What We’re Doing
Protecting the stunning views and landscape near the Appalachian Trail.
Safeguard iconic outdoor spaces for more visitors to enjoy.
As the sun rises above foggy mountain tops near the Tennessee–North Carolina border, thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail are greeted by the morning’s fresh breeze as they continue their journey through the majestic hardwood forests. Trading in their podcast playlists for the soundtracks of songbirds, visitors to this area go where the Wi-Fi isn’t. But experiences like this are increasingly becoming threatened due to fragmentation and development, especially near our nation’s iconic trails. As the Appalachian Trail winds through the Cherokee National Forest and Pisgah National Forest, 482 acres to the east and north respectively—the area known as Dark Ridge—was slated to become lodging and residential development. With help from our partners, Trust for Public Land preserved Dark Ridge, which lies less than 1,000 feet from the Appalachian Trail, ensuring more hikers get to experience the area’s enchanting serenity.
Named one of the top five protection priorities for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, protecting Dark Ridge means we’ve ensured the incredible ambiance surrounding the trail is kept for generations to come. More than impressive views, Dark Ridge is vital for the area’s water quality, with three branch streams that flow into Elk River, and therefore Watauga Lake, which supplies drinking water to approximately 70,000 residents in Johnson City, Tennessee. The land is an important bird area and the mature timber forests host abundant wildlife and botanical habitat, including rare plants like Fraser’s sedge and mountain fringe. Dark Ridge will forever be protected as part of the Pisgah National Forest, continuing the magic for more visitors to connect to the trails, to nature, and to each other.