21 Unforgettable Things to Do in Banner Elk NC (2024)

From Mountain Tops to Mountain Coasters, this guide will share all of the very best things to do in Banner Elk NC. If you're planning a visit to the charming small mountain town of Banner Elk NC, located in the heart of the High Country of North Carolina, you're in for a real treat. 

You'll find Alpaca Farms, Glamping, a winery, incredible food, historic buidlings, museums, hiking, waterfalls and a lake!  Banner Elk offers up a surprising number of things to see and do for visitors of all ages.

In this guide, we'll explore the top things to do in Banner Elk, NC that make it a must-visit Blue Ridge Mountain destination!

About Banner Elk NC

Banner Elk NC

Banner Elk, North Carolina, is a very charming and beautiful tiny mountain town located in Avery County.

Situated in the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Banner Elk is well recognized for its charming and thriving downtown, picturesque splendor, and friendly community. With a population of around 1,000 residents, Banner Elk provides a warm and intimate atmosphere for guests seeking a tranquil and pleasant mountain retreat.

Banner Elk's history extends back to the 19th century, when it was predominantly a farming hamlet. Over the years, it has evolved into a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, art aficionados, and cuisine connoisseurs.

The town's proximity to several outdoor recreational sites makes it a popular spot for individuals seeking outdoor activities to do, like hiking, fishing, and winter sports.

The town also takes pride in its strong sense of community and hosts numerous events and festivals throughout the year. These events focus on highlighting the local arts, music, and cultural heritage of the area.

Frankly, Banner Elk offers it all.  Whether you're seeking outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or simply looking for a peaceful mountain retreat, there are plenty of things to do in Banner Elk NC.

Our Video

Here is our visit highlighting all the great things to see and do in Banner Elk NC:

Outdoor Adventure in Banner Elk NC

Outdoor Adventure in Banner Elk NC

We recently spent a long weekend in Banner Elk NC, exploring the town, surrounding areas, and experiencing all of the great things this wonderful small mountain town has to offer.   There are so many different things to do in Banner Elk NC.

Banner Elk is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The town offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and whitewater rafting.

Explore the beautiful trails of nearby Pisgah National Forest, find nearby waterfalls, canoe on a beautiful lake, take scenic drives, or head out on a thrilling white water rafting adventure.  

Hiking Trails near Banner Elk NC

Hiking at Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain

Banner Elk is surrounded by forests, cascading waterfalls, and beautiful scenic views.  The area offers plenty of hiking trails suitable for all levels of adventurers.

Here are just a few of our favorites!

  1. Grandfather Mountain Trail - Standing tall at 5,946 feet, Grandfather Mountain is a famous landmark located near Banner Elk.  "Grandfather" is well known for its rugged terrain and panoramic views. The Grandfather Mountain Trail is a rigorous hike that rewards hikers with unforgettable long range views. As you ascend the rocky trail, you'll encounter challenging sections that require wooden ladders and cables to reach the mountain's summit. But the stunning panormaic views that stretch for miles are worth it.
  2. Linville Falls - Located in nearby Pisgah National Forest, Linville Falls is a popular destination along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The falls, formed by the Linville River cascading through the rugged Linville Gorge, offer a two main hiking trails. The Erwin's View Trail provides a moderate hike with breathtaking views of the falls from various overlooks. For a more challenging adventure, the Plunge Basin Trail takes you to the base of the falls, allowing you to witness the raw power of nature up close.
  3. Elk River Falls - Just a short drive from Banner Elk, Elk River Falls is a tall, strong flowing, and majestic waterfall. The trail leading to the falls is relatively easy, making it accessible for families and casual hikers. Once you arrive, you'll be greeted by a stunning 50-foot waterfall cascading into a large serene pool. It's a perfect spot for a picnic or just to sit and enjoy the sounds.
  4. Rough Ridge Trail - For those seeking stunning vistas without a difficult hike, Rough Ridge is an excellent choice. This moderate trail, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. As you traverse the wooden boardwalks and climb over rocky outcrops, you'll be rewarded with panoramic vistas that showcase the vibrant colors of the changing seasons.  Rough Ridge is a popular sunset and sunrise location on the Parkway.
  5. Beacon Heights Trail - Situated adjacent to the Rough Ridge Trail, Beacon Heights offers a short but rewarding hike for nature enthusiasts. The trail takes you through a dense forest before reaching a rocky summit, where you'll be greeted by breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. It's an ideal spot for sunrise or sunset hikes, providing an unforgettable experience as the sky lights up in a symphony of colors.
  6. Emerald Outback Trails - The Emerald Outback is located in Beech Mountain NC. Previously part of the Land of Oz Amusement Park, the area offers a range of beautiful trails that wind through the scenic landscapes of the region. The trails are well-maintained and total about 8 miles of interconnected trails. The trails are designed for hikers of various skill levels, offering options for both beginners and experienced hikers.

