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Blue Ridge Mountains – Discover the Beauty

The beautiful and majestic Blue Ridge Mountains are part of the larger Appalachian Mountain Range. They run from Northern Georgia to Southwest Pennsylvania. The majority of the mountain range is in Northern Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

The Blue Ridge includes over 34,500 square miles of stunning landscapes, including breathtaking mountains, dense green forests, serene lakes, rushing rivers, and waterfalls. It is one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world.

They include the Smoky Mountains, the Great Balsams, the Roans, the Blacks, the Brushy Mountains, and some other lesser-known ranges. They are also the tallest mountains in the Eastern US, with the highest peak being Mt. Mitchell, at 6,684 feet.

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the most visited National Park in the United States, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which receives more than 14.1 million visitors each year (from 2021 records).  

The Blue Ridge Parkway, a world famous scenic drive, travels a large portion of the mountain range, offering travelers incredible and high elevation scenic views.  

Also included in the Blue Ridge is the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, offering visitors a beautiful drive along Skyline Drive, numerous mountain peaks, scenic views, and waterfalls.

Updated: 6/3/2023

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Blue Ridge Mountains Map

Where are the Blue Ridge Mountains located?  Below is a Blue Ridge Mountains Map that shows the various areas that make up the Blue Ridge Mountain range, along with its relationship with other surrounding mountains.  The map shows the Blue Ridge in blue.  

The Great Valley area is a bit debated on whether or not it's included as part of the mountain range, but most generally include the main portions of the areas near the Blue Ridge.

The purple area represents the Appalachian mountains location, which also includes the Blue Ridge range.  The Appalachian Mountains location is broader and encompasses more land and includes more states.

This map of the Blue Ridge Mountains is just one version, and there are many other similar maps out there.  All show a fairly consistent perspective on exactly where the mountain range is located, but each one may have subtle differences.

Blue Ridge Mountains Map

Where are the Blue Ridge Mountains?

Visitors always wonder, Where are the Blue Ridge Mountains?   The location of the mountain range is often very confusing, due to the Great Smoky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains all being in the same area. 

The Blue Ridge Mountains are located in the Southeastern United States, and run for about 620 miles in length and through eight different US States.  

Beginning in Pennsylvania and extending through Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee and Georgia. For states like Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia, the Blue Ridge takes up a good portion of the western portions of the states.  

For states like Maryland, West Virginia, South Carolina, and Tennessee, they only take up a very small portion of the states.

Are the Blue Ridge mountains part of the Appalachian mountains? Yes, the Blue Ridge are part of the larger Appalachian Mountains, and they contain the Great Smoky Mountains, also commonly called the Smoky Mountains or Smoky Mountain Range.

Many believe the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains are completely different mountain ranges, but in fact when comparing the Blue Ridge mountains vs Smoky mountains, the smoky mountains are a sub-mountain range within the Blue Ridge mountains.

Blue Ridge Mountains in Pennsylvania

The Blue Ridge in Pennsylvania are located in the southwestern part of the state. The highest peak in Pennsylvania is Mount Davis, which is located in the Allegheny National Forest. Mount Davis has an elevation of 3,214.

Some of the most popular attractions in the mountains of Pennsylvania include:

  • Laurel Highlands
  • Forbes State Park
  • Ohiopyle State Park
  • McConnells Mill State Park
  • Fallingwater

Blue Ridge Mountains in Maryland

The Blue Ridge Mountains in Maryland are located in the western part of the state, about an hour and a half from the Washington DC Metro area.

The highest peak in Maryland is Black Rock, which is located in the George Washington National Forest. Black Rock is the has an elevation of 3,440 feet.

Some of the most popular attractions in mountains of Maryland include:

Blue Ridge Mountains in West Virginia

Babcock State Park WV

The Blue Ridge Mountains in West Virginia are located in the most eastern part of the state. The border of West Virginia and Virginia is the transition from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Allegheny Mountains, both part of the Appalachian Mountain range.

