Last Updated on January 11, 2021
Last Updated on January 11, 2021
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As we mentioned in our guide to scenic roads, 252 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway run through North Carolina. From the north, it enters our state from Virginia around Cumberland Knob and continues until its southern terminus just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance.
Plenty of beautiful sights found at various Blue Ridge Parkway stops await on the North Carolina side, with all due respect to our friends in Virginia.
Through this article, we will note mileposts of significance and highlights, including overlooks, hikes worth stopping for, waterfalls, and even more.
The Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina
Before continuing, we want to remind you that it’s important to leave the Blue Ridge Parkway as you found it. Pack out what you pack in and leave no trace. In fact, if you see some trash, give our amazing scenic road and its surroundings a hug by taking it with you.
Here is how we’ve organized this guide:
- History of the Blue Ridge Parkway
- NC Side Highlights
- Waterfalls on the Parkway (and Nearby)
- Blue Ridge Parkway Stops (Hikes, Overlooks, and More)
History of the Blue Ridge Parkway
In total, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs for 469 miles from Skyline Drive and Rockfish Gap, Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee. It is America’s longest National Parks Service unit.
Construction for the Blue Ridge Parkway began on September 11, 1935, near Cumberland Knob in North Carolina. Federal contracts initiated by Franklin D Roosevelt started the building, which was both a job creator but also controversial among locals.
Many new restrictions were placed on residents and impeded business and commercial transportation. In fact, from 1935 to 1940, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians resisted construction through the Qualla Boundary.
Construction completed in 1966, with the exception of the 7.7 mile stretch in the High Country. That portion of the Parkway included Linn Cove Viaduct and Grandfather Mountain and took 52 years to complete.
Overall construction completed in 1987, unveiling the Blue Ridge Parkway as we know it today. Though there were plenty of issues during the Parkway’s development, this route is a huge economic driver, bringing thousands of people each year.
Blue Ridge Parkway Highlights (at a Glance)
Before we get into stops, these Blue Ridge Parkway highlights are a great summary, if you’re looking at this wonderful road from a glance.
- Diverse and protected ecosystems, which culminate each spring through summer and fall with beautiful flowers and foliage.
- Some of the world’s oldest mountains, including Mount Mitchell, the highest mountain in the Eastern United States.
- Linville Gorge, the deepest gorge east of the Grand Canyon and home to old-growth forests rarely seen in the southeastern US.
- Many of the best hiking trails in North Carolina and waterfalls, too.
- Tunnels galore, including 25 on the North Carolina side. Virginia only has ONE, if you want to keep score.
- Roadside stops for apple picking, peaceful picnic spots, conveniently placed restaurants and places to stay (Switzerland Inn and Pisgah Inn).
- Easiest of all to access is the gorgeous overlooks, some of which we’ll mention in our section dedicated to Blue Ridge Parkway stops.
Waterfalls On the Blue Ridge Parkway (or Nearby)
This is a list of waterfalls either on the Blue Ridge Parkway or easily accessible from the parkway. We share each of these falls in order along with the other stops, but just wanted to highlight them here.
- Milepost 316.3 Linville Falls
- Milepost 339.5 Crabtree Falls
- Milepost 344 via Highway 80 Roaring Fork Falls and Setrock Creek Falls
- Milepost 362.1 Glassmine falls
- Milepost 412 via US-276 Looking Glass Falls
- Milepost 417 Skinny Dip Falls
- Milepost 418.8 Graveyard Fields
- Milepost 423.3 via NC 215 Dill Falls
- Milepost 455.7 via US-19 Soco Falls
Blue Ridge Parkway Stops (from North to South)
For this guide, we’ll move North to South and mileposts (MPs) will count up from MP 217 just before Cumberland Knob to MP 469 where the Parkway ends, just around the corner from the Oconaluftee Visitors Center.
We’ve divided these stops into two sections, starting in the north with the High Country and leading into the Southern End of the Parkway.
The number of stops differs from the number of headings because we include multiple stops and alternative side trips in between major stops.