Waterfalls near Banner Elk NC

Elk River Falls

The mountains of North Carolina are full of beautiful and majestic waterfalls, and the Banner Elk NC area is no exception.  While there are no waterfalls directly in the Banner Elk town area, there are a number of wonderful waterfalls not far from Banner Elk.  

Here are some of our top picks for waterfalls near Banner Elk NC:

  1. Linville Falls - No exploration of waterfalls near Banner Elk would be complete without a visit to Linville Falls. Located within the scenic Linville Gorge, this natural marvel is a testament to the power and beauty of rushing water. The falls are formed as the Linville River cuts through the rugged terrain, creating a series of breathtaking cascades. Various viewpoints along the Linville Falls Trail offer different perspectives of the falls, allowing you to witness their grandeur from above and below.
  2. Elk River Falls - A short drive from Banner Elk leads to Elk River Falls, a hidden gem that invites you to immerse yourself in its tranquil beauty. As you follow the trail through the forest, the sound of rushing water grows louder, heralding the approach of the falls. Suddenly, you'll be greeted by a magnificent 50-foot cascade plunging into a pool below. The mist-filled air and the serenity of the surroundings make Elk River Falls an idyllic spot for a picnic or a moment of quiet reflection.
  3. Crabtree Falls - Tucked away within the Pisgah National Forest, Crabtree Falls is a true gem for waterfall enthusiasts. This 70-foot waterfall offers a stunning display of cascading water against a backdrop of lush greenery. A moderately challenging hike leads you to various viewpoints that allow you to marvel at the falls from different angles. Take your time to soak in the beauty of Crabtree Falls, as the soothing sound of water creates a peaceful atmosphere.
  4. Upper Creek Falls - Venture a little further from Banner Elk, and you'll discover the hidden gem of Upper Creek Falls. Located in the Wilson Creek area, this waterfall is surrounded by pristine wilderness, offering a refreshing escape from the bustling world. The falls are composed of multiple tiers, each with its own unique charm. Hiking trails wind through the forest, guiding you to different viewpoints where you can admire the cascading water and take a dip in the cool pools below.
  5. Hebron Falls - Tucked away in the charming community of Montezuma, near Banner Elk, Hebron Falls awaits those seeking a peaceful and secluded waterfall experience. The falls cascade gracefully down moss-covered rocks, creating a serene and magical atmosphere. A short, family-friendly trail leads you to the falls, where you can bask in their beauty and revel in the tranquility of the surroundings.

Wildcat Lake

Wildcat Lake Banner Elk NC

Located just a short drive from downtown Banner Elk NC, Wildcat Lake is a bit of a hidden gem and a super nice recreation area.   Wildcat lake is a 13 acre man-made reservoir that offers a nice lake, sandy beach, picnic areas, playground equipment and gorgeous views of the lake surrounded by mountains. 

The lake offers a number of great outdoor things to do in Banner Elk NC and provides a peaceful setting for a variety of recreational activities and a great way to get the whole family outdoors and let the kids run off some energy.

One of the most popular activities at Wildcat Lake is swimming. The lake boasts a really nice and well kept sandy beach area where visitors can soak up the sun, build sandcastles, or take a refreshing dip in the cool water.

 Lifeguards are on duty during designated times, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. Families can relax and play in the designated swimming area, while children can splash around in the shallows.

Canoeing at Wildcat Lake Banner Elk NC

Riding in a canoe on Wildcat Lake

For those who prefer to explore the lake a little more, Wildcat Lake provides opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding.

You can rent a canoe or bring your own and glide across the calm waters, taking in the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the tranquil ambiance of the lake. Fishing enthusiasts can try their luck at catching bass, trout, or bluegill, as the lake is regularly stocked with fish.  We saw many people fishing and catching fish.

Surrounding the lake are several picnic areas equipped with tables and grills, allowing lake visitors to leisurely enjoy a lakeside meal. 

To access Wildcat Lake, there is a parking area available for visitors.   Restroom facilities are conveniently located near the lake by the life guard station..

