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 State Park
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.
North Carolina Arboretum
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.
Lake James State Park
Camping, swimming, canoeing, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, picnicking and much more, Lake James State Park located on the shores of 6,812-acre Lake James is a popular destination for all of these activities year round. The Park consists of the Catawba River Area and the Paddy’s Creek Area each a few miles apart. Camping is only permitted in the Catawba River Area while swimming is only allowed in the Paddy’s Creek Area.
Apple Hill Farm - Alpaca Farm
Situated atop Valle Mountain, Apple Hill Farm - Alpaca Farm is a 45-year apple orchard, which has been turned into a working alpaca farm. Visitors can take a guided tour of the farm and learn about all the other animals living there, such as llamas, horses, angora goats, cats, dogs, and even donkeys. The onsite store also offers undyed alpaca yarn from the farm’s own herd.
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.
Elk Knob State Park
The 3,680-acre Elk Knob State Park is located circa 17 miles (27 km) north from Milepost 291 off the Blue Ridge Parkway. From its summit at 5,520 feet (1,682 meters) it offers stunning long-range panoramic views of the valleys below. The park is open for cross-country skiing during the winter.
The Historic Orchard at Altapass
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.
Linn Cove Viaduct
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.
Brinegar Cabin at Doughton Park
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.
Julian Price Memorial Park
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
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
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.
Chimney Rock State Park
Chimney Rock State Park offers some of the most beautiful mountain scenery with breathtaking 75-mile views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and man-made Lake Lure. It features the famous 315-foot (96m) Chimney Rock. 499 stairs lead up to Chimney Rock. Alternatively, you can take an elevator but check ahead to make sure that the elevator is in operation.
The park also features Hickory Nut Falls, a 404-foot (123m) waterfall, the second highest of its kind east of the Mississippi River.
The History Museum of Burke County
The History Museum of Burke County exhibits over 20,000 artifacts grouped by major historical events and by themes, such as military, fashion, toys or games, spanning more than three centuries. Visitors can also see recreations of a town-typical barbershop, an old-fashioned beauty parlor, a café and the offices of an optometrist and a dentist. These everyday settings offer visitors of all ages a wonderful glimpse back into our distant and not so distant past. Guided tours are available.
Historic NC School for the Deaf
The Historic North Carolina School for the Deaf is the second historic state institution in Morganton. Situated on a beautiful hill south of downtown, the school’s campus comprises 14 historical buildings constructed between 1891 and the mid 1930s, including the magnificent Main Building with its imposing five-story clock tower. A small museum, located on site, explains the history of the school through old pictures, architectural drawings, articles and memorabilia (by appointment only).
Historic Broughton Hospital
The Historic Broughton Hospital was one of two large state institutions, which were brought to Morganton in the late 1800s. Originally called the Western North Carolina Insane Asylum, the Broughton Hospital, which has considerably expanded over the years, continues to be a major employer in the region. The historic buildings can still be viewed from the outside today.
Railroad Depot and Museum
The Railroad Depot and Museum is a cute little museum located in a beautifully restored train station from the 1860s. The museum features a collection of railroad memorabilia including nostalgic dining car tableware, an old telegraph, a ticket counter, a brass bell and a headlamp from a steam locomotive.
Historic McDowell House
The Historic McDowell House, which is located in Quaker Meadows 2.5 miles (4 km) from downtwon Morganton, is a beautifully restored plantation home from 1812 and the oldest brick home in Burke County. It is said that in 1780 on these grounds Charles McDowell’s father and other Patriot soldiers made plans, which led to the victory over the British in the Battle of Kings Mountain during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783).
Historic Tate House
The Historic Tate House is not just a beautiful building in a park-like setting in the center of downtown, it was also the home of one of Morganton’s most influential residents. Samuel Tate, who was a local hero during the American Civil War and a successful businessman and politician in the late 1800s, is credited with bringing two large state institutions to this small community located far from the state capital Raleigh.