My Favorite Parks in the Texas Hill Country

I’m a little partial to the Texas Hill Country, I must admit. So I realize I may be a biased when I say all the best state parks are in this part of the state!! The only other landscape that rivals it in terms of drama would be West Texas, but nothing spells natural perfection to me like limestone cliffs, cactus, and spring-fed creeks and rivers. My Austin peeps all know the glory of a swimming hole in July!

This list includes state parks, county parks, and a National Wildlife Refuge. There are so many great places that didn’t make the cut (feel free to remind me of them all in the comments) but these, in my opinion, are the best. Most dramatic and unique landscapes, prettiest water features, and most breathtaking scenic vistas.


6. Colorado Bend State Park

This park is probably the most “remote” feeling of all the parks on this list. It is surrounded primarily by ranches and the nearest town is a solid 35 minutes away, so the hills are pristine and the view is stunning. With civilization so far away, the stars are INCREDIBLE! And Gorman Falls, a highlight of the park, is like something out of a storybook. So why is this place last on my list? Well, the bathroom situation. It’s all compost toilets. Granted, the bathrooms themselves are pretty nice (they have a nice sink, mirror, and tile floor) but the fact remains that it is still a compost toilet.

5. Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

This place gets major brownie points on my list because it’s so close to Austin, has great trails, and after your work out on the trails you can go to nearby Bluebonnet Cafe in Marble Falls and eat a delicious lunch and pie! And who doesn’t love that?

Other perks: If you’re wanting to train for an actual climb in the mountains out west (like Colorado) then this is a place you can go for some challenging terrain. A few of the trails go straight uphill!  But, there are PLENTY of flat trails with good views that a kiddo can do too.

Bring a swimsuit if you want to take a dip in the crystal clear creek that flows through it. The wildflowers in this area are pretty spectacular! Only negative: no pets. BOO.

4. Pedernales Falls State Park

This park is great because of the privacy of the campsites, cleanliness of the bathrooms, and drama of the landscape. Probably the easiest camping trip you can do in the Hill Country–all the sites are drive up and spacious, the bathrooms are nearby, and the most scenic part (the falls) are only a short walk.

3. Inks Lake State Park

The reason this park makes my list is the unique pink granite you’ll find everywhere, and the great views on so many of the trails. I don’t like slogging through a forest with no reward at the end, and at Inks Lake you don’t have to worry about that! Especially not when the bluebonnets are out, omg–it is simply beautiful to see bluebonnets against the pink granite. The trails wind around the lake’s edge and up over hills and around boulders, so you never get bored looking at the same scenery along the trail. While the campsites don’t offer much privacy, they are shaded by big oaks and located beside the lake.

2. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Ok, so this may be one of Texas’ most popular parks BUT it is for such good reason! I love it. Here’s why. A) the view from the top is amazing, B) the workout climbing to the top is exhilarating (short, but great), C) the campsites are private and secluded from the main road, (with the exception of a few), D) the trails all have interesting scenery (even the ones other than Summit trail) and finally E) (yes there is an E) there is so much to do in the surrounding area and nearby B&B’s if camping isn’t your thing! (Think shopping in Fredericksburg, visiting LBJ State Park, checking out charming Johnson City, etc etc.)

1. Lost Maples State Natural Area

Finally, the very tippy top on my list, Lost Maples State Natural Area. I have a soft spot for this place. It is exquisite, a real reason to have pride in our state, and if you ever get to go you will see why. The views are the most dramatic, its trails the most entertaining, and of course, its fall colors the BEST in Texas. The surrounding countryside, which you should take a drive one afternoon to see, is awesome. Warning: you must reserve your campsite early.

The hilltop trails hug the edge of a cliff so you are treated to this panorama nearly the entire time:

And there are charming smaller, easier trails on the “ground floor” for little ones:

The drive there is spectacular:

Random rock formations shaped like a monkey:

And of course, fall leaves:

Honorable Mention

Pace Bend Park, a Travis County Park on the banks of Lake Travis, gets honorable mention. I like their camping area for its spaciousness and last minute availability, love its proximity to Austin, and enjoyed the trails which hug the edge of the lake.

So like I said–you can’t go wrong with a park in the Texas Hill Country, it is one of the most beautiful parts of our state and we are so lucky to have these green spaces! Pack up the family–even if just for a day trip–and go check them out.

God bless Texas!

