Saturday, January 13, 2007

Beauty Spot Sunset

The beauty spot lives up to its name. It's a grassy bald on the TN/NC border where the Appalachian Trail passes over the Unaka Mountain.  Best known for it's sunsets and panoramic views, the Beauty Spot is one of the most easily accessible lookouts in Northeast Tennessee.  A short walk from the gravel parking area leads up to stunning views like you see above.  It's one of three main lookouts on Unaka Mountain. The Beauty Spot is best known and most visited of the three (its proximity to Rock Creek Road outside Erwin has something to do with that). The second is Unaka Mountain Overlook (also known as Pleasant Garden), it too offers commanding panoramic views. It's orientation is more toward the south. Farther north on the mountain is a wonderful, but less known lookout known as Horseback Ridge - it offers great views of Erwin, Unicoi and Johnson City far below.

Unaka Mountain Road is a rugged road, and its heavy use and the harsh conditions of Unaka Mountain, its condition seems to vary from year to year and from season to season, but they keep up with it pretty well.  Still, it's usually a good idea to take a high clearance vehicle (truck, SUV, jeep) to navigate this rough road. Click here for detailed directions and a listing all there is to see and do on Unaka Mountain. 

As if the view at the Beauty Spot wasn't enough...take the Appalachian Trail north for 1.15 miles. This fairly level (easy) hike will take you through woods filled with ferns and will soon lead you to another bald at "Deep Gap" that offers more views and lots of wild flowers. (Okay, the views aren't as great as those at the Beauty Spot, but it's still beautiful!). You could just as easily drive to it, as the Unaka Mountain Road (aka Red Fork Road) passes right by. However, the best way to experience and appreciate this second bald is to emerge from the woods up above and walk through the grassy meadows, following the white slashes (indicating the Appalachian Trail) on the fence posts. No one really knows what causes these balds -- some blame severe forest fires, others say overgrazing of livestock or buffalo caused them. Today, the balds are periodically mowed to maintain the bald and to provide a habitat for wildlife. They offer some of the best panoramic views of the mountains.

Directions: From I-26 take the Erwin Main Street Exit (#36), at the end of the ramp turn east toward town and you will immediately arrive at a stop light. Turn right onto Rt. 107 and drive 1/2 mile, turn left at stop light onto Rock Creek Road (Rt. 395) -- continue on for 6.6 miles to TN/NC line (called Indian Grave Gap). [The sign welcoming you to NC has been stolen, so be sure to watch your odometer. The state line crosses at the top of this mountain gap, so if you find yourself heading downhill, you've gone too far!]. At Indian Grave Gap take the unmarked gravel road to the left (it's often closed in the winter months). After about 10 minutes (2 miles) you'll come to a fork, stay right and you will immediately arrive at the Beauty Spot. Map.


  1. A stunning place I'll never forget. Worth the drive.

  2. I remember some harrowing drives up to Beauty Spot from Erwin in the early 1960s. Many thanks for your photography --- brings back wonderful memories.


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