The Spectacular Views from “Sugar Top”

The most maligned building in all the mountains has to be the ten story condominium that was perched atop Little Sugar Mountain in 1983. Sugar Top, as it was promoted by the developers, would offer unlimited views of the surrounding high country from its 5,000 foot elevation adjacent to the Sugar Mountain Ski Resort. What was originally supposed to be a five story concrete and wood structure became a ten story concrete only rectangular behemoth before the public could react to the drastic change.

Sugar Top Condominium
Photo by Jennifer Crouch

For Hugh Morton and his family, the owners of nearby Grandfather Mountain, this new neighbor was an eyesore on the horizon, and something had to be done to make sure that it would be the only large project to ever be built on a mountain top. With a swell of public support, the North Carolina legislature passed the “Mountain Ridge Protection Act” in 1983, after a bitter battle with developers and property rights advocates. Never again would anything be allowed on ridge tops over 3,000 feet, preserving the unspoiled beauty of these magnificent mountains.

The conservation movement in North Carolina actually owes a debt of gratitude to the developers of Sugar Top. Had that condo never been built, what we take for granted today as a robust environmental and conservation movement might never have gotten off the ground. “The scenic value of high mountain vistas are too valuable to spoil!”, was their rallying cry.

Sugar Mountain Golf Course

Sugar Mountain Golf Course

From as far away as fifty miles, Sugar Top attracts the eye away from the other ridges. This view from the golf course also shows the ski runs in their summer regalia. I learned during my visit that construction on a new gondola lift to the summit is well underway. This will be a much needed addition to my favorite ski mountain.

Friends from Florida were spending August at Sugar Top, so I took advantage of this rare opportunity to visit the building, and capture the views that I had heard so much about. One good thing about being at Sugar Top: When you’re inside looking out, you don’t see the building.

The 300 yard long hallways reminded me of the movie, "The Shining"

The 300 yard long hallways reminded me of the movie, “The Shining”

Little Sugar Mountain north view
From the parking area at the base of the building, the views are amazing. This is looking north toward Boone, with part of Grandfather Mountain on the right.

Grandfather Mountain from Sugar Top
A turn to the right reveals Grandfather Mountain in the clouds.

Sugar Ski Runs
Looking off to the southwest, mile high Sugar Mountain with its ski runs dominates the vista.

Sugar Top View 2
Ascending to the tenth floor apartment, the balcony view to the southeast was worth the visit. In the distance is Table Rock and Hawksbill Mountain along the east rim of Linville Gorge. Colors are already beginning to appear in the woods.

The entire panorama from the 10th floor balcony...

The entire panorama from the 10th floor balcony…

That’s Grandfather to the left, with the Linville Ridges community stretched out “legally” along the adjacent ridge. Grandmother Mountain with her tower is to the right. Click on any of the images to see the full screen versions.

Grandfather Mountain in Clouds
On the drive home, I stopped to get one last summer view of Grandfather Mountain under a heavy layer of clouds.

Linville Falls Cows
Near Linville Falls Village, cows have recently replaced Christmas trees on these rolling hills.

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