The High Country
Many folks think of North Carolina‘s High Country as Blowing Rock and Boone (Banner Elk, too!). In total, seven counties make up this wonderful region. That means you have three big-name towns and much more waiting beyond them.
Blowing Rock NC
For starters, 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, and of course, amazing scenery.
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, and tons of locally-owned shops.
There’s even more to explore and you’ll see that a weekend (or more) in Boone quickly flies by.
The town is surrounded by amazing hikes (some with waterfalls), and a few that we love include Elk Knob State Park and Otter Falls. We’re also big fans of the Tanawha Trail, which includes Beacon Heights and Rough Ridge Trail.
Banner Elk NC
Banner Elk is in a great spot, surrounded by Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain. But beyond skiing season, this town is home to incredible eats, including Pedaling Pig across from Grandfather Mountain State Park.
Wine lovers will love the gorgeous and inviting Grandfather Vineyard, and we think everyone will have the time of their lives at Apple Hill Farm. This is where you listen and let the animals do all the talking.
There’s much more to explore in Banner Elk 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.
Surrounding High Country Towns & Counties
As we mentioned earlier, the High Country is not just about the three biggest names in the area. Here are some fun towns that you’ll find in the seven counties that make up this region.
Alleghany County is home to plenty of natural beauty, surrounding the town of Sparta and others. The New River runs through here but the big drag is Stone Mountain State Park, shared by Wilkes County.
The 100-foot namesake falls and massive granite dome are two major reasons why we love hiking the Stone Mountain Loop, though there are additional falls and gorgeous scenery waiting along the park’s paths.
We love Ashe County first for its delicious cheese, but visit this area and you’ll see there’s even more. The New River (ironically one the world’s second oldest) passes through here and kayakers and fishermen and -women love it throughout much of the year.
West Jefferson is a fabulous town in the county and home to breweries, a cheese factory, and more. Mount Jefferson State Natural Area is also in Ashe County. You can drive to the summit and enjoy beautiful views of its surroundings.
We mentioned Banner Elk but thought we’d share more on 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 hikes.
And speaking of Grandfather, you can drive along that mountain either via the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Little Parkway. Some of our favorite parts in Avery County include 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. Waterfalls Park is just off NC-194 and just a short drive from downtown. The unincorporated community of Linville Falls sits at the junction of Avery, Burke, and McDowell. We love exploring it and the surrounding Linville Gorge Wilderness that veers into Burke County.
Mitchell Count is home to Penland School of Craft in Spruce Pine. That fun town also hosts SPACE (Spruce Pine Alien Conference and Expo) in June. Bakersville is the county seat, home to four art galleries that show off the works of creators who live in the area.
Another great place to visit in Mitchell County is Little Switzerland. It’s small in size but home to an awesome general store, the impeccable Switzerland Inn, and nearby Grassy Creek Falls. The latter was recently declared closed by some but we’re still hearing reports of visits and didn’t see any “closed” signs when passing through recently.
We’ve mentioned all the fun in Blowing Rock and Boone, but think you’ll also enjoy the fun towns that surround those two Watauga County Heavyweights.
Beech Mountain is known for skiing but also for various outdoor recreation, including fishing and cycling. Plus, Land of Oz has returned for seasonal, magical fun.
Seven Devils started as a resort and has grown into a town, offering a retreat for all who visit. Otter Falls is a 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.
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 also, parts of Elkin with Surry County.
However, Wilkesboro is the big name and the county seat. Of course, most folks know Wilkesboro for Merlefest. The tribute to Doc Watson’s son brings in huge acts and crowds to Wilkesboro Community College every April.
Burnsville is the biggest town and county seat of Yancey, filled with interesting historic buildings and businesses. Mount Mitchell, the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, towers over it all from the south.
The trail to the top is paved and there’s an observation tower there for all to climb and stare out into the Blue Ridge Mountains. Crabtree Falls, one of our favorite waterfalls in the area, is also in Yancey County.
Note: Portions of Blowing Rock (including THE Blowing Rock) sit in Caldwell County. However, due to the remainder of the county falling outside the High Country’s geographic reaches, we’ve decided to leave it out when discussing surrounding towns and counties.
Things to Do in the High Country
Because we’ve been here more than a few times, we’ve got just about everything covered. These guides will help you before and during your stay in this wonderful spot in Western North Carolina.
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