Northern Mountains: NC’s High Country
From top of the world ski resorts to Yadkin Valley wineries, the northern mountains offer a rich mixture of outdoor activities and attractions. Begin at the Virginia state line, where the North Carolina portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the crest of the mountains offering easy access to state parks, scenic overlooks and the many towns and cultural centers along the way. Go fly-fishing at Stone Mountain State Park, canoeing at New River State Park or hike to the summit at Mount Jefferson State Natural Area. Pick up some fresh cheese in West Jefferson at the Ashe County Cheese Company to munch on the way.
In the winter, grab your skis and head for the slopes. Northern mountains ski resorts can be found in Boone and Blowing Rock and in quaint villages, such as Beech Mountain, Sugar Mountain and Seven Devils, located in the Pisgah National Forest. The resorts offer skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing and lots of boutique shopping when you’re all skied out.
When the snows melt, Banner Elk is a great place to find whitewater rafting or kayaking on the Watauga River as well as rock climbing. Not far from Banner Elk is Grandfather Mountain with its Mile High Swinging Bridge, natural wildlife habitats, 11 hiking trails and conservation and interpretation programs. It is one of three International Biosphere Reserves in the state (the other two are the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cape Lookout National Seashore), so designated for its wide range of plant and animal life. From atop Grandfather Mountain on a clear day, it’s possible to see the city of Charlotte, some 100 miles away. South of Grandfather is the little town of Crossnore, home to the Crossnore Weavers & Gallery: A Working Museum where the ancient art of weaving is preserved and demonstrated by local crafters. Nearby Linville Falls and Linville Gorge entice visitors with trails, waterfalls and incredible vistas.
Head southeast from Linville, past the Brown Mountain Overlook where you can view the mysterious Brown Mountain Lights, and you’ll come off the high mountains and into the lower elevations at historic Morganton and Burke County. The rich history of the area includes Spanish Conquistadores, Moravian settlers and gold hungry miners among others. In nearby Valdese, see the outdoor drama "From this Day Forward" about the Waldensian settlers of the town and visit the Waldensian Museum.
Nearby Lenoir, the western edge of furniture country, offers 20 miles of furniture stores along Hwy 321 toward Hickory. The western edge of the Yadkin Valley viticulture region is in the vicinity of Wilkesboro where you can visit several local wineries, taste the wines and enjoy the views.
So, whether you’re swooshing down the ski slopes, hiking the trails or savoring that glass of North Carolina wine, the high country is the perfect place to just kick back and enjoy the view.
By Pam Watson
By Pam Watson
added: December 29, 2008
updated: August 9, 2011