Banner Elk is always cool (natural air conditioning), even in the summertime. Although winter is wonderful, there are so many things to see and do in the spring, summer and fall
in Banner Elk.
Banner Elk, and surrounding High Country area, offers many
NC hiking trails, whitewater rafting, horseback riding and hiking on the waterfall trails of the Blue Ridge are very popular activities as well.
Banner Elk is within a short distance from many of the well-known family attractions, such as Tweetsie Railroad, Grandfather Mountain, Linville Caverns and more!
Banner Elk is located in the northwest quadrant of
Avery County in the Appalachian Highlands 3,739 feet
above sea level (Banner Elk Development Plan, 1967).
High peaks and rugged ridges surround the town. The
area of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North
Carolina in many respects has stronger
historic and cultural ties with the neighboring
mountainous regions of Tennessee and Virginia than
with all other regions of North Carolina. The area
of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina
is beautiful during all seasons of the year. Fall
foliage produces a dazzling panorama of color. The
area is famous for its flora and fauna.
Rhododendron, mountain laurel, flame azalea, and
wild flowers are abundant. Bear, deer, and other
wildlife inhabit the forests that surround Banner
Elk (Cooper, 1964).
Now days Banner Elk is known for NC skiing, golf, and
four seasons of vacation fun and relaxing
lifestyles. We have many summer residents as well as
North Carolina Mountain vacation home owners that make Banner Elk a home
away from home for a variety of reasons. Lees McCrae
College offers cultural arts and entertainment and
there's always the assortment of shops and
restaurants to keep you busy!
The first human inhabitants of the Banner Elk area
were the Cherokee Indians. The Cherokee used the Elk
River Valley as hunting grounds, but evidence of a
permanent settlement has never been discovered
(Cooper, 1964). The first white settlers of Banner
Elk were Delilah Baird and John Holtsclaw, who came
to the Big Bottoms of Elk in 1825, and settled on a
tract of land containing 480 acres. This land
included the Whitehead farm and extended to the
present site of Grandfather Home for Children
situated near Wildcat Lake. John and Delilah’s first
child, Alfred B. Baird, was the first white child
born in what is now the Banner Elk Township (Banner
Elk Development Plan, 1967). Martin L. Banner
established the first permanent settlement in 1848.
Although the Banner family originally came from
Wales, Martin Banner moved from Forsyth County
located in the piedmont region of North Carolina.
Eventually, the Banner family grew to 55 members,
and the area where they lived became known as
Banner’s Elk (Heritage, 1976). Other early settlers
include the Moody, Dugger, Abrams, Von Canon,
Keller, Smith, Lineback, and Foster families. The
early settlers of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North
Carolina area were the people of
northern European stock from what may be called the
yeoman class: English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh,
German, and Dutch (Cooper, 1964). The community
changed its name to Banner Elk when the North
Carolina General Assembly incorporated the town in
Agriculture, Industry, and Tourism
The rugged terrain made it difficult to travel,
therefore the early settlers had to be
self-sufficient. The climate and elevation of the
Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, supported
vegetable crops, especially cabbage and beans. Early
settlers also traded furs and raised cattle. Today,
the major agricultural cash crop is Christmas trees.
Banner Elk has never had a large industrial base.
The community is dominated by small, locally owned
businesses. With an increasing dependence on tourism
since the 1960’s, the Banner Elk area is a magnet to
vacationers and summer residents. Banner Elk offers
beautiful scenery, cool summers, a location between
three ski resorts, and a friendly atmosphere.
Tourism has been important to Banner Elk for over
100 years. The Banner Elk Hotel was built in 1892 to
accommodate tourists (Heritage, 1976). In the early
1900’s people began to build summer homes in the
area to enjoy the pleasant mountain environment. The
ability to manufacture snow made Banner Elk a year
round tourist attraction. Grover Robbins built Beech
Mountain Ski Resort in 1965, and Sugar Mountain Ski
Resort opened in 1969. Hawk’s Nest Ski Resort opened
Lees-McRae College has been a catalyst in the Banner
Elk, Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina area for about 100 years. Edgar Tufts founded
the Elizabeth McRae Institute for Girls in 1900. The
objective of the institute was to promote Christian
values by providing academic curricula that
encouraged intellectual, spiritual, physical, and
social growth (Heritage, 1976). Several
institutional changes occurred over the years. Mrs. S.P. Lees was a major benefactor, and a name change
occurred in 1903 to the Lees-McRae Institute (Neal,
1983). The addition of Plumtree School for Boys in
1927 made the institute coeducational (Heritage,
1976). The institute became Lees-McRae Junior
College in 1929, and when it received accreditation
as a four-year college in 1990, the name changed to
Health and Child Care Facilities
Health care facilities date back to 1908 when Edgar
Tufts recruited Dr. Charles Reed to the Banner Elk
area. Grace Hospital opened in 1908. Edgar Tufts
also founded the Grandfather Orphan’s Home to
provide a caring and home-like atmosphere for
orphaned children of the mountains (Neal, 1983).
Grace Hospital was replaced by the Charles A.
Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital in 1962. The original
orphan’s home evolved into Grandfather Home for
Children, which was inaugurated in 1939 (Banner Elk
Development Plan, 1967).
Town: 828 (including Lees-McRae students, as of
External Jurisdiction: 424 (estimated from a 1999
We've included some links below that will assist you
in finding things to do and sights to see!
- For complete 5-day forecasts, visit
High Country Weather.
- The High Country area is 'blessed' with many great golf courses and country clubs
offering challenging mountain golf at its best! Visit local
North Carolina Golf Courses.
- Whether you are looking for interesting walks and trails, fishing guides, gem mining,
or an exhilarating day of snow skiing - we've tried to cover it all. Visit
High Country Outdoors
for more information.
- You can count on
Ski North Carolina for all of the information that you need -
ski rentals, ski reports, road conditions, the area's ONLY LIVE
DATA weather station and more! That's what makes us
- For a wealth of information about the High Country, complete with LIVE
web cameras and more, visit
High Country Info.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact us (386) 690-8400, (386) 547-8771, or (828) 898-3115,
email us, or use our online request form.