Some of the most popular attractions in the Blue Ridge Mountains in West Virginia include:

Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia

The Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia are located in the western part of the state. The highest peak in Virginia is Mount Rogers, which is located in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Mount Rogers as an elevation of 5,729 feet.

Some of the most popular attractions in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia include:

Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina

Sam's Knob View

The Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina are located in the western part of the state.

The highest peak in North Carolina is Mount Mitchell, which is located in the Black Mountain National Forest. Mount Mitchell has an elevation of 6,684 feet, making in the highest peak east of the Mississippi river.

Some of the most popular attractions in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina include:

The Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina

Many don't realize that a small portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains are located in the northwestern corner of the South Carolina.   While it's certainly not a large portion, there are mountains there, as you can see from the photo above of "Pretty Place" near Greenville SC.

Some of the most popular locations in the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina include:

Also important to mention is that Upper Whitewater falls is the tallest waterfall on the East Coast of the US.  Upper Whitewater Falls is in North Carolina, while lower whitewater falls is in South Carolina.

Blue Ridge Mountains in Tennessee

Clingmans Dome

The Blue Ridge Mountains in Tennessee are part of the four key Blue Ridge Mountain states, which also include North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia.    These four states contain the majority of the Blue Ridge Mountain range, and contain the majority of popular attractions and iconic places to visit.

What mountains are in Tennessee you may wonder?  Most of the TN mountains are located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The National Park sits on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.

Where are the Blue Ridge Mountains in Tennessee?  The Blue Ridge Mountains in Tennessee are located in the eastern part of the state. The highest peak in Tennessee is Clingmans Dome, at an elevation of 6,643 feet, which is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

Some of the most popular attractions in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Tennessee include:

Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia

The Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia are located in the northwestern part of the state, and they are a popular destination for outdoor recreation, such as hiking, camping, fishing, and whitewater rafting.

The highest point in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia is Brasstown Bald, which is located in Towns County. Brasstown Bald is 4,784 feet, and it offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys and is also part of the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway.

Some of the most popular attractions in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia include:

Blue Ridge Mountains Weather

Weather in the Blue Ridge Mountains

The weather in the Blue Ridge Mountains is generally mild, having four distinct seasons.

The average temperature in the mountains ranges from 35F degrees in the winter to 75F degrees in the summer. The mountains receive an average of 40 inches of rain per year, with the most rain falling in the spring and summer. The Blue Ridge Mountains are also prone to thunderstorms, especially in the summer.

Weather can vary greatly depending on the elevation as well. Higher elevations are generally cooler and wetter than the lower elevations. The mountains can also experience snow in the winter, even at lower elevations.

Let's take a more detailed look at the seasonal weather in the Blue Ridge Mountains:

Spring - The weather in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the spring is mild and pleasant. The average temperature ranges from 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The days are getting longer and the nights are getting shorter. The mountains are bright green and lush, and the flowers are in bloom. This is a great time to go hiking, camping, or fishing.

Summer - The weather in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the summer is warm and sunny. The average temperature ranges from 70F to 85F degrees. The days are long and the nights are short. This is a great time to go swimming, boating, or hiking. You can also enjoy outdoor concerts and festivals.

Fall - The weather in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the fall is beautiful. The leaves change color and the air is crisp and cool. The average temperature ranges from 55F to 70F degrees. Fall is a wonderful time time to go see the leaves turn, hiking, or camping. You can also enjoy festivals and events that celebrate the changing of the seasons.

Winter - The weather in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the winter can be cold and snowy. The average temperature ranges from 25 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The mountains are often covered in snow, which makes for great skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. You can also enjoy ice skating, sledding, and snow forts.

Seasons in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Fall in the Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains are a beautiful and diverse landscape that experiences four distinct seasons. Each season offers its own unique beauty and activities to enjoy.

