November 22, 2015 — Over the years we have heard from many of our Members who were considering retirement in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We know there are many more who are tempted by the amazing scenery, mild 4 season climate, and outstanding recreational opportunities in this area. So it seems like this might be an ideal time to put together a compilation of comments that we have received from people who have either lived in the area, or explored it for possible retirement. We look forward to hearing from other folks who have an interest or experience in retiring to this area – please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.
All about the Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains are a chain of mountains running northeast from Georgia to
southern Pennsylvania. They run parallel but east of the Appalachians. The Wikipedia article on the Blue Ridge Mountains is an interesting read. There you will find facts about the chain like these:
– Its Mt. Mitchell is the tallest mountain in the eastern U.S. at 6,684′
– It has 125 peaks over 5,000′
– The “Blue” comes from its trees, which release isoprene into the atmosphere causing a blue haze
– It has two major national parks: the Shenandoah National Park in the northern section, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the southern section.
– The Blue Ridge also contains the Blue Ridge Parkway, a famous long scenic highway.
People who retire to the Blue Ridge Mountains have the choice of living in one of many states: Georgia, Tennessee, both Carolinas, Virginia, and Maryland – and even some more. The mountain altitudes provide a much different climate than the flatter regions of these states. It is colder in winter with a much better chance of snow, and cooler in summer too. The mountains and town there offer a different retirement lifestyle than the typical sunbelt retirement area. Although there are few sizable cities like Asheville and Knoxville, many folks choose to live in smaller towns that tend to be closer to the mountains. Transportation can be difficult with smaller and trickier roads. But because the area is so popular for retirement, there are many housing choices: active adult communities, 55+ communities, and all age planned developments that end up attracting many boomer age residents.
Some of the top Blue Ridge retirement towns
Here are some popular retirement towns we have reviewed at Topretirements.com
– Asheville, NC. The perennial #1 most popular retirement spot at Topretirements.com
– Charlottesville, VA – Former home of Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia
– Knoxville, TN – A university town to the west of the main Blue Ridge chain
– Blue Ridge, GA. It is at the very top of the state on the border near Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The town has about 1200 residents.
– Clemson, SC. Another college town in a great area.
– Murphy, NC This little town broke into our Top 100 list in 2015 at the #66 position
These towns are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to towns in or near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Use our State Directories to find more.
What our Members say
We are so grateful for the many Comments our Members have made over the years about retirement in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Their observations will give you a good flavor for what it is like living in many communities in the area. Here are some of their comments, edited down to be more readable. We have divided up the comments by area – starting with comments that pertain to a wide area of the region.
Blue Ridge in general
Carol: After visiting friends in NC, and driving through north GA several times, I fell in love with the scenery, the climate, and the style of homes up there. I am looking at northeast GA, possibly Blue Ridge, Ellijay, Dahlonega, Toccoa, etc…lots of little mountain style towns up there. There are medical facilities that accept Medicare patients in the towns of Blue Ridge and Ellijay at least. I have not investigated Blairsville, it is way up in the northeast corner of GA…but it too, is not far from Chattanooga or Atlanta.
John H: As lifetime CA residents, we retired to NC a couple of years ago. We live in Western North Carolina about half way between Asheville, NC and Greenville, SC (about 45 minutes to an hour each way). We live in Brevard, NC in a community called Connestee Falls. What a wonderful place at about 3000 ft. elevation in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I can’t say enough positive things about all aspects of living here. I love the culture, people are so friendly and we have made so many friends. We love the incredible beauty of the area and the many places that we can hike. So many things to do including fishing, golf and many events to develop relationships with other people. Brevard is a wonderful small town with unlimited things to do so many free events, particularly related to music. There is a wonderful new library and lots of charitable and volunteer opportunities. Brevard meets most of our needs for everyday shopping with all other things available by driving to Asheville, Hendersonville or Greenville, S.C (all less than an hour away by car). We like using the Greenville Airport and also the Asheville Airport for trips. I can’t imagine leaving this area since it fulfills all of our needs and wants for this final happy and active phase of life. One more thing that is refreshing………….God is still alive in the South. Christianity and prayer are looked at as ‘normal’ unlike the restraint in admission or discussion we experienced in CA. We highly recommend Brevard, NC as the ‘Best Place to Retire’!
