Area Facts, Towns, etc.
Mitchell County is located in western North Carolina, approximately 50 miles northeast of Asheville, NC and 25 miles southeast of Johnson City, TN. It is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The county's total land area is 220 square miles. Bakersville is the county seat, with a population of approximately 400. The county's largest town, Spruce Pine, is located in the southern part of the county and has a population of approximately 2,000.
The county's average year-round temperature is 52 degrees and it receives an average of 46.7 inches of rain annually. Elevation ranges from 1,700 to 6,313 feet above sea level with an average elevation of 3,000 feet.
The mountain climate is particularly appropriate for any number of popular outdoor activities such as whitewater rafting, hiking, backpacking, camping, fishing, horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, picnicking, skiing and much more.
The first settler on the site of what is now Bakersville was David Baker, who acquired a state’s grant for 100 acres of land in 1797. David Baker entertained many travelers in the early 1800's, including the noted French botanist, Francois Andre Michaux. Michaux visited Baker’s farm on his return from an expedition into Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois. The movement for the establishment of a new mountain county in 1861 originated in Bakersville, as did the movement to establish the town as the county seat. In 1868 Bakersville was made the seat of government for Mitchell County. Important from the early 1800’s through the civil war as a trading center and village, Bakersville became the center of politics in Mitchell County and remains so to this day.
Today, Bakersville’s quaint downtown is home to galleries and working artists’ studios. Each September the town hosts the Bakersville Creek Walk Arts Festival along the banks of meandering Cane Creek, which runs through the center of town. The North Carolina Rhododendron Festival takes place each June and draws visitors from all over the country to witness the spectacular beauty of the world’s largest naturally growing rhododendron gardens atop nearby Roan Mountain.
Spruce Pine, the largest town in Mitchell County, was founded in 1907 when the Clinchfield Railroad made its way alongside the North Toe River from Erwin, Tennessee. The town was originally centered around a tavern operated by Isaac English, located on an old roadway that ran down to Marion, NC. The town takes its name from a large Carolina hemlock tree that stood near the tavern. The Old English Inn still stands at its original location near the center of town.
The railroad, combined with a rapidly expanding mining industry made Spruce Pine the largest town in the Toe River Valley, as it became the hub of commerce and culture for the area. Spruce Pine was the home of The Feldspar Company and Spruce Pine Mica, and other major mining interests had operations in and around the town.
Tourism has become a major economic force in the region, and the town's proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway, combined with its location near the edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment has helped make Spruce Pine a travel destination for many. One of Spruce Pine's most famous natives is children's author Gloria Houston, who was born and raised nearby in the Green Valley community northeast of town. In 2002, Houston gave the town of Spruce Pine the rights to brand the town as the “Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree,” taken from her best-selling book "The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree.
Scenic Little Switzerland, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 331, takes its name from early summer residents of the area who thought the scenery resembled that of the Jura Mountains of Switzerland.