NC. If you like a beer, a live concert, wildlife, or a culinary treat at the end of your trail, we’ve got you covered.

Perhaps you’ve heard, 2023 is North Carolina Year of the Trail. Cities and towns across the state are promoting “muscle-powered” trails such as biking, hiking, paddling, walking and horseback riding all year long. NC residents and visitors to the state are encouraged to explore the state’s trails.

But what about all the other trails leading to art, food, music and more? 

Directions: Choose an adventure, download the map, make a plan and travel to all or some of the stops along the trail. Enjoy the culture, learn a new fact and eat something delicious. Repeat.

Blue Ridge Music Trails
Western North Carolina

Shindig on the Green in Asheville (Image via Destination By Design)

Learn about music legends such as Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Nina Simone, all hailing from Western North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Music Trails tracks events – MerleFest, Shindig on the Green, Earl Scruggs Music Festival and other local jams – across the region. While you’re in the area, check out the Blue Ridge Craft Trails too.

Map: Here.

Edenton’s Self-Guided Museum Trail
Chowan County

(Image via Kip Shaw.com)

Wander through this small waterfront town for a history lesson. Original buildings tell the story of Edenton’s place in U.S. history. Tour the 1767 Courthouse, 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse, Cupola House and Penelope Barker House and many more.

Map: Penelope Barker House Welcome Center and here.

Elizabeth City Historic Walking Tour
Elizabeth City

(Image via Elizabeth City)

Hit the pavement for two historic walking tours (there are several others) in Elizabeth City: Main Street Commercial District Tour and Elizabeth City State Teachers College District which takes you through Elizabeth City State University, a Historically Black University. Don’t miss Butler Hall, Charles O. Robinson House, Farmers Bank Building, First Methodist Church and Arlington Hotel.

Map: Elizabeth City State Teachers College District and Main Street Commercial District Tour

Fly Fishing Trail
Jackson County

Tackle 15 fishing holes along 4,600 miles of streams and 1,100 miles of hatchery-supported waters. Beginners and skilled anglers can experience wade fishing and float fishing in small streams and big water. Look for brook, brown and rainbow trout – some anglers fish for all three on the trail.

Map: Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, Cashiers Area Chamber of Commerce or here.

Fly & Fresh: Agriventure Trail

Wayne County

Goldsboro connects guests to eating fresh, supporting local and getting outdoors by sharing the stories of local producers, makers and business owners. The Agriventure Trail includes stops at the Odom Farming Company, Wayne County’s Farm Credit Farmers Market and Grady’s BBQ.

Map: Here.

Haywood County Quilt Trails
Haywood County

(Image via Visit NC Smokies)

Sketch or photograph the colorful wooden barn quilts adorning barns across Haywood County.  The tradition of handcrafting exterior quilt blocks is led by a dedicated group of volunteers in Waynesville, meeting weekly to hand paint these works of art. Some favorites are Boone Orchard Apple House Block, Little Red Schoolhouse Block and Moon over Cold Mountain Block. 

Map: Haywood County Visitor Center, Haywood Arts Council and here. 

International Food Trail
Jacksonville

(Image via HeidiBillottoFood.com)

Jacksonville’s been growing its trail of authentic international foods; the city is home to US Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and attracts people from all over the globe. Some restaurants were started by friends who visited service members or Marines and their families. Visitors can choose from restaurants featuring a variety of ethnic foods including Colombian, Cuban, Filipino, Jamaican, Mexican, Peruvian and Thai cuisine.

Map: Here.

James Vester Miller Trail

Asheville

(Image via Explore Asheville)

Appreciate Asheville’s architecture on this free self-guided walking tour of master brick mason James Vester Miller’s works, which include many of its historic commercial and residential buildings from the Golden Age of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The trail extends to the Block, an historic business district where Black businesses once flourished until urban renewal forced them out.


Map: Here.

