Bakers Mountain Story Walk

Bakers Mountain Story Walk

Published: July 10, 2023

2023 is the Year of the Trail in North Carolina and we invite you to spend it at Catawba County Parks! This series of articles will help you do that with details on suggested routes across our four parks. Our next feature is a story walk on the LITeracy Trail at Bakers Mountain Park.

Walk Statistics:
     Distance: 0.27 mile loop
     Estimated Time: 15-25 minutes
     Elevation Gain: >50 feet
     Difficulty: Easy

Walk Overview:
Bakers Mountain Park is home to Catawba County’s highest elevation point. This family-oriented, quarter-mile story walk at the foot of the mountain follows the park’s stroller-friendly, paved LITeracy Trail. This unique trail incorporates 18 stations containing pages of a children’s book along with activity prompts and questions. Along the way, the park’s natural habitat presents numerous chances to experience nature. Offering opportunities for exercise and exploration, the walk is a fun way to get youngsters engaged in reading and the outdoors.

Directions to Trailhead:
From I-40, take exit 121.  At the top of the ramp from either direction, turn right to travel south on Old Shelby Road, bearing left at the intersection with George Hildebran Road.  After traveling approximately 4.1 miles from I-40, turn left onto Bakers Mountain Road. Park entrance is to the left at the end of the road. The walk begins to the left of the information board, past 4 parking spaces, at the start of the park’s paved trail around the parking area. 

Walk Description & Details:
From the information board located at the start of the park’s parking lot loop, go left (away from the park office) onto the paved path that begins beyond the four parking spaces located there. As you approach the start of the trail, you’ll walk past a young sapling of a ginkgo tree planted in 2018 by long-time Park Ranger David Edward Shugart, commemorated with a plaque in his memory after his passing in September 2019. The ginkgo biloba, one of the oldest living tree species in the world, is the sole survivor of an ancient group of trees that date back to before the dinosaurs and is thus known as a living fossil. Its unique fan-shaped leaves turn a stunning yellow color in the fall and are an interesting sight year-round.

The paved path is the park’s LITeracy Trail, a partnership between Catawba County Parks, Catawba County Library System and Live Well Catawba designed to engage children in reading, learning, physical activity and time outdoors. With four installations across Catawba County (at Bakers Mountain Park, Bunker Hill Covered Bridge, Murray’s Mill Historic Site and St. Stephens Park), each trail consists of 18 individual stations that trace the storyline of different children’s books while also offering opportunities for exercise and further exploration. The LITeracy stations (LIT = Literature, Information and Technology) bring reading, technology, and fitness activities to the forefront for an innovative, delightful way to enjoy a story and the outdoors at the same time. 

The books featured on the LITeracy Trails are changed on a quarterly basis; the current story newly-installed at Bakers Mountain Park is “Dragons Love Tacos” by Adam Rubin. The humorous, engaging story is presented in both English and Spanish. You’ll find the cover and title page as you come to the first station at the start of the paved, level, stroller-friendly path. As the trail curves around to the right, it passes the western trailhead for the red-blazed Bakers Mountain Loop on the left and a picnic table on the right between story stations two and three. Beyond the picnic table is the park’s pollinator garden which blooms April-September with showy perennials including several varieties of daylilies, coneflowers, daisies, columbine, lavender, and sage, attracting pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. With a bench at the center of the garden, it is a lovely spot for a break during or after the story walk.

The path is shaded with a variety of native trees including chestnut oak, Eastern hemlock, Virginia and Table Mountain pine, river birch, black gum, and the sourwood, an especially striking tree when it blooms in June and July with its fragrant, white, bell-shaped flowers along slender, drooping stalks that resemble long fingers. The blossoms attract bees which turn the nectar into luscious sourwood honey prized by food connoisseurs, earning it the best honey title in world contests numerous times. The blooms mature in autumn to silver-gray capsules of seeds that contrast well with the burgundy color of fall foliage and hang on into winter, making the sourwood a decorative tree in all seasons.

