Picnicking in the mountains is so much fun! Here are some of our favorite spots:
1. DuPont Forest Triple Falls: Our favorite picnic spot is on large, flat boulders in the middle of a triple waterfall (pic above)! It's an easy one-mile hike from the parking area. You will see the view in the photo above before you approach a long staircase down to the picnic spot. It can be crowded here on weekends and hot summer days, so it's not the spot for a secluded picnic. But there is plenty of space for all to enjoy. For more, see our DuPont State Forest Guide.
2. Blue Ridge Parkway Roadside: Picnic spots are limitless along the Parkway. You can picnic roadside (except the area for the Asheville Watershed from near Craggy Gardens to Mt. Mitchell) or at any of the many overlooks. Be sure to get food before you get on the Parkway! Below are six great stops along the Parkway. See our mile-by-mile Blue Ridge Parkway Guide.
3. Beacon Heights (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 305.2): Talk about a picnic with a view! Take a short 1/2 mile hike to a large rock summit with plenty of room for a picnic while taking in wonderful views. This hidden jewel on the Parkway is accessed from a small parking area, so most folks miss it! See photo at bottom of this page. Go to our Beacon Heights Guide.
4. Linville Falls (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 317): Their picnic area near the Visitors Center is open early (April 1) and remains open through October. A better alternative to the busy picnic area is taking your picnic down to the base of the falls on the large rocks (3/4 mile hike from Visitor's Center via the Gorge Trail). There are three other overlooks for the falls via other trails; however, those overlooks are designed for viewing, not picnics. See our Linville Falls Guide.
5. Crabtree Falls (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 349): Crabtree Falls recreation area along the Blue Ridge Parkway has a large picnic area. A little north of the picnic area, there is a campground (and a gift shop with snacks) with a 3-mile hiking trail to beautiful Crabtree Falls. The trail goes by the base of the falls, and there are some rocks for small picnics there. Picnic area is open mid May through the end of October. See our Crabtree Falls Guide.
6. Mt. Mitchell (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 355): Picnic atop the highest summit in eastern North America. There is a large picnic area with 40 tables adjacent to the parking area at the summit. Two picnic shelters with fireplaces are perfect for groups of up to 16 people. The picnic area is open year-round, but is snow covered much of the winter. Even in the summer, take a sweater or jacket since it can be 10-20 degrees cooler than in the city of Asheville. Use of the shelters is free of charge unless reservations are requested. See our Mt. Mitchell Guide.
7. Craggy Gardens (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 365): A short drive (24 miles) from downtown Asheville takes you up to Craggy Gardens. After you enter the Craggy Gardens area on the Parkway, look for a sign for the Craggy Picnic Area on the left. Take a short drive up the mountain to many picnic tables and some great hiking trails.Pink and purple rhododendron cover the slopes from mid to late June. The picnic area is open mid May through the end of October. For a picnic with a 360-degree mountain view (one of the best in North Carolina), go north on the Parkway, past the Craggy Visitors Center, and hike to the top of Craggy Pinnacle. It's a 3/4-mile uphill hike from the parking area. There is a large observation area with plenty of room for a small picnic. Very romantic! Take a jacket, it is always 15-20 degrees cooler atop the summit than down in the valleys. See our Craggy Gardens Guide.
8. Mt. Pisgah (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 407): A large picnic area includes grills, tables and restroom facilities. All are ADA/ handicapped accessible. It is located near the Pisgah Inn (one mile south) where you can order picnic food (May-October). You can take a strenuous hike to the top of Mt. Pisgah, but there are no great picnicking spots at the summit. See our Mt. Pisgah Guide.
9. Biltmore Estate: With 8,000 acres to explore, there are plenty of options for picnics! While there is not an official "picnic" area, you can spread a blanket along one of the hiking trails, along the river, or in gardens (except the Walled Garden). For a more secluded picnic, take the Deer Park Trail that begins by the South Terrace beside the Biltmore House. You don't have to stay on the trail! Walk toward the back side of the house for a secluded spot with an amazing view. Other great spots include the Lagoon with great views of the house, the Vista leading up to the Diana statue in front of the house, and the gazebo on Bass Lake. You can order a picnic basket at the Bake Shop, located adjacent to the Biltmore House. See our Biltmore Guide.
