North Carolina Mountains - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to North Carolina Mountains

North Carolina Mountains

The magnificent North Carolina mountains in the west of the state are an outdoor enthusiast's paradise with hiking and biking trails through miles of national parks and forests, grand landscapes and beautiful mountain roadways, and attractive towns that are the perfect base for exploring the area. Natural attractions and outdoor activities abound.

One of the best ways to see the area is to drive along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, which snakes its way along the spine of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains from Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The national park is the most visited in the state and offers a variety of walking trails, including part of the Appalachian Trail that traverses the park on its way from Georgia to Maine. The Blue Ridge Parkway also leads to the holistic centre of Asheville where the Biltmore Estate and Winery, an enormous chateau-styled mansion built for the incredibly rich Vanderbilt family, is located.

Other natural attractions include the highest mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountain Range, the Grandfather Mountain, with its Mile High Swinging Bridge, and the natural granite tower of Chimney Rock. The mighty waterfall, sheer cliffs and unusual rock formations are the famous site of filming of the final scenes of 'The Last of the Mohicans'. The Nantahala River Gorge is home to one of the most popular whitewater rafting and kayaking destinations in the country with rapids to suit beginners and experts alike.

Information & Facts


The mountainous area of North Carolina has a mild temperate climate, cooler in summer than the lower regions of the State, but humid. Winters are moderate with temperatures above freezing (colder in the highest elevations on the mountaintops). Spring and summer are generally sunny, though hikers should be prepared for unpredictable changes. Fall has warm days and cool nights and is the driest time of year. Rainfall is plentiful year round. Frosts occur from late September.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

Designed as a scenic drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile (755km) road connecting the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina-Tennessee border. Running through the Southern Appalachians, most of the roadway follows the spine of the Blue Ridge Range providing stunning scenery and magnificent vistas of distant mountain peaks, twisting through mountainous country that would otherwise be inaccessible. It was begun in 1935 to link the parks and also to provide employment during the Great Depression, and today the parkway attracts more than 20 million visitors annually. Its main attraction is the endless dramatic viewpoints overlooking forested mountains and valleys, and the rich autumn colours that blaze in October that are the highlight of the year, drawing crowds of motorists. The parkway's highest elevation of 6,047ft (1,843m) at Richland Balsam Overlook has magnificent views. The road provides access to many hiking trails, including a section of the Appalachian Trail that follows the parkway from Mile 0 to Mile 103, as well as unusual rock formations, impressive waterfalls, wild flowers, lakes, and camping and picnic sites. Along the way are visitor centres, food and modern lodgings nestled in striking mountain scenery.

Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts many natural assets that have made this one of the most visited national parks in the country. The Smoky Mountains, named for the blue smoke-like mist that frequently hovers in the air (caused by the natural oils and water vapour released into the air by the plants), are the oldest mountains in the world. The mountainsides are covered in an unparalleled diversity of wildflowers, plants and trees, and the park is renowned for its multitude of birds, fish and mammals, particularly black bears.

Within its vast wilderness are streams, rivers and waterfalls, acres of virgin forest and miles of hiking trails, including part of the Appalachian Trail that runs along the crest of the mountains through the park. Remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture can be discovered in the numerous historic buildings around the park, many of them found in the isolated mountain valley of Cades Cove that features cultural history as well as many recreational opportunities. Barns, churches, farmhouses and a gristmill preserved from the pioneer settlers of the 19th century can be viewed along the one-way loop road that is the most popular way to visit the Cove. The land was once sacred to the Cherokee who were brutally removed from their ancestral home in 1838 to Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears, but some remained hidden in the mountains and the Quall Indian reservation was later formed, sharing part of the park's southern border.

On the edge of the park the town of Cherokee (North Carolina) and Gatlinburg (Tennessee) offer extensive visitor facilities, and the smaller towns of Bryson City (North Carolina) and Townsend (Tennessee) are more pleasant but with limited services. During summer and autumn, accommodation can be booked up for weeks and roads leading to the park become jammed with traffic. The headquarters of the North Carolina side of the park is the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee.

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