WNC -- In the westernmost counties of North Carolina, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area stands as a testament to the breathtaking beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

This federally designated National Heritage Area encompasses twenty-five counties, each with its own unique charm and contribution to the region's cultural and historic character. With its preservation efforts and promotion of the natural and built environment, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area provides a captivating experience for locals and visitors alike.

At the heart of the National Heritage Area lies the enchanting landscape of the Blue Ridge Parkway, a scenic road that winds its way through the mountains, offering stunning vistas and access to some of the region's most cherished natural landmarks. As part of the area, the North Carolina portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway allows travelers to embark on a journey of awe-inspiring beauty, surrounded by rolling hills, verdant forests, and cascading waterfalls.

One such natural wonder within the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area is Mount Mitchell, situated in the Pisgah National Forest. Standing tall at an impressive 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, and its summit provides visitors with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Hiking trails meander through the forest, leading adventurers to this majestic peak and immersing them in the untamed wilderness that characterizes the region.

The National Heritage Area also encompasses significant portions of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its biodiversity and breathtaking landscapes. With its pristine forests, rushing streams, and diverse wildlife, this national park invites visitors to explore its extensive trail network, witness the mesmerizing fall foliage, and perhaps even catch a glimpse of the elusive black bear or white-tailed deer.

Beyond the natural wonders, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area pays homage to the cultural heritage deeply rooted in the region. The Qualla Boundary, home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, holds a significant place within the National Heritage Area. Here, visitors can engage with the rich history, traditions, and artistry of the Cherokee people, gaining insights into their vibrant culture through exhibits, performances, and interactive experiences.

Another facet of the area's cultural heritage lies in its musical traditions and folk craftsmanship. The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area recognizes the importance of these artistic expressions and has made concerted efforts to preserve and promote them. From toe-tapping bluegrass and old-time music to exquisite handmade crafts, the region comes alive with creativity, inviting visitors to explore the work of talented artisans and musicians who have been passing down their skills for generations.

In addition to the scenic wonders and cultural treasures, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area encompasses a tapestry of charming towns and communities that add to its allure. Counties such as Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, and Jackson boast vibrant arts scenes, historical landmarks, and a warm sense of Southern hospitality. Visitors can stroll through quaint downtowns, visit local galleries and studios, and immerse themselves in the friendly atmosphere that permeates these towns.

As a federally designated National Heritage Area, the Blue Ridge region showcases the importance of preserving and celebrating the natural, historical, and cultural heritage of this remarkable landscape. It serves as a gateway to adventure, offering opportunities for hiking, camping, wildlife spotting, and immersing oneself in the rich tapestry of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

To find out more and plan your visit go to Blue Ridge Heritage

WNCTimes June 2023

Image Credit: Blue Ridge National Heritage Area  Facebook Page

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