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Mount Jefferson State Natural Area

Luther Rock
Mount Jefferson State Natural Area is a park in Ashe County in the northwestern part of the state.  It is located between the towns of Jefferson and West Jefferson and is about 30 minutes northeast of Boone.

Mount Jefferson lies between the north and south forks of the New River, one of the oldest rivers in the world (despite the name).  It was once a mighty mountain long ago, but millions of years of erosion have worn down the mountain.  What remains are the erosion-resistant amphibolite and metagraywacke rocks that make up Mount Jefferson.  The mountain has had several names throughout history, but was formally named Mount Jefferson in 1952 in honor of Thomas Jefferson and his father Peter who owned and surveyed the land in the 18th century.  In the 1930s, interest in giving the mountain public access was generated.  Initially, the Works Progress Administration constructed a short road leading to the summit.  Efforts were made to create a state park, but the area was initially below the 400-acre minimum.  In the 1950s, additional land was donated and Mount Jefferson joined the state park system in 1956.

Contact Information:
1481 Mt Jefferson State Park Rd
West Jefferson, NC 28694

Phone: (336) 246-965

Email: mount.jefferson@ncparks.gov

GPS Coordinates: 36.397660, -81.473466

Directions:

From areas east, take US-421 west from I-40 or I-77 and continue west past the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Take US-221 north and after crossing the intersection with NC-163, turn right on SR-1152, which leads into the park.  From areas west and south, take US-221 north through Boone and past NC-163, turn right on SR-1152.  Use the map below to generate customized directions to the park.

Map:

Mount Jefferson State Natural Area

Trails:

Lost Province Trail:

Length: 0.75 miles (loop)
Difficulty: Moderate
Blaze: Blue Triangle

The Lost Province Trail forms a short loop along a southeastern-facing slope of Mount Jefferson.  It is located at the southeastern end of the Rhododendron Trail near the trail to Luther Rock.

Mountain Ridge Trail:

Length: 2 miles (one way)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Blaze: Red Circle

Mountain Ridge Trail starts at the park office at the entrance to the park and leads up to the summit, roughly following the park road.  The trail provides pedestrian access to all three of the overlooks on the drive up the mountain.  From the trailhead across the road from the office, the trail climbs up the mountain via a number of switchbacks and comes out on the road at Sunrise Overlook.  The trail ducks back into the woods in the elbow of the road and leads to a split in 0.2 miles.  The left path heading down is the Spur Trail to the Sunset Overlook.  Straight ahead continues the climb, leading to Jefferson Overlook in another 0.6 miles.  From here, hikers will need to scramble up the rocks along the road to pick the trail back up and it ends shortly at the upper parking area.

Rhododendron Trail:

Length: 1.1 miles (loop)
Difficulty: Moderate
Blaze: Red Circle

The Rhododenron Trail starts near the summit of Mount Jefferson and travels along a ridge to Luther Rock, then loops back around along the south side of the mountain, ending back at the Summit Trail near the start.

Spur Trail:

Length: 0.5 miles (one-way)
Difficulty: Moderate
Blaze: White Diamond

Spur Trail leads from Mountain Ridge Trail to Sunset Overlook.  The trail starts at Sunset Overlook and switchbacks through a rocky area and ends at Mountain Ridge Trail, about 0.2 miles north of Sunrise Overlook.

Summit Trail:

Length: 0.3 miles (one-way)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Blaze: Green Diamond

The Summit Trail starts at the summit parking lot and makes a gentle ascent along an old gravel road to the summit of Mount Jefferson.

Points of Interest:

Jefferson Overlook:

Jefferson Overlook is located near the top of the park road or accessed from Mountain Ridge Trail.  The overlook provides nice views looking west with the towns of Jefferson and West Jefferson below.

Luther Rock:

Luther Rock is an outcrop on the southeast end of Mount Jefferson and can be accessed from a spur off Rhododendron Trail.

Sunrise Overlook:

Sunrise Overlook is located about half-way up the park road and can be accessed from the Mountain Ridge Trail.  This overlook provides views to the south and east.

Sunset Overlook:

Sunset Overlook is the first overlook if driving up the park road.  The overlook can also be accessed from the Spur Trail off Mountain Overlook Trail.

External Links:

NC State Parks website: https://www.ncparks.gov/mount-jefferson-state-natural-area