Banner Elk - Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina

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!

Early Settlement
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 1911.

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 in 1968.

Lees-McRae College
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 Lees-McRae College.

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 1997)
External Jurisdiction: 424 (estimated from a 1999 survey)

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 number one!

  • 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.

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