Sonja: Give me where we live, Asheville, NC! Lived the first half of my life in WI – no thanks to those long winters! Climate here is perfect, people friendly, great hospital system, and gorgeous surroundings in the Blue Ridge Mts. Our kids grew up here and stayed, so the most important thing is, our family is nearby!
Cherie: Bicycling is a big part of the lifestyle in Asheville, NC. Many of the city streets have a bike lane and motorists are very conscientious about being aware of bikers and their safety. The city has several yearly events that involve biking such as the Bikes and Brews tour where you can local bicycle between microbreweries and if you have “oversampled” the goods, there is a bike transport enabled bus to provide a designated driver! And for the real biking enthusiast, there’s always the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Ella: I loved the main street area of Waynesville, it is so pretty and appealing with interesting shops, galleries, fairly low-priced restaurants, and the close proximity of medical and fitness centers. I do have a few concerns. It seemed that to do any hiking we’d have to drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway first, and then get onto a hiking trail from there. To much to do! We love walking and hiking and need something closer with more than one or two trails available.
Flat Rock appears too warm in the summer, at least as per Sperlings Best Places webite. We did visit Brevard. Whereas we didn’t like the town as much as Waynesville, i loved the green, foresty areas.
Mt. Airy, NC
Peter L: Mt Airy is a charming and dynamic community in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which protect it from severe weather. Its rolling topography combined with low density development, lots of trees and a love for landscaping is a treat to the eyes. It has a walkable downtown filled with interesting stores and two museums. It has a first class medical center type hospital and a very wide variety of specialists and general practitioners. It offers diversified cultural opportunities. A branch of the nearby Surry Community College is located in Mt. Airy. It has an outstanding city government that provides first class services. The Parks and Recreation Department has a very comprehensive recreation program year around, delivered through two large parks, two smaller parks, two (soon to be three) fitness greenways adjacent to streams and a comprehensive fitness and recreation center that includes two olympic sized pools, one indoor and one outdoor. It is the town that Mayberry of the Andy Griffith Show was patterned after. It is filled with friendly and caring citizens.
spiderwort: My husband and I are in our mid 70’s. We live on a mountaintop in Jasper, GA. We absolutely love it here….the weather is great….we do have some snow in the winter and sometimes we are snowed in but I would guess no more than 10-11 days a year and that is because we are on a mountaintop. The people that live here are wonderful and mostly retirees. We check on one another and there are clubs and classes of all kinds in our little town. There are many waterfalls, hiking trails nearby and we are within 15 min of Amicalola Falls….the largest falls east of the Mississippi! The beauty, wildlife and breathtaking views are unsurpassed! If you prefer gated communities, we have those, too, including Big Canoe, Bent Tree and Georgian Highlands. We are only an hour and a half from Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport. Blue Ridge Lake and Lake Lanier are within 45 min away. A beautiful place to live!
Hospital – It’s Piedmont Mountainside Medical Center. This is a fairly new hospital and we have had very good care there and they are quick to transfer you to “Big Piedmont” if needed. The medical care in the community is good. Jasper is not a tourist town as is Ellijay and Blue Ridge. Big Canoe is about half way between Jasper and Dawsonville….there is a grocery store, bakery, a few restaurants, hardware store, etc. nearby but otherwise you are about 20 min from either town. We are not bothered by mosquitos or any bugs for that matter…at least up here on the mountaintop. We do have lots of wildlife including black bears. There are lots of volunteer opportunities here….Habitat for Humanity; CASA; child mentors; Good Samaritan Medical; etc, etc. We don’t have a crime problem here either. If you like the woods, nature, waterfalls, hiking trails, wildlife, etc., you would love it here.
Diane S: While in college in the N. GA mountains (foothills of the Blue Ridge – Dahlonega) I fell I love with the mountains, and a cadet. We were embraced by the community and the years there were some of the happiest in my life.
