By Rachel Hoeing
With the leaves beginning to turn, it's the perfect time of year to consider this day trip idea to Hebron Rock Colony. This is a hidden gem in the NC mountains between Boone and Blowing Rock. I recommend this specific hike for families with kids ages four and up due to the fact that there can be a lot of climbing and rock jumping! (If you are familiar with this great escape in the NC mountains, pay close attention to my directions! They have changed due to towing being enforced!)
Most ASU grads that you ask will know about this haven. It is one of the most beautiful, serene spots around, and my children loved it. Depending on where you live in the Triad, expect this trip take between 1 1/2 to 2 hours. We left home at 9am and were back home in time for dinner.
You will see different hiking trails, but the one you will want to take to the Rock Colony is the Boone Fork Trail. (Enter the trails by crossing the bridge behind the public restrooms.)
Enjoy this path through the woods, that will wind and turn along side a creek. At any time you can stop to wade in the creek or play on the rocks, but I suggest you keep going until you see rocks the size of minivans and larger waiting patiently for you to walk across their backs! This is Hebron Rock Colony.
You can stop to picnic, rest, or just chill out on a rock. It is totally normal to sit and wonder how on God’s good green earth did all of the rocks get into one place hidden in the woods and why am I fortunate enough to being sitting here in the middle of it with my kids. There are a couple spots that are perfect for wading in bathing suits as well.
Since you are entering the rock colony from the top, you can choose to hang there and then head back to Price Park if you are not wanting to do a lot of active rock hopping, or you can choose to climb down the rocks and back up again. I am serious about this being difficult for anyone under four. I had trouble myself when climbing back up! There were many rocks that my husband actually had to push me up on or help me jump across. The kids were pretty easy because we could just swing them from one rock to another. If you are going alone with your kids, you would definitely not be able to help them quite as easily.
I might as well put in a little disclaimer for myself here and say that if anyone in your group happens to get hurt, this is at your own risk! If you have a little fireball kid that wants to take off and run, explain the ground rules first. My husband did a great job teaching my kids that if a rock is under the water, or a darker shade of gray, it is usually very dangerous and slippery. He told them that if you are going to make a daring jump, make sure you plan your fall to the side that has the shortest distance to the ground/rock below it. This rule applies to the adults as well. There will be times were you can choose to walk over the right side of a rock, have a tricky jump, but if you fall it is only a few feet, whereas if you go to the other side of the rock for an easier maneuver, it is a ten foot fall. This is the part that makes it fun. How can this be fun you say? Look at the pictures.
The true beauty of this place is the fact that you can make this experience as challenging or as easy as you care, there are always multiple ways of ascending the rocks. The kids loved exploring, jumping, swimming, and people watching. As you can see here, the college kids in the waterfall below us were not a very good influence on my daredevil son. Lord help me if he turns out as fearless as his dad.
Stay as long as you like, but I recommend carrying as little as possible. Your hands will be best utilized by helping your family and maintaining your balance instead of carrying something. If you want to picnic, keep it all in a backpack. My husband has a CamelBak for water and it was perfect for a hiking adventure such as this one and we stuffed little snacks in the bag as well.
After our hike, we always have to hit some of our old college stomping grounds. Boone, Blowing Rock, and the surrounding areas, have so much more to offer, so if you decide to stay a little longer, I always recommend walking around the campus of ASU, driving up to Howard's Knob, or dining at Macados or Boone Bagelry on King Street. For a long weekend, I suggest, Tweetsie, Mystery Hill, Gem Mining, the main street in Blowing Rock, or the outlets in Blowing Rock.
If you decide to go, please comment on this post and let us know if you liked it! I am sure you will, and your children will be applying to ASU before you know it! :)
*** As mentioned above, back in my days at Appalachian State, we would arrive at this destination by heading toward Valley Crusis on Highway 105. This is NOT the route to take anymore. If you plan to go this route and park on the gravel road at the hairpin turn, you will be towed!