The entire Blue Ridge Parkway is now open for the season! Exploring all the places and things to do along the Parkway in North Carolina could take weeks. Here are our Top 15 Free Parkway Stops near Asheville along a 170-mile stretch of the Parkway, beginning north and traveling south along one of America’s most scenic drives.
Rough Ridge: Milepost 302.8
After a quick 1/3-mile hike uphill from the parking area, you are walking on a mountainside boardwalk with inspiring panoramic mountain views. It’s usually the best place for early fall color.
Linn Cove Viaduct: Milepost 304.4
After driving across the famous bridge that snakes around Grandfather Mountain, stop at the visitor center to read about the construction and hike underneath and above the Viaduct on the Tanawha Trail.
Beacon Heights: Milepost 305.2
A short one-mile roundtrip hike is rewarded with wonderful mountain views from a rock face summit. It’s a perfect spot for a picnic.
Linville Falls: Milepost 316.3
See five viewpoints of the state’s most photographed waterfall from two hiking trails that begin at the visitor center and picnic area.
Orchard at Altapass: Milepost 328.3
This apple orchard turned Appalachian cultural center celebrates the music, crafts, food and natural beauty of the mountains. The Orchard is open May through October.
Crabtree Falls: Milepost 339.5
Take a 2.5-mile woodland hike to the beautiful 70-foot waterfall or have a picnic. In the early summer, the meadows are a showplace of wildflowers.
Mount Mitchell: Milepost 355.4
Drive to the summit of the highest peak east of the Rockies, and walk a short paved trail to the observation deck for panoramic mountain views. This state park is open every day of the year, weather permitting. Take a jacket with you, even in the summer, since it is usually 10-20 degrees cooler than Asheville.
Craggy Gardens: Milepost 364.4
The parking area at the visitor center offers beautiful mountain views from its 5,500 feet elevation. This area is known for its many blooming rhododendron each June. In addition to a picnic area, there are hiking trails including Craggy Pinnacle with unsurpassed 360-degree views.
Folk Art Center: Milepost 382
Enjoy traditional and contemporary fine art exhibitions in their Southern Highland Craft Guild galleries, buy art in the craft shop and home interiors store and watch artist demonstrations. The Folk Art Center in Asheville is open seven days a week year-round.
Parkway Visitor Center: Milepost 384
Learn about the entire 469 miles and history of the Parkway with high-tech interactive exhibits, 22-foot interactive I-Wall map and fascinating film. Also learn about the Blue Ridge Heritage Area.
Mount Pisgah: Milepost 407.6
Hike to the top of Mt. Pisgah, shop for souvenirs in the store and enjoy lunch or dinner with a view at the only restaurant on this section of the Parkway.
Skinny Dip Falls: Milepost 417
Soak in the views of Looking Glass Rock at this overlook before hiking the half mile to Skinny Dip Falls, a beautiful waterfall setting with several cascades. It’s a popular swimming hole on hot summer days for all ages.
Graveyard Fields: Milepost 418.8
This mile-high valley features hiking trails, wildflowers and two waterfalls, surrounded by Blue Ridge Mountains with 6,000-foot peaks. Find some of the best fall color along the Parkway. (Closed for repairs until mid July 2014.)
Devil’s Courthouse: Milepost 422.4
Take a steep half-mile hike to the summit of this 5,720-foot peak with a “devilish” look for panoramic views that stretch into four states.
Waterrock Knob: Milepost 451
Stop here for lofty views and a visitor center. Hike to the summit of one of highest peaks (6,292 feet) along the Parkway. The parking area is a local’s favorite spot to watch the sunset over the mountains.
For detailed information and photos on these and many more stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, North Carolina, visit http://www.romanticasheville.com/BlueRidgeParkway.htm.