Citizen Times – New adventure trails open in Beech Mountain


BEECH MOUNTAIN— If Dorothy could have strapped on a pair of hiking boots instead of wandering through Oz in those iconic ruby slippers, the new Emerald Outback Trails at Beech Mountain would undoubtedly be her destination.

The new Beech Mountain Adventure Trail Park, which encompasses part of the offseason ski area, offers an outdoor haven for mountain bikers, hard-core hikers and families with a unique proximity to one of Western North Carolina’s quirkiest mountain spots, The Land of Oz park.

“This is a really new element for the area, and one that’s been a long time coming,” said Daniel Scagnelli, wellness and fitness director at Beech Mountain Parks and Recreation. “Once you see the trails, it’s obvious why this was a source of inspiration for Oz.”

Part of the eight-plus miles of Emerald Outback trails runs through the Land of Oz property, where visitors can see the yellow brick road, Wicked Witch’s castle and even rent a replica of Dorothy’s house, which is host to the annual Autumn at Oz festival.

The hiking and mountain biking trails are coated in their namesake’s emerald green, an abundance of native wildflowers and the mountain’s signature gnarled trees.

The trails range in elevation from 4,700 to 5,400 feet on the Avery-Watauga county line, giving the park the distinction of being among the highest such venues on the East Coast.

There’s a combination of single-track, double-track and gravel road trails traversing the mountaintop, all accessible from a trail head in the town of Beech Mountain.

“It’s exciting that this park is embracing what we naturally are,” said Candi McClamma, owner of the Archers Mountain Inn in Beech Mountain. “This will let people connect to this really unique ecosystem in a much closer way.”

The Emerald Outback is the first phase of the Beech Mountain Adventure Trail Park, which will grow to three phases encompassing 25 miles of trails. It was designed by mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners to meet the recreational demands of serious outdoor enthusiasts and novices alike.

For now, all the trails are open to the public at no fee.

“It provides guests that genuine feeling of being remote but with all the amenities of great restaurants, live theater and resort spots,” McClamma said. “You can go biking and hiking and get your dose of outdoors but not have to camp, which is something pretty unique for this area.”

“Whether you’re in the Oz Forest or out on Overlook Loop, you have 100-mile views around,” Scagnelli said. “The terrain is rolling and changes well. There’s not a whole lot of climbing and you’re always surrounded by something beautiful.”

–Casey Blake of the Citizen Times; May 11, 2011

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