Morganton (NC) and Burke County Gems

Burke County, North Carolina
Burke County, North Carolina

Whether you want to go to the top of a towering mountain, deep into a river gorge or all around town, Morganton and Burke County offer the perfect settings and opportunities.

The county seat and largest town of Burke County, Morganton is situated in the North Carolina foothills, surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Undeniably one of the most beautiful counties in the Southeast, the area has bragging rights on Linville Gorge – often called the Grand Canyon of the East – the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi; the 18,000 acre South Mountains State Park, the largest state park in North Carolina; two of the state’s most recognizable mountains – Hawksbill and Table Rock; and the picturesque Lake James with its 700-foot public swimming beach at Paddy’s Creek. Nearly one-third of Burke County is enveloped by the Pisgah National Forest.

Dubbed “Nature’s Playground,” the area offers tremendous access to the outdoors.

Whatever your destination, there is a way to get there – by car, on foot, on bike, by boat or on horseback – and getting there is accompanied by amazing views and outdoor adventure.

While Burke County is a hiker’s paradise, sometimes you just want to fly. Beanstalk Zip Lines, located in the popular Catawba Meadow Park, provides that opportunity along with a 32-foot climbing tower and an adventure playground. Beanstalk’s main feature is the zip line journey which connects 15 islands in the sky via a series of zip lines and sky bridges. The islands range in height from 20 to 60 feet, creating the feel of a life-size

Ewok village. Beanstalk’s gravity breaking system is engineered for safety and allows children as young as four years old to participate.

If floating and paddling are more your speed, the Catawba River awaits. Stop by The Outpost in Morganton to get outfitted for your trip.

Mystery lovers will want to pursue the elusive Brown Mountain Lights. On a clear night, take up watch from one of three overlook spots that provide a view of the lights that appear at irregular intervals. Though many theories have been offered, no one really knows what causes these lights which were first noted in 1771 by German engineer Gerard De Brahm.

Indeed, nature has left its majestic mark on this area and the area, in turn, will make alasting impression on you.

Morganton is a friendly city where residents like to come out, greet and mingle with each other. Numerous festivals, including the well-known Red White and Bluegrass Festival, gatherings on the Historic Burke County Courthouse square, and the outdoor concert series offer music, food and fun for the entire family. Visitors, sometimes in the thousands, are always part of the mix. Shops, restaurants and two award-winning breweries make up the thriving downtown. In fact, the boutique brewery Fonta Flora has won gold medals the last two years at the Great American Beer Festival.

As compelling as the outdoor activities are, don’t wait for a rainy day to take in the cultural and artistic offerings of the county. The City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium is a frequent venue for performances, concerts and plays. It also houses a magnificent piece of the Benjamin F. Long, IV’s Fresco Trail. Fresco is the medium Michelangelo used when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Long’s mastery of the fresco process has led to worldwide commissions. His work is presented at several sites in western North Carolina.

Followers of history will appreciate that Burke County contains the site of Fort San Juan, the oldest European settlement in North America and will be fascinated by the historical use of Table Rock Mountain as the mystic alter for sacred ceremonies by the Cherokee Indians.

The Burke County palate is increasingly sophisticated. Root & Vine Restaurant is raising the culinary bar in the area with its commitment to fresh ingredients and creative menus.

Enjoy lunch or dinner on the lovely outdoor terrace.

Burke County’s newest winery, Silver Fork Winery is situated on 32 acres at the confluence of Silver Creek and White Fork Creek. It features an upscale, rustic tasting room and a lineup of seven varietals. Most popular so far have been the oak-aged Reserve Chardonnay and the Four Dog Red blended table wine.

Upcoming events

▪ TGIF Concert Series, Lawn of the Historic Burke County Courthouse, downtown Morganton, Every Friday night through July: Folks can enjoy free live music starting at 7 p.m. Food vendors and the beer/wine tent open at 6 p.m. Upcoming performances: July 22 – Throwdown Jones (rock); July 29 – Tim Hall & the Buffalo Country (country). Free.

▪ From This Day Forward, Old Colony Players Amphitheatre, Valdese, Fridays and Saturdays, through August 13: This outdoor drama tells the story of the Waldensians, who fled a life of hardships in the Cottian Alps in Northern Italy in the late 1800s and established the town of Valdese. For more information visit players/

▪ Waldensian Festival, downtown Valdese, NC, Saturday, Aug. 13: Held the second Saturday in August since 1976, this all-day festival celebrates the “Glorious Return” of the Waldenses from exile in Switzerland to their native valleys in the Cottian Alps of Italy in 1689. This celebration is mirrored around the world by other Waldensian communities. The festival concentrates on unique crafts, great food, and top-quality entertainment. For more information visit festival/

▪ Murder Mystery in the Vineyards, South Creek Vineyards, Nebo, Saturday, September 10: Enjoy a whodunnit entwined with grape vines as South Creek Vineyards present a murder mystery dinner theater entitled: “Still Wines Run Deep.” Tickets are $40 and must be purchased in advance. For more information visit

For information on these and other events, visit or call (828) 433-6793.