New River Paddle Trail
Watauga County

(Image via Explore Boone)

Cruise down the New River, the oldest river on the continent and designated as one of America’s Wild and Scenic Rivers, in a canoe, kayak or tube. Pass by hillsides, meadows and exposed rock formations, pause at one of three parks along the way for fishing or a picnic. River tubing outfitters offer guided float, fly fishing and paddle trips. 

Map: Explore Boone Office, outfitters in Boone and here.

North Carolina Oyster Trail
Statewide 

Chef Ricky Moore of Saltbox Seafood Joint (Image via Chef Ricky Moore)

Travel the North Carolina Oyster Trail to find out how oysters are grown through educational programs, shellfish farm tours and volunteer opportunities. Taste homegrown varieties at award-winning markets and restaurants such as the Saltbox Seafood Joint and Locals Seafood in Durham. 


Map:
Here.

North Carolina Civil Rights Trail
Statewide

Black Genius commemorates Juneteenth and looks to the future with the burial of a 20 year Black Genius time capsule. Members of the Black Genius community gathered in partnership with Hayti Heritage Center/St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation, Inc. and American Underground @Main to tell the story of Juneteenth, explore black freedom and cast a collective vision for the future. The event included dramatic storytelling of the history of Juneteenth and Durham’s African American heritage, with the processional merging into the annual Juneteenth festival hosted by Spectacular Magazine in downtown Durham. (Image via Hayti Heritage Center)

Search along the NC Civil Rights Trail for markers identifying sites of protests, rallies and sit-ins; birthplaces and primary residences of civil rights icons; educational institutions; churches and visits by civil rights icons. One site, Durham’s Hayti Heritage Center preserves the heritage and culture of the historic Hayti neighborhood and the African American experience with events, programs and festivals.

Map: Here. 

Pinecone Pathways Program
Moore County

Hunt for 200 glass-blown pinecones made by nonprofit Starworks on one of Moore County’s trails this spring. Every week through Memorial Day, new pinecones will be hidden on specific trails and announced on social media platforms every Friday. Keep the pinecone and register for the chance to win a two-night stay in the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area and a $250 gift card. 


Map:
Here.

Raleigh Beer Trail 

Wake County 

(Image via Brian Strickland)

Sip different kinds of craft beer from more than 40 Raleigh area breweries and win prizes with the Raleigh Beer Trail Passport. Get your passport stamped at breweries including Altered State Brewing, Ancillary Fermentation, Aviator Brewing Company, East Bower Cider Company and Trophy Brewing Company for a bottle opener, beer hugger and limited edition t-shirt.

Map:
Raleigh Visitor Information Center or here.

Surry Sonker Trail
Surry County

Th eHarvest Grill at Shelton Vineyards, in Surry County. (Image via Christina Riley)

Spoon your way through Surry County eating Sonker, a cobbler and deep-dish pie hybrid. Recipes for this heritage dessert vary at the eight eateries along the trail. Try a traditional sonker at Rockford General Store and Anchored Sweet Treats & Savory Eats. For a non-traditional take – sonker drizzled with moonshine glaze – head to Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies.

Map: Here.

Venus Flytrap Trail

Carolina Beach

A Venus flytrap cluster at Carolina Beach State Park. (Image via Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau)

If you’re a “Little Shop of Horrors” fan, you might get a kick out of seeing a Venus flytrap IRL. The trail at Carolina Beach State Park is a half-mile path through the woods. Guided hikes meet in the Nature Trail parking lot on weekends. Check with the park about details.

Map: Here.

WNC Cheese Trail

Buncombe County

(Image via ExploreAsheville.com)

Hop on the WNC Cheese Trail for a cheesy experience at one of 16 farms or nine markets within Buncombe County. Before visiting, check out which farms and markets are open by appointment only and for special events and tours. 

Author

  • Vanessa Infanzon

    Vanessa Infanzon moved from New York to NC for college and never left. When she’s not writing, she’s paddle boarding at the Whitewater Center.

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