Did you know that you likely have a tiny bit of the Blue Ridge in your pocket right now?
For decades the Blue Ridge Mountains have been mined for numerous different minerals that make cameo appearances in our everyday life. Picturesque Spruce Pine, N.C. is home to some of the purest quartz on the planet — a component that is used to produce nearly every computer chip in the world!
Head just beyond the Blue Ridge Parkway — between Little Switzerland and Linville Falls — to learn more about the mineral history of the region, and to explore the charming main streets, shops and restaurants of Spruce Pine.
What to see and do in Spruce Pine
No matter what time of year you visit, there is plenty to experience in Spruce Pine.
The town’s two main streets (Oak Avenue and Locust Avenue) run parallel to the North Toe River as it winds through the valley. Multiple public parks on the banks of the river offer benches or tables for picnicking, as well as great selfie spots.
Here are some of the top things to do during your visit to Spruce Pine:
- Gem Mining & Mining History: Learn all of the local mining lore at the Museum of N.C. Minerals, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 331. (While you’re here, stop by the Mitchell County Visitor Center and ask the knowledgeable hosts your questions.) To do some mining of your own, check out Gem Mountain, Rio Dòce Gem Mine or nearby Emerald Village.
- Arts & Crafts: Visit the Toe River Arts gallery on Oak Avenue for exhibitions of local artwork and a gift shop where you can pick out a handmade souvenir. Check the calendar for the twice-yearly Toe River Studio Tour (June and December) where you can visit working studios to see artists at work. About 15 minutes from downtown you’ll find Penland School of Craft, which has been one of the top craft education centers for almost a century. Take a workshop, peruse the gallery and visit the Supply Store.
- Outdoor Adventure: After you visit the summit of Mount Mitchell — the highest point east of the Mississippi River — kick back for a relaxing tube trip on the scenic Toe River, or dial up the excitement with a Fun-yak tour. Take a guided trail ride on horseback. And be sure to check out the trails and U-pick apples at the nearby Orchard at Altapass.
- Shopping: Enjoy several shops in downtown Spruce Pine featuring antiques and vintage finds, outdoor apparel and equipment, home goods and more.
- Food & Drink: If all your exploration has worked up your appetite, Spruce Pine offers a wide variety of dining options. Enjoy a local beer at Bierdock Brewing, delicious European fare at Gustoso Ristorante, and a salad, sandwich or scoop of ice cream at DT’s Blue Ridge Java.
- Annual Events: The festival calendar in Spruce Pine is jam-packed with celebrations throughout the year. Don’t miss April’s Fire on the Mountain celebration of blacksmithing. The week-long Grassy Creek Mineral & Gem Show arrives in August, and October features both the Barbecue & Bluegrass Festival and the Spruce Pine Potters Market.
Plan your visit to Spruce Pine
Spruce Pine is located about 20 miles north of downtown Marion. Follow US-221 north to NC-226 north. As you get close to town, turn right onto Altapass Highway to get to the historic downtown.