Wildcat Lake was a real surprise for us, and makes for a great place to hang out and relax on a hot summer day.

Winter Fun in Banner Elk NC

During the winter months, the Banner Elk area becomes a go to destination for snow sports enthusiasts. Visitors can hit the slopes and enjoy exhilarating skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing adventures.  The resorts off tons of tings to do in Banner Elk NC in the winter.

Ski Resorts around Banner Elk NC offers a range of snow trails suitable for all skill levels and some of the very best skiing the Blue Ridge Mountains have to offer.  

In fact, Banner Elk is actually in between two major ski destinations, Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain.

Beech Mountain

From the top of Beech Mountain

Beech Mountain Ski Resort is a popular winter destination located in Beech Mountain, North Carolina.

Beech his well known for its excellent skiing and snowboarding opportunities, the resort attracts visitors from all over the world. 

Beech Mountain Ski Resort is situated on top of Beech Mountain, the highest town in Eastern America and is just a short drive from downtown Banner Elk.

The Resort offers a range of slopes suitable for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels, from beginners to experts. The resort features 17 different slopes and has 95 acres of skiable mountain. There slopes are 10 different lifts, including a high-speed quad lift, providing efficient and fast transportation back to the top for more runs.

Beech Mountain Ski Resort has a comprehensive snowmaking system, and can make sure there is good snow coverage throughout the ski season. They typically opens in late November or early December and operates until late March or early April, depending on weather conditions.

Visitors to Ski Beech can expect a mix of natural snow and machine-made snow, providing enjoyable skiing and snowboarding experiences.

For snowboarders, Beech Mountain Ski Resort offers terrain parks. These parks feature various features and obstacles such as jumps, rails, and boxes, catering to snowboarders. 

In addition to skiing and snowboarding, Beech Mountain Ski Resort offers a variety of other winter activities. These may include snow tubing, and ice skating.  Ski equipment rental is available along with a full retail ski shop.

Dining options and a lodge are available where visitors can relax and warm up. Beech Mountain Ski Resort also offers on-site accommodations such as slope-side condos and cabins.

Sugar Mountain

Sugar Mountain Ski Resort is another very well-known and popular winter sports destination located in Banner Elk, North Carolina. It offers both skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing and other activities.

Sugar Mountain Ski Resort is located just outside of downtown Banner Elk.   The resort is known for its diverse terrain and excellent ski and snowboard offerings. It features 21 slopes and trails cover 125 acres of skiable mountain side.

The slopes cater to all skill levels, with options for beginners, intermediate, and advanced riders. The resort has a vertical drop of 1,200 feet, providing exciting long runs.

Sugar Mountain Ski Resort has modern snowmaking systems that ensure consistent snow coverage throughout the ski season.

The resort typically opens for skiing and snowboarding in late November or early December and operates until late March or early April, depending on weather conditions. Visitors can expect a combination of natural and machine-made snow, providing optimal conditions for winter sports.

Like Beech Mountain, Sugar Mountain Ski Resort also has snowboarding terrain parks that offer various features such as jumps, rails, and boxes, providing opportunities for riders to showcase and practice their skills.

Additionally, the resort offers other winter activities such as snow tubing, ice skating, and snowshoeing, ensuring there are options for everyone to enjoy.  They also provide rental equipment, retail shops, dining options, and a spacious lodge where guests can relax and warm up.

Sugar Mountain Ski Resort also offers nearby accommodation options, including vacation rentals, condos, and hotels.

Snow Tubing at Hawksnest

Hawksnest Snow Tubing

Snow Tubing in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a popular winter activity, and Hawksnest offers one of the largest snow snow tubing parks on the East Coast. 

Hawksnest is located just a short drive from Banner Elk NC in Sevin Devils NC. Just off NC Highway 105.  Hawksnest's has more than 30 tubing lanes dedicated to snow tubing only, making it one of, if not, the largest.

The lanes are specially designed for tubing, with groomed tracks and a lift system that carries tubers back up to the top of the hill.

They also offers various amenities and facilities to make your snow tubing experience more enjoyable including a lodge where guests can take a break, warm up, and enjoy food and beverages. They also provide parking areas, restrooms, and additional fun activities

Hawksnest offers an enjoyable snow tubing experience amidst the picturesque beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Things to do in Banner Elk NC

Things to do in Banner Elk NC - Apple Hill Farms

Apple Hill Farms

Shop and Explore Downtown Banner Elk

Downtown Banner Elk, located in the heart of Banner Elk NC, offers a charming and vibrant atmosphere that is packed to the brim with restaurants, shops and stores full of a variety of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy.  

