The NPT will be a world-class hiking trail that traverses an ancient mountain chain while educating and connecting users to unforgettable landscapes entirely unique to this region.
Protect. Connect. Educate.
The Northern Peaks of the High Country are situated between the mountain communities of Boone and West Jefferson, dividing the vital New River and Watauga River watersheds. The region is home to nationally-significant biospheres boasting unparalleled ecological diversity; the protection of which is paramount.
FAQ’s about the Northern Peaks Trail
- What are the Northern Peaks?
The Northern Peaks of the High Country are situated between the mountain communities of Boone and West Jefferson, dividing the New River and Watauga River watersheds. The region is home to nationally-significant biospheres with unique ecological diversity; the protection of which is paramount. The Northern Peaks are often referred to as the Amphibolite Mountains and include Howard Knob, Elk Knob, Snake Mountain, Three Top Mountain, Phoenix Mountain, Paddy Mountain and Mount Jefferson. This mountain chain contains the largest concentration of amphibolite substrate in the WNC Mountains. Amphibolite rock has a unique mineral composition producing unusually rich soils, giving rise to a high level of diversity in exotic flora & fauna.
- What is the timeline for completing the trail?
The whole project is not as far along as perceived. Acquiring and conserving the land is foremost, and we’re still working on that. Before the specific trail route is determined, the current plan is to have the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program inventory potential areas for rare species and natural communities. That information will be used to select a route for a sustainable trail that does not disrupt these sensitive areas. For now, if a State Park plan has a line on a map labeled “NPT”, it is only illustrative and not an accurate depiction of the route. Please stay connected and involved. It is an important project and we are taking all aspects of planning, implementation and impact very seriously.
- Who is involved with this project?
Ashe County, Blue Ridge Conservancy, NC Plant Conservation Program, NC State Parks, Town of Boone, Watauga County, Watauga County Tourism Development Authority, NC Wildlife Resources Commission and the West Jefferson Tourism Development Authority.
- How will you ensure the long term protection and conservation of the ecologically significant areas?
Conserving land in perpetuity is the essence of our work. Plans for the protection of ecological diversity along the trail corridor have significantly evolved since the original plan mentioned in 2017. Many of these tracts of land we are acquiring throughout the Amphibolites were for sale and under threat of development. Our strategy is to acquire land for conservation and then transfer the ownership and management responsibilities to agencies such as NC State Parks, NC Wildlife Resource Commission, NC Plant Conservation Program, or to local governments such as Ashe and Watauga Counties.
- What are your plans for educating the public regarding the ecology and the necessary conservation, stewardship and management of the trail?
BRC sees the NPT as a great opportunity for environmental education. The urgency and need for land conservation, the importance of biodiversity, what makes a healthy ecosystem, and Leave No Trace principles are just some of the general concepts that will be included with the NPT education plan.
- What resources will be used to construct the trail?
The trail design is not far enough along to provide a list of building resources. As an officially designated State Trail, there is greater likelihood that state resources will be available for study, planning and construction.
- What ways can community members get involved?
In the future we will organize a community group to meet and provide input on trail issues. In the meantime, we encourage you to sign up to receive BRC’s monthly e-newsletter where you can stay up to date on the work we’re doing to protect the Amphibolite Mountains and other unique places across the High Country.