West Asheville. Hank Williams, Jr., David Allen Coe and Waylon Jennings.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Deer Park Trail at Biltmore

Our plan was to arrive at the Biltmore Estate, park in our usual spot (parking lot A), then walk down to Deer Park Trail, which begins near the base of the South Terrace.  The South Terrace is where the summer concerts take place (We saw Sheryl Crow perform just a few years ago). On the way to the terrace we hoped to take some images of the house, the gardens and perhaps even some sculptures. That all went as planned. A surprise we had was being able to wander around the back side of the terrace, where we discovered a fantastic tree (see Kade under it?) and unique vantage points of the house and estate.  What struck me was how the terrace wall reminded me of kremlin fortresses in Russia and even the high walls surrounding the Grand Palace in Bangkok.  After enjoying some time there, we started our walk.  As hot it's getting, would definitely recommend you walk this trail early in the morning or later in the day, like we did.  There's not a lot of cover! The trail is well-maintained and signs are pretty easy to follow.  However, there is one little tricky spot, where it looks like you could turn right instead of left.  But with a bit of brainpower and a partner, the answer becomes obvious.  On our way to the lagoon (to me, a big pond!), there is a magnificent bamboo forest.  You can walk inside it and get some shade from the heat.  And it's surreal when you are inside it.  You might think you're hiking in China or Japan, and that a tea house and temple are nearby, or that a giant panda might be hanging out.  We then made our way over to the lagoon, an idyllic spot where I could see returning for a picnic or even to fish, if they'd let us.  And just a few feet over from the lagoon was the French Broad River, which runs through the estate.  Truly beautiful.  At that point we had hiked 1.3 miles. We then reversed tracks and returned to the house, which gave us a total of 2.6 miles - not far, but on rolling hills, a decent workout.  And when you add the distance to the parking lot and the various little "side walks" along the way, it's a good 3.5 miles on the day.

Tip:  For those hoping to enjoy a sunset at the Biltmore, and to do so on the expansive lawns in front or above the house, it's best to call ahead and find if there are weddings the day you want to do it.  If there are, which is very likely this time of year, these areas will be off-limits.  However, even if there are weddings, you can park over at the gardens instead (the Conservatory), walk the Deer Park Trail, then return to the South Terrace for the sunset.

In all, the Biltmore Estate has roughly 22 miles of trails.  Our goal is to cover it all!  For locals, pick up a Biltmore pass, which gives you access to the grounds all year!

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