Perhaps images of Wright Brothers’ historic first flight or lounging on powder-soft beaches come to mind when you think of North Carolina.Few people connect the state with the word “cold.” For the most part, the Southeast experiences summer temperatures in the upper 90s. Despite having a humid, subtropical climate, North Carolina and the surrounding Southeast are recognized for experiencing exceptionally cold winters in several areas of the Tar Heel State. The five coldest locations in North Carolina will give you the chills because it’s so chilly outside.
How North Carolina’s Geography Affects Its Weather
The Piedmont Plateau lies in the middle of the state, the Atlantic coastal plain lies in the east, and the Appalachian Mountain range lies in the west of the state. Although North Carolina is described as having “a humid climate with very warm summers and moderately cold winters” by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), local climates differ significantly based on a number of factors.
One of the main factors influencing temperature in the state is elevation. Sea level is the elevation along the Atlantic Coast. On the other hand, the western mountains rise to a height of almost 6,000 feet. Any state east of the Mississippi River has the greatest elevation range, which is found here. The normal annual temperature between 1991 and 2020 varied by over 20°F from the lowest place on the east coast to the highest elevation in the western mountains.
Having discovered the locations of these extremely cold temperatures, let’s examine the top five coldest locations in North Carolina.
The 5 Coldest Places in North Carolina
We considered a number of factors before ranking the five coldest locations in North Carolina. We considered the average daily temperature, the high and low for January, and the overall temperature to help you plan how many layers of clothing to bring as we journey through North Carolina’s breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains.
The western Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina are home to all five of the state’s coldest locations. The mountains partially obstruct cold air from the Midwest, which helps to moderate temperatures in the central and eastern regions. Journeying through the wide ridges and wooded slopes of North Carolina’s portion of Appalachia is necessary to reach the state’s coldest regions. As we find the five coldest locations in North Carolina that will make your skin crawl, you are in for a treat.
One of the main draws for tourists to Ashville, North Carolina, is the city’s vibrant art scene. Ashville, the fifth coldest place in North Carolina, is situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina. Since the Ashville area boasts one of the longest fall color seasons in the country, fall is the most popular season for travel. Autumn brings a sea of reds, yellows, and oranges that cover the countryside, drawing tourists to Ashville and the neighboring mountains.
The city is enveloped in a chill when Ashville’s trees’ signature leaves finally drop and nature’s colorful art exhibit concludes. Ashville experiences average lows of 28°F and average highs of 47°F in January. With an average of only 13 feet of snowfall year, the region experiences less snowfall than many of the other locations on our list.
This dynamic metropolis, with a yearly high of 67°F and a low of 46°F, is dominated by both natural and human art. In the city, there are roughly 100.8 days with temperatures below freezing. On January 21, 1985, Ashville recorded its lowest temperature ever, -16°F, on the same day as Mount Mitchell.
Boone, which has 19,092 residents, is the highest elevation of any town east of the Mississippi River for a community with ten thousand or more residents. Boone has the name of Daniel Boone, an American explorer and adventurer. The town’s namesake set up camp inside the town boundaries multiple times. His nephews attended Boone’s first church as well.
Boone, another of our coldest locations, is 3,333 feet above sea level in the Blue Ridge Mountains, giving it a winter climate more akin to coastal southern New England than the normal Southeast. January, with an average temperature of 20.4°F, is the coldest month in Boone, similar to much of the United States. Wilmington, NC, on the eastern coast of the state, experiences an average low temperature of 38°F in January.
Boone has below-freezing temperatures on 115.9 days a year. Additionally, the city receives 33.1 inches of snow annually. January’s average high temperature is 42°F. The low is typically 21°F.
3. Mount Mitchell
Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, rising to a height of 6,684 feet. Mount Mitchell State Park is situated in the western North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains’ Black Mountain Range, approximately 35 miles northeast of Ashville, North Carolina’s downtown. The park’s resident red spruce, fire cherry, and yellow birch trees are surrounded by frasier furs, a species of tree that is native solely to the southern Appalachians and is a remnant of the Ice Age.
Mount Mitchell experiences highs of 39°F and lows of 24°F in January. Although the area only received 19.9 inches of snow in the 2022–2023 season, the summit receives roughly 89 inches of snow on average per year. On January 21, 1985, a temperature of -34°F was the lowest ever recorded on Mount Mitchell. Additionally, this serves as the state-wide record. The average annual high temperature of Mount Mitchell is 52.1°F, while the average annual low temperature is 36.3°F. It’s freezing outdoors, baby.
2. Banner Elk
The well-known resort community of Banner Elk is located around 35 miles north of Mount Mitchell. Situated in the High Country of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, between Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain ski slopes, Banner Elk has just one stoplight. The town’s official tourism slogan is “Escape. Relax. Indulge.” That order seems straightforward to carry out given its abundant natural beauty and conspicuous lack of traffic.
Banner Elk is the second-coldest place in North Carolina, which perhaps contributes to its appeal to winter sports lovers. The alpine village experiences 20°F lows and 40°F highs on average in January. Every year, it receives roughly 31.4 inches of snow. With about 12.8 inches, the 2022–2023 winter season was the least amount of snowfall since 1980, similar to Mount Mitchell. The average annual low and high temperatures for Banner Elk are 38°F and 60°F, respectively.
1. Beech Mountain
Not only is Beech Mountain the coldest site in North Carolina, but it’s also the coldest town in the Southeast. Beech Mountain, which is tucked away in the southern Appalachian Highlands, experiences winters that are akin to the bitterly cold coastal winters of New England. At 5,506 feet, this distinctive four-season tourist town is the highest incorporated town east of the Rocky Mountains. Being a community with only 550 permanent people makes Beech Mountain special. But in the winter, the number of part-timers jumps to ten thousand.
Beech Mountain draws thousands of part-time winter inhabitants who come for its pure alpine setting and, of course, the chill. You may wager that Beech Mountain will experience around 126.8 days below freezing. With forty inches of snowfall on average every year, Beech Mountain Resort’s slopes are never empty.
The average January low and high temperatures at Beech Mountain are 23°F and 38°F, respectively. Annual minimum temperature averages are 41°F and annual maximums are 57°F.
Highlights of the 5 Coldest Places in North Carolina
|Average Jan. High Temp
|Average Jan. Low Temp