High Country Stops
The area of the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Virginia-North Carolina border to Asheville is known as North Carolina’s High Country. From Cumberland Knob to Craggy Gardens, you’ll pass plenty of Blue Ridge Parkway highlights along the way.
Cumberland Knob (Milepost 217.5)
Cumberland Knob is a relic of a Blue Ridge Parkway history, as the road’s first day of construction of the parkway began here on September 11, 1935. Today, hikers can find 1,000 acres of recreation, including the easy Cumberland Knob Trail.
About a mile south of Cumberland Knob is the High Piney Spur Overlook (MP 218), also known as Fox Hunter’s Paradise.
Little Glade Mill Pond (MP 230)
You can walk around the Little Glade Mill Pond (0.4 miles) or just hang out here and have a picnic. Regardless, this is one of our favorite Blue Ridge Parkway stops for the scenery.
It’s also nice for a bit of peace before getting into some of the more popular spots.
Stone Mountain Overlook (MP 232.5)
Innumerable overlooks await on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the first that we’ll mention is Stone Mountain. You can see the granite dome from a distance and there’s even a picnic table here to enjoy lunch with a view.
Another reason we mention Stone Mountain Overlook is that 20 to 30 minutes south from the Blue Ridge Parkway, is Stone Mountain State Park. It’s filled with waterfalls, hikes ranging in difficulty, and the 600-foot granite dome that gives the park its name.
Doughton Park (MP 238 to 241)
7,000 acres of open fields that are reminiscent of mountain balds and uninhabited land await at Doughton Park. This is where you’ll find a few great Blue Ridge Parkway stops, with Brinegar Cabin (MP 239) the first of them from the north.
Here, you’ll find interpretive displays of life in the Blue Ridge Mountains during the early 1900s and cabins, which were once part of a 125-acre farm. Some pretty long hikes start here, too, including Bluff Mountain Trail (7.5 miles).
Keep moving south on the Parkway and you’ll find a campground (MP 239) and picnic area (MP 241) that are also part of Doughton Park. There are more hikes in Doughton Park, including the easier Fodder Stacks Trail (2 miles roundtrip).
Sally Mae’s on the Parkway (MP 258.8)
Formally known as the Northwest Trading Post, Sally Mae’s on the Parkway has been a good old fashioned general store since 1958. This place sells regional crafts and arts from over 500 artisans in 11 northwest NC counties.
If you see it and have a chance to stop, Sally Mae’s is a great opportunity to stretch your legs.
Jumpinoff Rocks (MP 260.3)
Another perfect spot for a Blue Ridge Parkway picnic is Jumpinoff Rocks (MP 260.3). This often-overlooked stop hosts an easy half-mile trail. It’ll lead you to an observation deck, which offers long-range views of the Parkway.
The Lump (MP 264.4)
While the name may not seem so, The Lump is a beautiful patch of wide-open land in the middle of the mountains. It’s popular for remote control gliders.
You can access a grassy knoll via a short trail, where incredible views of the Yadkin Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains await.
EB Jeffress Park (MP 272.5)
EB Jeffress Park is named for one of the men who is responsible for the Blue Ridge Parkway being a toll-free road. Aside from a pretty awesome picnic spot, this park has one of the best hiking trails near Boone.
Cascades Trail is a short one-mile loop that leads you to the side view of a beautiful waterfall, also one of our favorites in the High Country.
Side Trip on US-321 to Boone and Blowing Rock
You may already be staying in one of the two (maybe Chetola?), but in case you’re not, we think you should know about them, and Banner Elk, too.
Moses Cone Memorial Park (MP 294.1)
3,500 acres of developed recreation makes Moses H Cone Memorial Park the largest dedicated space for hiking and horseback riding. Home to Flat Top Manor, the 1901 house was once home to the namesake North Carolina textile mogul and philanthropist.
We highly recommend strolling around Bass Lake, one of the most beautiful places in the High Country.
The Flat Top Tower Trail is another great hike and starts from the manor. You’ll walk nearly 3 miles up to a fire tower that provides 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains.
