Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on November 22, 2023.
There are more than 100 Blue Ridge Parkway hikes in North Carolina‘s 252-mile stretch of that wonderful scenic road. Some of the prettiest sights, tallest mountains, and most majestic waterfalls are found along the Parkway.
We’ve also organized the guide into two sections, including the following:
- Leave No Trace Reminder
- Organization Note (North to South)
- High Country Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes (Cumberland Knob to Mount Mitchell)
- Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes near Asheville (Craggy Gardens to Waterrock Knob)
No matter which milepost you’re near, some of the most stunning views and the biggest rewards await!
Read More: Unique Things to Do in North Carolina
Before You Go: Leave No Trace
Before we share our favorite Blue Ridge Parkway hikes, we want to remind you to leave no trace. No matter where you are in North Carolina, please pack out everything you bring with you.
In fact, bring a baggie to pick up after someone who was less considerate than you. Leaving no trace also means following designated trails.
User-created “social” trails cause lots of problems for environments, including erosion, damage to fragile and endangered plants, and reduced space for wildlife.
Let’s keep North Carolina beautiful and clean together!
Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes (Organization Note)
These Blue Ridge Parkway trails are organized from north to south, starting at the Cumberland Knob Visitor Center near the Virginia border. Each trailhead will have a corresponding Blue Ridge Parkway milepost (MP #) attached to it.
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High Country Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes
- Gully Creek Trail at Cumberland Knob (MP 217.5)
- Doughton Park Hikes (MP 238 to 241)
- Jumpinoff Rocks Trail (MP 260.3)
- Cascades Trail at EB Jeffress Park (MP 272.5)
- Moses Cone Memorial Park Hikes (MP 294.1)
- Boone Fork Trail (MP 296.5)
- Rough Ridge Trail (MP 302.8)
- Beacon Heights (MP 305.2)
- Linville Falls (MP 316.3)
- Crabtree Falls (MP 339.5)
- Mount Mitchell State Park Hikes (MP 355)
Gully Creek Trail at Cumberland Knob (MP 217.5)
Cumberland Knob is where we start our guide to Blue Ridge Parkway hikes. It’s also the birthplace of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Construction secretly began here in 1935, led by a man from Durham of all places. Once completed, Cumberland Knob became the park’s first recreation area with trails branching off it.
One such trail is the Gully Creek Trail, a 2.2-mile loop that is relatively strenuous. You won’t think so on your way down to the waterfall and creek that it flows into.
But of course, what goes down must come up. Allow two hours to fully take in the views of the adjacent mountain stream and the surrounding flora and fauna.
Read More: Day Trips from Durham
Doughton Park Hikes (MP 238 to 241)
Encompassing 7,000 acres of green space, Doughton Park is known for its population of deer, foxes, and bobcats. Some pretty great hikes begin here, too.
- Bluff Mountain Trail: This 7.5-mile trail runs from Brinegar Cabin to the Basin Cove Overlook. The path is relatively level and steady and passes through beautiful meadows and forests.
- Cedar Ridge Trail: This 4.4-mile one-way trail snakes through a forested ridgeline. While stunning, the hike is relatively strenuous as elevation changes 2,000 feet. It’s one of the tougher trails at Doughton Park.
- Fodder Stack Trail: Only 2 miles roundtrip, this is one of the more accessible hikes at Doughton Park. The trail winds through wildflower meadows and pine forests, offering a glimpse into the different environments found in Western North Carolina.
Jumpinoff Rocks Trail (MP 260.3)
This kid-friendly trail is a great way to stretch your legs and soak in the sights.
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Cascades Trail at EB Jeffress Park (MP 272.5)
One of the shortest and most popular Blue Ridge Parkway hikes begins at the parking lot and takes you to a lovely 35-foot waterfall. It is a short 0.8-mile loop that leads you to the waterfall, known as the Cascades.
Moses Cone Memorial Park Hikes (MP 294.1)
The awesome Moses Cone Memorial Park near Blowing Rock once served as a summer retreat for Moses H. Cone and his wife Bertha. Flat Top Manor is the park’s main attraction, but there are several hiking trails here to enjoy.