While small, there is no shortage of things to do in Banner Elk NC's downtown.   Some of the things to do in downtown Banner Elk NC include:

  • Explore Local Shops and Boutiques - Downtown Banner Elk is home to an array of unique shops and boutiques. Stroll along the streets and browse through clothing stores, art galleries, gift shops, and specialty stores. You can find locally made crafts, artwork, clothing, and souvenirs, making it a great place to discover one-of-a-kind treasures.  There is even a really nice arcade with old classics and new games as well.
  • Relax at one of the bars, Cafes or Ice Cream shops - The downtown section is full of small places to grab a bite to eat.   From bars, to small coffee shops, to an outstanding ice cream shop.  You'll find the perfect treat for you and the family.
  • Attend Festivals and Events: Throughout the year, downtown Banner Elk hosts various festivals and events that bring the community together. From music festivals and art shows to holiday celebrations and farmers markets, there's always something happening in downtown Banner Elk. Check the local event calendar to see what's taking place during your visit.
  • Relax in Local Parks and Public Spaces - One of the things we loved about downtown Banner Elk are all fo the public spaces where you can just hang out, and enjoy all of the activity.   Banner Elk offers several parks and public spaces where you can unwind and enjoy the outdoors. Take a leisurely walk, have a picnic, or simply sit and enjoy the scenery. 

Enjoy a walk at Tate-Evans Park

Things to do in Banner Elk NC

Tate-Evans Park is a beautiful public park located in Banner Elk. The park offers a range of recreational activities and amenities, making it a popular spot for both residents and visitors. 

Tate-Evans Park is conveniently located in the heart of Banner Elk, making it easily accessible for everyone. The park is located right off Main Street, near downtown Banner Elk, and is easily reachable by car or on foot.

The park has a variety of outdoor facilities for visitors to enjoy. It features well-maintained and paved walking trails, picnic areas equipped with tables and grills, and playground equipment for children to have fun.  

Even better?  There are multiple playground areas for different ages and the equipment is tailored to the age group.

The park is also very Dog-friendly, welcoming visitors to bring their furry family members along. The park provides designated "dog-park" areas where dogs can roam and play off-leash, allowing them to enjoy the outdoors as well. 

What we really enjoyed about Tate-Evans Park is its beautiful scenic setting and well manicured grounds.

The park is surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes, including tall trees, open green spaces, and picturesque views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are lots of flowers, and beautiful creek flows right through the middle and has small waterfalls.

Taste the wine at Banner Elk Winery

Banner Elk Winery

Wine enthusiasts will be delighted by Banner Elk Winery, located just a short drive from downtown Banner Elk.  This award winning winery offers wine tasting, samples, live music, and gorgeous indoor and outdoor seating areas.  

Banner Elk Winery is located in a beautiful setting, surrounded by mountain views, vineyards, a large building, and villas. The winery's location and setting provides a beautiful spot for visitors to relax and enjoy their wine tasting experience.

Banner Elk Winery specializes in producing handcrafted wines using traditional winemaking techniques. The winery is known for its very diverse selection of wines, including both red and white varieties.

Banner Elk Winery

Some of their most popular wines are: Banner Elk White, Banner Elk Red, Sangiovese, and the High Country Rose.  Our favorites were the Heirloom Red Blend and the Sangiovese.

The winery offers an open welcoming, and very casual tasting room where visitors can sample a variety of their wines, including seasonal favorites.   Knowledgeable staff members guide guests through the tasting process, providing insights into the winemaking process, flavor profiles, and food pairings. Tasting fees apply, and reservations may be required during peak times.

The winery hosts a number of different events throughout the year. These include wine release parties, wine pairing dinners, live music performances, and seasonal celebrations. 

One of the things we really enjoyed about Banner Elk Winery, besides the wine of course, is the outside seating area.   They have lots of various seating options located all around the property and small lake/pond.   It makes for a beautiful setting to just relax, enjoy some great wine, snacks, and live music.

We had no idea Banner Elk had it's own winery until our recent visit, and we loved it.

See the Alpacas at Apple Hill Farm

Apple Hill Farm Banner Elk NC

Apple Hill Farm is located a short drive out in the surrounding mountains of Banner Elk.  This working farm offers a unique and family-friendly experience, allowing visitors to interact with a variety of farm animals and enjoy the gorgeous setting and surrounding high elevation mountain views.  

