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By: CJ Rena Johnson

ATVing with a Twist at the Brown Mountain OHV Park in NC

Mysterious Lights at Brown Mtn Park
Mysterious Lights at Brown Mtn Park

A shroud of mystery encompasses Brown Mountain OHV and the surrounding park. Not only can you spend the days riding to your heart’s content, you can spend the night exploring the mysteries of the mountains. Local folklore, songs, and even a 1999 episode of the X-Files all tell the tales of the Brown Mountain lights.

What are the Brown Mountain lights? No one knows for sure. There are many theories that range from ancient tales of lost Indian warriors and their maidens out looking for them, to the ghosts of Civil War soldiers who are still out scouting their territory to scientific theories such as marsh gases, even though Brown Mountain range does not have any marshes or other areas that could produce this effect. Many research organizations including a couple of U.S. Government ones have investigated this phenomenon.

Some people think the lights dancing around on the other side of the mountain (as seen from Wiseman’s view) are ATVers out having some fun. I don’t know about others, but none of the quads I currently own can zoom around the mountainside, fly straight up into the night sky and disappear, as I have seen many of the Brown Mountain Lights do.

The best place to view them, at least in my experience, is from Wiseman’s View Overlook on Kistler Memorial Highway. People often report seeing them from the Brown Mountain Overlook on NC 181 as well. You can find out more information about the lights at

Orbs at Brown Mountain
Orbs at Brown Mountain

Whether there is a scientific, paranormal, or any other explanation for the lights that appear to fly around this mountain range, you can be sure to have a great time exploring this area for yourself! You and your friends will have an unforgettable trip. Just the experience of ATVing on Brown Mountain is worth the trip. This place has afforded me some of my best days of riding.

Brown Mountain OHV is the only trail system within the Pisgah National Forest that is open to motorized vehicles. All 34 miles of trails are open to dirt bikes, and over 14 miles are open to ATVs, Jeeps, and other 4-wheel drive vehicles. Most of the trails are one way, but always remain cautious for riders who get turned around and head in the wrong direction. The markers are turned so they are most visible if you are going in the right direction. I find the trails are well marked and easy to follow. To download a great trail map go to

I do, however, personally find even parts of the beginner trails a bit challenging after a bad storm, but there is always plenty of space for even the newest riders to cut loose. In addition, if you like mud, you will hit the jackpot at Brown Mountain. There is always at least one place to go sling some mud on all your mates! Be sure to check out the Jeep mud hole on Trail # 1. Likewise, there are no shortages of hill climbs, and many of the trails are peppered with jumps and whoops.

Primitive camping is permitted in the trail area as well as designated sites located along the main road coming up to the trailhead. Each site has a picnic table, grill, and lantern post.  Other amenities include a water hydrant, picnic shelter, and a vault toilet located at the trailhead.

Note: Alcoholic beverages are not permitted in the OHV area, campsites, or on trails.

Brown Mountain OHV Park usually opens on April 1 each year and closes on the morning of January 2 the following winter. As always, when riding here or anywhere else, do not exceed your riding ability or experience.

Remember: Off-highway vehicle trails are designed to minimize impact on the environment. National
Forest laws are enacted and enforced to protect land, water and wildlife.  Please remember to TREAD LIGHTLY.

At Top Of Brown Moutain OHV Park
At Top Of Brown Moutain OHV Park

Are you ready to hit the trail? Be sure to stop by one of the local venders or at the Grandfather District Office (all listed below) for your daily or seasonal pass. One pass per ATV (or trail bike) is required.  They cannot be purchased at the park itself. So, plan to stop at one of the locations listed here.

Places to purchase Passes (phone # included so you can call ahead to make sure they have them)

Grandfather Ranger District 109 E. Lawing Dr. Nebo, NC 28761  (NC 40 Exit 90)
(828) 652-2144 Normal hours are Monday – Friday 08:00 am - 04:30 pm

Clark Convenience 1426 Beecher Anderson Road Lenoir, NC 28645-8756
(828) 754-9992 normal hours are Mon. – Fri 5am – 9pm, Sat. 7am – 9pm, Sun. 8am – 9pm

Chris’s Convenience Store 6486 Highway 181 Morganton, NC 28655
(828) 433-1472 normal hours are 6am – 9pm Daily

CBS Sports 911 N. Green Street Morganton, NC 28655
(828) 437-7016 normal hours are Mon. – Fri. 9:30 am – 7:30pm, Sat. 9am – 6:30pm, Sun. 1pm – 6m

Fun Cycles, Inc. 517 Abees Church Road SE Valdese, NC 28690
(828) 874-4680 Normal hours are Tues.–Fri. 10am – 6pm, Sat. 9am – 3pm

Hoyles Grocery 4295 Collettsville, Road Collettsville, NC 28611
(828) 754-9718 Normal hours are Mon.-Fri. 5:30am – 9pm, Sat. 7am – 9pm, Sun. 8am – 9pm

Oak Hill Grocery 2375 Highway 181 N. Morganton, NC 28655
(828) 437-3810 Normal Hours are Mon.- Fri. 6am - 9pm, Sat. 7am – 9pm, Sun. 7:30am – 9pm

Mountain Crossing Mercantile P.O. Box 100 Jonas Ridge, NC 28641-0100
(828) 733-6801 Normal hours are Mon - Sat 6am - 8pm, Sun. 1pm – 6pm

Directions to park from Morganton, NC:

From Morganton take highway 181 north toward Linville. Then turn right on Brown Mountain Beach Road (State Rd 1405).  Look for a small wooden church on the right. The OHV park entrance is about 3.5 miles on the left, 300 feet after a small concrete bridge.

Directions to park from Lenoir, NC:

Highway 90 west to Collettesville. Turn left on Adako Rd (SR 1337).  Look for it just past the elementary school and grocery store.  The Brown Mountain OHV Park entrance will be 4˝ miles on the right.

As always, decide now to have an awesome rest of the day!

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