Spring - Spring in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a time of rebirth. The snow melts, the days get longer, and the flowers start to bloom. This is a great time to go hiking, camping, or fishing. You can also enjoy festivals and events that celebrate the arrival of spring.

Summer - Summer in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a time of warmth and sunshine. The days are long and the nights are short. This is a great time to go swimming, boating, or hiking. You can also enjoy outdoor concerts and festivals.

Fall - Fall in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a time of beauty and color. The leaves change color and the air is crisp and cool. This is a great time to go leaf peeping, hiking, or camping. You can also enjoy festivals and events that celebrate the changing of the seasons.

Winter - Winter in the Blue Ridge Mountains can be a magical time with far less people. The mountains are covered in snow and the air is cold and crisp. This is a great time to go skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing. You can also enjoy ice skating, sledding, and snow forts.

Brief history of the Blue Ridge Mountains

History of the Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains, located in the eastern United States, have a rich and fascinating history. From their formation millions of years ago to their significance in modern times, the Blue Ridge Mountains have played an important role in the development of the region and the nation as a whole.

The formation of the Blue Ridge dates back over 1 billion years, when the North American continent was formed.  Being more than 1 billion years old, the Blue Ridge Mountains are the second oldest mountain range in the world.

The Blue Ridge Mountains were originally much taller, but millions of years of erosion have worn them down to their current height. 

The first human inhabitants of these mountains were Native American tribes such as the Cherokee.  These tribes lived in the mountains for thousands of years, hunting, fishing, and cultivating crops.

In the late 1600s and early 1700s, European settlers began to move into the mountains. These settlers were primarily of Scottish-Irish descent and were attracted to the area for its abundant resources, including timber and fertile land. They built homesteads and farms, and their presence began to change the landscape of the mountains and their culture and music had significant influence on the future of these mountains.

During the American Revolution, the mountains were a key battleground between the British and the Continental Army. The Blue Ridge Mountains played a significant role in the outcome of the war, as the Continental Army was able to use the mountains to launch surprise attacks against the British.

In the 1800s, the Blue Ridge Mountains became a popular destination for tourists seeking natural beauty and adventure. The establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1934 brought even more visitors to the region, and the tourism industry became a major part of the local economy.

Today, the Blue Ridge Mountains continue to be an important part of the region's culture and history. The mountains are home to a diverse range of wildlife and plant species and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation such as hiking, camping, and fishing. The Blue Ridge Parkway, a scenic road that runs through the mountains, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world.

Why the Blue Ridge Mountains Are Important

The Blue Ridge Mountains are an important natural and cultural resource in the eastern United States. Here are some of the reasons why:

Biodiversity - They are home to a rich diversity of plant and animal species. The mountains provide a habitat for many threatened and endangered species, and the mountain forests are some of the most biologically diverse in the world. This biodiversity is not only important for the region's ecological health, but it also provides opportunities for scientific research and discovery.

Outdoor Recreation - They are a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The mountains offer opportunities for hiking, camping, and fishing, as well as scenic drives and other recreational activities. The tourism industry that has developed around the Blue Ridge Mountains has become an important part of the region's economy.

Cultural Significance - They have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years. The mountains were home to Native American tribes for centuries, and European settlers began to move into the region in the 1700s. The mountains have played an important role in American history, serving as a battleground during the American Revolution, as a destination for tourists since the 1800s and as strong musical influence to modern day music and culture.

Conservation - They are a critical area for conservation efforts. The region is home to many threatened and endangered species, and there are ongoing efforts to protect the area's natural resources. The establishment of national and state parks in the region has helped to preserve the mountains' natural beauty and protect their ecological health.

Scenic Beauty - They are renowned for their scenic beauty. The Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs through the mountains, is one of the most popular scenic drives in the world.  The Blue Ridge Mountains have some of the most scenic views and most prolific number of waterfalls in the world.

Why are the Blue Ridge Mountains Blue?

The Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains are both named and famous for their unique blue color, often seen when viewing the mountains at long distances from higher elevations.  