The highest point on the farm is 4,300 feet in elevation

The main attractions at Apple Hill Farm are the friendly and well-cared-for farm animals. Visitors have the opportunity to interact with a range of farm animals, including pot-bellied pigs, alpacas, goats, llamas, chickens, donkeys, horses, cows, and more. 

Apple Hill Farm offers guided tours where visitors can learn all about the farm, it's animals, and operation. The tours show you the animals up close, allow you to safely interact with them, and the guides share lots of great information about them.  You can even feed them, pet them and give them treats.

Our guide was Abby, and she did an amazing job teaching us about the animals and helping us learn about Apple Hill Farm.

Goats at Apple Hill Farm

The farm features a gift shop at the end of your tour, where you can browse and purchase a variety of products made from the farm's animals. These may include alpaca fiber products, such as yarn, scarves, hats, and gloves. 

The farm is also very scenic, surrounding by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, and there are a few fantastic long range views as well, making for some great family photo spots.   

Apple Hill Farm is provides a very family-friendly atmosphere, making it the perfect destination for the whole family. Children, in particular, will enjoy the opportunity to get up close with the animals and learn all about farming.

Apple Hill Farms should definitely be on your must visit list.

Ride the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster 

Wilderness Run Mountain Coaster Banner Elk NC

Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster is a fairly new addition to Banner Elk, opening in 2019.  

The Alpine Coaster is an exhilarating outdoor attraction located in Banner Elk NC, not far from the downtown area. The coaster allows visitors to zoom down the mountainside on a specially designed track and it is loads of fun.   This was my (Larry's) favorite thing to do.

The Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster is a down hill coaster that combines the excitement of a roller coaster with the beauty of the surrounding nature. Riders board individual sleds that are securely attached to the track.

Using a hand brake system, visitors have control over their speed as they descend the track.   The cars also have clear shields on the front to help protect from the elements.

The alpine coaster track is specially designed to navigate the natural contours of the mountains as you come down. The track twists and turns, providing an exciting and thrilling experience. The track features banked curves, dips, and descents, making it loads of fun and a real adrenaline rush.

Things to do in Banner Elk NC

The Wilderness Run Coaster also has a very nice gift shop, coffee shop, and various drinks and snacks.  Be sure to check-out the Adventure Course next door, for more challenging thrills.

We love mountain coasters and the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster is one of our top favorites for a thrilling and smooth ride down the mountain!

Challenge yourself at the Wilderness Run Adventure Course

Wilderness Run Adventure Course

Wilderness Run Adventure Course is located immediately next door to the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster.  

The course offers a range of challenging and thrilling activities that will test your physical abilities, problem-solving skills, and sense of adventure and your fear of heights and falling!   

The adventure course is basically a multi-level, multi-difficulty high ropes course with various suspended obstacles and elements to overcome. Guests navigate through a series of challenges, such as rope bridges, tightropes, swinging logs, and more, all while safely harnessed in to a guide cable.

This was a real challenge for us, as we're both a bit afraid of heights. We certainly didn't get as far as we had hoped on the course, but we did better than we expected.  The goal is to get to the top and ring the bell. 

The course has three sections, and even a special section just for younger children.  There is beginner, intermediate and expert.   We suggest starting at beginner and working your way up ... literally.

Wilderness Run is very good at putting the safety of their guests first, and the adventure course adheres to strict safety standards. Trained staff members provide safety instructions, and participants are equipped with appropriate safety gear and harnesses.  Guides are out on the course to assist you if needed as well.

You wear a full safety harness that the guides check over before you get on the course.  They also use a really unique and safe could locking system, so you are constantly attached to a safety cable at all times.  It is literally impossible to not be hooked up safely.

While a challenging and bit scary for us, we really enjoyed overcoming our fears and working through the obstacles on this course.  Teens and young adults will love this.

Go back in time at Banner House Museum

Banner House Museum Banner Elk NC

The Banner House Museum is a historic site and home located a short distance from downtown Banner Elk. The home offers visitors a glimpse into the region's history and provides insights into life in Banner Elk in the late 1800s.

We loved the tour, and hearing the stories of the town founders and contributors.  But most of all we enjoyed meeting and interacting with the staff that were so proud of the home and the area.  They were a real gift and made us realize how close knit the Banner Elk community is.

