Printer-friendly page

Our State Geography in a Snap: the mountain region

Reprinted with permission from the North Carolina Department of Instruction website.

See also:
Extended entry on the Mountains(from NC Atlas Revisited)
Extended entry on the Mountains (from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina)

Related Entries: Settlement of the MountainsCherokee; Asheville; The NC Gold Rush; Piedmont; Coastal Plain; Regional Vegetation

North Carolina Mountain CountiesThe western part of the state is the Mountain region. It is smaller in area than the Piedmont and Coastal Plain. The elevation in this region reaches to more than one mile high. The Blue Ridge Mountains separate the Piedmont from the Mountain region. Other ranges in the Mountain region include the Bald, Balsam, Black, Brushy, Great Smoky, Iron, Pisgah, Stone, and Unaka. All of these ranges are part of the larger Appalachian Mountains, possibly the oldest mountains in the United States. North Carolina has at least 40 mountains that rise to 6,000 feet and 100 that rise more than 5,000 feet. Mount Mitchell in the Black Mountain range is 6, 684 feet high. This is the highest point in North Carolina and the highest in the United States east of the Mississippi River. The Eastern Continental Divide runs east from those flowing west. Rivers on the eastern side of the divide flow east toward the Atlantic Ocean. Rivers that run on the western side of the divide flow toward the Tennessee and Ohio rivers and into the Gulf of Mexico.



"Social Studies:: Elementary Resouces:: Student Sampler:: Geography," North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Website. (accessed March 27, 2012).

Video Credit:

North Carolina Fall Foliage Tour Via the Blue Ridge Parkway. Youtube. WUNC Radio, 2020.

Origin - location: 



this is really helpful and helping the rest of my class


very helpul thx a lot yay going to nail the project


heling me a lot on my project im with daniel


It's helping me a lot on the mountains region part


awsome helps me a lot


very helpful


very nice website its going to help me in my project




Since the Brushy Mountains are in Alexander County, NC, as mentioned in your article above in sentence 4, why is Alexander county not included in the definition of "western" part of the state. I have been working with the county for 40 years, as part of my job with the Western Piedmont Councils of Governments, and the residents of the county consider themselves as living in a mountain county. Is this an oversight or just another example of how the state's regions are haphazardly defined by whomever is writing a particular article.



Thanks for visiting NCpedia and taking time to post your comment and observations.  

You've highlighted a very interesting and important issue in how we define and attribute regions. 

In this article, the regions of the state are defined as physical regions -- as distinct from the governmental designation of counties -- and are based on geologic history.  And the geologic regions that we've used in NCpedia come generally from The North Carolina Atlas Revisited and are based on fall lines, or geologic boundaries.  Alexander County is on the western edge of what has been geologically classified as the piedmont region where it meets the mountains.  While Alexander County fits entirely into the piedmont region -- again, based on geology -- other of its neighboring counties are actually split along the geologic fall line and are divided into both the mountains and piedmont -- Surry, Wilkes, Caldwell, Burke, Rutheford, Polk.  Follow this link to another NCpedia page with the Three Regions Overview where we've highlighted two maps -- one that shows the governmental division of counties generally into the regions and the one below it which shows the geological boundaries of the regions as they cut through the counties.

You've also highlighted the cultural and social context of regional designations, where residents of a county think of themselves historically and culturally as belonging to a particular region, in this case the mountains, and where writers may write an article in the political and social geographical context of the social history of an area, apart from its physical geography.  

I hope this helps answer your question!  Please visit NCpedia again!


Kelly Agan, NCpedia Digital Media Librarian, Government & Heritage Library 


Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at