Mountain Lake Trail Running

Late Saturday afternoon, Barry and I headed up to Mountain Lake for some trail running. Mountain Lake has the highest lake elevation east of the Mississippi, at nearly 4,000 feet. The water level at the lake was bit low, due to less rainfall this season.

When we first arrived at Mountain Lake, we drove by the Mountain Lake Lodge, which was built in 1930 using stone quarried from the lake property.

The lodge and surrounding cabins may look familiar to you if you’ve ever seen Dirty Dancing. Mountain Lake happens to be where that movie was filmed.

Dancer’s cabins from the movie

When we first arrived, we tried to check in at the Mountain Lake Outfitters to obtain a pass. It was very odd. There were footprints going to and from the building in the snow and a few vehicles in the parking lot, the building was unlocked and the lights were on, and there were footprints in the dust on the floors inside the building. But there was no one to be found. I helped myself to a Mountain Lake brochure with a map and we headed to the trailhead parking area, since we only had about an hour until sunset. We set off down a snowy trail.

This was my first time running trails in the snow, and I quickly found how much of a challenge the snow can add. The trails we ran were pretty much either going up or going down the entire time, and I struggled on both due to slipping and sliding. Running uphill was especially challenging because my feet kept slipping out from under me.

The black speck towards the top of the hill is Barry

I thought Mountain Lake was a really pretty, albeit very challenging, place to run. Due to the elevation, the snow that’s on the ground now will stay there until the big thaw this spring. Most likely there will be more snow accumulation before then.


I managed to stay upright during the entire run, even with the added difficulty with the snow. I did slide several times and rolled my ankle pretty bad towards the end of our run. But it’s feeling fine now. I’m hoping trail running is going to strengthen the muscles and ligaments in my ankles and I’m hoping that happens before I break one of them.

Mountain Lake is definitely somewhere that I’d like to run again. They’re supposed to have around 22 miles of hiking trails on the property, so there’s plenty more to explore. Next time we will have to get there earlier in the day to allow more time for a run.

Although I’m not sure if that next time will be soon. I may wait until the spring. These trails were beautiful in the snow, and I have a feeling they’ll be even more breathtaking once the snow melts away and the green comes back.

Have you seen Dirty Dancing? Who wants to come to Mountain Lake with me to run trails and see the backdrop for the movie up close?

Trail runners: Do you prefer trail running in the snow or in the green? 

 Any tips for running trails in the snow?

16 Comments

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  1. I LOVE DIRTY DANCING!!! Best. Summer. Movie. Ever. I am so jealous! I want to go there and run all 22 miles of trails.

    1. I completely agree with you! You and D should plan a trip to Mountain Lake as a weekend or maybe week-long getaway.

  2. Nobody puts Baby in a corner

    1. “Look, spaghetti arms. This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine. You gotta hold the frame.”

  3. Did you know Mountain Lake was one of two locations Dirty Dancing was filmed? Apparently there is another location in North Carolina. We used to hike at Mountain Lake when we lived in Blacksburg. There’s a stand of virgin hemlocks that you’ve got to check out some time. The trees are massive and much taller than all the surrounding trees. There are only a few of them, and they are very, very old. I went trail running yesterday, and some of the trails were still covered in snow. Thankfully it wasn’t too deep, so it wasn’t too tough. It was great to get outside after several days trapped in!

    1. I did not know that!! My dad was telling me earlier today that he was reading about the filming of Dirty Dancing on a movie website and they had to spray the trees green at Mountain Lake after the leaves started turning, since they were filming during August.

      I’ll have to look for the hemlocks next time! Glad you finally got OUT for a run. I bet it felt great!

  4. When do I check in for Runner’s Camp at your house, because now I have about five trails down there that I want to run with you! Bill and I have only driving up to Mountain Lake and around, but haven’t hiked or run on the trails. I love trail running and I love running on snow, but I think I’d prefer running these beautiful trails in the lush green of late spring.

    My snow running tip: try YakTrax. Oh, and I LOVED Dirty Dancing!

    1. We keep adding to the list! 🙂 We will have to start planning for Runner’s Camp!

      Thanks for the snow running tip!

  5. I went hiking there once and it was really fun! I’ve never seen Dirty Dancing all the way through but I think it’s cool that it was filmed there!! I agree with Debbie, Yak Trax are the best!!!!

    1. You need to see the movie all the way through! 🙂

  6. SO cool about Dirty Dancing!! And Becky (above commenter) WATCH THE WHOLE MOVIE!! LOL

    Looks like a challenging yet fun place to run. You are lucky to be w/in driving distance!

    1. I know, right!? It was very challenging. I am looking forward to giving those trails another try- maybe in the snow but probably once it melts away.

  7. How fun!! Looks like it was a BEAUTIFUL trail! Maybe try some ankle strengthening exercises? Like balancing on a bosu ball or something like that? I think that’s supposed to help prevent rolled ankles.

    Ice/snow running = yak trax. Work like a charm. Alternatively, if you have an old pair of running shoes, you can screw really short screws into the bottom of them, and they really help as well!

    I had NO idea that’s where Dirty Dancing was filmed. Fascinating.

    1. It definitely was. Thanks for the suggestion on the ankle exercises- I’m off to Google what the heck a bosu ball is 🙂

      YakTrax seems to be the definitive answer for icy/snowy running. Thanks!

  8. Short, fast steps. Keep your feet underneath you. And do lots of balancing/foot and ankle strength drills in your living room! =)

    1. Thanks for the tips, coach!

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