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Moses Cone Park

Flat Top Mountain, Rich Mountain, Bass Lake, Trout Lake, Cone Manor House

 

  

Moses H. Cone was a self-made man in the best American tradition. His textile mills produced high quality denim fabric, earning him the title, "Denim King".  He was fond of nature but was plagued by poor health.  Moses was drawn to the mountainous region of western North Carolina with its moderate climate, fresh spring water, and clean air. 

In the mid-1890's, Moses and his wife, Bertha, journeyed to Blowing Rock to design and build their summer estate, Flat Top Manor.  Flat Top Manor became their gleaming white 23-room, 13,000 square foot mansion.  Moses died at the age of 51 in 1908. Bertha resided at and actively managed the estate for another 39 years until her death. The graves of both overlook a meadow below the summit of Flat Top Mountain.

The 3,516 acres of the estate included Flat Top Mountain and Rich Mountain. Situated on top of a hill, the luxurious 20-room house looked down across acres of apple orchards leading to Bass Lake. In order to see the mountain vistas, Cone had a lookout tower constructed on top of Flat Top Mountain.  Located between milepost 293-295 along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Moses Cone Park is a popular stop of travelers of the Parkway.  This is an area that should be explored while traveling on the Parkway.

The Cones were "naturalists" before the term became popular.  They worked to preserve and enrich their land.  They planted extensive white pines and hemlocks, plus transported sugar maples directly from New England.  The 32,000 apple trees Moses established produced prize-winning apples.

Formal rhododendron plantings are a feature of nearly all the trails. Purple or Catawba rhododendron and rosebay rhododendron are abundant, usually blooming in June and July respectively. Mountain laurel, also planted extensively, is admired for the large clusters of pinkish flowers appearing in the late spring.  The colors are amazing in June.

Perhaps the aspect of the estate most appreciated by visitors today is the 25 miles of beautiful carriage roads. They remain an enduring example of the Cones' appreciation of the natural beauty around them. The 25 miles of gently sloping carriage roads in Cone Park offer many opportunities for leisurely hiking. Visit the Cone Cemetery en route to Flat Top Tower, which offers a grand panorama of distant mountains. Wander through what remains of the apple orchards. Stroll around Bass Lake, investigate the Maze and apple barn.

Most of the trails are multi-purpose; along the way you may meet horseback riders, joggers, or in winter, cross-country skiers. Please be considerate of other visitors. Help preserve these historic trails by staying on the designated paths.

The magnificent Flat Top Manor now houses the Parkway Craft Center and a National Park Service information desk, open daily from April or May to November. During the summer, artisans demonstrate their skills on the front porch.  Stop and enjoy this fantastic place.

Walking in a meadow along Flat Top Road

Most popular hikes in Moses Cone Park

Figure Eight Trail (0.7 miles) - This self guiding interpretive trail gives hikers a sense of the local woods as well as Moses Cone.  This trail was Mr. and Mrs. Cone's favorite path and the one they shared with their guests.  The trail starts off to the left of the Manor House.

Flat Top Road (5.6 miles) - This is a great hike to the summit views of the Moses Cone Park area.  This moderate hike with an elevation gain of 580 feet is along one of Moses Cone's carriage roads, Flat Top Road.  This hike has spectacular views from open meadows and the tower of the 4558 foot summit of Flat Top Mountain. 

The views from the summit of Flat Top Mountain encompass the entire North Carolina High Country with Grandfather Mountain as a focal point.  This hike starts at the left of the Carriage Barn at the Manor House Parking Area.

Bass Lake Loop Hike (0.8 miles) - An easy loop hike around a very scenic lake.  To get to the trailhead, leave the Parkway at US 221.  Turn left on US 221 and in one mile turn left onto the paved road for Bass Lake.

Rich Mountain via Mountains-To-Sea Trail (3.6 miles) - A hike to Moses Cone Park's upland meadows with spectacular views along the way and at the 4370 foot summit.  Start this hike at the trailhead further up Shull's Mill Road from the main Rich Mountain trailhead (5.2 mile hike) at the Mountains-To-Sea Trail crossing of the road to cut 1.6 miles off your hike. 

Trout Lake (1.0 miles) - This lake is far less visited as compared to Bass Lake.  Don't let this stop you from enjoying a leisurely stroll around the lake.  To reach trailhead for this hike, you'll need to leave the Parkway at milepost 294.6 and turn right unto Shull's Mill Road.  Now take the second right onto a scenic one way road to the trailhead.

Most of these hikes are featured in the hiking guide book Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Along the Rich Mountain Trail

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Developed Areas Along the Parkway

North Carolina BRP Highlights Blue Ridge Parkway