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COVID-19 has changed the world. The tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit areas of the global pandemic. Local restaurants, museums, state and national parks have all changed hours of operation, procedures, and some have gone out of business altogether.
Please verify current operations of any places you want to visit mentioned in these articles, and contact me if a business has permanently closed so I can update the article. Thank you and stay safe out there!
Beauty Spot is probably one of the most appropriately named locations on the Appalachian Trail. Thru-hikers want to spend a zero day here, locals drive up the mountain every weekend, and first-time visitors become repeat customers after seeing a sunset here. The best part is that you can practically drive to this magical spot, but still be far enough from your car to enjoy the wilderness for the night.
Driving along Interstate 26 in Erwin visitors can look east and see a massive mountain on the horizon. Unaka Mountain is one of the highest peaks in the area and creates a natural border to the small trail town. The Appalachian Trail passes through Erwin (spend a night at Uncle Johnny’s Hostel) before beginning the long trek up and across the mountain.
A 30-minute drive along Rock Creek Road from the middle of town brings visitors to the small parking area near the Beauty Spot. The dirt and gravel road across Unaka Mountain is a fun drive and completely passable even in two wheel drive passenger cars (you’ll just need to go a bit slower). The parking area at the top is well used and on clear summer nights you’ll have to fight for a space.
Just a five minute hike from the car leads to the Appalachian Trail. A nice campsite is located at this spot, usually with a complete fire ring ready to go. Turning left, or northbound, will eventually lead across Unaka Mountain toward the Roan Highlands. Turning right, or southbound, will lead down Unaka Mountain back toward Erwin. This is a great day hike destination in either direction.
But most people use this as an overnight destination. Hikers will arrive early, pitch a tent in their preferred spot, then do some hiking in the local area. One of the best tent sites is southbound about five minutes, on the left, near a clearing in the trees. This is one of the best sunrise locations and a pretty cozy spot to spend the night. But the real magic is the sunset across the bald side of Beauty Spot, looking out across one mountain chain after another toward an endless horizon.
Whether day hiking, spending the night, or just coming for the sunset, Beauty Spot is one of those hidden destinations along the Appalachian Trail that can be enjoyed time and again. I discovered this place in 2015 and I’ve been back every year since. I don’t see a year in the future that I would not visit this destination at least once. What about you?