As the kids get immersed in the story and nature around them on the approach to station six, the trail comes to a large picnic shelter on the right. It is one of two covered shelters at the park, each with picnic tables and grills to enjoy a picnic or group gathering. Shelters are used on a first-come basis or can be reserved ahead of time by contacting the park office. A gravel path leads straight ahead but our route along the LITeracy Trail veers to the left instead, making an S-curve along stations seven, eight and nine. It continues straight, arcing around the northern perimeter of the parking lot. At 0.15 miles between stations 12 and 13, the gravel path intersects in on the right and continues to the left as the paved start of the blue-blazed, natural surface A.G. Clark trail, which leads into the heart of the park past landmarks such as the 1920s homestead and a scenic water feature.

Continue straight to follow the LITeracy Trail past stations 13 and 14, curving to the right along the loop as it comes to station 15. To the left just behind the stand, notice a bluebird nest box hanging in an open area on the side of a tree. Unlike the chickadees and titmice which also make the park their year-round home, bluebirds like nest boxes positioned with the entrance hole facing east towards open habitat. They have no perch so as not to attract nest competitors who may use the perches to gain access to the box. These birdhouses were originally installed around 2003 as part of the first Eagle Scout project at Bakers Mountain Park. 

Through the open canopy of trees, you may catch sight of a raven, its raspy call joined by the hoots of owls, the hammering of woodpeckers, and coo-coos of cuckoo birds in an avian chorus of background music. Look for colorful birds like the Northern cardinal, American goldfinch, indigo bunting and white-breasted nuthatch as you follow the final pages of the story to its conclusion at station 18 at 0.23 miles. A shortcut to the right returns you to the parking lot next to the park office past a lattice wall of muscadine vines; stay straight on the paved path instead where you’ll soon come to one of the numerous interpretive signs scattered throughout the park about the trees, shrubs and plants inherent to the area. 

Rounding the curve to complete the loop, the paved path leads past a buckeye tree whose distinctive early spring flowers turn in autumn to seeds that look like a deer’s eye. The shiny, dark brown nut is believed to bring good luck; carrying one in your pocket is said to bring wealth and wisdom according to folklore. A few steps ahead, the trail comes to the junction with the southeastern start of the red-blazed Bakers Mountain Loop at a wooden Bakers Mountain Park sign that makes a nice photo opportunity. This spot is also home to a unique bigleaf magnolia tree whose 12-36 inch long leaves will astonish the kids. 

The rocking chairs to the right just before the park building, positioned for a great view of the park’s bird feeding station, make a pleasant resting spot at the end of the story walk at 0.27 miles. Restroom facilities are available at the building, where you will also find the park office. A ranger is always on duty during the park’s operating hours and available to meet with the kids to share interesting information, answer any questions or pose for a group photo to commemorate your family outing at Bakers Mountain Park.

Mileage Breakdown:

  • 0.00 – start of story walk to the left of the information kiosk
  • 50 feet – western trailhead for red-blazed Bakers Mountain Loop just past station 1
  • 250 feet – picnic table and pollinator garden on the right between stations 2-3
  • 500 feet – covered picnic shelter at station 6
  • 0.15 – trailhead for blue-blazed A.G. Clark trail between stations 12-13
  • 0.20 – bluebird nest box behind station 15
  • 0.23 – end of story at station 18 and shortcut to park building and parking lot on the right
  • 0.25 – southeastern trailhead for red-blazed Bakers Mountain Loop
  • 0.27 – end of hike at park building and parking lot

Visitor Reviews:
Love the story trail. Wonderful, clean place for the whole family. (Google Review)

Very well-marked trails, gorgeous view at the top of all the surrounding county and a cute story section for kids. Such a well-maintained park with great signage! Will definitely be back. (Google Review)

Nice staff and appreciated the cute small paved loop for families with children. (Google Review)

Beautiful place to get out and take the kids. (Google Review)

Walk Video:

Other Routes in the Series: