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40 Wonderful Places To Visit In The High Country (Boone, Blowing Rock, And More!)

Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on April 22, 2024.

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North Carolina‘s High Country is home to the highest elevations in the state. It’s largely associated with the Blue Ridge Mountains and towns like Blowing Rock and Boone (also Banner Elk).

However, this wonderful region in the northwestern part of the state is actually made up of seven counties.

The area hosts some of the most iconic North Carolina attractions, too. They include the Blue Ridge Parkway, some of the best hiking trails, gorgeous waterfalls, and so much more!

Because we’ve been visiting this area for years, our guide has just about everything covered. We hope it’ll help you before and during your stay in this wonderful spot.

Here’s how we’ve organized the High Country activities and places to visit in this guide!

  • Blowing Rock
  • Boone
  • Banner Elk
  • More Places to Visit
    • Alleghany County
    • Ashe County
    • Avery County
    • Mitchell County
    • Watauga County
    • Wilkes County
    • Yancey County

Read More: Western North Carolina Map (400+ Wonderful Places Listed)

Whether you’re a new resident, a frequent visitor, or a local, we’re leaving no detail behind. If you live in the High County area and are wondering, “What are the best places to visit near me?” we think this NC travel guide will help you out!

Where is the High Country in North Carolina?

When traveling throughout Western North Carolina, you may notice businesses using the words “High Country.” However, as we mentioned, the North Carolina High Country comprises seven counties in the western part of the state.

Here they are in alphabetical order:

  • Alleghany County
  • Ashe County
  • Avery County
  • Mitchell County
  • Watauga County
  • Wilkes County
  • Yancey County

Read More: Western North Carolina (and 100+ Wonderful Places to Visit)

Counting Places to Visit and Organization Note

Among all the places mentioned in the High Country, we’re counting small towns, cities, protected areas, standalone waterfalls and hikes, and state or national park units (ex., the Blue Ridge Parkway).

Specific spots within these places are not counted, though. For example, Appalachian State University and Apple Hill Farm within their respective towns are discussed, but not a part of the count.

We’ve organized this guide alphabetically by the “big three,” followed by additional places to visit in all High Country counties.

Read More: Colorful Fall Hikes in North Carolina (+ 20 Beautiful Places to Explore!)

Places to Visit in the High Country

If you’re searching for places to stay in the High Country, check out these cool Airbnbs in Boone and nearby towns.

Blowing Rock

Glen Burney Trail is one of our favorite High Country hikes!

From the moment we first arrived in Blowing Rock, we knew this wouldn’t be our only time exploring.

It’s home to some of our favorite hotels, like Green Park Inn and Chetola Resort. Visitors also keep coming back for great shopping from locally owned businesses, awesome places to eat, famous tourist attractions like the Blowing Rock, and amazing scenery.

Glen Burney Trail (home to 3 waterfalls) and Moses H Cone Memorial Park are two wonderful spots to hike in the area, ranking among our favorites for hiking throughout North Carolina.

Read More: The Best NC Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes

Boone

a small pint of beer from Booneshine Brewing Company

If you ever meet someone who attended Appalachian State University (or App), prepare for them to reminisce about those glorious days living in Boone.

In downtown and beyond, you’ll find an amazing restaurant scene, wonderful breweries, tons of locally-owned shops, and even more things to do.

There’s even more to explore, and you’ll see that a weekend in Boone quickly flies by, guaranteeing a second (or third!) trip to experience everything this town has to offer.

The town is surrounded by amazing hikes and waterfalls. A few hikes that we absolutely love reside inside Elk Knob State Park in Meat Camp. We’ll mention several more hikes throughout this guide, so don’t miss out on hiking!

We mentioned places to stay earlier, but thought you should know about the Horton Hotel in downtown Boone. It’s the only downtown hotel in Boone and has a lovely rooftop for kicking back and enjoying some High Country views.

Read More: Our Favorite Places to Stay in North Carolina

Banner Elk is in a great spot, surrounded by Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain.

Beyond their famous skiing season, this town has incredible restaurants, including the Pedalin’ Pig across from Grandfather Mountain State Park. In case you’re wondering, there’s a location in Boone, too.

We also love venturing into downtown Banner Elk for a bite at Banner Elk Cafe or Bayou Smokehouse & Grill, but our favorite eats keep changing each time. Stay tuned for more on the best eats here.

Wine lovers will love the gorgeous and inviting Grandfather Vineyard (one of the best wineries in North Carolina), and we recommend the Apple Hill Farm, where we guarantee everyone will have the time of their lives.

At Apple Hill Farm, kick back and let the animals talk. Don’t forget about the awesome and exhilarating Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster, which is open 365 days a year!

Read More: Winter in Boone (20 Great Activities, Snow Tubing, and More!)

More Places to Visit in the High Country

As we mentioned earlier, the High Country is not just about the three biggest names in the area. Here are some fun counties and towns that you’ll find elsewhere in the region.

Note: Portions of Blowing Rock (including THE Blowing Rock) sit in Caldwell County. However, the remainder of the county falls outside the High Country’s geographic reaches, so we’ve decided to leave it out when discussing surrounding towns and counties.

Read More: The Best Day Trips from Boone

Alleghany County

Stone Mountain from the field below the rock

Alleghany County is home to the town of Sparta, as well as plenty of natural beauty. The New River (ironically the world’s second oldest river) and Blue Ridge Parkway both run through the county, but the biggest draw here is Stone Mountain State Park, shared by Wilkes County.

The 200-foot Stone Mountain Falls and the massive granite dome at this state park are two major reasons why we love hiking the Stone Mountain Loop, though there are additional falls (including Widow’s Creek Falls) and gorgeous scenery throughout the park.

Read More: 25 of the Most Amazing Winter Hikes in North Carolina

Ashe County

We love Ashe County first for its delicious cheese, but you’ll see there’s so much more to Ashe once you visit this area.

The aforementioned New River passes through here, but the namesake state park resides in Ashe County. This is a wonderful spot to visit throughout much of the year.

West Jefferson is a fabulous town in the county and home to breweries, a cheese factory, and more. Speaking of more, we hope you’ll be in town when their amazing Christmas tree farms start their “Choose and Cut” season.

While there are Christmas tree farms throughout North Carolina, especially in Boone and elsewhere in the High Country, Ashe County is the US’s highest-producing county of Christmas trees.

Mount Jefferson State Natural Area is also in Ashe County. You can drive to the summit and enjoy beautiful views of its surroundings.

Read More: Christmas in North Carolina (the Best Holiday Events)

Avery County

The view of the rolling hills from Beacon Heights

We mentioned Banner Elk but thought we’d share more of Avery County. Parts of Pisgah National Forest and Grandfather Mountain State Park are also here, with the latter’s Profile Trail bringing in folks from all around for epic hikes.

And speaking of Grandfather Mountain, its non-profit attraction site is accessible via the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Little Parkway. Some of our favorite parts in Avery County include the Linn Cove Viaduct and Beacon Heights, with the latter part of the Tanawha Trail (Rough Ridge and Boone Fork).

Newland is a nice town and the county seat of Avery. A short drive from their downtown is Waterfalls Park, located just off NC-194. Speaking of waterfalls, Elk River Falls is also in the county and offers epic views after a fairly short walk.

The unincorporated community of Linville Falls sits at the junction of Avery, Burke, and McDowell. Famous Louise’s is a great restaurant that also sits at the same border.

We love exploring the fun here (including Linville Falls Winery) and the surrounding Linville Gorge Wilderness that veers into Burke County.

Linville Falls and Wiseman’s View are two of our favorite spots to explore there.

Read More: 25+ Amazing Waterfalls near Banner Elk (within 2 Hours’ Drive)

Mitchell County

pink flowers on a bush at the base of Roan Mountain

Mitchell County is named for Elisha Mitchell (of Mount Mitchell fame) and is home to the world-renowned Penland School of Craft.

Its county seat is Bakersville, one of many arts-heavy communities in the area. Mica Gallery is one of a few galleries that showcase local artists from here and surrounding counties.

Bakersville is also an excellent gateway to Roan Mountain (via Carvers Gap). Weather permitting, you can hike the mountain throughout the year, but mid-June is usually a great time, thanks to those blooming rhododendrons.

The NC Rhododendron Festival kicks off the third weekend of June to commemorate those gorgeous mountain flowers.

Spruce Pine is another great community in Mitchell County, with a nice little downtown, Toe River Arts, and beautiful outdoor surroundings.

Also in Mitchell County is Little Switzerland, shared by McDowell County. While small, Little Switzerland is a beautiful area home to an excellent general store, book store, and impeccable Switzerland Inn.

Some recently declared the latter closed, but we’re still hearing reports of visits and didn’t see any “closed” signs when passing through recently. We hope you respect all of their natural places, and please be sure to leave no trace of your visit when here.

Read More: Hiking Table Rock Mountain in the Linville Gorge

Watauga County

Beech Mountain Ski Resort ski lift

We’ve mentioned all the fun in Blowing Rock and Boone, but you’ll also enjoy the fun towns surrounding those two Watauga County Heavyweights.

You’ll pass through parts of Avery County on your way to Beech Mountain, but it’s very much part of Watauga County. This place is known for skiing, snow tubing, and various outdoor recreation, including fishing and cycling. Plus, the Land of Oz has returned for seasonal, magical fun.

Seven Devils started as a resort and has since grown into a burgeoning town, offering a retreat for all who visit. Otter Falls is another wonderful spot to visit any time of day, though it does get busy, so plan ahead!

And then there’s Valle Crucis, which is home to the original Mast General Store and Crab Orchard Falls, the latter accessible from the Valle Crucis Conference Center.

Read More: 20+ Kid-Friendly Waterfalls In NC (Easy Hikes And Swimming Holes!)

Wilkes County

the museum of Merlefest in North Wilkesboro

Wilkes County is also known as the Moonshine Capital of the World and home to the first-ever NASCAR track. It shares portions of Stone Mountain State Park with Alleghany County and parts of Elkin with Surry County.

Wilkesboro is the county seat, and North Wilkesboro is the biggest town. Although there are many fun things to do there, most folks know Wilkesboro for MerleFest. This tribute to Doc Watson’s son brings in huge acts and crowds to Wilkesboro Community College every April.

Read More: 14 Delicious Restaurants in Elkin (+1 Great Cocktail Bar)

Yancey County

the cascading Crabtree Falls in Yancey County

Burnsville is the biggest town and seat of Yancey County, filled with interesting historic buildings, diverse shops, and great restaurants. We loved driving around and seeking out Barn Quilts, but you could enjoy staying in town just as much.

Mount Mitchell, the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, towers over it and the remaining Black Mountains from the south. The trail to the top is paved, with an observation tower waiting at the top for all to climb and stare into the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Crabtree Falls, one of our favorite waterfalls in the area, is also in Yancey County. Two more we love include Roaring Fork Falls and Setrock Creek Falls.

Read More: 25 Wonderful Wineries Near Asheville (Vineyards Within 2 Hours)

Ready to Explore the NC High Country?

As we continue exploring the High Country, more travel guides will pop up. There’s so much more to explore, and we look forward to sharing it with you.

Follow us on social media for more travel updates about this spot elsewhere in the High Country and beyond in North Carolina.

Have you ever visited the NC High Country? We’d love to know which spots are your favorites to visit.

You can let us know in the comments section below or by email. Don’t forget to share your High Country adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group.

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