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Three of the Top Cross-Country Skiing Spots in the Blue Ridge

cross country skiing

If your taste trends more towards quiet scenic glides than downhill thrills, we’ve got plenty of options. Here are three of the region’s top cross-country skiing spots. 

Roan Mountain Highlands, Tenn.

It’s no secret the Roan Mountain Highlands offer fantastic cross-country skiing. In fact, local veterans have nicknamed the expansive ridgeline—which sits within the Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests—Nordic Nirvana. Wait for a good storm to drop some fresh pow, then use the eponymous state park as a basecamp to explore 6,000-plus foot balds and sprawling alpine spruce forests that seem more Canadian than Southern.

Access to some of the best options is found at the Carver’s Gap parking area. Nordic skiers typically head south, using a gently sloping forest service road to climb Roan Mountain proper. The route is gated to protect the snow for cross-country touring. 

A number of trails spur off the road—including a stretch of Appalachian Trail that brings a wild, switchback descent to the parking lot. Follow the road to the top and the Rhododendron Gardens trail, which leads to an observation deck and dazzling views.

Moses Cone Memorial Park, N.C.

This cross-country haven is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, less than 10 miles south of Boone at mile marker 294. In-the-know skiers call the 3,500-acre park one of the Blue Ridge’s best—and most accessible—destinations for cross.  

The park holds what was once the summer estate of a textiles baron; its manor dates to 1901. Twenty-five miles of idyllic old carriage trails have been retooled to help adventure-loving visitors take advantage of more than 100 inches of annual snowfall. 

The wide, gently sloping routes are perfect for beginners and families. Visitors can ski around a lake, trek through dense forests, climb to the summit of Rich Mountain, and catch views from the Flat Top fire tower.

Canaan Valley Resort State Park, W.Va.

This one is a family-friendly twofer: The 6,015-acre state park combines awesome backcountry adventures and a lift-served ski area with 47 trails, 4,300-foot summits, and 850 feet of vertical drop. Better still, average snowfalls of around 160 inches bring loads of fresh powder.  

Canaan Valley is crisscrossed by 21 miles of marked, ungroomed trails for cross-country skiing. However, the area’s crown jewel can be found on the Allegheny Trail. The five-mile section connecting Canaan Valley to Blackwater Falls State Park via the Monongahela National Forest backcountry is legendary. Blackwater, in turn, boasts another 10 miles of purpose-built XC. 

Cover photo: A skier on Cabin Mountain in West Virginia’s Canaan Valley, just above the Breakfast Bowl tree glades. Photo by Brian Sarfino

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