Field Fashion Friday: Fall Outdoorsy Faves

L.L. Bean Scotch Plaid Shirt, Slightly Fitted, llbean.com

Barbour Wray Water Resistant Quilted Gilet, nordstrom.com

L.L. Bean’s Original Bean Boot, Women’s, llbean.com

One great thing about planning a fall/winter camping trip is the chance to wear clothes like this!

L.L. Bean’s flannels are so cozy and only get softer with every wear. Love this Barbour vest too–it’s so tailored and classic, and not too puffy. Of course, you can’t go wrong with the classic Bean boot for drizzly and frosty days.

This combo would be perfect for a glamp out, sitting around the campfire, a day at the ranch, a trip to the pumpkin patch, or a Fall picnic with friends at your favorite state park.

So much to look forward to this Fall. Happy Fall!!!!

How to Completely Unplug Without Giving Up Technology

I usually can be seen fumbling down a trail with my phone in one hand, camera in the other, simultaneously taking Instagram videos and blog pictures. Sometimes it’s comical–shouldn’t I just be immersing myself in the moment, after all? Isn’t that why I’m here?!

Photo credit: www.tintrunksafari.com

(Hashtag, nature!)

Truly disconnecting from urban life is difficult. As much as we would love to turn our phones off, the truth is we have appointments and emails and people whose happiness and hunger levels depend on us. And even when we do set aside time away from all those distractions, isn’t it OK for us to get our phones out and capture those perfect Instagram-worthy images? (I say, heck yeah.) So the question is, How to you immerse yourself in the beauty and peace of the natural world while also not totally disconnecting? When is it OK to have your phone out?

Here is what outdoor bloggers and Whit’s Wilderness readers have to say.


Set boundaries

It’s all about balance. If you have a clear understanding of what you’re wanting to get from your time in nature you can make a more conscious decision about what roll technology will play. Whatever you decide just decide it on purpose! – Noel Stacey, My Wild Kitchen www.mywildkitchen.com


Put it on Silent

I take mine with me for photos or emergencies and leave it on airplane mode – I believe there should never be ringtones or music blasting in nature – if people want to listen to music or podcasts that’s cool, just bring headphones. – Mallory Moskowitz www.youradventurecoach.com

I always have it on silent. I agree the phone shouldn’t have ring tones blasting. I go to nature for peace not to hear a phone ringing. – Heather Smith Www.thewanderinghippie42.wordpress.com

 


Keep it out for the photos

We put our phones on airplane mode to conserve battery and to keep from being interrupted while trying to enjoy our time outside, but we usually have them in our pockets for easy access picture taking and in case of an emergency. Our phones take pretty great quality shots and with them safely in their Otterboxes, I’m not as worried about the elements (like rain here in the Pacific Northwest) as I would be with our DSLR camera. – Katie English, www.homesick-wanderlust.com

When we go hiking, we typically don’t have cell service, so my phone is simply my camera. It fits in my pocket and is easy to take out anytime! But when we reach the summit, I get out the “real” camera. – Karen Ung www.playoutsideguide.com


Track your mileage

I normally leave my phone on airplane mode and have it for emergencies. There are times that I do use it to track my mileage, but other than that, it stays in my pack. — Magretha Palepale www.thecluelesswandererblog.com

When I am outdoors in the countryside my phone is typically on in my pocket with tracking on. Used mainly as a safety, and occasionally comes out for a picture or two 🙂 – Alice Horwood https://www.alicehorwood.co.uk


Take it for safety

I take my phone with me. In fact, I have a portable charger in my hunting/hiking pack. The main reason is for safety. Even hunting on a private ranch or hiking at a state park you can take the closeness of civilization for granted. In a life or death situation (for example: rattlesnake bite, heat stroke, etc.) the use of a cell phone is so important to getting the care and help needed. And it may not be for you- you may find someone in a predicament who needs your help. I especially to take pictures of my friends sleeping on wildflower hillsides waiting for turkey…but ultimately it is a safety issue and that is the number one reason to always have a phone! 😉 — Kristin (one of my hunting buddies!) www.anxioushunter.wordpress.com


Use it for navigation

I go into the wilderness to get away from that kind of stuff. The only exception for me is when I am hiking a long PCT section where the navigational apps are sometimes helpful (but not a sub for map/compass). I have a regular camera that I don’t have to worry about dropping/breaking/getting submerged. It’s all about being disconnected for me. — Mary Emerick http://mountainsskin.blogspot.com

 


Use it to engage your kids in nature

I love handing it to my 3 year old to see what captures his eye. – Kathy Dalton www.facebook.com/goadventuremom

Years ago we took books and etch a sketch to keep kids entertained while we waited in the deer blind. Now, just give them a phone and they will sit for hours. It’s hard to play the cloud game on a clear day. — Warren Blesh, Whit’s Wilderness blog reader


Whit’s Wilderness Readers Weigh In

I always have it handy because my hiking buddy tends to not have space available on her phone for pics… just sayin’! 🙂 — my husband, who nearly ALWAYS has to cover for me when I run out of space!