The Banner House Museum is housed in a historic home that dates back to the mid-1800s. The house was originally built by Samuel Henry Banner, one of the early pioneers and influential figures in the Banner Elk community.  

Banner House Museum

The Banner House itself is and beautiful old home that represents the style and construction techniques of the era. The home has undergone significant restoration efforts to preserve its original features, offering visitors a glimpse into the past and a sense of the living conditions during that time.  The home is furnished with items and furniture that is representative of the time period as well.

The museum typically offers guided tours led by very knowledgeable and passionate staff and volunteers.  They provide interesting stories, historical context, and answer questions. These tours really enhanced our experience and appreciation for the town and it's history. 

The Banner House Museum operates with specific hours of operation, and there may is a small admission fee to support the museum's preservation efforts. We recommend checking the museum's website or contacting them directly for the most up-to-date information on visiting hours, admission fees, and any special events or exhibitions.

The museum and tour is really enjoyable, and is a great way to spend some time if waiting on dinner, or in between activities.  We were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed our visit.

Grandfather Mountain

Foggy and rainy day at the Mile High Bridge at Grandfather Mountain

A visit to Banner Elk is incomplete without exploring the awe-inspiring Grandfather Mountain. This iconic landmark delivers breathtaking views, challenging high elevation hiking trails, and of course the famous Mile-High Swinging Bridge.  

The bridge provides an exhilarating high elevation walk that provides panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. 

Grandfather Mountain is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, near Banner Elk NC. The mountain is one of the most iconic landmarks in the region and offers a variety of natural attractions and outdoor activities.

While the high elevation sites alone are wonderful and thrilling, the weather at Grandfather varies greatly, and can be very severe.  During our recent visit on our weekend getaway to Banner Elk, we visited Grandfather on a very stormy and windy day.

Grandfather Mountain

The wind was incredibly strong, gusting above 50 miles per hour!  Walking across the bridge was like standing in a Hurricane, it was incredible and not for the faint of heart.

Grandfather Mountain is well known for its scenic beauty and stunning vistas. The mountain boasts rugged cliffs, lush high elevation forests, and rocky scenic landscapes.  The views of the surrounding lower elevation mountains and valleys are substantial and some of the best long distance views you can find in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Grandfather Mountain offers more than just stunning views, with a number of things to see and do during your visit, including:

Bald Eagle at Grandfather Mountain

Mile High Swinging Bridge - The main highlight of Grandfather Mountain is the Mile High Swinging Bridge. Suspended at an elevation of  5,280 feet, it offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges, valleys, and forests. The bridge is an iconic attraction and provides a thrilling experience for visitors.

Wildlife Habitat - Grandfather Mountain is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. The mountain's varied ecosystems support a rich array of plant and animal species. Visitors can encounter wildlife such as black bears, deer, eagles, otters, and various bird species. The mountain's habitat is preserved and protected, contributing to its ecological significance.

Hiking and Trails - The mountain features a network of hiking trails catering to different skill levels. These trails provide opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to explore the mountain's natural beauty up close. Popular trails include the Grandfather Trail, Profile Trail, and Daniel Boone Scout Trail, each offering unique views and challenges.

Visitor Facilities - The mountain provides visitor facilities, including a nature museum, gift shop, picnic areas, and a Mildred's Restaurant, which serves up good food, and especially their burgers. 

>> For more information on Grandfather Mountain, see our Grandfather Mountain Guide.

Enjoy the amazing Culinary Delights in Banner Elk NC

Steak from Stonewalls Restaurant

We didn't know this until our recent visit, but Banner Elk has some amazing places to eat.  Turns out, it's become very well known for its culinary scene, and has a variety of upscale restaurants offering incredibly and unique food.

Indulge in farm-to-table dishes prepared with locally sourced ingredients, savor mouthwatering steaks, enjoy fresh seafood delicacies, or experience family Italian recipes from Sicily.

The town's vibrant dining options cater to all tastes and preferences.   We really enjoyed eating at many of the restaurants, and you can find our top picks in our Best Restaurants in Banner Elk guide.

Explore the Blue Ridge Parkway

Fall Color at Linn Cove Viaduct

A scenic drive along one of the most iconic roads in the world, the Blue Ridge Parkway is only minutes away from downtown Banner Elk.   Linn Cove Viaduct, one of the most iconic sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway is also only minutes away as well.

A drive on the Parkway provides breathtaking and long range views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains and vibrant foliage during the fall season.  Along your Parkway journey, you discover numerous overlooks, hiking trails waterfalls, historic structures and more.

