North Carolina’s Three Distinctive Regions
North Carolina Mountains
The Appalachian mountain chain runs through the western part of the state, forming the lush landscape of the region. The Great Smoky Mountains in southwestern North Carolina are one of the country's top natural destinations, and visitors can enjoy 250 miles of the world-famous Blue Ridge Parkway winding through North Carolina's mountains. Mount Mitchell is the highest peak in the state, and at 6,684 feet, it is also the tallest mountain in the eastern United States.
Two-thirds of North Carolina's mountains are covered with hardwood forests, and in autumn, the over 120 species of trees put on a brilliant display of color. There are hundreds of waterfalls, and cold mountain streams full of trout. The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians has lived in this area for 11,000 years and native crafts abound.
Some areas of the region see over 30 inches of snow a year, so skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports are popular activities. Summers are cool and refreshing with low humidity.
North Carolina Piedmont
Covering nearly one half of North Carolina in the central part of the state, the Piedmont is an area of gently rolling foothills with the occasional boulder or unexpected rock outcropping. The Piedmont region boasts of one of the most dynamic economies in the United States and is home to the state's largest cities and biggest financial institutions. Renowned research universities, textile and furniture factories, tobacco farms, shopping meccas, top golf courses and abundant historic sites are also part of the makeup of the Piedmont.
Here you will find Raleigh, the state’s capital, Charlotte, the largest city and Pinehurst, the Home of American Golf. There’s also the Yadkin Valley, the first designated American Viticultural Area (AVA) in the state, covering over 1.4 million acres and reaching from the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the eastern edge of the Piedmont.
Although the area enjoys four distinct seasons, temperatures are mild year round. The average wintertime temperature is about 42 degrees. In summer, it's 77 degrees. The area also enjoys sunshine for about 210 days a year.
North Carolina Coast
Warmed by the Gulf Stream, the North Carolina Coast is a sunny place filled with pristine beaches, giant sand dunes (including Jockey's Ridge, the highest along the East Coast) and wetlands filled with wildlife and a variety of plants. The defining characteristic of the area is the Outer Banks, a chain of fragile barrier islands - 130 miles of unspoiled coastline surrounded by 900 square miles of water.
The area is also full of history, dating back to the 16th century, when the first English settlement was built – and then vanished. There are also sites from pre-Revolutionary Days through the Civil War. Not to mention the historic lighthouses (including the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which at 208 feet is the tallest brick lighthouse in the nation). The city of Wilmington is a major US seaport. And, in 1903 the Wright Brothers ushered in the era of flight at Kitty Hawk.
The average annual temperature here is 63 degrees. The growing season lasts 295 days.
added: January 4, 2009
updated: February 11, 2010