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  • Writer's pictureJulie Hochwender

The Jewel of the Appalachian Mountains

Nestled in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains lies Madison County, North Carolina, a hidden gem that boasts of rich history, natural beauty, and a thriving community. With its pristine forests, scenic drives, and stunning vistas, it is no surprise that this county is known as the "jewel" of the Appalachians.

Madison County is home to the Appalachian Trail, one of the most famous long-distance hiking trails in the world, stretching over 2,200 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine. The trail passes through 14 states and is maintained by a network of volunteers and organizations, including the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. In Madison County, the Appalachian Trail passes through the town of Hot Springs, which is the first town that northbound hikers reach after leaving Georgia.

Hot Springs is a small mountain town with a population of around 600 people. The town's name comes from the natural hot springs that flow into the French Broad River, which were believed by Native Americans to have healing properties. Hot Springs is a popular stop for hikers on the Appalachian Trail, as it offers a chance to resupply, rest, and soak in the hot springs. The town has several hostels and outfitters that cater to hikers, as well as restaurants and shops. The town also hosts an annual Trailfest celebration in May, which brings together hikers, locals, and trail enthusiasts for a weekend of music, food, and festivities.

In addition to its role as a stop on the Appalachian Trail, Hot Springs is also home to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, which works to protect the natural beauty and wildlife of the region. The organization has protected over 70,000 acres of land in North Carolina and Tennessee, including parts of the Appalachian Trail and the French Broad River.

Madison County is also known for its natural beauty, steeped in history and culture. The county was established in 1851 and is named after James Madison, the fourth President of the United States. Madison County is also known for its traditional Appalachian music, which has been passed down through generations. The town of Mars Hill is home to the Mars Hill University, which was founded in 1856 and has a rich history and a strong focus on liberal arts education.

Madison County is home to the French Broad River, which runs through the heart of the county. The river is a popular destination for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing, and it is a vital source of drinking water for the region. The French Broad River is also home to an abundance of wildlife, including otters, beavers, and a variety of fish species.

Madison County also boasts a thriving arts and crafts community, which showcases the unique talents and skills of local artisans. Visitors can explore numerous galleries, studios, and shops that feature handmade pottery, weaving, painting, and more. The annual "Marshall Handmade Market" is a popular event that attracts visitors from all over the country to shop for locally made crafts and goods.

Overall, Madison County, North Carolina is truly a jewel located in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. With its natural beauty, rich history, and thriving community, it is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to explore the beauty and culture of the Appalachians. Whether you enjoy hiking, kayaking, or shopping for handmade crafts, Madison County and the town of Hot Springs has something for everyone. So come and discover the jewel of the Appalachians for yourself!

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