 A drive along the parkway allows visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty of these mountains and capture stunning photographs to share.  For more information on the Blue Ridge Parkway, see our Ultimate Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Nearby Towns to Visit

Downtown Blowing Rock NC

Downtown Blowing Rock NC

Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Banner Elk, NC, serves as an excellent base for exploring the surrounding towns and experiencing the unique charm the "High Country" has to offer.

Here are just a few of the wonderful neighboring towns that are definitely worth a visit: 

  • Boone - Just a short drive from Banner Elk, Boone NC is a vibrant college town and the home of Appalachian State University. It offers a mix of outdoor activities, cultural attractions, and a bustling downtown area. Visitors can explore the historic streets, visit local shops and galleries, and enjoy live music.   
  • Blowing Rock -  Known as the "Crown of the Blue Ridge," Blowing Rock NC is a picturesque town with stunning views and a quaint downtown. It is famous for its namesake, the Blowing Rock, a cliff that offers breathtaking vistas of the surrounding mountains. Visitors can stroll along Main Street, browse unique boutiques, dine in charming restaurants, and visit attractions like the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum, Tweetsie Railroad,  and Mystery Hill.
  • Linville - Nestled in the Linville Gorge, often referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the East," Linville is a scenic town with natural beauty in every direction. It is home to Linville Caverns, the only publicly accessible caverns in North Carolina, where visitors can explore fascinating underground formations. Linville also offers access to Linville Falls, a majestic waterfall within the Pisgah National Forest, and the picturesque Linville Gorge Wilderness.
  • Valle Crucis - Located a short distance from Boone, Valle Crucis is a small historic community known for its beautiful location and rustic charm. The area is home to the historic Mast General Store, a popular destination for visitors seeking a step back in time. Valle Crucis also offers opportunities for outdoor activities, such as hiking along the scenic Valle Crucis Community Park trails or fishing in the Watauga River.
  • Beech Mountain - Situated adjacent to Banner Elk, Beech Mountain NC is the highest town east of the Mississippi River. It is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering activities such as skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, and hiking. Visitors can also explore the Land of Oz, a whimsical theme park that opens for special events and tours throughout the year.

These nearby towns around Banner Elk NC, provide a variety of experiences that compliment the region's beauty and charm. They provide something for everyone, whether you're looking for outdoor adventures, cultural attractions, great food, or a laid-back mountain atmosphere.

Exploring the surrounding towns and locations is a great opportunity to extend your visit to Banner Elk and create lasting memories of your time in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Day Trips from Banner Elk NC

Asheville NC Travel Guide

Photo by: Mandy Janney Gallimore, Making Memories Photography

Banner Elk, NC, serves as the perfect hub for exploring surrounding areas and going off on adventurous day trips.

From scenic drives, to charming towns and outdoor wonders, here are some fun destinations to consider for a day trip from Banner Elk:

  1. Asheville - A little over an hour's drive from Banner Elk, Asheville NC is a large and vibrant city known for its arts, culture, and culinary scene. While there, explore the iconic Biltmore Estate, visit the River Arts District, and wander through the vibrant downtown area with its eclectic shops, breweries, and restaurants. Asheville is full of things to do for everyone.  
  2. Linville Gorge and Falls - Visit nearby Linville Gorge Wilderness for a day of natural beauty. This area is known as the "Grand Canyon of the East," and it boasts breathtaking vistas, difficult hiking trails, and the majestic Linville Falls. Lose yourself in the serene and peaceful atmosphere as you hike along the rim or descend into the gorge to appreciate the sheer raw beauty of "the gorge".
  3. Roan Mountain - A scenic drive from Banner Elk leads to Roan Mountain, known for its expansive "balds" and stunning rhododendron gardens. Hike along the Appalachian Trail to witness panoramic views of the surrounding mountains or visit in late June to witness the breathtaking display of blooming rhododendrons. The area offers a unique escape into nature, with scenic trails and opportunities for picnicking and wildlife spotting.


Here are some answers to common questions often asked about Banner Elk NC.

How far apart are Boone and Banner Elk?

Boone and Banner Elk are located very close to each other in what is often called the "High Country region of North Carolina".

The distance between Boone and Banner Elk is approximately 13 miles, making them neighboring towns. The drive between the two towns typically takes around 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the specific route taken and the traffic conditions.