Georgia is a retirement friendly state – and you don’t need to live in the nether regions of the mountains – say ‘Blue Ridge, etc.’ you will find almost anything you need or want… but medical is a bit of a risk the further you go into the mountains. I don’t know you want to live a secluded life or one in an active 55+ community, but there are plenty of those around, most fairly expensive in the mountains. We are looking at E. Tennessee around Sevierville because of the close proximity to UT Medical Center but we…have some ‘odd’ non-lethal medical problems that make finding a doctor difficult, particularly the specialties I need.
We have looked at Georgia, S.C. and Tennessee and have settled on the latter – and although I would LOVE to live in Dahlonega again (or the near area). Depending on your situation I think you would be happy anywhere in the Blue Ridge or Smokies.
Lake Arrowhead, GA
Ella: I’ve been planning to visit Big Canoe in Marble Hill/Jasper, and had not heard of Lake Arrowhead until (Robert’s) post. Big Canoe seems very expensive, so it’s nice to learn it’s not the only show in town. How do you feel about Waleska? Being so close to Atlanta, does it get overrun with visitors, seeking cooler terrain, in the summer ? How hilly is it there? I guess you’re outside the Blue Ridge Mountain range. Blairsville looks appealing as it is not subject to tornadoes and has good medical facilities. I checked Big Canoe and a tornado did run thru in 2011.
Blue Ridge, GA
Steve: We live very near Blue Ridge in Ellijay, GA and you are right – it is a great community with a lot of nice cabins near water, long range views, etc. It is near North Carolina, not South Carolina. It is also pretty near Atlanta so you have reasonable access to Atlanta for Sports, theater, shopping, etc. Blue Ridge has an active community theater as well. We like the area for hiking (lots of waterfalls nearby), kayaking, great trout fishing, and the great community we live in at Coosawattee River Resort. There is quite a bit of wildlife the area is absolutely beautiful. Lots to do for active retirees.
KLSopher: I live one mile outside of Lynchburg VA (pop 77,000) in Forest VA. I absolutely love this green, lush area and the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains are spectacular! They have public bus transportation and taxis should you need one. Hiking opportunities: there is a website called Meetups (Lynchburg) that has a hiking club. Liberty Univ (1 of 5 colleges here) “owns” this town. Most new construction (my observation) is for apts. for college students. Reception here has been kind, people give you “face time” but it pretty much ends there. Very difficult area to break into. Other people that have moved here echo the same feelings. Heavy family and church – mainstay of this area. Can’t tell you how many people asked me what church I go to. It has shopping opportunities the likes of Super WalMart, Target, PetsMart, Ross, Kohl’s, Belks, etc.) Cost of living is reasonable. Don’t know too much about the arts but understand that Liberty puts on plays/shows – that you’d need to check out. Except for lacking in the type of housing I want and the fact I can’t seem to break into this area – I’d stay but it’s not in the cards.
Smith Mountain Lake, VA
Robert L: I would like to make a plug for Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A clear, beautiful lake offering a full complement of aquatic pursuits, and surrounded by a full gamut of housing possibilities. The Lake is within an hour’s driving distance of both Lynchburg and Roanoke, and has become a popular retirement location for folks from both up north and further south.
Everette: My wife and I are seriously considering retiring to Charlottesville, VA, relatively close to our children in the Washington, D.C. area. Charlottesville has the four seasons without extremes, excellent medical and educational facilities at the University of Virginia, history, and the extraordinary beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. While not one of the lowest tax states, Virginia has reasonable taxes.
Marsha: Planning on the Greenville, South Carolina area (Upcountry) foothills of the Blue Ridge Mts. We’ve been there and fell in love with the ares. Upbeat, and lots to do. Healthcare is also an issue.
We hope that this background on the Blue Ridge Mountains and the little snapshots of various towns near them gave you some flavor for what a retirement might be like there. There is of course nothing better than a tour of the area to understand it better, and find out if it might be to your liking. Many folks take the opportunity of driving through on their way to or from a snowbird winter to explore pieces of the region. You can get a head start on the areas you might like by looking in our State Directories.
Comments? Please let us know in the Comments section about your thoughts and experiences about retiring near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Have you lived there, toured the area. What do you think about the lifestyle, the pros and cons, etc. Hearing from people who know the area will be so helpful to many of our Members – thanks!