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Blue Ridge Parkway Vacation Guide, Asheville NC

Blue Ridge Parkway Guide: Parkway Overview | Favorite 15 Parkway Stops | Top 10 Parkway Hikes | Parkway Waterfall Tour | Best Parkway Photos | Parkway FAQ | Parkway Visitor Center | Parkway Biking | Parkway Closures & Construction | Folk Art Center | Mt. Mitchell | Linn Cove Viaduct | Printable Parkway Map | Motorcyle Drives | Fall Foliage Forecast & Photos | Parkway Facility Dates and Hours | Parkway History | Foundation | Top 20 Picnic Spots | Parkway Overlooks | Bear Safety Tips | Leave No Trace

Blue Ridge Parkway Viaduct
Linn Cove Viaduct

Rough Ridge, Blue Ridge Parkway
Rough Ridge

Skinny Dip Falls
Skinny Dip Falls

Fall Color on Parkway
Fall Foliage Forecast & Guide

Folk Art Center
Folk Art Center

Blue Ridge Parkway, Crabtree Falls
Crabtree Falls

Mt. Mitchell, Blue Ridge Parkway
Mt. Mitchell

Parkway Mountain Views
View from one of the many overlooks

July 2014 Update: Graveyard Fields hiking and waterfalls reopened after nice additions of parking and restrooms. Weekly guided hikes by rangers continue - the list is updated weekly.

The Blue Ridge Parkway (part of the U.S. National Park Service) near Asheville, North Carolina, offers plenty of spots for roadside picnics, breathtaking vistas, easy to difficult hiking trails, and a reprieve from commercialism. The 469-mile, non-stop recreational motor road connects Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks. With the use of the milepost system (the numbers increase as you drive south), you can easily find points of interest along the way. There is no admission fee and most of the things to doalong the way are free. It's definitely a romantic drive, and one of the most scenic routes in America.

Latest Updates: Favorite 15 Parkway Stops Photo Tour | Fall Color 2014 Forecast | Top 10 Parkway Easy Hikes

15 TIPS FOR BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
1. Go slowly and enjoy the scenery. The speed limit is 45 mph. Although there are no stop signs or stoplights, this is not a freeway.
2. Stop at the overlooks to soak in the views. If an overlook is busy, take a short walk to find a more secluded spot.
3. Take a blanket and picnic. There are several picnic areas along the way, and many green areas along the drive to stop. Top 20 Picnic Spots
4. Take a jacket. With the elevation changes along the drive, the temperature may vary as much as 20 to 30 degrees. At the highest elevations, the hottest summer days only reach into the 70s.
5. Watch for hikers and bicyclists.
6. Be certain to take your camera. Ask someone to take a picture of you along the way.
7. Gas up before you get on the parkway. There are no gas stations on the parkway. Gas stations are also located on intersecting highways near the Parkway exits (see list of exits for gas on FAQ page).
8. Restrooms are located at major stops such as picnic areas and visitor centers.
9. Please do not disturb wildlife or plant life. Bear sightings are rare. Practice Leave No Trace!
10. If you are into bird watching or wildflowers, be sure to take your guidebooks.
11. Along the Parkway, you will see numbered mileposts. The zero milepost marker is at the north end of the Parkway in Virginia. Numbers progress as you drive south.

12. Dogs and other pets must be on a leash or under physical restraint at all times while along the Parkway and hiking trails.
13. Parking is permitted on road shoulders (unless noted). Be sure to have all four wheels are off the pavement.
14. To help plan your journey, begin at the Parkway Visitor Center that is located in Asheville.
15. For emergencies along the Parkway, call 1-800-ParkWatch.

16. Road closures and conditions, along with weather reports, are available by calling the Parkway information line at (828) 298-0398. Many sections of the Parkway close in winter months because of snow and ice. See a real-time map of which sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway are open/closed.

