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Unaka Mountain

Site Directions: From the junction of I-81 and I-26, follow I-26 South for 28 miles to Erwin's Main Street (Exit 19). Follow signs to Tennessee Route 107 West to 10th Street and Tennessee Route 395 and turn left. Drive east on Rte. 395 toward the Tennessee-North Carolina state line for 3.3 miles to Rock Creek Campground. Thirty-one mile tour of Unaka Mountain follows TN 395, Forest Service Rd 230, and TN 107 west. Gravel roads in many areas on Unaka Mountain. Large RV's NOT recommended. Four-wheel drive may be needed in wet conditions.
Rock Creek Campground - Lat-Long: 36.13686, -82.35277
Unaka Mountain Wilderness - Lat-Long: 36.1444, -82.29305
Hours: daylight hours
Seasonality: year round, but weather depending. Forest service roads may be closed for snow or ice.
Fees: none

Unaka Mountain provides spectacular views of the valley.

Site Description: The lowlands of Unaka Mountain contain oak-chestnut and mixed mesophytic forests including buckeye, Sugar Maple, Yellow Birch, beech and hemlock. As the elevation increases, blueberry and laurel are found. In the higher slopes beech-maple and spruce-fir communities dominate with grassy balds and rhododendron patches. Rock Creek Campground is typical of low elevations. At Beauty Spot, grassy balds are present. High elevation sites like Stamping Ground Ridge and the Unaka Mountain summit contain the evergreen forests. The Unaka Mountain Wilderness at 4,500' contains 4,496 acres.

Wildlife to Watch: At Rock Creek stop to listen for Swainson's Warbler in the Rhododendron thickets. Black-throated Green Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush are common breeding birds here as well. Rock Creek is fantastic birding in spring migration. Grassy balds provide views of the mountains and uncommon high elevation flora and fauna. Peregrine Falcons have nested in the Unaka Mountain area and may be seen from the overlook. Common Ravens may also been seen and heard "croaking" in the area. In the short firs, you may find Magnolia Warblers breeding, one of the few locations in Tennessee. Golden-crowned Kinglets and Red-breasted Nuthatches are uncommon nesting specialties in the area. Black-throated Blue Warbler and Canada Warbler nest on Unaka Mountain. Northern Saw-whet Owl nests in small numbers on Unaka Mountain.

NOTE: Please refer to TWRA Hunting Guide about hunting seasons and public access dates. Access dates vary by site.

For more information:

Tennessee Ornithological Society - Audubon Important Bird Area web page

Tennessee Ornithological Society - Bird Finding information

Tennessee Ornithological Society - Bird Checklist

Cherokee National Forest

Submit your data to eBird and help us build a list of birds seen at this site

Be sure to check out our Safety Tips page for important information regarding viewing wildlife in these areas.