This blue haze is caused by the numerous trees covering the mountains and surrounding valleys.  The trees release isoprene into the atmosphere, which contributes significantly to the distinctive blue color.

The Cherokee Indians, called their homeland, Shaconage (shah-CON-uh-gee) ... the land of the blue smoke. 

Physical features of the Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains are characterized by their rugged terrain and unique geological features. Here are just a few of the physical features that define these mountains:

Blue Ridge Mountains Elevation -  They are not as tall as some of the other mountain ranges in the United States, but they still reach impressive heights. The highest peak in the range is Mount Mitchell in North Carolina, which stands at 6,684 feet tall.

Ridge and Valley Topography - The mountains are characterized by their ridge and valley topography, with narrow ridges and steep slopes that drop off into deep valleys.

Blue Ridge Geological Formation - They are made up of a variety of rocks, including granite, gneiss, and schist. These rocks were formed over millions of years by tectonic activity and erosion. The mountains are known for their unique geological features, such as the Linville Gorge in North Carolina, which is often referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the East."

Forests - The mountains are covered in dense forest that is primarily composed of deciduous trees such as oak, maple, and hickory. The forest is home to a rich diversity of wildlife, including black bears, white-tailed deer, and wild turkeys.

Blue Ridge Mountain Waterfalls and Rivers - The Blue Ridge are also known for their numerous waterfalls and rivers. The mountains are home to some of the tallest waterfalls in the eastern United States, including Whitewater Falls in North Carolina and Crabtree Falls in Virginia. The rivers that flow through the mountains, such as the New River and the James River, are popular for fishing, kayaking, and other water-based activities.

Wildlife and Biodiversity in the Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains are home to a rich diversity of plant and animal species, making them an important region for wildlife and biodiversity.

The mountains provide habitat for many threatened and endangered species, and their forests are some of the most biologically diverse in the world. The region's ecological health is important for the conservation of these species, as well as for the tourism industry that has developed around them.

Efforts to protect the area's natural resources have led to the establishment of national and state parks in the region, which have helped to preserve the mountains' natural beauty and protect their ecological health.

Plant and Animal Life

The Blue Ridge Mountains are known for their rich biodiversity and are home to a diverse range of plant and animal life. The mountains provide habitat for many different species, including some that are rare and endangered.

Here are some examples of the plants and animals found in the Blue Ridge:

Plants:

  • Red spruce, Fraser fir, and eastern hemlock are the dominant tree species in the higher elevations of the mountains.
  • The lower elevations are characterized by deciduous forests, which include species such as oak, hickory, and maple.
  • The blue ridge are home to many rare plant species, including the Virginia spiraea and the Heller's blazing star.

Animals:

  • The mountains are home to many species of mammals, including black bears, elk, white-tailed deer, and red foxes.
  • The rivers and streams in the Blue Ridge Mountains are home to a variety of fish species, including brook trout and smallmouth bass.
  • The region is also known for its birdlife, with over 200 species of birds recorded in the region. Some of the most common species include the American goldfinch, eastern bluebird, and Carolina chickadee.
  • The mountains are also home to a variety of amphibians and reptiles, including salamanders, frogs, turtles and snakes

Things To Do in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Crabtree Falls Blue Ridge Parkway

Covering more 34,000 square miles and multiple states, the Blue Ridge Mountains are FULL of things to see and do for everyone.   These beautiful and rustic mountains feature:

Let's explore each of these great things to see and do in a little more detail!

50+ Things to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains

We hand picked 50+ things for you to see and do when visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains.   Our list includes outdoor activities, attractions, towns, cities, and more!

Hiking

Hiking Max Patch NC

One of the Blue Ridge Mountains's main attractions is the thousands of miles of hiking trails, including the famous Appalachian Trail, which begins in Georgia, and travels through the Blue Ridge on its way north to Maine.

Top Hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Looking for great hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains?  There are plenty of them!   

