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Moses Cone Memorial Park [MP 292 – 295]

True environmentalists before their time, Moses and Bertha Cone donated their estate to the Blue Ridge Parkway after the death of Bertha.

This 3,600 acre park preserves the country estate of Moses Cone, a prosperous textile entrepreneur, conservationist, and philanthropist of the Gilded Age. Moses H. Cone was the son of a German immigrant who built a thriving wholesale grocery business in the Northeast and then ventured south after the Civil War. His more than 30 textile mills produced high quality denim fabric, earning him the title, “Denim King”. He was fond of nature. Moses was drawn to the mountainous region of western North Carolina with its moderate climate, fresh spring water and clean air. When the railroad and improved roads opened the mountains at the turn of the nineteenth century, Cone acquired more than 3,500 acres ranging in terrain from Flat Top Mountain at 4,558 feet to 500 acres of rolling farmland, patches of meadowland, and virgin hardwood and evergreen forests. In the mid-1890’s, Moses and his wife, Bertha, journeyed to Blowing Rock to design and build their summer estate, Flat Top Manor.

The Cones were “naturalists” before the term became popular. They worked to preserve and enrich their land. Moses Cone oversaw the planting of apple orchards, imported sugar maples (Acer saccharum) from New England, and obtained advice from Gifford Pinchot, the pioneering forester (see Cradle of Forestry), on planting white pine forests and hemlock hedges. 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.

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 centerpiece of the estate is Flat Top Manor, a gleaming white 23-room, 13,000 square foot mansion built in 1901 in the grand Colonial Revival style. The mansion is an impressive piece of period architecture popping out of the mountain landscape. The walk down the steps provides a breath-taking view of Bass Lake below and the surrounding mountains accented by the always changing sky. In order to see the mountain vistas, Cone had a lookout tower constructed on top of Flat Top Mountain. The estate also contains a carriage house and apple barn.

The Cone cemetery where the family burials are located is about a mile walk from the Manor. The graves overlook a meadow below the summit of Flat Top Mountain. Cone genealogy family pictures are in the Flat Top Manor along with area information and history books.

The Cones rejoiced in their land. The well-maintained 25 miles of carriage trails, for example, which were designed to give Bertha joy, comfort, and seclusion as she explored her estate, today are perhaps the most appreciated by visitors today. They remain an enduring example of the Cones’ appreciation of the natural beauty around them.


The park features 25 miles of horse and carriage trails, hiking, fishing (with a valid VA or NC fishing license) at a 16-acre Trout lake or a 22-acre Basslake, and Flat Top Manor which now houses the visitor center and the Southern Highlands Craft Guild gallery and store.

destination-moses-cone-winter-sportsTwenty-five miles of carriage trails wind through the fields and forests of the 3,500-acre estate. The trails are available to horse drawn carriages, horseback riding, and hiking. The area is also popular for cross country skiing in the winter. Craftsman’s Trail is a 20-minute loop walk around the Manor which the Cones are said to have walked together every morning.

Moses Cone’s interest in nature and conservation led him to plant extensive white pine forests and hemlock hedges (at the advice of friend and noted conservationist Gifford Pinchot, pioneering forester for the Cradle of Forestry of America), build several lakes stocked with bass and trout, and plant a 10,000-tree apple orchard.

The visitor center and store are open March 5th – October 31st 9am – 5pm. Open on weekends only between March 5th – May 26th.

Excerpted from TripAdvisor hiker reviews:

Flat Top Mountain Trail / Firetower – This is such a beautiful hike. It is over five miles round trip, but it is a gradual climb. The views in the open field are fantastic. When my family went, wildflowers were blooming throughout the field. The mountains beyond made it all the more pretty. This is a great family hike! ” — user GreenMountain73 Mebane, United States

Great area to walk off some of the good food in the area – Take the 1 mile walk around the pretty lake or the 5 mile circular walk up to Moses Cone house and back. Beautiful walk especially when leaves are changing or plants blooming. Can also tour Home if call ahead on weekends. Downstairs of home open with nice articles for sale. ” — user peachespair

Beautiful home Incredible view. But ya GOTTA take a walk around Bass Lake. – Home is very nice, but you are not allowed to explore it. Most of it seems to be just gift shop. View from porch is wonderful. But, to really enjoy it take the easy walk around Bass Lake. There are places to park nearer the lake than the house. Drive to these areas. And, walk is leisurely, easy, level, well-maintained, shady and very enjoyable. ” — user WeGetsAround Pickens, South Carolina

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