Rhododendron Starting to Bloom at Craggy Gardens: Peak in Early June

The Catawba Rhododendron are showing their first blooms today at Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville. This area is famous for the impressive amount of native blooming rhododendron. Peak for the blooms this year will be a couple of weeks early: the first week of June.  Read more about Craggy Gardens at http://www.romanticasheville.com/Craggy.htm.

Asheville Fall Color Report and Photos

Fall Color Oct 27 on Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville

Fall color continues to fill the valleys in the Asheville, North Carolina, area of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Color is showing the most at the lower mountain elevations (1,500-2,500 feet). Color in highest elevations (above 3,000 ft) is past peak. Peak color concludes this week at Biltmore and city of Asheville, with Chimney Rock and Lake Lure by next week. The most colorful section of the Parkway right now is the stretch around the city of Asheville and about five miles north of Folk Art Center or south of NC Arboretum, since it is the lowest elevation on the Parkway in our area. Brevard and Hendersonville areas have great color. Hike to waterfalls in DuPont Forest.

Snow is a good bit in the highest elevations tonight, especially at spots like Grandfather Mtn, Craggy Gardens, Mt Pisgah and Mt  Mitchell along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The very top of Mt. Mitchell could get several inches of snow. The Parkway may be closed in highest sections on Saturday if significant snow falls. (Call 828-298-0398 for closures.) For most of the mountains, it will be a beautiful sunny fall weekend to enjoy the leaves. More Asheville fall color updates and photos at http://www.romanticasheville.com/fall.htm.

Fall color at Biltmore House, Asheville, Oct 26, 2011

Lake Lure, NC, Fall Color October 26, 2011

Photos of Fall Color along the Blue Ridge Parkway from Today

NC Fall Color on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Fall color has arrived in the highest elevations in the mountains of North Carolina. Today, we drove the Blue Ridge Parkway from Grandfather Mountain to Asheville. See photos of the fall color: http://www.romanticasheville.com/fall_2011_photos.htm

Peak color will arrive in the highest elevations within the next week. For more on the Fall Foliage Forecast, go to http://www.romanticasheville.com/fall.htm

Free Guided Hike and Concerts on Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center

On Saturday, October 1, the public is invited to celebrate the arrival of the 2011 fall color season with a hike through the crisp autumn woods led by a National Park Service Ranger, followed by two musical performances by traditional artists at the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center in Asheville, NC. This FREE event is sponsored by the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership.

SCHEDULE: 10 am: Join a Blue Ridge Parkway Ranger for an easy hike along the Loop Trail adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center. Hikers should join the ranger in the Lobby of the Center to participate in this family-friendly activity that should last for approximately 45 minutes. Please remember to wear comfortable walking shoes. Call 298-5330 x 304 with any questions about the hike.

12:00 Noon: Free concert by Dehlia Low, an exciting band of young bluegrass artists, playing a mixture of traditional and original material. Their polished instrumentals and harmonies reflect the musical traditions of the Southern mountains.

1:30 p.m: Free concert by the Dollar Brothers. Growing up surrounded by music, these brothers have been playing traditional and Gospel bluegrass for more than 20 years. With over 10 recordings, the band has shared the stage with many bluegrass greats, including Bill Monroe, Jim and Jesse McReynolds, the Seldom Scene, Doyle Lawson, and the Osborne Brothers.

For more one of America’s most scenic drives, go to the Blue Ridge Parkway Vacation Guide.

Wood Day at Folk Art Center August 13

Wood Day at Folk Art Center

The Folk Art Center in east Asheville will host its annual celebration of wood crafts at Wood Day on August 13th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Folk Art Center’s auditorium will be filled with lathes, sawhorses, wood tools and the master craftspeople who know how to use them. Demonstrations include carving, wood turning, broom making, and furniture design and construction. Southern Highland Craft Guild members Sandra Rowland and Jan Morris will host activities for children.

The festivities include the Eleventh Annual Carve-Off Competition from 1 to 3pm. For the contest, participants have two hours to turn a simple block of wood into a work of art. Carvers must sign up by 12:30 to participate.

Admission to Wood Day and the Folk Art Center is free. The Folk Art Center is located at Milepost 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in east Asheville. Headquarters to the Southern Highland Craft Guild, the Center also houses three galleries, a library, Allanstand Craft Shop and a Blue Ridge Parkway information desk and bookstore. For more information, call 828-298-7928 or visit www.craftguild.org .

Blue Ridge Parkway Heritage Event August 6

View from the top of Waterrock Knob

Stop by the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville at mile marker 451.2 from 10 am to 3 pm on Saturday, August 6 for a special event, Blue Ridge Parkway: Celebrating Heritage and Communities. There will be a variety of free, ongoing craft demonstrations throughout the day as well as Cherokee Dancers, Appalachian story tellers, old time and bluegrass bands, and clogging. The Visitor Center and Eastern National gift shop will be open as usual from 10 am to 5 pm. Come and enjoy a day of family fun on the southern end of the Parkway. This event is outside and may have to be canceled if inclement weather arises.

Entertainment includes:

10:00 Old Time Appalachian Music: The Ross Brothers

11:00  The J Creek Cloggers

11:30 & 1:00  The Cherokee Friends Dancers

12:00  Ammon Sisters Mountain Storytelling

2:00  Old Time Appalachian Music: The Boys from Tuckaseegee

Park Rangers will be giving short Interpretive Talks between performers.

