Head to the Beech: Beech Mountain, NC
Having never heard of the town before, I didn’t know what to expect as I drove up the winding, narrow roads that comprise the home stretch leading up to Beech Mountain, North Carolina. As a lover of the mountains, a good view, and the great outdoors, I wasn’t to be disappointed.
In addition to being well-known as the home of the Land of Oz amusement park in the 1970s, Beech Mountain is a literal playground for visitors of all ages, offering year-round activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, and birding, in addition to the skiing that has also made it popular.
Elevated activities at Beech Mountain
Hikers of varying abilities will enjoy the eight miles of well-maintained trails dotted with magical moss-covered boulders, gorgeous scenic lookouts, and lush flora and fauna offered on the multiuse Emerald Outback (328 N Pinnacle Ridge Road). Trails range from paved, handicap-accessible trails to challenging climbs. Check out Beech Mountain’s favorite trails, such as the easy, one-mile Upper Pond Creek trail with 15 informative stations, the moderately-rated 2.5 mile Wild Iris woodland trail, or the strenuous Lower Pond Creek trail, which is just over a half mile of rugged trail through rock and water.
Cycling has quite a surprising history on Beech Mountain. In fact, the routes on this mountain were once part of the Tour Du Pont, which well-known cycling champion Lance Armstrong won twice. However, these trails aren’t just for advanced cyclists. Cyclists of all skill levels are welcome – from leisurely cruisers to downhill adventure seekers. With 51 miles of designated routes, there is no shortage of options for road cycling. Advantages for bikers include a 25 MPH speed limit on the road, a visitor’s center with restroom and parking lot, and a bike wash station. Well-marked trails also include safety markers and a wilderness search and a rescue team.
There are two lakes and several mountain streams for fishing in Beech Mountain. Lake Coffey and Buckeye Lake are both stocked annually by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Buckeye Creek, which is open seasonally, is a hatchery-supported stream stocked with trout annually. Pond Creek, which contains native brook trout, is designated as a catch-and-release point with single hook artificial lures only. Be sure to come prepared with a fishing license, which can be purchased online or at Fred’s General Mercantile, along with bait and fishing gear.
Speaking of which – if you can’t find it at Fred’s, you probably don’t need it! From souvenirs and clothing to ski rentals, groceries, firewood and everything in between, Fred’s General Mercantile (501 Beech Mountain Parkway) has it. Owner Fred Pfohl, who has been in the area since 1970, chatted over breakfast in the attached Backside Deli, where locals and tourists were gathered to socialize and plan their day. He shared the history of the locale, as well as his family’s part in making this store a centerpiece of town. In fact, what was once his family home is now on display in the upper floor of the shop along with local artwork.
Since 1967, year-round Beech Mountain Resort (1007 Beech Mountain Parkway) has been a main attraction of the area, offering year-round outdoor activities, a live music venue, dining, a brewery, and more. Popular activities include skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, mountain biking, ice skating, and disc golf.
Beech Mountain Brewing Co., located in the Beech Mountain Resort village, is open on weekends to the public and is one of very few breweries in the country owned and operated by a ski area. Warm up by the fireplace, or take a break from summer activities to try a flight of the variety of craft beers brewed right below the tasting room. They also offer Friday night entertainment such as trivia nights, karaoke, Beer Bingo, plus more in ski season. My brewery tour with head brewer Aaron was informative and, along with the flight, demonstrated clearly how this brewery is serious about the freshest ingredients and quality of their brews.
Relax on top of the mountain at the resort’s 5506’ Skybar – a gorgeous glass roundhouse on a massive deck with breathtaking views of the Appalachian Mountains. This unique space is only accessible by lift ride or hike – there is no parking or drop-off available. In addition to food and drinks, the Skybar hosts events such as live music and Mile High Yoga, a breathtaking experience starting on the lift ride that takes you up the mountain to class. Even as a beginner, the peace and tranquility of the wraparound view and the knowledge and patience of the yoga instructor made this one of the most memorable moments of my trip to Beech.
