The Boone-area part of the Blue Ridge Parkway traverses the northwest corner of North Carolina called the High Country. This lofty region is home to many of the most important animals and ecosystems that make a Parkway trip so special.
Parkway area summits are the highest in the East. Two scenic species of evergreens symbolize the cool northern climate of the Southern Appalachians. Red Spruce grows widely and ranges all the way to New England. Fraser Fir is native only to high summits in western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and southwestern Virginia. The nation’s favorite species of Christmas tree grows in neat plantations along the Boone area part of the Parkway. Acid rain and ozone challenge both trees, and the tiny Balsam woolly adelgid is attacking Fraser Fir. In places you’ll notice dead, skeletal stands of these evergreens—and places where the cool verdure of the forest is inspiring. Add sugar maples, yellow birches, and paper birches and you’ll see why the Parkway’s highest forests inspire comparisons with New England.
A distinctive gargling croak denotes this giant black bird with a bulbous black beak. Often seen high on the Parkway, at Grandfather Mountain and Mount Mitchell, the birds soar along rocky crags and brave even bitter winter winds to frolic in blustery gusts. Quoth the traveler: “The raven never bores” with aerial acrobatics.
With the Parkway surrounded by thousands of acres of national forest, you could glimpse the reclusive black bear. The often-sinewy bruins range from 125 to 250 pounds. Parkway campers should use caution not to tempt bears with easily accessible food. Never feed bears or approach too closely, especially a mother with cubs.
The lacey boughs of Carolina Hemlock lend a northern feel to the Parkway’s deciduous forests of oak, maple, and tulip poplar. These evergreens love water, so they grow to impressive height and girth in stream drainages and near lakes (such as Trout Lake in Blowing Rock). The bark of the hemlock contains tannin and was used to make a tanning treatment for hides. Sadly, the hemlock woolly adelgid may eradicate the species.
The tree-covered Southern Appalachians offer inspiring vistas from breezy mountaintop meadows called “balds.” Despite being located at high elevations, these natural appearing meadows are not true alpine areas like those that lie above timberline in New England and the West. Parkway peaks would need to reach 8,000 feet for a severe high elevation climate to create treeless summits. Some think the unexplained meadows resulted from fires set by Native Americans to encourage game. The balds are one of the best places to enjoy the rhododendron bloom (link to the article “The King of Appalachian Spring” below). The meadows can easily be seen on the Boone area part of the Parkway at Craggy Gardens (and near the Parkway at Roan Mountain (link to hiking article).
The highest mountains and streams of the Parkway are home to more species of these slithering amphibians than any other place on the planet. Many Parkway area species are found nowhere else. Most salamanders are “lungless” and breath through their skin, so staying damp is essential. Their preferred habitat of misty forests and streamside sites makes them easy to observe under rocks and logs.
Basics of the Parkway
Camping on the Parkway
Climb the Highest Peaks by Car
Fishing on the Parkway
Hiking on the Parkway
Just for Kids
Linn Cove Viaduct
Picnic on the Parkway
Visitor Centers and Cabins
Dive into our Interactive Map!
Zoom in close on the map below (use the plus sign and directional arrows at upper left, or repeatedly double click near, but not on, the map symbols). You can literally see the parking lots for Parkway destinations in this guide. Click any map symbol and information packed balloons pop up to describe locations all along the route. In the map balloons, click "Directions" to add your address and get step-by-step directions to Parkway locations from wherever you are. Start in the north, follow the road south, for a local's introduction to your own Boone-area Parkway adventure.
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