In the Field

Fall for Banner Elk, North Carolina

By: The Local Palate

Located in the North Carolina High Country, Banner Elk is a friendly town that blends Main Street charm, outdoor adventure, and culinary excellence.

This time of year, leaf-lookers make their way up mountain roads to experience fall colors that create a tapestry across the Blue Ridge. Located at 3,700 feet in elevation, Banner Elk shines in autumn, when the air becomes crisp and cool.

Just 15 minutes away, Grandfather Mountain offers sweeping views from its Mile High Swinging Bridge. At 1-mile above sea level, the bridge is the highest suspension footbridge in the country.

Closer to town, Wildcat Lake is a scenic spot where visitors enjoy canoeing and kayaking. For a different way to see the fall scenery, try leaf-peeping on horseback with Banner Elk Stables.

On the third weekend in October, Banner Elk hosts the Woolly Worm Festival. This festival centers on the legend that the color of thirteen bands of fur on the woolly bear caterpillar foretells the winter weather. Festival-goers enjoy a series of worm races to determine which one gives the forecast.

Banner Elk Winery’s location in a valley surrounded by peaks makes it a lovely place to enjoy a bottle of wine, while Grandfather Vineyard sits alongside the Watauga River in the shadow of Grandfather Mountain.

Although the full-time population totals only 1,100 people, Banner Elk’s restaurant lineup resembles those of larger cities. Artisanal serves contemporary American cuisine in rustic elegance. The fine-dining establishment has twice been named one of the top 100 restaurants in America by OpenTable. In the heart of downtown, Sorrento’s Italian Bistro specializes in classic Italian dishes made from Sicilian family recipes. Its large patio garden with a fire pit is a popular spot. Upstairs, Chef’s Table serves a rotating farm-to-table menu in an upscale setting with a curated wine list. Be sure to sample the fresh mountain trout and enjoy patio dining at Banner Elk Café.

To learn more about an autumn visit, go to

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