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Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area, NC: Mountain Hiking Without the Crowds

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Stuck on house projects the last few weeks, we were desperate to get outdoors for the day. After spending the morning on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we stopped in the small town of West Jefferson to grab lunch. This is where we stumbled across the Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area.

What a find! The park is only 30-minutes from Boone, NC and just a short detour from the Blue Ridge Parkway. With gorgeous views, moderate hiking trails, and absolutely no crowds Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area is worth checking out. Plus, like most North Carolina State Parks, it’s free.

Pinterest Image Mt Jefferson (1)

Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area

Originally the mountain was named Panther Mountain, presumably due to the cougars that used to roam this area. In 1952, it was renamed after Thomas Jefferson and his father, who owned land in the area. Finally, it became a state park in October 1956 and then a National Natural Landmark in 1975. Today, the park consists of 1,188 mostly wooded acres. 

Sunrise Overlook Jefferson Overlook, Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area, West Jefferson, NC

Overlooks at Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area

As we followed the only road up to a parking lot near the summit, we stopped off for views at the park’s three overlooks: Sunset, Sunrise, and Jefferson Overlook.

Unfortunately, we weren’t there for sunrise or sunset, but we can imagine it’s a great place to watch it. However, with its large rock outcropping it was the Jefferson overlook we enjoyed the most.

Looking out from the Jefferson Overlook, Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area, West Jefferson, NC
Sitting on the rocks at the overlook, Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area, West Jefferson, NC

Hiking at Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area

There are five hiking trails in the Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area.

  • The Mountain Ridge Trail starts near the bottom of the mountain and climbs 2 miles to the parking lot near the summit. It winds past both the Sunrise and Jefferson Overlooks. To reach the Sunset Overlook, use the Spur Trail (.5 mile) which branches off the Mountain Ridge Trail.
  • From the parking area, the very short (.3 mile) but steep Summit Trail, leads to some picnic tables and the clean restrooms.
  • Just past the turn off for the restrooms, stay left at the fork and follow the larger Rhododendron Trail (1.1 miles) out to Luther Rock. You’ll need to make a slight detour to the left at the bench to reach the rock. Enjoy the view then come back to the bench.
  • Instead of going back the way you came, follow the trail to the left for the Track Trail (1.1 miles). Before making the full return, you may want to have a wander down the short .75-mile Lost Province Loop Trail. This will bring you back onto the Track Trail for your return hike.
rocky trail path, Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area, West Jefferson, NC
Bench next to rock on trail, Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area, West Jefferson, NC
Sign on Rhododendron Trail, Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area, West Jefferson, NC

Officially, these trails range from moderate to strenuous due to the incline. Though we didn’t do the Mountain Ridge Trail, we didn’t find any of the other trails challenging. However, there are a few spots on the short trail to Luther Rock and the Track Trail with steep drop-offs where you will want to be careful.

Overall, we loved Mt. Jefferson State Nature Area. Though we saw a few folks at the road lookouts, there was hardly anyone on the trails even on a Saturday afternoon in summer. We even saw a few deer, which were clearly not expecting us as they quickly scattered.

If you’re looking for a quiet place to enjoy a few short hikes, you’ll love it here.

Hiking path through woods, Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area, West Jefferson, NC
View from Luther Rock, Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area, West Jefferson, NC

Where to Stay Near Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area

The town of West Jefferson, and in general this north-west area of North Carolina is a beautiful place to stay if you’re looking to get some solitude in the mountains. 

  • Holiday Inn Express West Jefferson – Is good value with very good customer reviews and budget rates.

  • Todd Escape – As there are few great hotels in the area, opting for a cabin or guest house is a good option. With high reviews on cleanliness, comfort, and value for money a room at the Todd Escape Cabin puts you in a prime location for this area of North Carolina.

Travel Resources

We recommend and use these companies to arrange our travel plans; they make travel planning easy and affordable. If you have questions on our experiences, feel free to ask us!

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