I take mine. I use the GPS to track my route and the camera for photos. It’s in airplane mode, so even if I could get a call or text, I wouldn’t hear it. — Michelle

It depends! I take it on hikes for pictures, sometimes to write notes. But I leave it at the cabin when I go hunting. — Liz

I take mine. I enjoy taking pictures. — Maria

I have my phone, because there is a great chance I’ll get lost. — Chelsie

I leave mine.. the less people that can reach me when I’m out… The better! — Amanda

I take mine with me for pics and safety. Not for texts and calls unless it’s a work day. — Megan

I take it for the camera! — Charlotte Mitchell

I take mine. — Jill

I take it with me 🙂 — Carmiñia

I bring it, mainly because I have teens who are usually home alone. I don’t use it, but I like knowing I have it. — Tara Schatz


Let’s just say, I saw the previews for 127 Hours and I will NOT be going out without a phone any time soon. And you guys know I love my Instagram shots!

What are your thoughts?

It’s the little things…

It’s always fun to see a buck or turkey when you’re out in the country, but sometimes the little creatures can be just as enchanting. This weekend I was very excited to see a covey of quail, and the stars aligned–I had my camera out, with my telephoto lens on, and the birds stopped in the road long enough for me to take a picture. It was a miracle!

Sometimes you have to slow down to notice the little creatures…I had been sitting next to this grass stalk for a while before I noticed this lady bug right next to me.

Next time you’re out in the country, go out for a while and see what you find, and always remember to enjoy the little things in life.

 

Indian Lodge: a Must See in West Texas

Have you ever been to Indian Lodge? It is a charming, historic, and scenic lodge set amid the arid mountains of West Texas. A must-see on your next trip to this part of the state!

It even has a pool!

Indian Lodge has 39 guest rooms, but even if you don’t get a reservation (they book far in advance) you are welcome to check out the property.

Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, it is steeped in history. Everything is handmade, from the chairs and tables to the mirror frames and bedside lamps.

I love how the CCC’s work so many decades ago has enriched our national and state parks with history.

Where to Stay Nearby

If you can’t stay at Indian Lodge itself, look into one of these neat options nearby:

Where to Eat

Black Bear Restaurant is known to be delicious! Expect hearty meals.

What to Do

Give me a good book and I could definitely sit here a while!

Scoop from a Whit’s Wilderness Reader

My friend Lindsey stayed here two summers ago, and you can read more about her trip here!

Atmosphere

Very quiet, serene, relaxing. Not a hopping place, but hey–that’s kind of the point of going out in the middle of nowhere, right?

Important things to know

  • Indian Lodge is closed for a major repair project through June 1, 2018 but the restaurant remains open.
  • Book far in advance (up to a year)

I hope you get to visit soon! Safe and happy travels, and be sure to tag me in your pics so I know if you were there!

12 Tips for Camping in Davis Mountains State Park

Even though it is so dry and the conditions are so tough, the desert in the American West somehow manages to be incredibly abundant and beautiful—especially in an area called the Chihuahuan Desert. This is where several parks you’ve probably heard of, like Big Bend National Park, are found, and its beauty is definitely worth seeing.

If you want to experience this unique landscape and escape to a place truly remote, Davis Mountains State Park is a great home base. From here you can see West Texas’ most famous landmarks within an hour and a half drive (think Marfa, Big Bend, Alpine, Balmorhea Springs), and you can camp while having the comforts of the small, quaint town of Fort Davis just minutes away.

More guidance for planning your trip to West Texas can be found here: A Girl’s Guide to West Texas.

1. Book 6-8 months in advance.

This is one of Texas’ more popular parks. See my guidance post, How to Make a Reservation at a State Park to see instructions for booking online or just visit http://texas.reserveworld.com/.

2. Get a campsite with shade.

I left my flip flops in the sun one afternoon and by the end of the day the soles had melted off. Even though Fort Davis is “the coolest place in Texas in July”, it can still get pretty hot in summer.

Request a camp site in the shade if you can, and still, plan to bring your own shade structure — like this one for $20 on Amazon. You will thank me later!

