As Americas longest linear park, the Blue Ridge Parkway stretches across North Carolina and Virginia and is 469 miles (755 km) long connecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina with the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is widely known for its beautiful scenery and breathtaking long-range views. Mostly running on the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can stop along the way at its many overlooks and lookouts or visit a nearby park for a relaxing hike to a mountain top, from where you can admire the lush foresty almost carpet-like landscape below.
Any time of year is an excellent time to visit the mountains. However, our favorite times are spring (May to the beginning of June) and fall (October to the beginning of November).
Spring offers you fresh, young greens and blooming wildflowers with crisp deep blue skies as a beautiful backdrop. Our favorite is the wild growing rhododendrons which blossom this time of year and create a vibrant contrast of pinks, reds, and whites to the emerging greens.
If you love colors as much as we do, fall provides them in abundance. The bright red leaves of the maple trees blend gradually with the deepening yellows and fading summer greens and invite you to savor the magnificent symphony of colors, highlights, and shadows.
Located along the Blue Ridge Parkway between mileposts 364 and 365, Craggy Gardens is a must-see, especially in early June, when the Catawba Rhododendron is in full bloom creating a spectacular mountain-sized bouquet of color. A further 2 miles up the Parkway at milepost 367.6 is the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area, ideal for a bite to eat surrounded by gorgeous scenery.
Mount Mitchell’s summit at 6,684 feet (2,037 m) offers not just breathtaking views from its easily accessible observation deck, but it is also the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains and the highest mountain east of the Mississippi River. A small museum near the top explains the mountain’s cultural and natural history and how Mount Mitchell became North Carolina’s first state park.
Adjacent to Pisgah National Forest and just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 393, the North Carolina Arboretum is located in one of the most beautiful settings in the area. Wonderful exhibitions, an extensive bonsai collection and multiple trails let visitors spend a couple of hours at the Arboretum and enjoy the picturesque scenery.
Considered one of the most visited, popular and beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina, Linville Falls offers photographers and hikers picturesque views from several overlooks along its moderate to strenuous trails ranging in length from 1-mile to 1.6-mile round-trip. It is also said that a number of trail scenes for the film “The Last of the Mohicans” were filmed at the falls.
Located at Milepost 328.3 just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, The Historic Orchard at Altapass is an over 100-year old apple orchard, where visitors can also pick their own apples during the harvest season from September to October. During that time, the orchard is also a favorite stop for thousands of migrating monarch butterflies. Several short, easy to moderate hiking trails lead through the orchard along rows of apple trees and two scenic lookout points.
Preserving the fragile ecosystem of Grandfather Mountain, the Linn Cove Viaduct was the last section of the Blue Ridge Parkway that was only completed in 1987 after a 20-year delay. The viaduct has won 11 design awards and is one of the most photographed sites along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Visitor Center on the south side of the viaduct offers a lot of interesting information about the bridge’s construction.
Between Blowing Rock and Spruce Pine, the Blue Ridge Parkway features several overlooks offering breathtaking long-range views of the landscape below. This post features our favorites.
Re-live life in the mountains as it was over 100 years ago. Brinegar Cabin at Doughton Park was the homestead of Martin and Caroline Brinegar who lived in this cabin for almost 60 years. The 7,000-acre Doughton Park, one of the largest parks in North Carolina, is a great destination for hikers, offering 7 different trails ranging from 1 mile to 7.5 miles one way. It also has a large campground on the north-eastern side of the park near Milepost 239.
The Julian Price Memorial Park offers trails, which are as diverse in scenery as they are in difficulty. They range from the easy 2.7-mile loop around man-made Price Lake, where you can even rent a canoe, to the strenuous but ingenious 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail, which passes under the famous Linn Cove Viaduct. The Park is open year-round.
Moses H Cone Memorial Park is open year-round and sees 225,000 people each year being one of the most visited recreational places on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It offers gorgeous views and 25 miles of wonderful hiking and horseback riding trails around lakes and forests. The Flat Top Manor, the former mansion, is also home to the Parkway Craft Center, where regional artists display their handmade crafts. It also features craft demonstrations during the summer months.
The Blowing Rock is North Carolina’s oldest travel destination not only thanks to its wonderful legend of love and duty, but also to its spectacular views and its unique rock formation. This rock formation creates such an updraft that smaller objects rise in the air instead of falling to the ground.