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Calloway Peak on Grandfather Mountain is 5,964 feet above sea level.
Photo courtesy Michael Hardy

Originally published: 2012-09-28 10:44:04
Last modified: 2012-09-28 10:44:15

Our Avery County: Avery’s highs and lows

Michael Hardy / (

As I travel about doing lectures and book signings, people often ask me where I am from. In response, I proudly tell them, “I live in Western North Carolina, not far from the famous Grandfather Mountain.” Usually, I go further, buy adding that I live right at 4,000 feet, which is almost true. My house sits at 3,990 feet, and that means, as I tell folks, when the forecasters say on the local weather that it is going to snow “at the higher elevations,” that it starts at my house and goes up. They usually laugh, and say they wished they could live in the mountains of Western North Carolina. If they live along the coast, I ask them if we could swap houses in January and February.

We are truly blessed to call Avery County home. And I believe that Avery County has some of the best scenery and topography in all of Western North Carolina. 

For this week’s installment of “Our Avery County,” I thought we might look at the “highs and lows,” in relationship to elevation, here in the place that many of us call home. 

While people cannot seem to agree on its exact height, everyone seems to agree that the Grassy Ridge Bald, a part of the Roan Mountain chain, is the highest peak in Avery County. The elevation is around 6,165 feet. Grassy Ridge Bald is on the Avery/Mitchell County line, not far from the edge of Tennessee. 

Coming in a close second, at 5,964 feet above sea level, is Calloway Peak, the highest point in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Another source states that this peak is 5,896 feet. Calloway Peak, a part of the famous Grandfather Mountain area, is a spot that marks the boundary between Avery, Caldwell and Watauga counties.

There are several other peaks in our area that rise more than 5,000 feet. Big Yellow Mountain comes in at 5,439 feet above sea level. Hump Mountain, along the North Carolina and Tennessee line, near Elk Park, has an elevation of 5,538 feet. The elevation of Raven Rocks is calculated at 5,734 feet. Sugar Mountain is at 5,289 feet, and Beech Mountain comes in at 5,456 feet. 

The elevation of several places in Avery County has some renown. No, Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, is not in Avery County. It is actually in Yancey, two counties to our west, but we do have Linville Gap. Back when the railroad ran through the area, Linville Gap was the highest elevation in the eastern United States served by a passenger train. It has an elevation of 4,097 feet. Newland, the seat for Avery County, sits at an elevation of 3,621, and is the highest county seat in the eastern United States. The Town of Beech Mountain, at an elevation of 5,506 feet, is the highest incorporated community east of the Mississippi River. 

Other communities in the area include Crossnore, at 3,383 feet; Linville, at 3,665 feet; Elk Park at 3,166 feet; Banner Elk, at 3,739 feet; Minneapolis, at 3,665 feet; and Frank, at an elevation of 3,120 feet. 

Of course, with all of these highs, there most be some lows some place. Most of the places in Avery County with an elevation of less than 2,000 feet occur below the crest of the Blue Ridge, in the Pisgah National Forest. The Gragg Prong Fork is measured at 1,709 feet above sea level; Lost Cove Creek is at 1,558 feet; and Raiders Camp Creek is at 1,558 feet. The lowest spot in Avery County appears to be Harper Creek, at an elevation of 1,440 feet. 

Many of these sites, both high and low, are lovely, pristine locations that draw hikers, both local and visiting. One can meander along Harper Creek or Gragg Prong Fork or scale Calloway Peak or Grassy Ridge Bald. But it might be a good idea to check that weather forecast first.