3. Beware of bees.

We made the tragic mistake of eating SYRUP outside (quelle horreur!) and were completely swarmed within minutes. The bees know where the camp sites are and aren’t shy about getting after anything sweet on your table. Here are my tips for keeping bees away from your campsite.

  • Keep your trash bag/can closed.
  • Keep the trash away from your picnic table and tents.
  • Do not eat maple syrup or honey outside.

4. Bring a hammer.

The soil is rocky and dry, and you will need a hammer to get your tent stakes in the ground.

5. Prepare for wind.

The wind in West Texas can be dramatic, so make sure your rain fly is clipped down and your tent stakes are secure in the ground.

6. Hike The Most Scenic Trail in Davis Mountains State Park.

My personal favorite trail in this park is the Skyline Drive Trail, it has incredible views all around and varied terrain so you never get bored.

On that note…

7. Be sure to watch the sun rise from the scenic overlook.

This is impossible to miss — just ask the ranger when you check in about the scenic overlook by Skyline Drive Trail and they will tell you. It is on the eastern end of the park.

8. Plan to have a meal at the Black Bear Restaurant.

This is at Indian Lodge, the iconic historic hotel on the property which was built by the CCC during the Great Depression. It is worth a stop.

There is a buffet but you can also order off the menu.

9. Bring a yard game.

This is a fun way to pass the time before dinner.

10. Allow several days for this trip.

The drive out to Fort Davis is so long that it’s not worth the effort if you have to turn around and come home two days later! Give yourself three to four solid days in the area (not including driving time), because there is SO much to see and do! (See my Girl’s Guide to West Texas for other recommendations.)

11. Plan to make a trip into town.

The town of Fort Davis is just ten minutes away, and has several cute stores and caboose turned ice cream shop that is pretty hard to beat!

12. Check out the interpretive center and attend a ranger show.

This is a cool spot. Literally–it has air conditioning! There are also games, hula hoops, and learning exhibits to entertain kids. AND a bird watching station where kids can see the wildlife of West Texas up close. The calendar at the visitors center and here online will show what ranger shows are taking place while you are there.

 

PS. The bathrooms are decent!

The bathrooms at Davis Mountains State Park are pretty decent, actually. There are two large family size restrooms or there are men and women’s restrooms with stalls and showers. There is not ample counter space but there is a little ledge under the mirror where you can put your toiletries. There are hooks for your towels. The restrooms are kept very clean too, thank goodness!

Hope you have a happy trip out west and be sure to tag #whitswilderness in your adventures.

The Hills Are Alive in Madera Canyon, West Texas

If you want to have a Sound of Music moment in Texas, this is your place! It is located in West Texas near Fort Davis in a preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy and the panoramic views of the Davis mountains are stunning!

Trail

The trail is 2.5 miles, easy, and only partly uphill. The best part is that it forms a loop so you never see the same thing twice. It starts out flat and crosses a creek, then heads uphill. You can hike the entire thing in a couple hours.

Picnic Area

The tables are huge and its a very low trafficked area so plan to bring a picnic and relax after your hike.

Location

Just past the McDonald Observatory on Highway 118, about 24 miles northwest of Fort Davis. You may feel a little lost, but just be on the lookout for the Lawrence E. Wood Picnic Area signs and a string of picnic tables visible on the side of the road.

Kids

Carry little ones in a child carrier like this one on Amazon, or plan to only go to the first overlook. A 7 year old or above could do the whole loop.

What to Wear

You will need a hat, hiking shorts, low top hiking shoes, and an equipped day pack (<– click here to see my recommended packing list). Here’s my recommendation:

Favorite Part

The views. Nearly every overlook was spectacular, and the mountainsides were covered in pines.

Least Favorite Part

The pond we hiked to was a little underwhelming. Don’t expect some glacial lake here!

Things to Know and Important Links

More pics

Fun times! Hope y’all get to enjoy it soon. Happy hiking!

Why Outdoor Traditions Make Our Life Better

A version of this article originally appeared in Texas Wildlife magazine. Join Texas Wildlife Association today to get this fun monthly publication with resources for ranch owners.

When we arrive at our farm, we go for a ride before doing anything else. Out on the dirt roads, without a soul or sound for miles, we unwind from city life, pick fresh vegetables from our crops, and inventory wildlife. In the evenings, we pull our chairs in the front yard to watch the sun set and the stars come out. It is one of my favorite outdoor activities–just next to sitting around a campfire with a s’more in hand. Growing up, my family had a tradition of hiking in the Rocky Mountains almost annually, a custom that has given me a permanent soft spot for Colorado and its rugged scenery.

