Attention, parents! Trust me when I tell you no matter what age kids you have, go to Boone, NC and hike to the Fire Tower at the Moses Cone Memorial Park. You won’t be disappointed.
Last weekend, Granger and I drove out to Boone to watch my nephew’s soccer game and spend the day with my brother’s family. Thankfully, my brother’s family has hiked almost, if not all, of the trails in or around Boone, so when I mentioned wanting to go on a hike, they had at least 3-4 trails in mind to go on that even Granger would enjoy.
We ended up settling on going to the Moses Cone Memorial Park and hiking up to the Fire Tower. Some know this as the Flat Top Mountain Trail. Either way, it’s a great hike for kids of all ages AND for parents with wee little ones who need to use a carrier.
Aside from the trail we’ll talk about in just a minute, this park was pretty neat in general and can cater to various skills of hikers. Moses Cone’s mansion was turned into a cute little gift shop with handmade crafts and jewelry that are available for purchase. Don’t want to spend money? Fine. Just go out on the front porch and relax in a rocking chair overlooking part of his estate or go on one of the hiking trails offered like we did!
We did this after we hiked, so it was really nice to be able to relax before getting back in our car and drive all the way home immediately after our hike was over. That relaxation time was pretty critical for Granger’s happiness on the way home.
As for the trails, you do have some options. To go all the way to the Fire Tower, it’s about 2.5 miles one way, so a total of 5 or so miles round trip. For some, that’s a little too far. There is a shorter hike that goes to Moses Cone’s cemetery/memorial that still elicits some pretty views along the way.
Obviously, we went all the way up to the Fire Tower. While 5 miles might seem pretty far and you’re not sure if your kid can make it, take some comfort in knowing that it’s really not a grueling hike. We’re not talking about ascending 10,000 feet in elevation here. Sure, you go up the mountain and there are switchbacks to climb, but the switchbacks are long, making it less intense of a hike.
My 9-year-old nephew has hiked this trail 3-4 times, and does it like a champ. Thankfully, grandpa was there so they could run ahead of us and cut through the switchbacks. Oh to be 9 and have that kind of energy again…
Regardless, we all had a great time. My awesome brother offered to carry Granger in the backpack carrier to get a better workout. Obviously, I didn’t object here. He’ll definitely vouch for our backpack carrier, too! It’s comfy while still offering support to the person doing all the work. Plus, it’s Granger approved, which is hard to come by for a carrier. He’s not into the babywearing thing.
Before you get started on your hike, there are some bathrooms that are open to the public. They aren’t the nicest bathrooms you’d ever find, but compared to some of the other bathrooms at state parks I’ve been in, they’re pretty dang nice. They had toilet paper and running water, so I’d call that pretty fancy.
The first part of the hike especially is more like a stroll in a slightly hilly park. You go through a pretty cool tunnel and then climb up a long, slowly ascending hill where there is cow pasture right beside you with rolling hills in the background. It’s a beautiful site, really.
Once you get over this hill and through the woods, there’s a wide open field and you can take a couple of options from here. You can hike just to the cemetery, which is the shorter of the trails, you can go on up to the Fire Tower, or you can do both!
If you hike through the cemetery part, it’s really just a memorial. It’s not super creepy or eery. It’s more peaceful and calm than anything. And, again, easy hike. The trail continues on up to the Fire Tower, so you can hike to the memorial and just see how you and the kids are feeling. If you feel like you can make it, go for it! That’s where the real views start to kick in.
The rest of the ways are pretty much all switchbacks. I want to get this through your head, though, that they’re not these crazy quick climbing up 10,000 feet in elevation switchbacks. They’re long and uphill, sure, but they aren’t going to cause you to double over in exhaustion every three steps for the average person.
At 13 weeks pregnant and pretty exhausted in general, I was able to comfortably talk with my brother and sister-in-love the whole way (you know, without also sounding like I was hyperventilating).
Once you get closer to the top of the mountain, there are a couple of good stopping points where you the trees clear and you’ve got some beautiful views of the mountains and looking down below at civilization. It’s pretty surreal and you don’t realize how high you are because the hike wasn’t too bad!
Once you finally make it to the Fire Tower, you climb up some stairs on this metal tower that’s just taller than the trees around you, and that’s where you’ll want to be. It’s pretty windy up there and as it gets cooler into the fall, you may want a jacket at this point (for you and the kiddos!), but it’s so worth it. It’s gorgeous!
After you’ve had your fill of beautiful views, you can take a seat in the small clearing at the base of the Fire Tower. My nephew was able to run around and climb on everything in sight without being right on top of other people. We could have let Granger out of the backpack to run around but decided he probably wouldn’t want to get back in, so we just opted to let him stay where he was.
When you’re ready to head down, you can go back the way you came or take the alternate route. We chose to go the other way and cut through the switchbacks altogether. This is totally not necessary, and if your kids are super young and you don’t feel comfortable doing this, just go the normal way! Easy peasy. This cut our time down quite a bit though, and we thought it was definitely worth it.
Overall, it’s a great hike for anyone, but especially for a young family wanting to encourage their littles to get outdoors. Older kids can certainly hike on their own, and babies and toddlers can be easily worn for this trail. Highly recommend!
**By the way, horses are allowed on this trail, so that’s a pretty cool experience for your kids to see them up close. Watch where you step, though!**
Got any trail recommendations you want us to check out? Comment below to let us know!