More than 200 days of annual sunshine along with the Blue Ridge Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway are among many reasons why recreational opportunities are so attractive in Wilkes County.
Enjoy rock climbing? Stone Mountain State Park has some of the best rock climbing in North Carolina, with a 600-foot granite face and other activities like camping, fishing, hiking and horseback riding.
Enjoy disc golf? Wilkes County has 18-hole venues at Fort Hamby Park, Highland Park and Rolling Pines, and those three courses help to attract top-notch regional disc golf tournaments.
For walkers, joggers and bicyclists, Dark Mountain Trail features 8 miles of mountain biking and rugged hiking pathways, while the Yadkin River Greenway also offers excellent exercise options. If fishing has you hooked, popular fly-fishing spots include Reddies River, Roaring River and Stone Mountain Creek.
Perhaps the crown jewel of outdoor adventure in Wilkes County is the W. Kerr Scott Dam & Reservoir, a 1,475-acre lake with 55 miles of shoreline, seven boat launches and a marina. About 650,000 people visit the scenic attraction each year.
“There are high-quality facilities here, which is a key reason why we attract visitors from throughout North Carolina as well as Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and even Florida,” says Kevin Heape, operations project manager at W. Kerr Scott Dam & Reservoir. “Although we are known primarily for the lake, we are also a major attraction for mountain biking. There are 45 miles of mountain bike trails, and we host eight top races each year, with three in April alone.”
W. Kerr Scott Dam & Reservoir has activities like boating, fishing, hunting, canoeing, waterskiing and paddle boarding, and its visitor’s center features nature exhibits such as live beehives.
“There are also five swimming beaches where fresh sand is brought in and leveled each spring, and we feature three RV campgrounds with a total of 230 sites,” he says. “A good way to reserve a campground spot at W. Kerr Scott Lake is by going to reserveusa.com.”
Dr. Kenneth Curl is a retired physician who lives along W. Kerr Scott Lake and is a long-time fan of outdoor activities, especially biking and hiking. One of his favorite spots is the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail that was once vital to patriot militiamen during the Revolutionary War.
“The OVT has beautiful hiking with pathways that are not real difficult,” Curl says. “One of my favorite hikes is 6 miles along the OVT that stretches from Bandit’s Roost Campground to the visitor’s center.”
Curl points out that many triathlon athletes train at W. Kerr Scott thanks to a variety of swimming, bicycling and running opportunities.
“The Army Corps of Engineers has done a really good job of making pathway extensions going in several different directions from the lake,” he says.
Another lakeside resident is David Doyle, a quality manager at Plycem USA in North Wilkesboro who enjoys road biking and mountain biking. He especially likes biking along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“I like the Parkway’s climbs and descents, and books have actually been written about road biking in this part of North Carolina,” Doyle says. “I have sometimes biked 20-30 miles along the Parkway beginning at daybreak and never saw a vehicle along the way.”
As for mountain biking, Doyle adds that one of the best spots is at Warrior Creek Campground.
“When it comes to bicycling, Wilkes County is the best,” he says. “The scenery is beautiful. You can’t beat it.”
Many Other Attractions
Outdoor enthusiasts in Wilkes County can also access golf courses like Rock Creek and Stone Mountain, while other recreational attractions include Smoot Park Swimming Pool and North Wilkesboro Skateboard Park. For BMX fans, Wilkes BMX Track is part of The Edge Extreme Sports Park, where bicycle races are held on a weekly basis.
Meanwhile, Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest features miles of trails for hiking‚ mountain biking and horseback riding‚ and there is a fire tower that visitors can climb to enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of nature. The forest also has a Talking Tree Trail to inform visitors about trees and the forest history with a push of a button on several trees along the way.