A publication of Appalachian Voices

A publication of Appalachian Voices

Hiking the Highlands

Views and Brews

By Grace Ficara

There’s nothing better than some time well-spent in nature followed by a pick-me-up glass of something smooth. Whether it’s coffee or beer, a hike or a stroll, enjoy a carefully crafted list of the perfect pairings.

Massie Gap and Wilburn Ridge Loop + Molley Chomper Cidery

Make the most out of your day trip by exploring two states in one day. Massie Gap, located inside Grayson Highlands State Park in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, is just a 25-minute drive from Molley Chomper Cidery in Lansing, North Carolina.

Ponies graze in a meadow.

Although ponies at Grayson Highlands may seem friendly, visitors should not approach or feed them. Eating high volumes of apples and other sugary treats can have devastating health consequences for the ponies. Photo by Molly Moore

Enter Grayson Highlands State Park for a fee of $7 on weekdays and $10 on weekends per vehicle. The Massie Gap and Wilburn Ridge loop involves taking the Rhododendron Trail, Horse Trail North, Appalachian Trail and Appalachian Spur Trail on a moderately challenging 2.3-mile hike through meadows and forest. Pause on a boulder to enjoy the mountain views, the birds and the ponies along the trail (yes, ponies). Feel free to bring a furry friend — leashed dogs are welcome. Afterward, take your pup and head on over to Molley Chomper Cidery, where dogs are also welcome inside and outside the cidery.

Founders Kate and Tim Arscott moved to their farm in the High Country around 2009. When they noticed apple trees in the yard, they embarked on their own journey making cider.

“Ideally, we’re trying to grow 20% of our apples or a little bit more,” Kate Arscott says. “And then the rest of our apples come from the Appalachian Mountains.”

She explains that they like to have relationships with the orchardists from whom they get their apples. They also use other local fruits for their ciders, like blueberries and pawpaws.
Molley Chomper is located at 165 Piney Creek Road. With a variety of outdoor games and a pizza place right down the road, this spot makes a great post-hike hang out. You don’t need to know much about cider to know that Molley Chomper and Grayson Highlands make the perfect pairing.

Kephart Prong Trail + Qualla Java

This hike has history! Located off Newfound Gap Road, about 21 miles past the Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the approximately 4-mile loop of Kephart Prong Trail is perfect for hikers and history buffs alike. The trail is home to an old Civilian Conservation Corps camp. The CCC provided young men with work on public lands projects from 1933 to 1942. While hiking, you can explore the ruins of their camp and imagine what life was like back then.

A man sits beside a wooden shelter in the woods.

Kephart Shelter along the Kephart Prong Trailhead. Photo courtesy of Virginia Trail Guide.

Sounds of the river will be the soundtrack to your adventure as you cross historic railroad tracks, rocky paths and log bridges. Make sure to check out the Kephart Prong Shelter before finishing your hike.

Fishing is allowed in all streams with a valid fishing license or permit from Tennessee or North Carolina. There is no entrance fee, but be sure to register your car with the park for a small fee before you go.

After your adventure, take a 20-minute drive to Qualla Java, a coffee shop in Cherokee, North Carolina. Right on the riverfront at 938 Tsalagi Road, Qualla Java makes small-batch Colombian coffee in multiple different roasts. And you can sip your espresso drink on the riverside deck! According to their website, the owners of Qualla Java consist of three members of federally recognized Indigenous nations and a Colombian national.

Caperton Rail-Trail + Terra Cafe

This wheelchair-accessible rail-trail runs through Star City and Morgantown, West Virginia. A great place for runners, walkers, bikers and even roller-skaters, Caperton Rail-Trail makes a great metropolitan addition to the list! Approximately 6 miles long and part of an extensive 48-mile rail-trail system alongside the Monongahela River, Caperton is a good choice for river views and brews. Parking is available at Hazel Ruby McQuain Riverfront Park in Morgantown or at Edith Barill Riverfront Park in Star City.

Children ride bikes over a wooden bridge.

Children ride bikes on the Caperton Rail-Trail. Photo courtesy of the Mon River Trails Conservancy.

Right on the rail-trail in Star City, Terra Cafe has something for everyone. Grab a coffee or a glass of beer or wine and sit on the outdoor patio to people watch. Gain the energy you need to keep adventuring along the trail with bakery items, pepperoni rolls and other cafe items like sandwiches and salads.

With local and fresh ingredients, Terra Cafe is the perfect pit-stop with made-from-scratch delicacies! This accessible and fun pairing is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and sweet treat lovers, and is located at 125 Industrial Ave., Morgantown, West Virginia.

A person holds a large burger and beer on a wooden tray.

A “Burger of the Week” special from March at Terra Cafe. Photo courtesy of @terracafemorgantown on Instagram

Roaring Branch Trail + 404 Cafe and Creamery

Roaring Branch Trail is a great place to view waterfalls and step through old-growth forest. Located near Big Stone Gap, Virginia, off of US-23 Business, Roaring Branch is an 8.8-mile out-and-back trail for advanced hikers and nature lovers.

A hiker looks into a stream.

Exploring the terrain at Roaring Branch. Photo by Chelsea Barnes

Stay cool on this stream-side hike and enjoy roaring water sounds and sights. Multiple creek crossings can make this hike challenging after a heavy rain, so remember to check the weather before you embark. The Youth Conservation Corps built a set of stairs on this trail in the 1970s, so while you enjoy a little slice of history, be sure to watch your step, as the stairs can get slick.

A short, 3-minute drive from Roaring Branch Trail will take you to the charming 404 Cafe and Creamery in Big Stone Gap. This locally owned business has all the ingredients to put the icing on the cake of your after-hike self-care routine. Get re-energized with a coffee, cool down with an ice cream, or refuel with light lunch fare and baked goods.

A child eats ice cream out of a bowl.

A toddler enjoys her ice cream no-spoon-style at 404 Cafe and Creamery.

If you’re looking for somewhere to take your little ones, the garden of painted rocks out front is sure to give your toddler something to explore.

For a more accessible outdoor experience, 404 Cafe and Creamery is also near the Greenbelt walking and bicycle trail. Treat yourself after a nice hike or walk to something sweet, and enjoy more time outside on their patio.

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2024 — Spring

2024 — Spring

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