OverviewBluff Mountain, in Ashe County North Carolina, is an ecologically and geologically very significant place. In fact, place is the term that suits it best, far more than merely another summit.
This Bluff Mountain (one of several in NC and one of many in the States) is composed largely of amphibolite, a very hard metamorphic rock that has resisted erosion well. All of the amphibolite peaks in the area stand starkly above the lowlands around them, forming enormous whalebacked ramparts capped with stony overlooks. Three Top Mountain is also composed of this rock.
The area around Bluff Mountain is under assault from real estate development in the form of expanding communities and urban sprawl. The state seems unwilling to commit the funds and political will necessary to preserve the fragile North Carolina high country, and so much of the effort to preserve these lands has been left to a constant battle by private organizations who struggle against far more well-funded developers eager to exploit the land for timber and house plots.
Fortunately, about 2,000 acres of Bluff Mountain was able to be purchased and protected by the Nature Conservancy. This land is highly regulated by them and all access to it must be obtained through them. No unescorted hiking is allowed, no camping is allowed, and no climbing is allowed. The reasons for this are the presence of some extremely rare and very sensitive sites which include a mesic glyn, a fen (one of only two in the Southern Appalachians), and several stands of old-growth hardwood and Carolina hemlock groves.
The fen, in particular, is of great importance for the presence of well over 100 rare plant types, and a small community of bog turtles (numbering less than 100 animals).
Bluff Mountain also has a great number of escarpments, including one of over 300 feet which sports one of the highest (and least known) waterfalls in the state of North Carolina. All said, a hike (supervised thought it is) on this peak is a day very well spent.
Getting ThereSince all access to this peak is strictly coordinated by The Nature Conservancy, see the Links section for information regarding access and directions.
All access to this mountain is strictly coordinated by The Nature Conservancy. Anyone wishing to hike on Bluff Mountain must phone them for access. Anyone who does not do this is considered to be trespassing.
See the Links section for details.
Fen with hikers.
CampingNo camping is allowed on Bluff Mountain.
External LinksAn excellent webpage on the peak can be found by The Nature Conservancy.
Go to this site for details on guided hikes.
On the rocks.