THE PARKWAY @ ASHEVILLE
Take the Blue Ridge Parkway north or south from Asheville, and in either direction you will quickly climb the ridge and reach elevations of 5,000+ feet. Keep in mind that the higher stretches of the Parkway are closed during the winter months (November-March), depending on the weather. There are five entrances to the Parkway in the Asheville area. If you are taking the Parkway to the north, take the entrance from U.S. Highway 70 east of town (at Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 382), and if you are heading south, take the entrance from NC Highway 191 near I-26 (at Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 393). There are no exits to the Blue Ridge Parkway from Interstate highways. While the Parkway is open 24 hours a day, facilities along the way operate on a seasonal schedule.

Hiking: There are many hiking trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway, including the 193-mile stretch of the Mountains to the Sea Trail. Read more about Parkway hiking and our Asheville Top 60 Hikes.

Driving Tour Suggestions: From Asheville take a leisurely ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway north or south. Then take a "regular" highway for a fast return to Asheville.
The North Loop: Drive north from Asheville to Milepost 304.4 (about 80 miles - allow three hours), ride across the Viaduct and turn around to return to Milepost 317.4. Exit onto US 221 South to Marion, then take I-40 West to Asheville. The return trip is about 1.5 hours.
The South Loop: Drive south from Asheville about 50 miles to Milepost 443.1 (allow 2.5 hours). Take US 74 East/US 23 North to Waynesville, then I-40 East to Asheville. Return trip is about an hour.

Blue Ridge Parkway: NC Top 50 Things to Do

Here are our top picks for things to do along the 170-mile North Carolina section from north to south: (Asheville exits are b/w Mileposts 382 and 393) Also see our Favorite 15 Photo Tour.

Rough Ridge, Milepost 302.8: 1/3-mile hike to wonderful views on a boardwalk atop a rocky ridge along Tanawha Trail. See photos and more in our Rough Ridge Hiking Guide.

Linn Cove Viaduct, Milepost 304.4: This masterpiece of engineering was constructed to preserve Grandfather Mountain, as the viaduct curves with the contours of the mountain. Drive across it and turn around to do it again. Stop at the Visitor Center and walk under this marvel. See our Linn Cove Viaduct Guide.

Grandfather Mountain, Milepost 305: Exit onto U.S. 221 to reach this famous mountain. See our Grandfather Mountain Guide and read about the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. The town of Banner Elk is 12 miles.

Beacon Heights, Milepost 305.2: A one-mile roundtrip hike with panoramic views from a rock face mountaintop. See photos on our Beacon Heights Hiking Guide.

Milepost 312.2: Highway 181 Crosses. Take NC 181 south to hike to Table Rock or Hawksbill Mountain at Linville Gorge. Or go south 5.5 miles for Upper Creek Falls.

Linville Falls, Milepost 316.3: Take an easy 1 or 1.5 hike to see the beautiful falls and gorge. Visitors Center and picnic area. See our Linville Falls Guide. Also see Duggers Creek Falls. Nearby is Linville Gorge.

Milepost 317.4: US 221 Crosses. Take US 221 South for a faster return to Asheville, (US 221 to Marion, then I-40 West to Asheville). Linville Caverns is four miles south of the Parkway.

Chestoa View, Milepost 320.8: Stop and walk a short trail to one of the best views on the Parkway. See our Chestoa View Guide.

The Orchard at Altapass, Milepost 328.3: A great stop to enjoy mountain music, buy jams, take a hayride through the orchard and buy late summer apples. See our Orchard at Altapass Guide.

Museum of North Carolina Minerals (Highway 226), Milepost 331: See minerals found in North Carolina and regional geology (and nice restroom stop!). Free. See our Museum of NC Minerals Guide. Travel north on Highway 226 for six miles to Spruce Pine.

Little Switzerland, Milepost 334: Stop in this tiny village along the Parkway for food and a little shopping. See our Little Switzerland Guide. Adjacent to the Parkway is the hike to Grassy Creek Falls. Just three miles away is Emerald Village and the NC Mining Museum.

Crabtree Falls & Meadows, Milepost 339.5: Take a 2.5-mile moderate hike to the beautiful 70-foot waterfall. See our Guide to Crabtree Falls.

