The Blue Ridge region teems with diversity —- both above ground in an abundance of plant and animal species, and below ground in mountains built from deposits of countless minerals and gems.
Geologic forces formed the rocks of the Blue Ridge Mountains hundreds of millions of years ago, creating one of the richest regions of minerals and gems in the United States. Beyond offering a beautiful sparkle and excitement to today’s gem mining visitors, these minerals also provided unique economic opportunities as the area’s mining industry flourished over several decades.
The Museum of North Carolina Minerals on the Blue Ridge Parkway offers a window into the science and history of mining in Western North Carolina. The museum features interactive, hands-on exhibits that illuminate the importance of minerals and mining, plus more than 300 varieties of gems and minerals on display.
The museum also houses the Mitchell County Visitor Center, where you can find information about things to see and do in nearby Spruce Pine and the surrounding area. There is also a gift shop featuring Blue Ridge souvenirs and books about regional topics.
If you visit in September, you may have the opportunity to see a bit of living history at the Overmountain Victory Celebration. The reenactment event celebrates the Overmountain Men — mostly Scotch-Irish settlers living near the N.C./Tennessee border — who crossed this section of the Blue Ridge Mountains on their way to the battle of Kings Mountain. The battle was an important turning point in the American Revolutionary War.
The Museum of North Carolina Minerals is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 331, near Little Switzerland. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free.