We love the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site for many reasons – great hikes, gorgeous views – but there is so much more to do at the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site in Flat Rock, NC. Local mom Liene shares what her family likes to do when they visit this family-friendly historic site, including a hike up Glassy mountain, just over the state line in North Carolina.
For more ideas of fun things to do on a day trip to Flat Rock see our Day Trip for Flat Rock, NC article.
Carl Sandburg National Historic Site
Located in the town of Flat Rock, the park is three miles south of Hendersonville, NC on Little River Road. You might find the route familiar, especially if you’ve visited Skytop Orchard to pick apples. From the National Park Service parking lot it’s only a couple hundred feet down to the ‘contact station’ which sits adjacent to the damn on Front Lake; here you’ll find maps and brochures, as well as restrooms. From this point Front Lake Loop trail circles around the lake (and connects with several other trails including the one that goes up to Glassy Mountain), and the wide main road heads up towards Connemara (Carl Sandburg’s home).
The short, ¼ mile road that winds up to the Carl Sandburg home features a nice pasture view, but does climb some 100 feet in elevation before you reach the main house. Carl Sandburg and his family lived here in Connemara from 1945 until his death in 1967. While a visit to the farm and grounds is free, a tour of the home is available for a fee; see the Carl Sandburg NHS website for schedules. The park’s Visitor Center is located on the lower level of the house, and this is where you can purchase tour tickets as well as browse the gift shop and obtain brochures. Older children might be interested in completing the Park’s free Junior Ranger Program, with age-appropriate activities that allow children to earn a badge for their efforts.
Kids TRACK Trails
You might notice a Kids in Parks TRACK Trail kiosk at the entrance. The Kids in Parks network is a family-friendly collection of outdoor adventures called TRACK Trails. Each TRACK Trail features self-guided brochures and signs that can enhance your outdoor experience, and you can earn prizes for tracking your adventures.
Get more info on the Kids in Parks program from our Kids In Parks Review on Kidding Around
While crossing the bridge be sure to take in the view over the lake and also down below the dam; the logs below are a favorite spot for snakes to sun themselves. While venomous snakes do live in the area, most often visitors will spot the harmless water snake. The best part is that you can watch these reptiles in their natural habitat from the safety of your perch high above the creek. If you visit in the fall, you’ll be greeted with stunning views of the lake.
Playing with the Goats
As you head past the lake, up towards the house on the gravel road, and past some of the older historic structures, you’ll eventually end up at the dairy barn, which is where the goats live. Mrs. Sandburg owned and operated a premier goat dairy from 1935 to 1965, the Grade A milk being distributed to local dairies and sold in stores around the community. The goat breeding program that produced champion goats continues today at the historic site, with three breeds of goats calling the park home. During April and May the barnyard is full of babies; on our early-May visit last year there were at least six kids, ranging from 10 weeks to 10 minutes old. The barn had triplets a couple years ago born on March 17th. They all had Irish names of course.
The goat farm is unique in that visitors can walk in the pasture with the goats (and in the enclosure with the kids!) as well as explore the barn, not only meeting the goats, but petting them and watching them feed & interact. Although arriving just after the birth of a kid was just lucky timing, if you visit in the spring you will definitely get the chance to pet some baby goats, and watching them wobble around on uncertain legs has been the highlight of more than one hike.
Current Policies for Playing with Goats
The Goat Barn had been closed for more than a year and a half because of COVID-19 and will be reopening to the public on Friday, July 30, 2021. But they have some new policies in place. They are limiting visitors to 40 people at a time and are asking people to follow CDC guidelines on social distancing and mask wearing.
The hours of access to the barn and goat pasture will be daily from 10 am – 3 pm. The entire park is open sunrise to sunset. The water bottle filling station and restrooms are still not open near the barn but there are portable toilets and the park is asking people to please bring their own water.
Hiking up to Glassy Mountain
We usually spend an hour at the goat farm before heading past the vegetable gardens to the apple orchard. Here at the trout pond, Orchard Trail intersects with Spring Trail, which takes us up to Memminger Trail Loop and the Glassy Mountain Trail. From the House to the Glassy Mountain overlook it is 1.25 miles, but the 523 foot increase in elevation makes this a more challenging hike. Although there are several other options for reaching Glassy Mountain from the parking lot, they are all about the same length with the same workout. We pause often to take the kids’ minds off the climb, which although not extremely steep is definitely steady; there are no breaks other than the ones taken stationary.
It is always with profound relief that we reach the top of Glassy Mountain and dig out our snacks, enjoying a long rest to explore, snap photos and soak in the view. The exposed rock makes for interesting plant communities in the various seeps, and the overlook is the only spot in the park with a view of the mountains.
We’ve logged the round-trip hike from the parking lot as approaching 4.5 miles – about 2 one-way with another ½ mile in the goat pasture. This hike definitely requires a little more oomph than our usual hikes, and including the time spent at the goat barn can total well over four hours. The general feeling from our crew is that the goats are the main attraction, while the view from Glassy Mountain a bonus – but only if your children can make the climb without too much complaining!
Tired, but happy, we’ll pile back into the car for the short ride into Flat Rock, where we will stop at the bakery before heading home. Along with pizza baked in the brick oven in the back, I can also vouch for the coffee, croissants and various breads – definitely worth the stop after a day spent exploring the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site. And all for free.
The original post on Femme au foyer is here and has been edited to reflect current policies.
For more hike suggestions for families with young children see our list of Toddler-Friendly Hikes Near Greenville.
Plan your own visit
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
81 Carl Sandburg Lane
Flat Rock, NC 28731
Click here for directions for Carl Sandburg’s Home.
The first house tour occurs daily at 9:30 am. The last tour occurs at 4:30 pm. daily. Tours are $5 for adults 16 – 61. Youth 15 and younger are free. Adults 62+ are $3. Only cash and check are accepted for house tours.
Would your kids love a visit to the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site?