Henry David Thoreau once said, “In wilderness is the preservation of the world.” There is no greater example of this than the North Carolina Mountains. Western North Carolina (WNC) offers residents some of the most diverse climates, trees and wildlife in the world. It’s a place full of breathtaking, magical, natural phenomenon including forests, mountaintop vistas, waterfalls and riverbanks.

Over the years, individuals, local communities, state officials and the federal government have worked to preserve the beautiful landscape in Western North Carolina, along with the animals and plants that live there. This effort continues today and each year. And, as new people relocate to the area in search of a better quality of life, they discover an age-old mountain tradition…listening to the land.

The Mountains in North Carolina Tell Their Story: Appalachian Mountain Facts

The Appalachian Mountains are a record of Earth’s history. According to the U.S. Geological Survey:

“The Appalachians are old. A look at rocks exposed in today’s Appalachian Mountains reveals elongated belts of folded and thrust faulted marine sedimentary rocks, volcanic rocks and slivers of ancient ocean floor. Strong evidence [shows] that these rocks were deformed during plate collision. The birth of the Appalachian ranges, some 480 million years ago, marks the first of several mountain building plate collisions that culminated in the construction of the supercontinent Pangea with the Appalachians near the center.”

The beginning of the Appalachian Mountains led to hundreds of millions of years of Earth changes. Finally, approximately 60 million years ago, the Appalachians we know today began to take shape.

The exact boundaries of the Appalachian Mountains are debatable, but most experts agree the range extends over 1,500 North to South miles from Canada to Georgia. As a system of ridges split into several distinct ranges, the Appalachian Mountains span two countries and fifteen states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

Perhaps the most famous attraction is the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail (AT) that runs from Springer Mountain in Northern Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Access to the AT is easily found in Western North Carolina rural areas like Hot Springs, Max Patch, a well-known bald, or on the Blue Ridge Parkway, just outside of Asheville.

The Magic of the Blue Ridge Mountains

One of the most well-known provinces in the Appalachian Mountains is the Blue Ridge. The Blue Ridge Mountains stretch through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia. They are home to the highest peaks in Eastern North America, the highest of which is Mount Mitchell in Western North Carolina at 6,684 feet.

The trees are what give the Blue Ridge its name. According to the National Park Service, hydrocarbons released into the atmosphere by the trees create their signature color. The Blue Ridge offers a variety of natural attractions including two national parks: the Shenandoah in the North and the Great Smokies in the South. The Blue Ridge Parkway, a 496-mile scenic highway that connects the two parks, provides incredible mountain lookouts and access to hundreds of hiking trails.

The Great Smoky Mountains: A Union of Forest Preservation and Land Conservation

The Great Smoky Mountains cover the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the largest forest preservation areas in the Eastern United States. According to StateParks.com the park was once part of Cherokee homeland and now attracts over nine million visitors each year. There are over 800 miles of hiking trails that range from easy to difficult including 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

In the summertime, weather in the park consists generally of plentiful rainfall and high humidity, creating healthy growing conditions. Overall, Western North Carolina climate and Asheville weather brings four balanced seasons. Winters and summers are moderate compared to other regions. Native trees, plants and flowers bloom during three seasons, and in the winter, snow-peaked mountain views peek through barren, forest trees.

StatePark.com reports that, “some 100 species of native trees find homes in the Smokies, more than any other North American national park.”

The site adds that “almost 95% of the park is forested, and about 25% of that area is old growth forest — one of the largest blocks of deciduous, temperate, old-growth forest remaining in North America.”

The National Park Service explains that no other area of equal size in a temperate climate can match the park’s amazing diversity of plants, animals, and invertebrates. Over 10,000 species have been documented.

The mountains in North Carolina, surrounding Asheville, are a place where the mountains, rivers, trees and animals tell an ancient story. Be still and listen and you will hear the voice of the land.