Towns & Villages
Across the High Country
Quaint and charming are just a couple of words used to describe the towns and villages that encompass the High Country. With the vast countryside and countless hamlets sprinkled in between, the scenic drive is just as enjoyable as arriving at your destination. From the college atmosphere of King Street in downtown Boone and the upscale boutiques along Main Street in Blowing Rock to the communities of Todd and Valle Crucis that host general stores and wild and scenic rivers, each town has its own personality, its own flavor. Learn more about each area below and schedule your next night on the town.
COMPILED BY RACHEL EMILY AUTON
The Town of Banner Elk is a beautiful mountain town away from the busy crowds where one can still have access to the finer conveniences found in larger metropolitan areas. The town is located in Avery County and is surrounded by some of the highest mountains east of the Rockies, including Grandfather Mountain and Beech Mountain. Banner Elk is home to Lees-McRae College and features a lively arts and cultural scene, complete with an intimate pedestrian shopping district of upscale boutiques and outstanding restaurants. The town was first settled in 1825 and incorporated in 1911 and today has a population of about 1,000 full-time residents. Banner Elk is 3,739 feet above sea level.
The highest town in the eastern United States at an elevation of more than 5,000 feet, Beech Mountain's self-proclaimed title is "North Carolina's coolest town." Home to Beech Mountain Ski Resort, Beech Mountain hosts a variety of "cool" activities including skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowshoeing and sledding among others with a winter average of 85 inches of snow. In the summer, Beech Mountain offers scenic hiking, golfing and fishing. Beech Mountain is also home to the remains of the Land of Oz theme park, which operated from 1970-1980, and now opens one weekend per year, almost always selling out to nostalgic guests.
GPS Coordinates: 36°12′23″N 81°52′59″W
The Town of Blowing Rock is only three square miles yet is home to more than 100 shops, about two dozen restaurants and nearly 20 hotels and inns. Blowing Rock was named “Prettiest Small Town in North Carolina” in a poll of in-state travel professionals and writers, and in 2008 the town was named a “Favorite Southern Destination” by readers of Southern Living. Its Main Street and adjacent Town Park has been a tourist destination for over 100 years. Known as “the Crown of the Blue Ridge,” the quaint mountain village of Blowing Rock sits astride the Eastern Continental Divide at a cool elevation of 3,500 to 4,000 feet above sea level and has a permanent year-round population of approximately 1,425. It was incorporated in 1889.
The Town of Boone serves as the county seat of Watauga County and is home to Appalachian State University. The town acquired its name from the famous pioneer and explorer Daniel Boone, who on several occasions camped within the present city limits as he traveled through this area on his way to Kentucky in the late 1700s. Through the years, Boone has become the hub of commerce in the North Carolina High Country area offering virtually everything a resident or visitor can desire. Boone has long been a favorite vacation destination beginning in the 1880s, when Southerners came here to escape the summer heat. Today Boone is recognized by travel journalists as an “ultimate outdoor adventure destination” in the Southeast. The Town of Boone was incorporated in 1872 and its current population is 17,186. Boone has the highest elevation (3,300 feet) of any town of its size (over 10,000 population) east of the Mississippi River.
Nestled between Mountain City, TN, and West Jefferson, NC, Creston is a quiet, unincorporated community in Ashe County. Home to Worth’s Chapel, a 1902 construction in the National Register of Historic Places, Creston is a rural, mountainous town of nearly 800 residents in 25.8 square miles.
Less than half a mile in total area, Crossnore is small town in Avery County with a population of just over 200. A community founded on charity and creativity, Crossnore is home to The Crossnore School, Inc., a private, non-profit children’s home and charter school dedicated to serving children from families in crisis. Founded in 1912 by Dr. Mary Martin Sloop, The Crossnore School is one of the central features established in Crossnore by the Sloops. Dr. Mary Martin Sloop and her husband, Dr. Eustice Sloop, brought healthcare, child-care, churches, a weaving facility, phone system and hydroelectricity to Crossnore in 1911. Crossnore celebrates this rich history in an annual play entitled “Miracle on the Mountain,” which tells the story of the Sloops and The Crossnore School. Crossnore also hosts annual summer music sessions at the Meeting House, a July 4th celebration and a Christmas bonfire. In its 0.4 square miles, Crossnore is home to three sites listed on the National Registry of Historic Places- the Crossnore Presbyterian Church, the Sloop Chapel featuring a Ben Long fresco and Crossnore Weavers: A Working Museum. A quaint, charming and historic community, the town circulates a saying, “if you drink from the town fountain, you will always return to Crossnore.”
