North Carolina was Cool Before The Hunger Games

Yes, I did in fact watch The Hunger Games on the day it came out. I read the entire series in a couple weeks, searched every day for two months for new movie clips and trailers, and even took a quiz to find out which character I am. For the record, I am Tresh, which evidently means that while I am big and can appear imposing, deep inside I’m just a teddy bear. As the final credits rolled across the screen last Friday, I couldn’t help but smile in satisfaction. Yes, I considered it a great movie, but my satisfaction went much further then that. My connection to The Hunger Games ran deep because the same woods that a large portion of it was filmed in were the same woods I explored throughout my college years at Western Carolina University.

Western Carolina University was a suitcase campus. There were just over 7,000 students when I was there from 2001-2006 with many of those students living in Western North Carolina and going home on the weekends. No one could blame them for this since the little town of Cullowhee had just one stoplight, a couple restaurants, and a convenience store, which fortunately for us was one of the few convenience stores I had seen that had a Cheerwine slushie machine. And if you’ve never had Cheerwine, then you’ve clearly missed out on valuable life experiences. That left two things to do in Cullowhee: Party at fraternity ┬áhouses or hit the outdoors. Not being into the college party scene, I spent my five years of college doing the latter.

As another creek or trail would appear in The Hunger Games, I couldn’t help but wonder if that was a creek I had re-filled my water bottle in or a trail I had hiked. Many of the arena scenes from the movie were filmed in DuPont State Forest. I lived within 60 miles of DuPont State Forest for over eight years and remember enjoying a visit there because of the many waterfalls. The waterfalls were so prevalent that there was even a tour called the “Tour de Falls”, which takes visitors to several of DuPont’s waterfalls, including my favorite, Bridal Veil Falls, which was also in the movie The Last of the Mohicans.

However, the part of The Hunger Games I was most familiar with was Craggy Pinnacle. Craggy Pinnacle is where scenes of the Cornucopia were filmed. This is one of the more accessible filming locations for visitors to Western North Carolina since it’s located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, northeast of Asheville as you’re driving toward Mt. Mitchell. While nearby Mt. Mitchell is the highest peak in the Eastern United States, the view from the summit of Craggy Pinnacle isn’t too shabby itself, offering a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains. I can think of few better ways to spend an entire day in North Carolina then a hike to Craggy Pinnacle followed by a drive up to Mt. Mitchell State Park.

As you can imagine, North Carolina tourism is using The Hunger Games as an opportunity to promote the region. There’s even a recommended 4-day itinerary. It’s too early to tell what kind of effect The Hunger Games will have on North Carolina tourism. Other popular movies that have showcased a destination, such as Lord of the Rings, have significantly impacted tourism in those places. What’s interesting about Western North Carolina is that The Hunger Games didn’t even show the most beautiful time of year in North Carolina, which is the fall months of September and October when the leaves change colors.

I often talk about day and weekend trips that allow travelers to unplug. While these types of destinations are decreasing, Western North Carolina remains a special place to me as one of those destinations where I can escape to unplug. The Hunger Games brought some much deserved attention to North Carolina, even though in my mind, North Carolina has always been a gem.

Sunset photo of Craggy Pinnacle from fsamuels on Flickr.

What’s your favorite destination that’s been featured in a movie?

14 Comments on “North Carolina was Cool Before The Hunger Games

  1. Wow! That picture of the sunset is incredible. Might just convince me to work North Carolina into my summer road trip plans :)

    • I couldn’t agree more! Let me know if you need some south suggestions!

  2. I wonder how much the area will try to capitalise on this huge connection now? Like you said, having scenery featured in a major film can create a huge boost in tourism! (Just look at the beach from “The Beach”!)

    My favorite destination that’s been featured in a movie has to be New Zealand – all of it! As a Tolkien fan, it really does seem as though he wrote Lord of the Rings with NZ in mind!

    • That’s one reason why I want to go to New Zealand so bad! I’ll be interested to see what happens in NC. I think Western North Carolina will keep most of that small town charm. It can only get so big. That and locals want to keep it that way!

  3. I was wondering where Hunger Games was filmed ;) Delaware’s claim to fame is The Dead Poet’s Society… filmed like 20 minutes from where I grew up (but in all fairness, Delaware *is* only about 2.5 hours top to bottom).

  4. Just had to see it here in Thailand after breezing through the books. LOL. Curious how it’s going to play out on NC tourism. In any case, beautiful pictures. Not going to lie, I kind of want to visit N. Carolina. Just tell me where to get a mockingjay pin. :D

    • Nice! Well let me know when you guys want some Carolina recommendations. I’ve got you covered on the food recs!

  5. Hey uncle spence, remember when we were friends in western North Carolina? Miss those mtns like crazy, day dream abt them on a regular basis. The cheer wine slushie referenceade me laugh.. I feel like you had at least one a day. If you ever wanna stop being lame and call me let me know.

    • We should talk actually. I’m actually in Colorado ever so briefly in June.

  6. I couldn’t agree with you more. I too am a graduate of Western and cherish many fond memories of running through the hills and waterfalls in and around Cullowhee. Happy for that others are going to be able to discover the area.

    • Oh this is great. So nice finding a fellow Catamount! Not every day that I hear “Cullowhee”!

  7. I’m listening to the series on audio right now. Didn’t know they were filmed in NC- I kind of pictured West Virginia.

    And you are right North Carolina’s a gem.

  8. I feel like a dork for admitting this, but I’ve wanted to visit North Carolina ever since seeing “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” (Yup, I said it.)

  9. Pingback: 5 National Parks You May Have Never Visited

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