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High Country Rhododendron Viewing

High Country Rhododendron Viewing

Aside from the fall leaves, rhododendron is the most popular foliage for viewing in the NC High Country!  There are two types of native rhododendron in the High Country:

  1. Catawba Rhododendron: This rhododendron scrub has pink or purple flowers and blooms all of June at elevations above 3000 feet.
  2. Rosebay Rhododendron: This species of rhododendron has white flowers and blooms over a wide range of elevations in June-July.

** You will see many non-native hybrid varieties blooming from early May in many locations throughout the High Country

Best Spots to View Rhododendron

  • Grandfather Mountain
    Grandfather Mountain is known for having showy Catawba rhododendron and hosts a special event, "The Remarkable Rhododendron Ramble."  The event takes place through the first week of June and features daily guided strolls and ends with a native plant festival. But don't worry- if you don't make it up by then, there should still be blooms around through the third week of June.

  • Roan Mountain State Park
    Roan Mountain is home to the largest natural Catawba rhododendron gardens in North America. The blooms usually peak around the third week of June.  You can take an easy, scenic drive up to the balds through the state park or hike through Carvers Gap on the Appalachian trail in the same area to get the best views.

    The third weekend of June is also home to two Rhododendron Festivals. The Tennessee Rhododendron Festival is held on the grounds of Roan Mountain State Park (a 10 minute drive from the balds) and features live music, crafts and food.  The North Carolina Rhododendron Festival is held creekside in Bakersville (the closest town to the Rhododendron Balds) and features crafts, music & dancing, and a classic car show. 

  • Mount Jefferson State Natural Area
    Located near West Jefferson, The Natural Area is at 1,600 feet elevation and usually sees peak blooms around the first and second week of June. The drive to the top will show you lots of blooms, but for the best views, take the appropriately named Rhododendron Trail from the upper picnic area to the summit.  For more details, click HERE

  • Craggy Gardens
    Located at Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 364, Craggy Gardens is known for Catawba Rhododendron gardens. There is a great 20 minute walk to the summit to get 360 views and many picnic tables for an old-fashioned lunch!