Kingsport’s Bays Mountain is a "park" for all seasons.
Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium remains open through the winter season, with the only difference being that "beginning in November, and through the end of February, it closes at 5 p.m. every day," explained Rob Cole, operations manager, Bays Mountain Park. There are no extended hours on the weekends.
"The park is open year-round, and the winter season is a favorite for many of our mountain bikers and hikers," Cole said. With a total of 3,550 acres, the park offers 40 miles of trails, 26 of which are perfect for mountain biking.
Bays Mountain is only closed four days a year - Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Even if city schools are closed for snow, the park remains open because it has its own snowplow attachment to keep the roads clear. Still, in case of heavy snow, Cole cautions visitors to call ahead for road conditions.
According to Cole, Bays Mountain takes on an entirely different kind of beauty in winter, and he added that it's the best season for viewing the wolves and bobcats.
"The wolves have a dual layer of coats, and both the wolves and bobcats are much more active in the winter. So if you enjoy watching the animals in action, winter is a great time for viewing," he said.
The Herpetariumand Raptor Center are open year-round with volunteers working daily with the birds of prey. With a heavy snowfall, Bays Mountain also opens the many miles of trails to cross country skiers.
Stargazers still have the opportunity to view the night sky through the end of November with the Bays Mountain Astronomy Club. This free event enables visitors to see the night sky through the park’s large telescope. In addition, members of the Bays Mountain Astronomy Club bring their own telescopes to accommodate the visitors and provide thorough explanations of the constellations. Stargazing is every Saturday night in November and begins at dusk.
The ropes course and zipline are also available during the winter months for team-building events. "Naturally safety is the number one concern for us but, on a nice winter day, the ropes course and zipline will be open for public use."
A new planetarium show will also be unveiled this winter.
"Our goal is to have three new shows a year and one of those will open this winter," Cole said.
With Christmas just around the corner, Cole added that an individual or family pass to Bays Mountain Park is a great gift. The individual pass is $25 and allows free entrance to the park and two free tickets to park programs. The family pass is $35 and, according to Cole, is the best value because it also allows free admittance plus six free passes to park programs. Both individual and family pass holders receive additional benefits throughout the year, such as invitations to special events like canoe and kayak tours around the reservoir.
Park officials are available year-round for educational programs, both at the park and off-site to local schools. For more information on Bays Mountain Park, visit the website at http://www.baysmountain.com/. For park updates, "Like" the park’s Facebook pagecomments powered by Disqus