A relaxing day spent walking along roadsides and trails at high elevation, looking for a selection of birds & wildflowers. There will be some walking in both sunny and shaded areas, so be prepared with sun protection. We will walk 2-3 miles at the most.
This is one of the highest and most beautiful sections of the Blue Ridge. From the Parkway at Balsam Gap, the road climbs higher towards Waterrock Knob, into northern hardwoods and spruce-fir forest types. This 9 mile spur road continues to a parking area, where a short trail leads to one of the most spectacular views in the mountains - a panorama of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Mt. LeConte at the center. Wildflowers along this stretch of road could include Monkshood, Featherbells, Southern Harebell, Tall Bellflower, Turk's Cap Lily, Goldenrods, Sunflowers, and many more. This is also a great birding spot and is very dependable for Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, and Blackburnian Warbler.
We will probably head as far as Heintooga Overlook, one of the most reliable areas for Red Crossbills in the last few years. At the higher elevations the mountains are cloaked with spruce-fir and northern hardwood forests mixed with heath balds of Catawba rhododendron and mountain laurel, which makes for a picturesque and unique combination of habitats here in the South.
If you’ve never explored this area, you’ve been missing out! Join Simon & Jennie for what should be a lovely day of summer birding in the higher elevations of WNC.