10. Looking Glass Rock: If you are a looking for a nice reward after a challenging hike, head to this well-known rock face summit. You will ascend about 1,700 feet in just over three miles. The many switchbacks along the way help make for a moderately difficult climb. A strong hiker can make it to the top in 1.5 hours and down in one hour. The views from the top are well worth the effort. There is plenty of space to relax on the rock face with your picnic! Then it's downhill all the way back to the car. See our Looking Glass Rock guide.
11. Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains: Tailgate and watch elk graze nearby in meadows during the late afternoon and evening before sunset. Don't feed the wildlife (see below). See out Cataloochee Valley Smokies Guide.
12. Chimneys, Great Smoky Mountains: Along Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) through the middle of the Park, there are two large developed picnic areas. The Chimneys picnic area is on the Tennessee side (near the popular Chimney Tops hike). The Collins Creek picnic area is on the North Carolina side, about six miles from Cherokee. They both have tables, grills, restrooms, and a nature trail. See our Chimney Tops Smokies Guide.
13. Heintooga, Great Smoky Mountains: The less-crowded Heintooga picnic area at Balsam Mountain is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway. See our Balsam Mountain & Heintooga Smokies Guide.
14. Mt. LeConte, Great Smoky Mountains: For a challenging-yet-amazing full day hike with a "catered" picnic, hike to the 6,593-foot summit of Mount LeConte (third highest peak in the Smokies) from the parking area on U.S. Highway 441. You'll climb 2,853 feet in elevation and 5.5 miles on the Alum Cave Trail with amazing views. Mt. LeConte Lodge sits atop the mountain with overnight accommodations and lunch for day hikers - call them ahead to make reservations for lunch at the Lodge. Also, Myrtle Point lookout on the summit is a fabulous picnic spot. See our Mt. LeConte Smoky Mountain Guide.
15. Catered Picnic, Great Smoky Mountains: For a catered gourmet outdoors lunch high in the Smokies, check out the Wednesday picnics at The Swag.
16. Pisgah National Forest: There are plenty of roadside stops (many by a cascading river) on the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway through the Pisgah National Forest with plenty of beautiful mountain scenery. The section on U.S. Highway 276 between Brevard and the Blue Ridge Parkway passes by Looking Glass Rock, Looking Glass Falls, Sliding Rock and the Forest Discovery Center. Just four miles south of the Parkway is the Pink Beds Picnic area with an easy four-mile loop hike. Go to our Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway Guide.
17. Table Rock: Have a picnic on one of the biggest tables in the country! The rocky summit of the elongated rock summit provides plenty of spots for picnics on the rim of the Linville Gorge, with a fairly easy 2.2-mile roundtrip hike. See our Table Rock Guide.
18. Max Patch: You will want to run across the meadow and sing the "Sound of Music" atop this grassy summit along the Appalachian Trail. Plenty of spaces to spread the blanket for a picnic with 360-degree mountain views. The summit is a short uphill walk from the parking area. See our Max Patch Guide. Roan Mountain and Black Balsam Knob Mountain are two more great bald mountains for picnics.
19. Nantahala Gorge: Picnic by the Nantahala River while watching whitewater rafters and kayakers negotiate the rapids. The Ferebee Memorial on the Mountain Waters National Scenic Byway offers a picnic area with tables, charcoal grills, flush toilets, and serves as a launch and take-out area. A suspended bridge crosses the river leading to a trail on the opposite bank. Located a few miles from NOC and Nantahala Adventure Center.
20. Downtown Asheville: The best place in downtown Asheville for a picnic is Pack Square Park. Get takeout from many nearby restaurants or pick up a gourmet picnic. See our Pack Square Park Guide.
Picnic at Roan Mountain during peak rhododendron blooming!
Protect the Wildlife & Bears!
Black bears are dying unnecessarily due to improper disposal of garbage or illegal feeding by visitors, especially in the Great Smoky Mountains. A bear’s remarkable sense of smell may lead it to human foods, such as a picnicker’s cooler, garbage left in the open, or food scraps thrown on the ground or left in the grill. A bear that has discovered human food or garbage will eventually become day-active and leave the safety of the backcountry. It may panhandle along roadsides and be killed by a car or it may injure a visitor and have to be euthanized. Please do your part to help protect black bears and other wildlife in the North Carolina mountains. Clean your picnic area, including the grill and the ground around the table, thoroughly after your meal. Feeding bears and other wildlife is illegal in the National Parks and Forests (and not a good idea elsewhere).