- Bass Lake Trail: This 0.8-mile loop makes for a leisure walk through nature.
- Flat Top Mountain Fire Tower Trail: This trail is longer at 5.6 miles roundtrip, but the views of Blowing Rock are so worth it. Starting from Flat Top Manor, this hike starts off in an open mountain field with beautiful views of the valley below. The hike is a steady 5 miles round trip that ends at an observation tower.
Boone Fork Trail (MP 296.5)
The Blue Ridge trailhead begins at Price Park Picnic Area and winds through rhododendrons, woods, and even by Hebron Falls, also known as Boone Fork Falls!
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Rough Ridge Trail (MP 302.8)
Despite the name, Rough Ridge is one of the loveliest hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s certainly the shining star of the Tanawha Trail, offering some of the most stunning views and foliage!
While only 1.5-miles roundtrip, the trail changes by more than 480 feet in elevation relatively quickly, so be prepared for a fast steady incline.
Beacon Heights (MP 305.2)
A fast yet steep hike, Beacon Heights is the last of our Blue Ridge Parkway hikes on the Tanawha Trail. You’ll go up 4,340 feet to an expansive look at North Carolina’s mountains.
Linville Falls (MP 316.3)
The 12,000-acre Linville Gorge Wilderness Area has some of the coolest and most rugged hikes in North Carolina. From the deepest gorge in Eastern US, Linville Gorge, to the 90-foot Linville Falls, there is no shortage of things to see here.
There’s a two-mile roundtrip hike that offers three unique views of the waterfall. The Linville Falls Visitor Center has plenty of parking and amenities, such as restrooms, picnic tables, and a gift shop.
If you are up for a more difficult hike, The Plunge Trail (1.4 Miles) takes hikers to the base of Linville Falls and is absolutely incredible.
Also, the Flat Rock trail is another really popular hike, just eight miles north of Linville Falls!
Read more: The Best Waterfalls Near Asheville
Crabtree Falls (MP 339.5)
You’ll reach Crabtree Falls about a mile in, passing rhododendrons and wildflowers along the way. The 70-foot waterfall is truly a sight to behold, complete with a cascading stream, rocks, and a bridge.
Mount Mitchell State Park Hikes (MP 355)
Drive and hike to the top and you’ll be standing on the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River. At 6,684 feet tall, Mount Mitchell is surrounded by equally towering peaks, such as Mount Craig and others.
Multiple hikes take you up to this peak.
- Balsam Nature Trail: A great trail for beginner hikers, Balsam Nature Trail takes you to the highest spring in the Eastern US.
- Summit Trail: This incredibly easy 0.15-mile hike offers views of the Black Mountains from the top of Mount Mitchell.
- Old Mitchell Trail: This more difficult hike is an alternative to driving up to the top. 4.4 miles roundtrip, Old Mitchell Trail is a way to reach the top of the peak by walking.
- Black Mountain Crest Trail: At 24.2 miles roundtrip, this trail is not for the faint of heart. This epic hike goes up and around 10 of the 18 tallest Black Mountain peaks. It’ll take quite a few days to complete this hike, so plan accordingly!
Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes near Asheville
The rest of our favorite Blue Ridge Parkway hikes are within one hour’s drive from Asheville, the largest city in Western North Carolina. Mount Mitchell could be included in this section, but it’s still technically in the High Country.
The trails we’ve included here start with the Craggy Gardens (MP 364) and finish with Waterrock Knob (MP 451). From Waterrock Knob, you still have 18 miles of Parkway to drive before you reach the southern end near Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Craggy Gardens Hikes (MP 364)
- Mount Pisgah (MP 364)
- Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower (MP 409.6)
- Graveyard Fields Trail (MP 418.8)
- Black Balsam Knob (MP 420.2)
- Devil’s Courthouse (MP 422.4)
- Richland Balsam Trail(MP 431.4)
- Waterrock Knob (MP 451.2)
Read More: Day Trips from Asheville
Craggy Gardens Hikes (MP 364)
Named for the commonly found “craggy” and twisted rock faces, Craggy Gardens contains a small portion of the Great Craggy Mountains located inside the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Gardens offer a few beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway hikes, mixing mountain view trails and flowery surroundings.
