Few places in the North Carolina mountains have the variety of leaf-viewing options that Banner Elk offers. Nestled at 3,701 feet above sea level, Banner Elk normally reaches peak color around the third or fourth weekend of October. Leaves typically begin changing in late September or early October, followed by a vivid progression that now often stretches into early November.
Banner Elk is surrounded by scenic peaks and native hardwoods, with many vantage points to view autumn’s splendor. One of the best vantage points is the famous Mile-High Swinging Bridge atop Grandfather Mountain. People from all over the East Coast visit in fall to take in the panoramic view from Grandfather.
There are many different ways to view fall color in Banner Elk. Some prefer to take in the splendor from kayaks and canoes on Wildcat Lake, while others take to the hiking trails in and around the town limits. The Profile Trail at Grandfather Mountain State Park offers great views and has its trail head on the outskirts of Banner Elk. Another popular place is the high-altitude Emerald Outback trail park.
Banner Elk’s famous Woolly Worm Festival conducts woolly bear caterpillar races the third weekend of October to determine which woolly worm receives the honor of forecasting the upcoming winter weather in the NC High Country. Learn more about this unique festival by clicking here.
Another nice thing about a fall visit to Banner Elk is the close proximity to peak fall color from early October to early November. A quick 15-minute drive in early October up to Beech Mountain puts you at peak color because of its 5,506-foot elevation. Or, you can drive about 30 minutes in early November down to the Linville Caverns area and view peak colors there.
When the autumnal day is done, settle into comfortable lodging and indulge in a delicious cuisine from a number of eateries. A bountiful food selection gives Banner Elk its nickname of “the Culinary Hot Spot of the NC High Country.”
Trip Advisor analyzed user ratings for all U.S. towns that have rental properties available on its website. It then calculated the average cost of a week’s stay in a two-bedroom vacation rental in those cities and towns.
The end result? Banner Elk made the list thanks to a user rating of 4.8 stars on a 5-star scale and its affordable, yet upscale, lodging options.
“There’s nothing cozier than a family cabin rental in the woods, where nights are spent around the fireplace drinking hot cocoa and enjoying each other’s company,” says Trip Advisor in its ranking. “Banner Elk offers this in spades, with rentals going for just $765 per week on average for a two-bedroom property. Depending which winter month you visit, you may catch temperatures warm enough for hiking and outdoor recreation, or it could dip low enough for fresh powder on the slopes.”
Banner Elk has long been known throughout the Southeast for its close proximity to two of the largest ski resorts in the region – Beech Mountain Resort and Sugar Mountain Resort. Both are less than 15 minutes from the town’s lone stoplight.
And, the list places Banner Elk in very good company. Among the other hidden gems are: Redmond, Ore.; Cody, Wyoming; Fort Pierce, Fla.; and Garden City Beach, S.C. Of the 10 places ranked, only Chelan, Wash., had a better user rating than Banner Elk.
“Trip Advisor is the top website in the U.S. for consumer-rated travel. It’s a big deal when a site of that magnitude recognizes Banner Elk,” says Nancy Owen, representative of the Banner Elk Tourism Development Authority. “This exposes Banner Elk to millions of people throughout North America and paints us in a very positive light. It also lets people know that, even though we have very nice accommodations, we are also reasonably priced.”
For more info on Banner Elk lodging options, go to the lodging section of this website.
Travelers wishing to visit the North Carolina mountains can do so in Banner Elk. We are open to visitors.
Located near Boone in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Banner Elk began welcoming tourists back on May 6, 2020.
Since May 22, lodging places in Banner Elk have been able to rent all of their available units. That includes the Best Western Mountain Lodge, which has instituted strict cleaning and sanitation procedures detailed in this article by the High Country Press.
Other lodging options have implemented enhanced cleaning protocol as well. For a complete list of accommodations in Banner Elk, click here.
Visitors to Banner Elk can choose from many outdoor activities, including Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster, the newest attraction in the North Carolina mountains and the first alpine coaster ever built in North Carolina.
One of the largest and best known attractions in the NC mountains is Grandfather Mountain, which is 15 minutes from Banner Elk. Grandfather Mountain is a nature preserve and park that includes hiking trails, animal habitats and the famous Mile High Swinging Bridge with sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Grandfather Mountain reopened May 15 with certain restrictions, including a requirement that all tickets be purchased in advance with a reserved date and time for admittance. This allows for limits on crowd sizes.
Folks wishing to visit Grandfather Mountain and stay overnight in Banner Elk can do so via Banner Elk’s Grandfather Mountain Lodging Package. The package includes an overnight stay and two tickets to Grandfather Mountain (additional tickets can be added). When booking this package, your lodging host will make your advanced reservation for admittance into Grandfather Mountain.