NC Highway 80 Crosses, Milepost 344: Go south to Marion and I-40 (18 miles). This is the road to take to get to Mt. Mitchell during the winter months, since the Park Rangers try to keep the section of Parkway between NC 80 and Mt. Mitchell plowed of snow and open as much as possible. Go north on NC 80 to Roaring Fork Falls, Setrock Creek Falls, Burnsville and Toe River Artist Studios. (Part of the Mount Mitchell Scenic Byway.)

Mt Mitchell, Milepost 355.4: Drive to the top of the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi (6,684 feet) for 85-mile views from the observation deck (if the clouds are not hanging on the peak). This is the perfect place to escape the heat of a hot summer's day, because it is usually 15 or 20 degrees cooler than the city. Hike through Alpine forests to Mt. Craig or pick up some food at the restaurant and have a mile-high picnic. No admission fee. Allow an hour to drive the 35 miles from downtown. See our Mount Mitchell Guide.

Glassmine Falls Overlook, Milepost 362.1: See this 200-foot waterfall from across the valley. Glassmine Falls flows most after a good rain. During drier periods, the waterfall almost dries up. See our Glassmine Falls Guide.

Craggy Gardens Visitor Center, Milepost 364.4: A short drive north from Asheville (24 miles from downtown) will take you up, up, up in elevation to the Craggy Gardens with great views to the east and to the west. Enjoy the crisp air, summer rhododendron, and hiking trails. See our Craggy Gardens Guide and our Craggy Pinnacle Hike Guide.

Blue Ridge Parkway
View from atop Craggy Pinnacle - looking at Craggy Gardens Parkway visitor center below.

Craggy Gardens Picnic Area, Milepost 367.6: Ample parking, lots of picnic tables, and easy access to several lovely trails make this a favorite destination. Also a delightful place for stargazing, weather permitting.

Milepost 375: Tanbark Ridge Tunnel and parking area for Rattlesnake Lodge hiking trail.

Milepost 376.6: Ox Creek Road intersects and winds down into the valley. At the end of Ox Creek Road (four miles), take a left on Reems Creek Road to go into the Weaverville area. Take a right on Reems Creek to visit Vance Birthplace State Historic Site.

Milepost 377.4: Turn onto NC 694 (not marked from the Parkway) for a fun drive on Town Mountain Road into downtown Asheville. You can hike on the Mountains to Sea trail from the small parking area there.

Folk Art Center, Milepost 382: This is the best stop to see and buy some of the finest art and crafts from Southern Appalachia artists. Browse the three fine art galleries, see daily craft demonstrations, and visit the Parkway information center. Read more about the Folk Art Center. See the latest Folk Art Center Art Exhibition.

Milepost 382.6: Asheville/US 70 crosses. Go east to find I-40 East or go to Black Mountain (10 miles). Head west into Asheville.

Milepost 384: Get plenty of info, see exhibits and watch a great high definition film at the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center.

Milepost 384.7: Asheville/US 74A crosses. Head east to Chimney Rock and Lake Lure (25 miles). Head west to find I-40 West.

Milepost 388.8: Asheville/US 25 crosses. Travel north three miles to Biltmore Estate or south for I-26 South toward Hendersonville.

Milepost 393.6: Asheville/NC 191 crosses. Go north for Asheville and I-26. Exit here for the gardens, exhibits and trails at the NC Arboretum (adjacent to Parkway) and Bent Creek Mountain Biking and Lake Powhatan Camping.

Tunnels of Love: As you leave the Asheville area, you will climb quickly in elevation and go through a dozen tunnels in the next 15 miles or so.

Mt. Pisgah, Milepost 407.6: This is a favorite hiking and picnic spot. The trail to the summit of this 5,000-foot peak may be a bit strenuous, but the reward is the view from the top. Picnic area at Milepost 407.8. See our Mt. Pisgah Hiking Guide.

Pisgah Inn, Milepost 408.7: The only inn and restaurant on this stretch of Parkway is located at 5,000 feet. It's a great place to stop for lunch since their dining room has big windows with beautiful vistas. Open April through October.

Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower, Milepost 409.6: Forest Service Road 450. 1.5 roundtrip hike to the lookout tower affords a better view (when it's open) than neighboring Mt. Pisgah. Read more about Fryingpan Mountain Tower.

Milepost 412: US 276 crosses. Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. Take a beautiful drive south to the Pisgah National Forest, Pink Beds Hike (4 miles), Cradle of Forestry (4 miles), Sliding Rock (8 miles), Looking Glass Falls (10 miles) and Brevard (18 miles). Head north to Waynesville (22 miles). This area (Wagon Road Gap) is home to monarch butterfly migration in middle September to early October each year.

Cold Mountain Overlook, Milepost 412: Read more about Cold Mountain.

Looking Glass Rock Overlook & Skinny Dip Falls, Milepost 417: Named for reflecting light brilliantly when water and ice are on the rock's granite surface. Hike to the top of Looking Glass (trailhead on U.S. 276). From overlook, hike 1/2 mile to Skinny Dip Falls, a popular summer swimming spot.

Graveyard Fields, Milepost 418.8: This barren scenery is very different from what you see along most of the parkway. Enjoy nice vistas with fairly easy hiking to some waterfalls. However, it can become very crowded here. Read more about Graveyard Fields.

Black Balsam, Milepost 420.2: A must hike for sweeping vistas. See our Black Balsam Guide.

Devil's Courthouse, Milepost 422.4: Take a strenuous 1/2-mile hike to the "Courthouse" for a 360-degree view. See our Devil's Courthouse Guide and Photos.

Milepost 423.2: NC Highway 215 Crossover. Go north to Canton, then back to Asheville. The trailhead for the Cold Mountain summit hike is 13 miles north. Also north is Wildcat Falls and Sunburst Falls. Go south on NC 215 for more waterfalls: Dill Falls, Courthouse Falls and Cathedral / French Broad Falls.

Cowee Mountains Overlook, Milepost 430: At an elevation of 5,950 feet, stunning mountain views afford one of the best places on the Parkway to watch a sunset.

Richland Balsam Overlook, Milepost 431.4: Stop at the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway at 6,047 feet, and hike a 1.5-loop to the summit. See our Richland Balsam Guide.

Click image above once to see our video with just a glimpse of the Blue Ridge Parkway. See more of our YouTube Asheville videos.

Milepost 443.1: US 74/23 Crossover. For a fast route back to Asheville, follow US 74 east to Waynesville, then I-40 east to Asheville. Head south to Sylva and Jackson County.

Waterrock Knob, Milepost 451.2: Stop here for lofty views from the parking area and hike to the summit of one of highest peak along the Parkway. Visitor Center and restrooms. Another popular spot to watch the sunset. See our Waterrock Knob Guide.

Milepost 455.7: Soco Gap, US Highway 19 exit to Maggie Valley or Cherokee & Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. Drive south on Highway 19 for 1.5 miles to Soco Falls, a 120-foot waterfall.

Heintooga Road, Milepost 458.2: Spur road to a mile-high overlook. Go 12 miles to Balsam Mountain Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains. Read more about Balsam Mountain and Heintooga Round Bottom Road.

Milepost 469.1: Blue Ridge Parkway ends at US 441 at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee. Visit the Oconaluftee Visitors Center to plan your visit to the Smokies.

BIKING
Biking the Blue Ridge Parkway: A journal of riding the entire Parkway in eight days. Also see our Biking Tips for the Parkway
.

ART
Enjoy beautiful scenes from the Parkway in your home with art by William Mangum. Read more!

BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY RESOURCES

Read more about the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.

Download PDF Map of the entire Blue Ridge Parkway.

See and print a Map of the Asheville area section of the Parkway.

Parkway Facility Dates and Hours of Operation

Looking for camping?

Events & Weddings along the Blue Ridge Parkway

 
Blue Ridge Parkway
     
     

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RomanticAsheville.com Travel Guide, an insider's vacation planner for Asheville and North Carolina Mountains.
Writing & Photography By Mark File - ©2003-2014 File Investments, Inc - All Rights Reserved
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