North Carolina Holiday and Vacation Travel Information
North Carolina can be geographically split into three regions: the coastal plains, piedmont and mountains. The coastal plains harbor many resort areas and are well known for their white sand beaches. Included in this area is Cape Hatteras and Lookout National Seashores, which lie on the barrier islands of the state known as the Outer Banks. The piedmont region of the state encompasses the area at the base of the Appalachian Mountains. This region stretches from north to south and harbors North Carolina's largest cities, one of which is Raleigh, the state capital. The economy is fueled by tobacco growers and processors and is often referred to as Tobacco Road. Within the piedmont of North Carolina are the Uhwarrie National Forest and several large lakes and rivers.
The Appalachian Mountains comprise the western region of the state. The Blue Ridge Mountains lie to the east with the Great Smoky Mountains creating the western ridge. Most of this region is protected by the federal government in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. The highest point on the east coast is Mount Mitchell, which can be found on Highway 128 in the mountains of North Carolina.
North Carolina supports a recreation opportunity for everybody. Scenic driving can be enjoyed in every region of the state. Visitors to the mountains will enjoy skiing, sledding and snowshoeing in the winter and hiking, camping and fishing in the summer. The coastal terrain supports many water-oriented activities that can be enjoyed throughout the year. Bike touring, golfing and boating are popular in the piedmont region of the state.
North Carolina has a temperate climate with mild winters and long fall and spring months. Summers can be hot and humid, especially in the piedmont and coastal plain region, which don't get relief from coastal breezes or higher elevations. The mountains tend to be substantially cooler and receive some winter snow.
The state receives various amounts of precipitation ranging from 30 to 100 inches of rain annually. Transylvania lies in southwestern North Carolina and is deemed the land of waterfalls. This mountainous region receives nearly 8 feet of rain each year.
Description - In 1921, U.S. Forest Service planner Benton MacKaye wrote a magazine article suggesting a trail be established to connect Mount Washington in New Hampshire to Mount Mitchell in North Carolina. As a result, in 1925, the Appalachian Trail Conference chose the exact path, flagged the path and built various sections including shelters, bridges and steps. They even wrote guidebooks to aid the hiker and backpacker. In 1968, Congress passed the National Trails System Act, making the A.T. and the Pacific Crest Trail the first National Scenic Trails. Today the trail extends from Mount Katahdin, Maine to Springer Mountain, Georgia.
Attractions - Traveling from south to north, the white-blazed Appalachian Trail enters North Carolina in the Nantahala National Forest climbing to Yellow Mountain, 4,000 feet. At Yellow Mountain, the trail turns south and travels almost to the Georgia state line before turning north again. It turns north along the Tennessee Valley Divide heading to Waslik Poplar scenic point. It continues in a slight northwestern direction passing Buck Knob, Rattlesnake Knob, Sheep Knob and Siler Bald before turning due west to Fire Gap Ridge. Turning eastbound it touches Wayah Gap moving in a northern direction to Wine Spring Bald at which point it heads east to Wayah Bald. From here the trail travels straight north to Copper Ridge Bald, Wesser Bald at 4,000 feet and to the Nantahala River dropping a couple thousand feet. The trail turns westward for about 6 miles before turning north. On this western route, it passes Cheoah Bald which is an ascension of about 1,000 feet. Back on the northern route, it passes Steoh Gap, 3,000 feet. After crossing SR 143 the Appalachian Trail heads northwest again along the Cheoah Mountains before reaching the Yellow Creek Mountains. The trail remains at approximately 3,000 feet until it reaches Fontana Dam and Lake, which are part of the Great Smoky Mountains recreation opportunities, 2,000 feet. There is fishing, swimming and lodging. From this point, the trail travels due north to Shuckstack Lookout and Greer Knob. Just beyond Greer Knob the trail follows the North Carolina and Tennessee state lines traveling in an easterly direction. It follows the state line, passing Devils Tater Patch, McCambell Knob, Thunderhead Mountain, Brier Knob, Mount Davis, Cold Spring Knob and Clingman's Dome, elevation 5,000 feet. At Clingman's Dome, the highest peak in the Smokeys and the second highest in the East, the main ridge is slender as it travels through a forest of evergreen spruce and fir forest. Many of the trees are similar to those found in Canadian forests. The trail heads northeast to Mount Collins, Newfound Gap at approximately 5,000 feet, Mount Kephart, Horseshoe Mountain and Laurel Top. At Laurel Top, elevation around 4,000 feet, the trail dips south crossing Enloe Creek before traveling northeast to Mount Sequoyah, Mount Chapman and Mount Guyot. Snake Den Mountain is the next area with elevations at 5,000 feet. At Cosby Knob, back down to 4,000 feet, the trail heads north again to Sunup Knob then to Mount Cammerer where it turns east again until it reaches SR 32 just before the little town on Waterville. Just beyond SR 32, the trail heads north for about 1 mile then travels east again along the Tennessee and North Carolina state lines. The trail travels to Max Patch Mountain scenic area then travels north to Lemon Gap, Bluff Mountain, Big Rock Spring and Cane Brake Ridge. About 2 miles beyond Cane Brake is the town of Hot Springs. There is overnight lodging and restaurants available. The trail parallels SR 209 a mile or so before heading east to Lover's Leap. The path travels north to Mill Ridge, up to Rich Mountain, Buzzard Roost Ridge then crossing SRs 79 and 208. At this point, the trail moves in a northeastern direction onto Bald Mountains still on the Tennessee and North Carolina state lines. The Cherokee National Forest is to the north and the Pisgah National Forest is to the south. South bound, the trail descends to 3,000 feet before ascending to 4,000 feet where it turns east at Big Flat. The ridge is still along the Bald Mountain Range and remains on that range passing Big Bald and Little Bald. At US 19W / SR 36, the trail heads north off the Pisgah National Forest land property and into the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee at which point it travels on up to Damascus, Virginia.
Recreation - The Blue Ridge Parkway, State Parks, Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests and all of their amenities, including trout fishing, camping, picnicking, wildlife viewing, overlooks and more are major features along the Appalachian Trail.
Climate - North Carolina generally has mild winters and warm summers. The mountainous area where most of the Appalachian Trail lies, experiences dramatic extremes particularly at higher elevations. Winter daytime temperatures range around 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2 Celsius) at lower elevations. Summer daytime temperatures range below 76 degrees Fahrenheit (24 Celsius). The state has a fairly wet climate with an average precipitation for this area averaging 44 to more than 52 inches (112 to more than 132 centimeters). Caution should be taken when traveling the Appalachian Trail. Temperatures can be extreme with unpredictable sudden thunderstorms. Layered clothing and rain gear is strongly advised.
Location - The Appalachian Trail travels along the western mountainous area of North Carolina, many of the miles are on the North Carolina and Tennessee state lines. There are over 500 access points. Many are located along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky National Park and the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests. Overnight parking is available throughout these areas. The northern Roan Mountain area offers views of the beautiful rhododendron gardens while the Pisgah area provides spectacular scenery of the southern Appalachians. Farther south in the Great Smoky Mountains, the path becomes quite difficult when traveling the Stecoah-Cheoah Mountain Area. Southwestern North Carolina which is the Nantahala National Forest area, gives way to 4,000 foot gaps and 5,000 foot peaks.