Demonstrators will include Mud Dabbers Pottery, Cherokee Friends, Ron Yount-woodcarver, Pyrwood Dairy-goat cheese, Fiddlehead Farms-spinning, Nannie the Plott Hound accompanied by David Brewin, Susan Roper & Mandy Haughn-quilting, The Appalachian Women’s Museum, Woven Memories-David Ammons-chair caning, Sweet Pea Knitters-knitting, Fellowfeel Farms-fiber arts, and Great Smoky Mountains Audubon Society.

Authors include Bob Plott-Strike and Stay, David and Anne M. Whisnant-When the Parkway Came & Super Scenic Motorway,  The Ammon Sisters will have books and prints. Food will be available for purchase from Big Mountain BBQ.

Waterrock Knob (6,292 feet) is the 16th highest mountain in the Eastern United States. There are fantastic views both east and west from the parking area. It’s about 60 miles from Asheville, North Carolina.

Guided Hikes on Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville

Rangers lead guided hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway every Friday morning. They are free, and no reservations are necessary! Here are the next two:

July 15, 2011, Shades of Summer: Join Parkway Rangers at 10  am Friday, July 15, for an easy, three-mile RT hike to the base of Mt. Hardy. The  2-hour guided hike will start at the Rough Butt Bald Overlook (MP 425), just  south of Devil’s Courthouse, and leads  through a shaded, high-elevation, balsam fir forest.

July 22, 2011, A Call to the Falls: Join Parkway Rangers at 10 am for a moderate, 3-mile RT hike on the Loop Trail at Graveyard Fields with  an out-and-back extension to the upper falls of Yellowstone Prong.  The guided  hike will start at the Graveyard Fields Overlook, MP 418.8 on the Parkway.

Hikers should bring water and sunscreen, wear good hiking shoes, and be prepared  for changeable mountain weather.  Call 828-298-5330, ext. 304, for details.

For more Parkway info, go to our complete vacation guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Top 10 Places on Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville

Linn Cove Viaduct, Blue Ridge Parkway

Linn Cove Viaduct, Blue Ridge Parkway

Here are our “Top 10 Places to See Along the Parkway” in the Asheville area, beginning north and traveling south on the super-scenic Blue Ridge Parkway:

  1. Grandfather Mountain: Drive to the top for beautiful vistas from a rocky summit and the Mile High Swinging Bridge, plus see interesting environmental habitats.
  2. Linn Cove Viaduct: This 1243-foot famous bridge snakes around the slopes of Grandfather Mountain. Stop at the Visitor Center to read about the construction and hike underneath it.
  3. Linville Falls: See five viewpoints of the most photographed waterfall in North Carolina via trails that begin at the Visitors’ Center.
  4. Mt. Mitchell: Drive to the summit of the highest point in the eastern United States, and hike a short paved trail up to the observation deck for panoramic mountain views.
  5. Craggy Gardens: Park at the visitor center for great views to the east and to the west. Enjoy the crisp air, summer rhododendron, and easy to moderate hiking trails, including Craggy Pinnacle that offers beautiful 360-degree mountain views.
  6. Folk Art Center: See and buy the finest in traditional and contemporary craft of the Southern Appalachians with a wonderful craft shop and exhibitions.
  7. Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center: Learn about the entire Pakway  with high-tech interactive exhibits that includes a 22-foot interactive I-Wall map.
  8. North Carolina Arboretum: Stroll through a variety of gardens, on peaceful hiking trails, and don’t miss the wonderful bonsai exhibit.
  9. Pisgah Inn: Stop for lunch and enjoy the views from 5,000 feet at the this restaurant.
  10. Graveyard Fields: This very popular hiking spot features two waterfalls in a mile-high valley filled with wildflowers and surrounded by 6,000-foot peaks.

For more things to do along the Blue Ridge Parkway, see the comprehensive vacation guide that covers the 170-mile section near Asheville at http://www.romanticasheville.com/BlueRidgeParkway.htm.

Weekly Guided Hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway will once again have guided hikes every Friday during the summer season, led by Parkway rangers. The first hike is June 10 at 10 AM at Craggy Gardens to see what is in bloom. It’s peak time for rhododendron there. Craggy is located just 24 miles from Asheville, via a very scenic drive. Since the elevation there is 5,000+ feet, it’s always cooler there – usually 10-15 degrees cooler than Asheville.

The easy-to-moderate, 1.5-mile roundtrip hike on the Craggy Pinnacle Trail will focus on the the flowering trees, shrubs, and wildflowers that make Craggy Gardens special.  Enjoy 360-degree mountain views from atop the Pinnacle. The hike will start at the Craggy Dome Overlook at Milepost 364.1, just north of the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center.  Hikers should bring water, wear good hiking shoes, and be prepared for changeable weather.  Call 828-298-5330, ext. 304, for details.

For more about Craggy Gardens, go to http://www.romanticasheville.com/Craggy.htm .

100 Outdoor Things To Do in Asheville & NC Mountains

If you enjoy the great outdoors in the lush, green Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, there are plenty of things to do during your vacation to Asheville! RomanticAsheville.com Vacation Guide has created a Top 100 list that includes driving the uber-scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, 40 of the best hikes that provide the best scenery, the 20 most spectacular waterfalls that are easy to find, Great Smoky Mountains National Park adventures, whitewater rafting, zip line canopy tours, Chimney Rock Park, Mt. Mitchell and exploring the 8,000 Biltmore Estate with their hiking trails, gardens, horseback riding, Sliding Rock, North Carolina Arboretum and more.

This top 100 list includes a full page guide to each place with lots of photographs and details. Asheville is surrounded by state and national parks and forests, including the Pisgah National Forest and Nantahala National Forest. So most are free to enjoy!

For the complete list, go to http://www.romanticasheville.com/outdoors.html.