The Blue Ridge Parkway derives its name from the balancing act it performs along the crest of the famous mountain range that is the signature of western Virginia and North Carolina. Following a winding, manicured path from its start as The Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park to its ultimate end at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this nearly 500 mile beauty of mid-twentieth century engineering traverses some of the most breathtaking forest land found in the eastern United States. We've travelled the full length of the Parkway and enjoyed every mile. So much, in fact, that NC Bro lives within a half hour access. Go directly to the Blue Ridge Parkway Photo Gallery.
Immediately obvious as you travel down the parkway is the immaculate care that the National Park Service takes with upkeep and maintenance. There is never any litter, the road itself has no potholes or bumps, and the lawns and gardens one finds along the way are splendid in their elegance. Almost makes you want to pull out your 9-iron.
Another cool feature found throughout the length of the journey are the old, rustic fences. Lending a sense of an earlier time, you almost feel like you've stepped back several decades. We do a lot of pondering when we cruise this road; the sights, the sounds, the whole aura makes the trip more than just one of distance. Make sure when you travel this scenic byway you make plenty of stops. You will miss the essence if you don't.
A lot of restoration took place as the parkway was constructed. You'll find many well-preserved 19th century relics including old cabins and garden plots. In season, they even have throwback demonstrations of the looms that were found, and old farming equipment. Look for these cultural icons during the summer season.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is history waiting to be discovered. Although the road is often seen primarily as a scenic byway with plenty of natural attractions, it is also a cross-section of Appalachian mountain history. The Cherokee Indians of North Carolina, and the Monacan, Saponi, and Tutelo Indians of western Virginia, were among the earliest inhabitants of the Blue Ridge, leaving artifacts and changes in the landscape as evidence of their existence. Many of the fields still visible at the base of the mountains date back centuries to ancient American Indian agricultural methods.
The Davidson River trailhead near Brevard, NC is one of the most popular area within the entire Pisgah National Forest, for mountain bikers, hikers, equestrians, rock climbers, fishermen, naturalists, photographers, and tourists alike. This is a true National Forest recreation area, with a wide range of attractions that will delight any type of visitor. Turn onto Hwy. 276 at milepost 411.8. Being so close to the Parkway and to Brevard, this area is perfect for someone who loves the outdoors. Some of Pisgah's greatest backcountry and wilderness areas can be accessed from here. We hiked the Cat Gap Trail up to John Rock.
A must hike along the Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 420.2 - about 30 miles from the Asheville exit on the Parkway) is the Black Balsam area that includes some of the most spectacular mountain balds in the Southern Appalachians, including Black Balsam Knob (or Black Balsam Bald), Sam Knob, and Tennent Mountain. These treeless mountaintops in the Pisgah National Forest draw people from afar due to their sweeping views and alpine-like appearance. Almost entirely devoid of trees above 6000' the summit is more reminicent of New England than North Carolina. In fact, you can hike almost three miles without dropping back into the trees. On the next ridge southwest of Black Balsam is the Middle Prong Wilderness. Here's video of the Green Mountain Trail.
Mount Mitchell State Park is located in Yancey County, NC 33 miles north of Asheville off the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile marker 355. At the crest of the timeworn Black Mountains lies the summit of Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River. For those who ascend this mighty peak, what looms in the horizon is a feast for the eyes — breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, rolling ridges and fertile valleys. Forested and forever misty, the state park will provide you with some of the more tranquil moments you will ever experience. We were there in May 2009.
Linville Falls is located near mile marker 316 on the Parkway. The falls move in several distinct steps, beginning in a twin set of upper falls, moving down a small gorge, and finally culminating in a high-volume 45-foot drop. It is named for the Linville River, which goes over the falls. Linville Falls has the highest volume of any waterfall on the Northern Edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The falls is owned by the National Park Service, which operates a visitor center and several miles of non-handicapped accessible trails with four overlooks for the falls. The Linville Gorge resides in a national recreation area. Here is a brief video of the falls and gorge.
North of Asheville, NC the Parkway passes through the Great Craggy Mountains between mileposts 363-367, an area of exposed rock surfaces and high peaks that provide breathtaking views of distant southern Appalachian ridges. Large expanses of native rhododendron cover the slopes and summits. This area has long been known by locals as Craggy Gardens. In mid-June, pink and purple blooms of Catawba rhododendron cover the crags. Craggy Gardens has been recognized by the state of North Carolina as a Natural Heritage Area and has also been recommended as a National Natural Landmark. Because of the 5,500-foot elevation, weather conditions can be severe. So keep an eye on the forecast.
Driving the Parkway south from Asheville to Mt. Pisgah takes you past George W. Vanderbilt's palatial home, Biltmore House, and the landscaped forest preserve that surrounds it. A large chunk of Vanderbilt's 125,000 acre estate became the Pisgah National Forest. Vanderbilt believed in forest stewardship, so America's first forestry school, The Cradle of Forestry, is located very near Mt. Pisgah on Hwy. 276 at milepost 412. The Mt. Pisgah trailhead itself is located at mile 407, rising to the more than 5700' summit via a relatively steep 725' elevation gain. NCBro climbed to the top in July 2009. The views over the Pisgah National Forest are as astounding now as they were in the late 1800s—when Vanderbilt surveyed his land. A little further southwest at mile 422 is the Devil's Courthouse, a rocky outcropping that is a short, but steep climb from the parking area below. The views are splendid in every direction.
Proceed to the Blue Ridge Parkway Photo Gallery