The Scenic Guide to Blue Ridge
By Susan Johnston
The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches from Rockfish Gap, Virginia to North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park, covering 469 miles of scenic vistas and mountain meadows. Perhaps the best time to visit this area is in the fall, when the forests bordering the parkway burst into glorious autumn colors. Here are some of Blue Ridge’s best views:
Ravens Roost, located just past mile 10 of the Parkway, offers picturesque views of Shenandoah Valley and Torry Mountain. Ravens Roost sits above a cliff, which many visitors use for rock-climbing and hang-gliding. There’s also a picnic table for dining.
- Just four and a half miles from the parkway, Sherando Lake Campground in Virginia is a favorite camping spot for visitors and locals alike. For those who aren’t quite ready to rough it, Sherando has access to toilets and showers, plus beautiful lake views.
- The Appalachian Trail, which is accessible from several overlooks and parking areas in Virginia, lets hikers of all levels explore the natural beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. The trail section in southern Virginia includes long, solitary stretches with gorgeous views.
- From miles 292 to 295, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park features 25 miles of winding trails for hiking and horseback riding. Flat Top Manor, a gleaming Colonial Revival mansion built in 1901, serves as the centerpiece of this beautiful country estate and now houses the Parkway Craft Center.
- Linville Falls, at mile post 316.4, marks the beginning of Linville Gorge and includes several walking trails of varying distances. The water cascading over the rocky falls may look tempting, but best to admire these falls from a safe distance! Local lore says that local Native Americans used to execute prisoners by throwing them off the falls.
- Beginning at mile 355, Mount Mitchell State Park is North Carolina’s first state park and was established in 1915 to preserve the area’s fir trees from loggers. The park includes Mount Mitchell, which at nearly 7,000 feet is the highest peak in the eastern part of the US. The Black Mountains in this area provide some of the most challenging hiking trails in the region, including Colbert’s Ridge Trail and Mount Mitchell Trail.
- Between miles 363.4 and 369.6, Craggy Gardens is 3,500 feet higher in elevation than nearby Asheville and features exposed rock and lofty peaks providing awe-inspiring views of the southern Appalachian Mountains in the distance. During the summer, pink and purple rhododendron blanket the Craggies in what is often called "Miracle on the Mountain."
- At mile 417, Looking Glass Rock is popular among rock climbers. Named for the way the sunlight reflects off its granite face, Looking Glass Rock also offers panoramic views of the parkway and the mountains in Transylvania County from its summit.
- Located at mile 422.4 on the Western edge of the Pisgah National Forest, Devil’s Courthouse has some of the most spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from atop its peak. Cherokee legend says that the cave is home to a slant-eyed giant named Jutaculla.
- Mile 431 features Richland Balsam and its self-guided trails. Many of the plants and animals in this area can only survive in the South at high elevations (here it is 6,020 feet). The rich scent of Fraser Fir trees adds to the outdoor experience at Richland Balsam.
Susan Johnston is the copywriter for Go Blue Ridge Card, which offers over 25 of the Blue Ridge area’s best attractions, activities, and tours on one easy-to-use smartcard.
North Carolina tourism & sightseeing