See our ALL of our hiking guides for hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Waterfalls

Also popular are the hundreds of waterfalls, many being roadside or just a short distance from roads and parking areas.  For those that are disabled, or have limited-mobililty there are also a number of roadside waterfalls for you to visit as well.

Our Waterfall Guides

See our full guides to more than 50 waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Mountains on our Waterfalls Page.  Information, Directions, Photos, Video, and more!

Wildlife

Cataloochee Valley Elk

The Blue Ridge Mountains are full of wildlife, including the popular Black Bear, Elk, Deer, and wild turkeys.

While wildlife can be seen all through the Blue Ridge, popular and common places to encounter wildlife include:

Scenic Drives

Take one of the many scenic drives through the Blue Ridge Mountains, and see incredible views, wildlife, waterfalls, Fall Colors, and more!    

Some of the most popular drives include:

Attractions

Biltmore Estate

The Blue Ridge Mountains and cities in and around the mountains are full of wonderful places to see, things to do, places to stay, and places to eat!

Some of the more popular attractions include:

Popular Cities and Towns

The Blue Ridge Mountains are full of cities and small towns, that make for wonderful destination spots and retreats.   The Blue Ridge provide a wonderful mix of big city options, for those wanting a faster-paced vacation, to more remote and natural smaller towns, full of small mom-and-pop shops, and nature.    

Blue Ridge Mountains FAQ

Where are the Blue Ridge Mountains?

The Blue Ridge Mountains are a mountain range inNorth America, located in the eastern United States. The mountain range runs from Georgia in the southern portion of Pennsylvania.  The Blue Ridge Mountains are a part of the larger Appalachian Mountain range, and contain the Great Smoky Mountains.

The Blue Ridge Mountains are characterized by their distinctive blue color, which is caused by the isoprene released by the trees in the region. The mountains are home to a diverse range of plants and animal life, and are a very popular destination for outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, camping, and fishing. They are also an important source of water for many communities in the region.

What is special about the Blue Ridge Mountains?

The Blue Ridge Mountains are special for several reasons.

First, the Blue Ridge Mountains are one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, estimated to be well over 1 billion years old. As a result, they have a rich geological history and are home to unique rock formations and mineral deposits.

Second, the Blue Ridge Mountains are very well known for their  natural beauty, including long distance scenic views, waterfalls, and diverse plant and animal life. They are a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking, camping, and other other outdoor recreational activities.

Third, they have a rich cultural history, including the Native Americans who have lived in the region for thousands of years, as well as European settlers who arrived in the 18th and 19th centuries. The region is home to many historic sites, museums, and cultural and musical events that celebrate the area's unique heritage.

Are the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Smoky Mountains the same?

No, the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains are not the same, although they are both located in the eastern United States, are part of the larger Appalachian Mountain range, and the Great Smoky Mountains are a sub-range within the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Blue Ridge Mountains run from Georgia to Pennsylvania. The highest point in the Blue Ridge Mountains is Mount Mitchell NC, which has an elevation of 6,684 feet.

The Smoky Mountains, also known as the Great Smoky Mountains, are located on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, and are known for their rugged terrain, diverse wildlife, and gorgeous rocky peaks. The highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains is Clingmans Dome, at an elevation of 6,643 feet.   The Great Smoky Mountains are in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited National Park in the US.

Are the Blue Ridge Mountains and Appalachian Mountains the same?

The Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains are not exactly the same, but they are very closely related. The Blue Ridge Mountains are a subset of the larger Appalachian Mountain range, which runs from Canada to Alabama in the eastern United States.

The Appalachian Mountains are known for their rich geological history, diverse plant and animal life, and important cultural heritage. They are home to many historic locations, state and national parks, and serve as a central location for many outdoor recreational opportunities.

The Blue Ridge Mountains, are a smaller range within the large Appalachian Mountains. They are known for their distinctive blue color and layers of rolling peaks, as well as their natural beauty and cultural significance.

About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.

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