Mount Jefferson State Natural Area
Located in the far northwest corner of North Carolina, unique Mount Jefferson rises more than 1600 ft. above a broad, high plateau to its northeast to reach nearly 4700 ft. in elevation.
Traveling north to south, it marks the beginning of a cluster of high mountains along and east of the Blue Ridge stretching to the southwest, including Beech Mountain, Sugar Mountain, Roan Mountain, Grandfather Mountain, Big Bald, and Mount Mitchell. North of Mount Jefferson the higher mountains shift west to the state lines and include Mount Rogers in Virginia, which is the last peak above 5000' in the Southern Appalachians if you continue north.
The park is designated as a National Natural Landmark due to its outstanding ecological diversity. Rare plant communities grow here, such as a stand of Aspen trees just below the virgin Northern Red Oak forest on the summit.
The new Mountain Ridge trail climbs from the park office up to the Sunset Overlook, the Jefferson Overlook, and the summit parking & picnic area, offering a more strenuous way to "summit" the mountain. It generally follows the park road along its route.
The best way to explore the park's natural diversity and views is, of course, on foot. Mount Jefferson offers the Summit Trail which is 0.3 miles in length and moderately difficult. It's steep, but fairly smooth, and ends at a tower and the high point of the mountain.
There is a loop trail called the Rhododendron Trail leading off the summit trail. It travels along the summit ridge, out to Luther Rock, and makes its way back to the picnic area at an elevation just down from the peak of the ridge. The walk totals 1.1 miles in length and it's listed as "strenuous" in park literature, but I'd call it moderate with only moderately rough trail tread conditions. Magnificent views abound from this loop, which passes through a neat virgin Red Oak forest.
The Lost Province Trail is a 0.75 mile loop extending off the end of the Rhododendron loop, near Luther Rock.
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You'll find the park office, a picnic area, restrooms, and a couple of spectacular overlooks along the summit road on the way up to the top. But that's about it. Although this is one of the smaller recreation areas in the mountains, it is well worth the visit.
November - February, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
March and October, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
April, May, September, 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.
June - August, 9 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Closed Christmas Day
Park office hours
8 a.m. - 5 p.m. weekdays
Closed state holidays
From the NC Hwy. 105/ US Hwy. 221/421 intersection in Boone, follow US 221/421 for 9.6 miles, where US 221 splits north and turn left. Go 13.7 miles north on US 221 to the park entrance road on the right, just past West Jefferson. It's 3.6 miles to the top - there are signs for the state park.