- Craggy Gardens Trail: 1.9 miles roundtrip, this trail weaves through flowers and shrubs. Rest for lunch or a snack at the picnic tables at the end of the trail before heading back.
- Douglas Falls Trail: The Craggy Gardens Trail intersects with Douglas Falls Trail. The trail leads you on an 8-mile roundtrip to the 70-foot Douglas Creek Falls.
- Craggy Pinnacle Trail: This “trail” is more of a drive but you’ll need to climb up some steep stairs to reach the peak. For such an easy hike, the views do not disappoint!
Mount Pisgah (MP 364)
Contrary to what you might think, it’s not in Pisgah National Forest but rather in Nantahala National Forest.
The 4.5-mile Mount Pisgah Summit Trail is a popular trail that takes you up to the Mount’s summit.
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Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower (MP 409.6)
The US Forest Service built the Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower in 1941. At 70 feet, it is the tallest fire tower in NC.
You can reach the stairs via a 0.75-mile hike (1.5 miles roundtrip). From there, you’ll find sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The trail has a slight change in elevation and is a gravel service road, making it suitable for children. The very top of the tower is closed for safety measures, but great views await from each level of the stairs!
Graveyard Fields Trail (MP 418.8)
Graveyard Fields is one-of-a-kind in that there is not one, but two waterfalls at this BRP stop! The “graveyard” moniker refers to the mound of tree stumps left here after a massive windstorm in the past and the vast empty spaces caused by a devastating fire in 1925.
From the Graveyard Fields parking lot, you can take two hikes that both end with waterfalls.
More people opt for the shorter 0.3-mile hike to Lower Falls. It’s one of our favorite kid-friendly waterfalls in NC!
The Upper Falls is reachable via a 3.3-mile loop that passes through berry bushes and boardwalks. Whichever hike you choose, you’re guaranteed to pass by beautiful sights!
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Black Balsam Knob (MP 420.2)
This Blue Ridge Parkway hike is known for its epic views of mountain balds, which remain a scientific mystery today. Scientists still do not know why this stretch of the mountains has such little tree cover.
Black Balsam Knob is only 1.4 miles roundtrip, making it a good afternoon trek with the family.
Devil’s Courthouse (MP 422.4)
Short yet strenuous, Devil’s Courthouse is a paved trail that leads you to an overlook at 5,700 feet. The ominous name comes from the legend saying that the devil holds his court in a cave somewhere inside this mountain.
Legend or not, this trail offers some of the best vista views of Western North Carolina and three neighboring states!
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Richland Balsam (MP 431.4)
There’s no missing the Richland Balsam Overlook—it’s the highest point of the Blue Ridge Parkway at 6,047 feet! In fact, this point stands out in the Parkway’s highest section, between Haywood and Jackson counties.
From the overlook, you can hike a 1.5-mile loop trail to the top of the summit and take in the sights from the tallest point along the entire BRP!
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Waterrock Knob (MP 451.2)
The last of our Blue Ridge Parkway hikes are certainly not the least. The sunsets at Waterrock Knob are severely underrated!
Virtually every spot along the 0.6-mile trail (1.2 miles roundtrip), including the parking lot, offers stunning views for miles. The trek is strenuous with the 480-foot change in elevation, but we guarantee that a sunset or picnic on this trail is worth it!
Of course, many people used to visit Waterrock Knob to hike to a tragic plane crash site. We didn’t recommend it, and thankfully park officials removed the wreckage in 2023.
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Ready for Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes?
With so many opportunities for exploration, it can be hard to pick the best Blue Ridge Parkway hikes. We hope you enjoy these trails on the best side of that iconic road.
If you already have a favorite, we’d love to know about it (or them). Let us know in the comments section or by email.
You can also share pics and videos of your favorite Blue Ridge Parkway hikes in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!
Beyond Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes (More Hiking in NC)
Beyond these wonderful BRP hikes, we’ve created plenty of hiking guides to cover trails throughout North Carolina! Here are a few of them.