GPS coordinates: 36°1′14″N 81°55′45″W
Elk Park, a 0.7 square mile stretch of land named for the number of elk killed in it, is a small community in Avery County. Elk Park was incorporated in 1885 when it was established as a stop on the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (“Tweetsie.”) In 1911. Elk Park was situated to be the county seat for the newly created Avery County, but it was replaced by Newland as per the demand of then Lieutenant Governor, William Newland. Today, Elk Park has a population of less than 500 and boasts one of the High Country’s most impressive waterfalls, Elk Falls.
GPS coordinates: 36°9′30″N 81°58′52″W
Just outside Todd and Deep Gap, Fleetwood's 30 square miles in Ashe County are quiet, forested and stocked with vacation rental cabins. Fleetwood has a permanent residential population of around 1800. Fleetwood is perhaps best known for its involvement in the scenic Railroad Grade Road bike trail running from Todd to Fleetwood along the New River.
GPS coordinates: +36.330187, -081.508408
Situated along NC 105, Foscoe is a small, unincorporated community in Watauga County. With a backdrop of the face of Grandfather Mountain, Foscoe is dotted with eclectic specialty shops ranging from woodworking, antique and pet shops to outdoor and yoga outfitters. For visiting families, the Greater Foscoe Mining Company is quite literally a gold mine for family entertainment. All in all, Foscoe is a tiny town with distinctive charm, the perfect stop-through on your way to Grandfather Mountain.
GPS Coordinates: 36°09′42″N 81°45′56″W
Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Glendale Springs is a quaint, unincorporated community in Ashe County with a population of less than 100. Glendale Springs is home to a Ben Long Fresco on display in the historic Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.
GPS Coordinates: 36°20′42″N 81°22′49″W
A friendly and welcoming community, Jefferson is the county seat and self-proclaimed heart of Ashe County. Jefferson is home to around 1,000 residents in its 2.1 square miles. Jefferson offers several outdoor recreational activities from walking, skating and disc-golfing to fishing in their numerous parks through which the historic New River flows. Jefferson also provides characteristic cultural tours including the Ashe County Barn Quilt tour and several Heritage Farm tours.
GPS Coordinates: 36°25′12″N 81°28′8″W
A small and charming town in Ashe County, Lansing houses a population of less than 200 in their 0.34 square mile area. A one stoplight town, Lansing offers a quaint historic downtown with year-round festivals including the Olla Belle Reed Musical Festival and the annual Rubber Ducky Race. However, Lansing is probably best known for their mountain scenery and activities, from Pond Mountain to their half-mile section of the Virginia Creeper biking trail.
GPS Coordinates: 36°29′57″N 81°30′35″W
Nestled in the crossing of NC Highways 18 and 88, Laurel Springs is a small unincorporated community in Alleghany County. Just on the border of Ashe County, Laurel Springs is home to the family-owned, award-winning Thistle Meadow Winery.
GPS Coordinates: 36°24′41″N 81°15′46″W
Named for its 7 surrounding rocky peaks, Seven Devils is just across the valley from Grandfather Mountain in both Avery and Watauga counties. Originally established as a resort community, Seven Devils is now a thriving incorporated community with a growing population of nearly 200 in its two square miles. Seven Devils boasts scenic views and unique activities including the longest zipline and largest snow tubing park in the eastern United States at Hawksnest Resort.
GPS Coordinates: 36°9′7″N 81°48′26″W
Just a few miles from the headwaters of the New River, Todd is an unincorporated crossroads community situated on the county lines of Avery and Watauga counties. Todd's sleepy charm comes from its frozen-in-time nature, a preserved snapshot of Great Depression era life, complete with the historic Todd General Store, still in business today.
Valle Crucis, "Vale of the Cross" in Latin, is a historic and picturesque unincorporated community in Watauga County. Settled between Boone and Banner Elk, Valle Crucis is perhaps best known as the home of the original Mast General Store, built in 1883 and still in business today. Aside from Mast, Valle Crucis' community park is a must-see for visitors, a lush and peaceful field surrounded by scenic farms, walking trails and a lake. Visitors can also enjoy classic High Country recreation in Valle Crucis, including hiking, fishing, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, choose and cut Christmas trees and more.
GPS Coordinates: 36°12′33″N 81°46′42″W
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, West Jefferson prides itself on its local, small town nature. Established as a stop on the historic "Virginia Creeper" railway in the 20th century, West Jefferson is now a quaint two mile stretch in Ashe County with unique shops and a flourishing arts district. West Jefferson's characteristic attraction is its cheese plant, the only cheese factory in the southeastern United States.
GPS Coordinates: 36°23′43″N 81°29′30″W