MOUNT JEFFERSON'S WINTER GRANDEUR

View from Luther Rock on Mount Jefferson - Photo by Dale Carlson

View from Luther Rock on Mount Jefferson - Photo by Dale Carlson

When you stand on top of Luther Rock in the Mount Jefferson State Natural Area and look down on Jefferson, West Jefferson and parts of Ashe County, it feels like you are looking down on that mythical Brigadoon.  During the winter when there are no leaves on the trees to block the view it is even more breathtaking.  We decided to take this hike as a Valentine treat to each other - exercise on a cool day with clear blue skies when photos are also the best.  Memories to take home are gifts that keep on giving for years to come.  This is a winning combination for everyone.  We spent time sitting on the rocks and looking out at the "Coolest Corner of North Carolina" and picking out the landmarks below.  A ham sandwich and a bottle of water become a gourmet meal when you can take in this majesty while you are eating.  

We have heard folks say that they don't come to the mountains in winter because there is nothing to do.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Outdoor enthusiasts know that every season has its own beauty.  As locals we are lucky to have Mount Jefferson Natural Area so close to home.  We visit it often, but it is also worth the drive to enjoy what this special area offers.  Winter hiking is a favorite.  There are five different trails on Mount Jefferson.  Something for everyone from the kid friendly Track trail to the strenuous Mountain Ridge Trail.  There are many advantages to winter hikes - no bugs, heat or humidity!  The clear winter skies also offer a wonderful opportunity for great photos!  The Bluemoonistic team is always looking for that next great photo op and we have found many here!  The one below was taken from the Rhododendron Trail/Track Trail on our way back down the mountain after climbing up to Luther Rock.  Grandfather Mountain is 43 miles from Mount Jefferson but you can see what a wonderful view you have on a clear winter day!

Grandfather Vista  - Photo by Dale R. Carlson

Grandfather Vista  - Photo by Dale R. Carlson

We are often asked what the difference between a "natural area" vs a "park".  Basically, a natural area is for day use only.  No overnight camping is allowed.  A natural area is there to preserve the ecological and cultural importance of a region.  Our two Rangers - Tom Randolph and Jeff Matheson - offer a variety of programs year round that educate all ages about the rock formations, plants and wildlife on the mountain.  Check out their Activity Page for monthly updates on the many programs and guided hikes they offer. 

If you are not into hiking then Mount Jefferson also offers three wonderful overlooks that you can drive to and only need to get out of your car to enjoy!  The first overlook is Sunrise Overlook and gives you great views to the East.  The second one is called Sunset Overlook.  The two towns of West Jefferson and Jefferson nestled below between Mount Jefferson and Paddy Mountains are a sight to behold. The highest overlook is called Jefferson Overlook and you can gaze north and west to many far mountain tops, some as far away as Virginia.  What a wonderful, almost 360 degree view, of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  There are also picnic tables, grills and a shelter for family gatherings.  

Sunset Overlook is the perfect place to park your car and take in the sunset.  We let the Rangers know we were going to stay after sunset one winter evening and they actually came up and joined us and followed us down to lower the gate at the entrance.  We so appreciated this courtesy to a local photographer.  We were able to capture another view of Grandfather Mountain immediately after the sun went behind the mountains and the sun's last rays highlighted it behind the Blue Ridge Mountains!  A cold but glorious moment!

Grandfather Sunset (from Mt Jefferson Sunset Overlook) - Photo by Dale Carlson

Grandfather Sunset (from Mt Jefferson Sunset Overlook) - Photo by Dale Carlson

The Bluemoonistic Team feels fortunate to have such a beautiful natural area like Mount Jefferson right here where we live.  We can hop in our car and visit anytime we want and realize every time we go there that it is a wise old mountain with much to teach us.  You will never regret a visit to such a mountain treasure during every season.  You too can feel like you are on top of the world!

The Conqueror - Photo by Dale Carlson

The Conqueror - Photo by Dale Carlson