Five great springtime walks in the Carolinas

Taking a springtime walk in the Carolinas is always a delight, with birds chirping, trees budding and flowers beginning to bloom.

Certain paths, however, offer sights you won’t find anywhere else. For a memorable experience along with your exercise, you may want to try these “walks with a wow!”

Charleston area: View from the bridge

The soaring Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge with its diamond-shaped towers carries auto traffic 2 1/2 miles across the Cooper River from Charleston to Mount Pleasant, S.C.

In the 12-foot pedestrian and bike lane that’s separate from auto traffic, it carries babies in strollers, young couples holding hands, people in wheelchairs, even track teams practicing.

Everybody in Charleston, it seems, wants to make it to the lane’s highest point, 200 feet above the shipping channel. There they can rest on benches and see the city of Charleston spread before them to the right, and Charleston’s harbor straight ahead.

In Charleston, the bridge’s pedestrian lane begins on Morrison Boulevard/East Bay Street, a short walk down a sidewalk from a free city parking lot. The 50-car lot, at the corner of Morrison and Cooper Street, is open daily 6 a.m.-11 p.m. It’s lighted, has no security cameras.

BRP: Crafts and carriage trail

Turn off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 294 near Blowing Rock and you’re at the Moses Cone Manor House.

This textile magnate’s former mansion, now owned by the National Parks Service, is a showcase for colorful jewelry, pottery and other crafts made by the prestigious Southern Highland Craft Guild.

This Parkway Crafts Center, open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, March 15-Nov. 30, is the centerpiece of the 3,600-acre estate, open 24/7 year-round.

Step out the front, and you’re treated to the view that greeted conservationist Cone in the mornings: A mountainside covered in June- and July-blooming rosebay and purple rhododendron, with a 21/2-mile carriage trail that leads walkers and horses (no bikes) down to Bass Lake.

Walkers dot the 1-mile lakeside path, which can also be reached directly from U.S. 221. They share the peaceful scene with water birds and water lilies.

Details: National Parks Service 828-271-4779;

OBX: Wild and wonderful

Spanish mustangs have lived 500 years on Currituck Bank, and in 2012, the 144-horse wild-horse herd is still provoking “oohs” and “aahs” from those who catch a glimpse.

They roam government-protected land on the Outer Banks between Currituck Sound and the Atlantic, being most often seen at the beach, says Claudia Jones, northern sites manager of the N.C. Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Their protected area, including the estuarine reserve, starts about a mile north of the Currituck Heritage Park – a cluster of Corolla landmarks on N.C. 12 that includes the climbable, 1875 Currituck Beach Lighthouse.

Park in the Heritage Park lot, then follow N.C. 12, paved at this point, about 1 1/4-mile to the beach. Unpaved N.C. 12 runs along the beach, and if you walk north, you may find yourself dodging four-wheel-drive traffic, but you may also spot horses. A law prohibits getting within 50 feet of them.

Sightings are less likely, but not unheard of, on a 1/3-mile boardwalk and a 1 1/2-mile circular path leading through the reserve to the sound. Bald eagle nests, marshes, blooming wild plants and a maritime forest lie along the path. Park during daylight hours in the reserve’s parking lot a mile north of Heritage Park.

Details: Estaurine Reserve, 252-261-8891; Also:

West Jefferson: Walls tell the story

Leaders of the small mountain town of West Jefferson decided more than a decade ago to bring their downtown back to life through art.

Now 14 murals cover building walls in a six-block area of Jefferson Avenue (U.S. 221 Business), plus side streets.

On some of the walls, mountain musicians fiddle and strum; the now-defunct Virginia Creeper train steams into town, and an early-model Chevy chugs across the side of a former dealership.

Most were painted by professional artists, some of them local, but a few got a broader swath of the community involved, says Ashe County Arts Council Director Jane Lonon.

Mayor Dale Baldwin led a contingent that painted a gigantic cow and tobacco fields on the wall of the area’s first and only cheese-making factory, the Ashe County Cheese Factory.

Brochures and walking maps are at the Ashe Arts Center, 303 School Ave., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Ashe County Arts Council: 336-846-2787;

Near Pageland: Moon walking in S.C.

When the soft rock around it eroded over centuries, what’s known as Forty Acre Rock in South Carolina’s Lancaster County remained standing.

Now the moonscape-looking expanse of granite, actually 14 acres, is a Heritage Preserve managed by the state’s Department of Natural Resources. It draws day-trippers, some of whom have left scrawled graffiti and broken bottles in their wake.

But in early spring, it also draws botanists to observe the unusual plants that spring up in the shallow pools left by winter’s rains.

The botanical bonanza lasts until summer dries out the pools. The adjacent wooded area hosts traditional wildflowers like trout lily and wild azalea, and also a small waterfall, a shallow cave, a stream with a sloping fall of rock, and a beaver pond with geese, ducks and heron.

From Pageland, take U.S. 601 South/S.C 9. Continue on U.S. 601 after SC. 9 splits off; after about 8 miles, you’ll see a brown sign for 40 Acre Rock. Turn right onto S. 29-27 (Nature Reserve Road), and almost immediately, there’s an unpaved parking lot on the left with a small Heritage Preserve Wildlife Management Area sign. A 11/2-mile walking trail leads past the beaver pond to the rock.

Details: (type “Forty Acre” into the search window).