While these traditions may seem inconsequential, they are part of what I cherish about my time outside and they have helped inspire my lifelong love of being outside.

Nearly each one of you, I’ll bet, has a tradition to share as well! Am I right?

Traditions—be they odd, funny, or serious—give the experience meaning. They solidify our relationships with each other by taking us out of our element. They inspire a feeling of kinship with Mother Nature by making us turn away from the man-made world and appreciate the unsurpassed beauty of the natural world around us.

To the average bystander, your favorite trail, park, ranch or hunting lease may look like just a blank spot on the map, but to you it is hallowed ground.

Here’s what a few Whit’s Wilderness readers had to say about their beloved traditions.

Growing up, my dad would load us into our old jeep for a ride through the pastures on summer evenings. We would drive to a high spot and watch the deer come in before sundown. That tradition carried over to our new ranch, and now my sons load up their families and drive from one pasture to another watching for wildlife. That makes four generations of my family who are drawn to the woods on summer evenings. We encounter everything from deer and wild hogs to foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and the occasional shooting star. What a great way to end a day!
— Carol Knutson, D’Hanis, TX


On the weekend before Thanksgiving, my friends and I gather at my ranch for a hunting weekend and cook a big Thanksgiving meal. Before the meal is served, everyone has to “dress for dinner” in clothes that they find in the closets, most of which have been there for decades. We call the weekend “Mock Thanksgiving” and we have been doing it for 15 years. It’s hilarious and heart-warming at the same time.
— Ashley Amini, Austin, TX

(I LOVE this Ashley!!)


Some of my favorite childhood hunting memories are from when my Great Uncle David would come to visit us on the ranch my dad managed. He would bring his travel trailer, and we would get up early to eat a breakfast of Oreos and “milk-coffee” in the trailer. When we returned mid-morning from hunting, Mom had home-made biscuits and gravy ready for a real breakfast, and in the evenings, we would hang out at the skinning shed, where my Dad would make camp coffee as we waited for folks to come in with their evening harvest.
— Jenny Sanders, Lufkin, TX


When the boys were little, the requirement for going on hunting trips was that you had to be potty trained, mind all grown-ups, and be in good standing on school work. Starting when each of my sons was about two, we took many hunting trips together—from opening weekend through Thanksgiving and year-end holiday hunts. Pronghorn and mule deer season were reserved for “daddy trips” until the boys were older. Once while I was packing for such a trip, one of the boys put his camo teddy in my bag so I wouldn’t miss my sons. This tradition continued with each of my boys. The Hunting Bear was my constant companion on many trips and no one ever teased me about having a teddy bear next to my pillow in hunting camp.
— Dr. Bill Eikenhorst, Brenham, TX


I have a favorite place on our ranch for taking photos, a high spot where the hills bend down into a narrow valley. We have been taking group shots there for years. It’s amazing to look back over the photos and see how groups have evolved and the kids have grown, but the land remains unaltered. This scenic spot is a constant in our ever-changing world – it keeps us grounded and connected to the land so we don’t forget our roots.
— Ashley Amini, Austin, TX


One thing we do is kick off the new hunting season with a Gary P. Nunn concert in the saloon at our annual Dove Bust! In the summers, we fill the pila with water to swim in. We also love hosting Texas Youth Hunting Program and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation hunts every year.
— Crystal Watts, Boerne, TX


It may be just a scenic overlook or a simple summer evening swim, but the bond we forge with the land in those moments is lasting. Here’s to many years of traditions and memories on your favorite piece of land!

What are some of your traditions?

Field Fashion Friday: Fade to Black Wild Rose Performance Top

Good morning ladies! Happy Friday! As you all likely know by now, I’m in love with Wild Rose Apparel performance gear for outdoor activities. It’s made for Texas women–sun protectant, light, breezy, and yet fashionable enough to be seen in public. Today I want to show y’all one of their latest tops, which I’m kind of in love with.

Wild Rose Apparel Fade to Black Top, www.wildroseapparel.com, $60

  • UPF 50 (meaning it protects your skin from the sun)
  • Quick dry
  • Moisture wicking

You may be thinking LONG SLEEVES?! Are you crazy? But trust me you cannot even feel them, the fabric is so light.

LOVE these faded cuffs.

