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Explore fun and adventure in Burke County
There is a reason the area is nicknamed "Nature's Playground"
Published Thursday, October 10, 2013
by Michaela L. Duckett

About an hour’s drive west of Charlotte off Interstate 40, the city of Morganton sits in the heart of Burke County, which encompasses 515 square miles of mountain peaks, rolling foothills, plunging canyon depths and rushing rivers. The area is home to historic sites, wineries, annual festivals, thriving arts and music scenes, regional crafts and much more. With so much to offer to adventure seeker of all kinds – from cyclists to swimmers, hikers, fishers and climbers – it’s no wonder Burke County has the nickname “nature’s playground.”


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Table Rock Mountain rises 3,950 feet above sea level and is the landmark of the Pisgah National Forest, which envelopes one third of Burke County.

Get out and explore. Fall is the perfect season to take in the view from the top of Table Rock Mountain, which sits 3,950 feet above sea level and is the landmark of Pisgah National Forest, which envelopes one third of Burke County. The views overlooking Linville Gorge, commonly called “The Grand Canyon of the East,” are spectacular and well worth the 30 to 45 minutes you’ll spend climbing the mountain trail’s rocky steps and narrow corridors.

Beanstalk Journey Zip Lines is perfect destination for first-time zip liners. The exciting zip line course, which mimics an Ewok village, will take you on an exhilarating journey from tree house to tree house via a series of sky bridges and suspended zip lines.

Beanstalk’s gravity breaking system makes it one the most kid-friendly zip lines in the state. Children as young as four years old can participate. The cost for the zip line tour, which can last from 90 minutes to three hours depending on the group size, is $69 per person.

Cap off a day of adventure at Fonta Flora, Burke County’s newest brewery, which is named after an African-American sharecropping village that was destroyed by a flood in the area. Try the open fermented Saison (6.5 percent APV), which is made with local figs or the Hop Beard Mountain Man IPA (5.8 percent APV).

And what’s a trip to Burke County without a drive up Highway 181 to Brown Mountain Overlook for a chance to be one of the fortunate few to witness the Brown Mountain Lights. These mysterious lights, which are said to appear as a series of hazy orbs or glowing balls of fire flying across the night sky, have confounded scientists seeking to explain them and been the subject of legends for over 800 years.


The chefs of Burke County take great pride in serving dishes with locally sourced ingredients. Instead of gathering ingredients to fit their menus, many chefs choose to build around the ingredients available in the area. Which is why the menu at Wisteria Gastropub changes bi-weekly as chef and co-owner Obie Ferguson won’t allow anything to be served on his tables that is not farm fresh. Wisteria’s weekend brunch is popular. The menu boasts of items like Watauga County duck egg and chicken n’ waffle benedict.

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Root and Vine's Bourbon, Bacon Brownie is a tasty treat worth trying.

Root and Vine, an upscale restaurant in downtown Morganton, has quickly become one of the city’s crowned jewels. Here, the food is prepared from scratch, merging traditional French techniques with southern practicalities.

Start your meal off with the spicy Pupusas made with black bean, corn, queso fresco, salsa verde, curtido and pico de gallo or the Maryland-style lump crab cakes served with fried green tomatoes and remoulade sauce. Save room for dessert. Walk on the wild side with the Bourbon, Bacon Brownie. The unlikely combination of ingredients makes for a surprisingly good dessert.



Stop by Hamilton Williams Gallery to pick up a few functional pieces of artwork to take home. 

Morganton is not just a haven for those seeking adventure. Here you will also find a treasure trove of one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry, art and housewares. Stop by Hamilton Williams Gallery in downtown Morganton, where you may find noted potter Hamilton Williams, who makes those fancy mugs you find in the Mint Museum’s gift shop, hard at work in his studio. Next door, Williams’ gallery features pieces (everything from jewelry and wall art to wood work) made by other North Carolina artists, many of whom are members of the Southern Highland Craft Guild as is Williams.

Be sure to scope out Oak Hill Iron Works, where contemporary “metalsmith” Dean Curfman and his wife Lynn create beautiful and functional items by hand for individuals and business clients throughout the country. Here, you’ll find everything from Christmas tree ornaments to wine racks and ornate chandeliers.

For years, Carolinians have made visiting Apple Hill Orchard a family tradition. Swing by the onsite bakery and take home some of the best apple muffins and apple cider donuts you’ve ever tasted. Or pick a few pounds of apples to take home and make your own.

Don’t leave Morganton without stopping by the newly opened tasting room at Silver Fork Winery. You will not find wines from this boutique winery anywhere else so don’t hit the road without a bottle of their most popular wine, the Four Dog Red Blend, a medium bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot.


Apple Hill Orchard and Cider Mill

2075 Pleasant Hill Avenue


(828) 437-1224

Beanstalk Journey at Catawba Meadows

220 Catawba Meadows Drive


(828) 430-3440

Brown Mountain Lights

Morganton, NC 


(888) 462-2921

Oak Hill Iron Works

3308 Frank Whisnant Road

(828) 437-5348

Root & Vine Restaurant

139 W. Union St.


(828) 433-1540

Silver Fork Vineyard & Winery

5000 Patton Road


(828) 391-8783

Table Rock Mountain

Morganton, NC 


Wisteria Southern Gastropub

108 East Meeting Street


(828) 475-6200

Fonta Flora Brewery

317 N. Green Street


Hamilton Williams Gallery

403 East Union Street


(828) 438-1595 


Add Kala Gallery to you visit. At the corner of West Union and South Sterling Street, diagonally across from the Historic Burke County Courthouse Square, this fine arts and crafts gallery is a great place to shop for handmade gifts made by both regional and national artists and craftspersons!
Posted on October 16, 2013
Silver Fork Winery is a fabulous place. Well worth the visit for the view, the hosts and the wine.
Posted on October 15, 2013

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