Banner Elk is one of the loftiest towns in the mountainous High Country region-at 3,739 feet above sea level. The towering peaks of Grandfather Mountain command the skyline, as do the two biggest ski areas in the High Country, Beech and Sugar Mountains. The lofty ski hubs of both Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain are towns, too. No wonder Banner Elk license plates proclaim it the "Ski Capital of the South."
Banner Elk is a charming burg that's beautiful in all seasons of the year. Cool summers, flaming fall foliage, snowy winters, and a vibrant, blooming spring season recommend the town's great restaurants and B&Bs. Attractions are many, including one of the area's great "swimmin' holes"-beautiful Wildcat Lake.
Lees-McRae College has been a catalyst in the Banner Elk area for about 100 years. Edgar Tufts founded the Elizabeth McRae Institute for Girls in 1900. Mrs. S.P. Lees was a major benefactor so the name changed to the Lees-McRae Institute in 1903. The institute became Lees-McRae Junior College in 1929, and then Lees-McRae College with four-year accreditation in 1990. Today the college offers undergraduate programs, degree completion programs, and even a few graduate programs.