Fun-packed recreation, indoors and out
Looking for a bit of indoor fun? Whether it’s raining or just too hot or cold to be outdoors, Buckeye Recreation Center (1330 Pine Ridge Road) has you covered. Purchase a day or a week pass to accommodate your needs. In addition to the currently trendy pickleball (I took my very first class here and loved it!), they also offer indoor tennis courts, a 24/7 weight room, classes in Zumba, yoga, spin, and more. Take the fun outdoors, too: the Center offers tennis courts, the Buckeye Lake Loop Trail, five scenic waterfront campsites (plus beautiful, clean bathhouse facilities!) at nearby Shane Outpost Park, a boat dock with kayaks and canoes, and even a kids indoor playroom. With even more seasonal activities like drive-in movies, water parties, paint nights, Bark Park events, organized races, classes, and speakers, there is always something fun for folks of any age at Buckeye.
A diversity of dining choices
You won’t have to leave the mountain to find quality dining. Take in breakfast and a view at Slope View Café (606 Beech Mountain Parkway) before hitting the slopes. Don’t miss the incredible menu at Holy Smokes BBQ (3363 Beech Mountain Parkway) in White Wolf Lodge in town. They’re best known for their pulled pork barbecue, homemade sauces, and handmade fudge and ice cream, but be sure to check out their air-fried pork belly and savory sides as well. Mi Jalisco (located at 608 Beech Mountain Parkway in the 4 Seasons hotel) offers incredibly flavorful and authentic Mexican food. Step outside your comfort zone and try something different, like the delicious and very filling Mariscada, a steaming tomato-based broth with shrimp, fish, octopus, oysters, and mixed veggies served with warm tortillas. The Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria (402 Beech Mountain Parkway) is a family-owned one-stop-shop for food and entertainment. After you finish eating mouth-watering pizzas and freshly baked cookies as big as your face, enjoy the arcade, mini golf, live music, and weekly family fun nights.
You are definitely not in Kansas anymore
Visitors to Beech Mountain won’t want to miss an opportunity visit 1970s theme park Land of Oz. Associate producer Miles Rice gave us a private tour of the property and its interesting history, including the Gale farm and barn, Emerald City, and all 44,000 bricks in the Yellow Brick Road in between. The 18-acre park operated from 1970 to 1980 and entertained personalities such as Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, and Muhammad Ali, as well as Ray Bolger, Scarecrow actor from the original Wizard of Oz movie. The property is now opened seasonally for Autumn at Oz, which in 2023 will take place over three weekends in September, and for private tours. Whether you are an Oz superfan, or have just seen the movie as a child, this is an experience you won’t want to miss. The views from the mountaintop are incredible!
Beech Mountain lodging options
Looking for lodging in Beech Mountain? If you aren’t tempted by the premium tent camping spots at Buckeye Recreation Center’s Shane Outpost Park (like I am!) there are a variety of less rustic options. For affordable accommodations, The Klonteska Condomiums (3441 S. Beech Mountain Parkway), booked through VCI Real Estate, were comfortable, had incredible views, and were in close proximity to the attractions of Beech Mountain. VCI also offers cabin, home, and chalet rentals. For hotel-type accommodations, the 4 Seasons at Beech (608 Beech Mountain Parkway) offers studios and one-bedroom suites. The hotel is convenient to shops, restaurants, and popular Beech Mountain Resort as well as hiking, cycling, and fishing.
Whether you’re a winter sports junkie or just love the great outdoors, you’ll find lots to love at this hidden gem of a peaceful, mountaintop getaway. Visit Beech Mountain on Facebook, on Instagram, or online at BeechMtn.com to start planning your trip!
FEATURE PHOTO, TOP: Emerald Outback sunset at Beech Mountain, with bike and ski lift chairs. Credit, Kristian Jackson