Just pair this top with Prana’s Olivia Short (my favorite short for hiking…which you also need to get) and you will be good to go!

The Wild Rose Fade to Black top is perfect for hikes, horseback rides, hunts, ranch work, fishing, or a long walk around the neighborhood with your dog. (One of my personal favorite outdoor activities.)

PS. I woke up very early in the morning to take these photos and catch this good light, so I hope you appreciate this. 🙂

PSS. If you’re digging the scenery in these pics here’s where they were taken! The Most Scenic Trail in Davis Mountains State Park

Have a great weekend ladies! I would say “I hope you do something outside” but given that it’s August and topping 100, I’ll give you a break just this once…

 

The Perfect Girls Weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains

This weekend I went to visit my friend Ha in the little hillside town she calls home of Black Mountain, North Carolina. It’s a burg on the outskirts of Asheville in the heart of Appalachian mountain territory. Ha kept telling me, “Whitney, you have got to come see the hiking here, it’s amazing!”

Well, if I must!

If you’re curious about the Appalachian mountains and want a weekend away in a peaceful pocket of our country then this is a great spot to go, especially with your girlfriends!

Wait, a hiking and outdoorsy vacay with my girlfriends?? But they aren’t outdoorsy.

This is enjoyable by even those who aren’t super outdoorsy. The ease of the hiking trails and accessibility by car is a huge point in its favor, and then the exquisiteness of the Biltmore Estate adds that refined element that makes for a perfect girls weekend. Trust me!

Blue Ridge Parkway

First thing in the morning, we headed out on the Blue Ridge Parkway, an iconic roadway built during the Great Depression as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal.

It winds through the mountains, taking you around gorgeous scenic overlooks and sun dappled forests.

The road heads northeast for several hundred miles and covers some of the best terrain Appalachia has to offer. You could spend a week exploring it all.

The mist and cloud cover made the views even more dramatic and I was completely in awe.

(PS. I love it when scenic destinations are accessible by car!!)

One good place to get out and hike is Craggy Gardens Visitor Center and Craggy Pinnacle Trail, which is just my cup of tea–easy, short, scenic, and lined with flowers.

The overlooks are fantastic.

The Appalachian mountains are much older than the Rockies and are softer, lower, and more undulating than the rough crags and sheer exposed rock you might be used to seeing in other parts of our country. Appalachian scenery is so much greener too.

A hum of bumble bees accompanied us up the mountain. They were loving all of the flowering plants!

The Biltmore

After Craggy Gardens, we hit the Biltmore, a beautiful estate built back in the late 1800’s by the Vanderbilt family. If you are wanting your fairy tale moment, here it is.

The Biltmore is one beautiful swirl of Downton Abbey, Beauty and the Beast, the Great Gatsby, and Versailles–all set to the stunning backdrop of the wild Blue Ridge mountains.

Today the estate consists of 8,000 acres of rolling hills, meadows, pine forest, and creeks and rivers. The landscape was designed by the same man who designed Central Park, so even in places where mother nature’s handiwork wasn’t great on its own, the scenery was adjusted to be perfect.

There is a resort on the grounds and plenty of outdoor activities, from biking trails to an equestrian center and sporting clay shooting.

The view from the veranda is the part worth waiting for–over 87,000 acres of pristine Blue Ridge mountains stretch out before you and the blue hue of their slopes explains immediately how the mountains got their name.

And the land is protected in perpetuity. Early in the 1900’s, Edith Vanderbilt sold 87,000 acres of their land to the government to form what is now the Pisgah National Forest.

I LOVED the gun room in the Biltmore and am definitely saving this photo for inspiration…

Here’s just a few more snaps from the inside of this gorgeous manse…

Black Mountain, NC

The next day we drowned our sorrows in the world’s largest cinnamon roll and a chicken biscuit from Blue Ridge Biscuit Company.

Also loved the charming little coffee shop, the Dripolator.

The town of Black Mountain is charming. The storefronts are brick, the homes are all perfectly maintained with darling wraparound porches and hydrangea bushes out front, and it’s one of the few places left where you feel like time actually slows down. I got the sense I could leave my car unlocked and be just fine. Ha put it well when she said she felt like she has relaxed ever since leaving Austin and moving here. Even though I only spent 36 hours in the place, I felt recharged and reset!

I would recommend two to four full days for this vacation, not including travel time. There are a lot of stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway I have yet to see.

Thanks Ha for the fantastic visit. You’re the best friend a girl could ask for!

More deets on the Blue Ridge Mountains coming up soon, stay tuned.