Boone United Trail 90 percent complete
by Anna Oakes
April 1 marked the return of Tuesday Trail Nights -- an all-volunteer effort to finish a new trail beginning at the Boone United Methodist Church and ascending up Howard's Knob.
The Boone United Trail began in spring 2012 as a project of the church, but has been built by and for the local community, Eric Heistand, a church member and project leader, said.
Heistand said the trail, a loop just under three miles in length, is about 90 percent complete.
"It really feels like it's a community treasure in a beautiful location, and it's the closest in-town hiking that we have," Heistand said. "We hope it's a resource beloved and treasured by all."
The trail begins at the church's picnic shelter and ascends about 800 feet in elevation, about half to three-quarters of the way up Howard's Knob. However, trail builders worked to minimize the grade as much as possible, he said.
"It should be accessible for most families," he added. The trail meanders primarily through a wooded area, but in the winter there are clear views of peaks, such as Grandfather Mountain and Rocky Knob.
"It's surprising how it feels like a sanctuary and you can be so close to town in the midst of it all," Heistand said.
About an eighth of a mile of trail remains to be dug, he said, and signage needs to be installed.
Boone United Methodist Church pursued the project as a "very neighborly and tangible blessing" on 40 acres it owns that are managed through a conservation easement with Blue Ridge Conservancy, Heistand said. The church's land does not extend to the top of Howard's Knob, however, and there are no plans to connect the trail with the county park at the summit.
Project leaders intentionally invited community members to help build the trail by hand, with no machinery. Students and children have played a significant role in building the trail, with groups such as Mountain Alliance, the ASU Trail Crew and others investing countless hours in the project.
"I think it will feel like there's a high level of ownership already with kids in our community who have made it happen and have pushed us to the top," Heistand said.
Tuesday Trail Nights take place beginning at 5 p.m. each Tuesday, weather permitting, and anyone is invited to help build the trail. Bring water and wear closed-toed shoes, and long pants are recommended. Tools and gloves are provided, but extra loppers and pick axes are helpful.
A grand opening celebration is planned for Saturday, June 7, which will coincide with National Trails Day. The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with free barbecue, bounce houses and guided hikes.
For more information about the Boone United Trail, visit
booneunited.wordpress.com or search for The Boone United Trail on Facebook.