This close proximity allows for easy access and convenience when exploring the various attractions, outdoor activities, and cultural offerings of both towns. Whether you're visiting Boone or Banner Elk, it's relatively quick and straightforward to travel between the two, allowing you to make the most of your time and enjoy the best of both destinations.

Is it expensive to live in Banner Elk NC?

The cost of living in Banner Elk, NC, can vary depending on individual circumstances and preferences. However, compared to some major cities, Banner Elk generally has a lower cost of living. Here are a few factors to consider:

  1. Housing - Housing prices in Banner Elk can be relatively high compared to the national average. The area is known for its scenic beauty, which tends to drive up property values. Renting or purchasing a home in Banner Elk may require a larger financial commitment compared to some other locations. However, there is a range of housing options available, including apartments, townhouses, and single-family homes, catering to different budgets.
  2. Utilities and Services - The cost of utilities, such as electricity, water, and internet, is typically in line with national averages. These expenses can vary depending on the size of the property and personal consumption habits.
  3. Groceries and Goods - The cost of groceries and everyday goods in Banner Elk is generally comparable to the national average. There are several supermarkets and local stores where residents can find a wide range of products at reasonable prices.
  4. Dining and Entertainment - The cost of dining out and entertainment options in Banner Elk can vary depending on the establishment and the type of experience sought. The area offers a mix of casual and upscale dining choices, with prices reflecting the quality and ambiance of each venue.
  5. Transportation - The cost of transportation in Banner Elk is influenced by factors such as fuel prices, vehicle ownership costs, and commuting distances. Owning a car and maintaining it may be necessary, as public transportation options can be limited in more rural areas.  Due to the mountains, maintenance costs on cars are more than average.

Important to note is that individual spending habits and lifestyle choices greatly impact the overall cost of living. While some expenses may be higher in Banner Elk, the area's natural beauty, outdoor recreational opportunities, and quality of life often make it a desirable place to live and in many cases, worth the additional cost.

Does Banner Elk have a town?

Yes, Banner Elk NC is a town and it has a town.  The main portion of town is located at the intersection of Main Street and Shawneehaw Ave.   The entire town is less than 2 square miles overall.

How big is Banner Elk NC?

Banner Elk, located in Avery County, North Carolina, is a small community nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The area encompasses approximately 1.2 square miles. While the physical size of Banner Elk is relatively small, its natural beauty and recreational opportunities make it an appealing destination for residents and visitors.

Despite its compact size, Banner Elk offers a wide range of amenities, including a downtown area with shops, restaurants, and services. Banner Elk also serves as a gateway to outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, fishing, and exploring the surrounding mountain landscapes.

What road is from Boone to Banner Elk?

The primary road that connects Boone to Banner Elk is US-321. This route provides a direct and convenient connection between the two towns.

Starting in Boone, you would head northeast on US-321, also known as the Blowing Rock Road. The road winds through scenic mountain vistas and passes through the communities of Valle Crucis and Foscoe before reaching Banner Elk. The approximate distance between Boone and Banner Elk is about 13 miles, and the drive typically takes around 20 to 25 minutes, depending on traffic and road conditions.

What wild animals live in Banner Elk NC?

Deer in Banner Elk

Banner Elk, North Carolina, is home to a diverse range of wildlife due to its location in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Some of the wild animals that can be found in the area include:

  1. White-tailed Deer - These graceful and common mammals are frequently spotted in and around Banner Elk. They are known for their distinctive white tail and are often seen grazing in meadows or forests.  We have a seen a lot of deer in the Banner Elk and Beech Mountains areas.
  2. Black Bears - The mountainous terrain of Banner Elk provides a suitable habitat for black bears. While encounters with these creatures are relatively rare, it's important to be cautious and follow proper safety guidelines when in bear country.
  3. Wild Turkeys - These large birds are known for their striking plumage and are commonly seen in and around Banner Elk. They are primarily ground-dwelling and can often be spotted foraging in fields and forests.
  4. Red-tailed Hawks - These majestic birds of prey are frequently spotted soaring over open areas or perched in trees. They are known for their reddish-brown tails and their impressive hunting skills.

Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Banner Elk NC

Banner Elk, North Carolina, is a hidden gem situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The town has a variety of activities and attractions for visitors, thanks to its gorgeous natural settings, thriving arts scene, and hospitable community.

This lovely and fun town has something for everyone, from outdoor adventure to great food. Plan a trip to Banner Elk and enjoy the beauty and warmth and all of the fun and fantastic things to see and do!

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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