There’s nothing quite like it! Tucked away in the northernmost and highest region of Watauga County in western North Carolina, yet only 20 minutes from Boone, Sunalei Preserve is a gated mountain community within a nature preserve with no short-term rentals. With elevations from 3900’ to over 5500’, it combines the traditions of the “Great Camps” of the Adirondacks with nearly 1000 acres of unmatched natural beauty, exhilarating views, and Elk Knob State Park.
The summit of Sunalei, Snake Mountain, at an elevation of over 5500 feet with the ridge line that extends for nearly three-quarters of a mile, are included in the protected lands. The unique balance of homes, recreation and park lands serve to protect and conserve the valuable natural beauty of the highest mountain in Watauga County keeping it unharmed, pristine, and “forever wild.”
The number of home sites within Sunalei is strictly limited but range from 2 acre rustic cabins sites to 20 acre Homestead and Camp lots. Each custom home is carefully sited, designed, and landscaped to blend in with nature and the community, allowing the focus to always be on the surrounding natural undisturbed beauty.
In addition to hiking trails, property owners in Sunalei enjoy High Mountain Camp, a clubhouse purported to be the highest elevation clubhouse east of the Rockies. High Mountain Camp has a large gathering room that includes a massive stone fireplace, huge open decks, bar with pool table, kitchen, ping pong table, games and a fitness room. There’s no better place to enjoy sunsets with family and friends.
Sunalei (pronounced Su-nah-lay-ee) is Cherokee for “morning.” The name was inspired by the early morning light reflected in the high peaks of the Appalachians. In another nod to the Cherokee, all of the streets in the community end in Nvno (pronounced Nuh-no) which is Cherokee for “road.”
Sunalei Preserve is located 12 miles west of Boone off Highway 421. Of the 1000 acres, approximately 800 acres are located within Watauga County, North Carolina, and 200 acres are located within Johnson County, Tennessee. From Boone, travel west on Highway 421 for 12 miles. Just before the NC/TN line, turn right on Rich Mountain Road, the last road in Watauga County. Follow Rich Mountain Road for 1.5 miles to the entrance to Sunalei Preserve.
The streams that flow off Snake Mountain are an important feeder for the north fork of New River, which is regarded as the second oldest river in the world. The south fork of New River headwaters originate at a spring near Blowing Rock. New River is an unusual river in that it flows northerly (like the Nile). It is between 10 and 360 million years old and cut its bed prior to the rise of the Appalachian Mountains. Currently, the New River flows through the states of North Carolina, Virginia, and