Deep in the forested heart of northwestern North Carolina lies Watauga County, the self-proclaimed “Choose and Cut Christmas Tree Capital of the World.” The Tar Heel State is the second largest grower of Christmas trees in the nation—just behind Oregon—and most of that enormous output comes from fifteen small rural counties. Only a fraction of North Carolina tree farms are open to the public. In Watauga, however, more than two-dozen welcome tree-hunters, and each is eager to help you find and fell your perfect specimen.
In this part of the world, perfect means a Fraser fir. Say what you may about white pines and blue spruces, the popularity of the Fraser fir speaks for itself—98% of all the Christmas trees grown in North Carolina are Frasers. Indigenous to the Appalachian Mountains, the prized species, with its deep blue-green hue, sturdy branches, soft needles, and long-lasting aroma, once grew only on the highest peaks—those above 5,000 feet elevation. For years, natives would hike into the mountains to collect the best trees. After World War II, local farmers began planting the trees on lower elevation acreage (between 3,000 and 4,500 feet) that was unsuitable for other crops. The trees took. By the 1970s business was booming, and Fraser firs became a Christmas tradition.
If you go…
You can’t really go wrong when choosing a Christmas tree farm in Watauga County, where each operation is family run. “Most of them have been around for at least twenty years or more,” says Dr. Jim Hamilton of the Watauga County Christmas Tree Association. “We have farms that offer everything. Some are simple outfits, where you come in choose a tree and have it tied to your car. Others have hot chocolate, Santa, Christmas shops—all the bells and whistles.”
For a rustic off-the-beaten-path experience, head to Cornett Deal Christmas Tree Farm near the Tennessee line. After you’ve found your tree, warm up with a cup of Diane Cornett’s famous hot apple cider. If you’re bringing the kids, Panoramic View Christmas Tree Farm near Boone is a good bet. You can ride horses, feed farm animals, take a hayride around the stunning property, and sip hot cocoa once your tree is successfully strapped to the roof of your car. Or choose your own holiday adventure and download the full list of Watauga County Christmas tree farms here.
If you don’t live in North Carolina, why not make a weekend of it? Watauga County is within a two to six hour drive of most major Southeastern metropolises. And there are plenty of bed and breakfasts, inns, and boutique hotels tucked into these mountains. A few of our favorites:
Green Park Inn
Blowing Rock, NC
It doesn’t get much more old school than the Green Park Inn, which opened in 1891 in Blowing Rock and is the last of the “Grand Manor Inns” in Western North Carolina.
The Mast Farm Inn
Valle Crucis, NC
At this picture perfect 1880s farmhouse in historic Valle Crucis, choose from one of seven guest rooms or bunk in one of the property’s eighteenth century cabins. Ask about special choose-and-cut packages and rates.
Westglow Resort and Spa
Blowing Rock, NC
Set in the shadow of Grandfather Mountain, this 42-acre Relais-Châteaux estate offers 360-degree views and five-star comfort. Stay in the property’s Greek Revival mansion or one of the surrounding cottages.