Apple Hill Farm is a popular attraction in Banner Elk that is again open to guests. This working farm allows guests to interact with alpacas and llamas, as well as goats, chickens and other animals. Tours are available by reservation only. For those not yet ready to travel, Apple Hill offers virtual visits via Zoom. These 10-minute video visits with alpacas and llamas cost just $10 and have been booked by people all over the world!
More outdoor summer adventure is available at Beech Mountain Resort and Sugar Mountain Resort.
Beech Mountain Resort opens June 5 with scenic chairlift rides, downhill mountain biking, disc golf, take-out food service and outdoor service at the 5506′ Skybar. Beech Mountain has announced operating hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Full details are available via this article by the High Country Press.
Sugar Mountain resort offers scenic chairlift rides and downhill mountain biking, including the new Easy Street trail for beginners and intermediate riders. After being open Memorial Day Weekend, Sugar Mountain will resume operations again on July 3 and operate Fridays through Sundays until Sept. 7. Additional details are available via this article by the High Country Press.
Other outdoor activities available in Banner Elk include:
Wildcat Lake – a 13-acre lake with a white-sand beach, swimming pier and fishing dock
Blue Ridge Parkway – A beautiful stretch of the Parkway is near Banner Elk
After a day of outdoor recreation, Banner Elk satisfies the appetite with an impressive collection of restaurants. This small Blue Ridge Mountain town has earned the nickname “Culinary Hot Spot of the High Country” for its cuisine. From white linen dining to upscale restaurants to casual bistros, Banner Elk can satisfy every appetite. One of our restaurants has twice been recognized among the Top 100 in America by OpenTable.com.
For a complete listing of Banner Elk restaurants, click here. To see what WBTV’s Queen City Weekend thinks of Banner Elk’s restaurant scene, check out this video …
*PLEASE NOTE: Like other places in our wonderful state, we ask visitors to practice safe measures when in public spaces. This includes the three Ws: wait six feet apart, wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds and wear a cloth face covering. Furthermore, refrain from venturing into public spaces if experiencing a fever or signs of sickness.
Lastly, if you’re not quite ready to get back to traveling, you can visit virtually with this relaxing video.
There’s no tubing like snow tubing, and the Banner Elk area is home to four of the best places to snow tube in the North Carolina mountains.
Snow tubing is among the easiest — and most fun — winter sports because it requires little preparation, equipment or skill. Just hop on a tube and whoosh your way down the hill.
Visitors to Banner Elk have a quartet of options. Within a few minutes of downtown are snow tubing parks at Sugar Mountain Resort and Beech Mountain Resort. About 25 minutes from town is Hawksnest Snow Tubing at the former Hawksnest ski resort. And, 30 minutes from Banner Elk is Jonas Ridge Snow Tubing.
All of these tubing parks provide 100% snowmaking to help with snow conditions when Mother Nature is taking a break, and they are considered the cream of the crop for snow tubing in North Carolina. But as far as which one is the best depends on what you’re looking for.
Hawksnest Snow Tubing is the biggest. It converted from a ski resort to snow tubing in 2008, giving it plenty of space. There are more than 30 runs in four sections, all connected by conveyor carpet lifts. The runs range in length from 400 to 1,000 feet.
Hawksnest also offers a winter zipline tour that soars above the tubing lanes. Because its elevation is not as high as Sugar Mountain or Beech Mountain, it occasionally encounters slightly warmer temperatures that create challenges in snowmaking.
The snow tubing park at Beech Mountain Resort is the newest. This state-of-the-art facility opened in winter of 2015-16 in the Alpine Village at the base of the ski slopes. The eight runs are extra-long and punctuated by small moguls known as rollers. It is lighted and surrounded by high-tech snow guns and a sound system. A Magic Carpet conveyor whisks tubers quickly back to the top.
Customers can buy tickets right there in the Beech Mountain ski village and enjoy other activities in the village, including ice skating and shopping, when finished with snowtubing.
Sugar Mountain Resort has the closest snow tubing park to Banner Elk. Sugar Mountain is known for strong snowmaking capabilities on the ski slopes and that goes the same for its snow tubing runs. Six runs are served by a conveyor carpet lift and Sugar probably stays open the most days each winter. The tubing runs are adjacent to the skating rink and both are easy to access because they have their own parking lot before you get further up the mountain to the ski resort.
Jonas Ridge is a smaller operation that has been in business since 2004. It has five lanes and recently replaced its rope tow with a conveyor carpet lift. Photographers take pictures as you tube and the photos are available for purchase on the spot, or later online. There is a small, cozy lodge with a fireplace and an observation deck.
Although snow tubing is easy and no lessons are needed, there are a few things you can do to maximize your adventure:
First, wear warm socks and waterproof or water-resistant winter boots. Otherwise, your shoes will get soggy, wet and/or ruined, and your feet will be cold the entire time.
Second, wear a winter jacket that is either waterproof or water-resistant for all those same reasons. You will be on ground level and encountering snow and slush.
Third, pay attention to your pants. If you don’t have waterproof/water-resistant pants, make sure to wear thermal underwear or some other layer underneath your pants (jeans are okay, but they are 100% cotton and absorb a lot of water).
Fourth, wear a ski cap (or beanie, tobaggon, whatever you call it) and an old pair of sunglasses. Your head and face will encounter wind as you whoosh down the tubing runs!
Finally, when the day of fun is done, head to your choice of lodging in Banner Elk and then check out the amazing culinary scene. Better yet, stay a couple nights and visit all four tubing parks in one trip!
An invigorating winter getaway awaits in the mile-high elevations surrounding Banner Elk. This town in the North Carolina mountains offers the chance to get outdoors with hiking and exploring at Grandfather Mountain, as well as snowtubing at nearby ski resorts.
One of the biggest winter attractions in the area is Grandfather Mountain — known for its distinctive profile and Mile High Swinging Bridge. The mountain, a popular attraction since the 1950s, is open daily in winter, weather permitting.
Grandfather’s 12 miles of trails include easy and advanced routes. For a low-impact adventure, talk a walk across the Mile High Swinging Bridge or embark on an easy hike through forests and meadows. Those wishing to take it up a notch can do so on backcountry trails featuring challenging and rocky terrain. Winter hikes afford long-range views not visible when leaves are on the trees.
“A winter hike is one of the most invigorating, fun and memorable outings that you can make during this season,” says Frank Ruggiero with Grandfather Mountain. “You can see winter spread out through the whole High County.”
At 5,946 feet in elevation, Grandfather Mountain experiences beautiful snowfalls. And when there’s no snow, rime ice often forms on spruce fir trees, giving the appearance of a fresh dusting of the white stuff.
Snow brings out the animals’ personalities in Grandfather’s wildlife habitat. Cougars Logan and Trinity frolic in the fluffy flakes. Resident elk, Doc, Merle and Watson, look particularly regal against a backdrop of snow, and the mountain’s four otters steal the show.
“The otters are an absolute riot,” Ruggiero says. “They adore the snow. They go ice-skating, slide down hills and play hockey on the pond by sliding a rock back and forth to each other.”
If you want to enjoy winter sliding, try snow tubing. Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain resorts offer multiple tubing runs with advanced snowmaking and grooming to keep the chutes slick. Twenty-five minutes away, Hawksnest Snow Tubing has more than 30 runs and a zipline experience above the tubing runs. Click here to read all about snow tubing in Banner Elk.
After your winter adventure, enjoy Banner Elk’s top-notch culinary scene at one of more than a dozen independent restaurants. Standouts include authentic Italian dishes made from family recipes, a classic steakhouse with a famous salad bar and a cozy lodge with some of the best trout in the mountains.
North Carolina’s High Country is a welcome escape any time of year, but winter is especially magical. And when it comes to choosing a winter destination in the NC mountains, Banner Elk just might be the ideal spot.
Banner Elk, located near Boone, is known for cozy lodging, romantic getaways, family fun and great restaurants. It’s place that has both small town charm and big city amenities.
The two largest winter sports venues in the South – Beech Mountain Resort and Sugar Mountain Resort – are located within 10 minutes of Banner Elk’s lone stoplight. Both resorts offers skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and snowtubing. There’s even a free youth sledding hill in the town of Beech Mountain.
When the sun goes down, Banner Elk’s reputation as a culinary hotspot takes center stage. There are more than a dozen popular restaurants within this town of just 1,067 residents. Culinary choices range from contemporary to traditional, with everything from white tablecloth fine dining to tasty Southern comfort food. Ethnic cuisine runs the gamut from Italian to Cajun to Mexican to Vietnamese.
For a romantic day of exploring, visit the local wineries. Banner Elk Winery has several award-winning dry wines, and is also known for its unusual ice wine. At Grandfather Vineyard and Winery, every bottle comes with a view of its namesake mountain. As you sip a glass by the tasting room fireplace, it’s easy to see why winter is better here.
There are two craft breweries in and around Banner Elk. Kettell Beerworks is located on Main Street East and always features a winter brew. Just up the mountain from Banner Elk is Beech Mountain Brewing Co., nestled in the alpine village at the base of the Beech Mountain ski slopes.
Sometimes, the best thing about a winter getaway is spending quality time in your lodging of choice, and Banner Elk has a banner selection. Cozy cabins. Upscale condos. Friendly bed-and-breakfast inns. Comfortable hotels. Spacious vacation homes.
Many of Banner Elk’s lodging options feature a mountain motif and most have a fireplace for making warm memories on cold winter nights in the NC mountains.
Did you know Banner Elk is North Carolina’s top ski town? Click here to learn more about ski vacations in Banner Elk or call us at 828-898-5398.