Bonus Road Trip: The Little Parkway (MP 294.6)
Snaking under the Linn Cove Viaduct and Grandfather Mountain is the road that brought tourists to the area long before the Blue Ridge Parkway was finished.
Yonahlossee Road, as it was then known, is now designated as part of US-221 and also known as the “Little Parkway.” Before the Parkway was completed, this was the fastest way to get from Linville to Boone and there were still plenty of places to pull off and enjoy the sights.
It’ll take you 45 minutes to complete the entire Little Parkway and the main attraction for many is the privately-owned section of Grandfather Mountain.
This is where you’ll find the Mile High Swinging Bridge and the Wildlife Habitats. The mountain’s peak is 5,964 feet and it’s a United Nations designated biosphere reserve.
Green Mountain Creek Falls, one of our favorite waterfalls in the area, is on this road, too.
We also included the Little Parkway in our guide to scenic road trips in North Carolina.
Julian Price Memorial Park (MP 297.1)
Set up to be a retreat for insurance tycoon Julian Price’s employees, Julian Price Memorial Park consists of a 47-acre pond, 100 picnic sites, and nearly 200 campsites. Inside Julian Price Park, you’ll find Boone Fork Trail (MP 296.5), which is part of the larger Tanawha Trail.
Rough Ridge (MP 302.8)
And speaking of the Tanawha Trail, Rough Ridge is another hike off the Parkway that’s a part of it. This is one the road’s most beautiful spots, and easily one of its most rewarding hikes.
From the overlook, you’ll have incredible views of Linn Cove Viaduct and its surroundings. One of the oldest ecosystems in North America is here, too, so please, stay on the path.
Linn Cove Viaduct (MP 304.4)
And if you continue on the road, you’ll cross Linn Cove Viaduct but can stop just before it for a closer look. While this is a truly unique manmade Parkway stop, it’s crucial to remember the cost involved to build this viaduct.
Requiring $10 million, this was one of the most expensive parts of the Parkway to build. And as we mentioned earlier, Linn Cove was also the last piece of the Blue Ridge Parkway and took 52 years to finish.
Land disputes and the protecting Grandfather Mountain’s fragile ecosystems made construction difficult. But completing this 1,300-foot long bridge made a continuous route between the Shenandoah Valley and the Great Smoky Mountains a possibility.
Beacon Heights (MP 305.2)
Beacon Heights is the last Tanawha Trail hike that we’ll mention and it is definitely a nice one for being so short. In less than 30 minutes you can find yourself with sweeping views and endless mountains.
You can even look back toward Grandfather Mountain, and that’s not all there is to remember about this hike. Beacon Heights serves as an intersection for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail that runs from Clingmans Dome out west to Jockey’s Ridge on the coast.
Grandfather Mountain Overlook (MP 306.6)
You can get into the Grandfather Mountain attraction via the Little Parkway but if you’re sticking to the Blue Ridge Parkway, you can stop at an overlook and admire it for a while.
While it isn’t the highest mountain on the Parkway, Grandfather Mountain is one of the biggest names in North Carolina.
Linville Falls (MP 316.4)
Linville Gorge is the deepest in the Eastern United States and its 12,000 acres is managed as a Wilderness Area. Some of the most rugged and dangerous terrains in North Carolina is here, though there are some points that are easily accessible.
One of those is Linville Falls (MP 316.3). A 2-mile round trip hike provides three different vantage points of the falls and is the most popular among families and photographers.
The plunge basin trail is more difficult but approaches the waterfall from the opposite side and takes hikers to the bottom of the falls.
About 25 minutes away from Linville Falls is Wiseman’s View, which will give you some of the best Linville Gorge views a person can ask for.
Bear Den Mountain Resort & Campground (MP 317)
Bear Den Mountain Resort & Campground has long been one of our favorite places to stay, especially off the Parkway. There are nicely maintained camping spots here, along with clean and comfy cabins.
Each year, there seems to be something new on the property, as the friendly staff is always happy to share improvements made if you ask. Don’t forget to check out the swimming pond hiking trails at Bear Den before you head out elsewhere.
Chestoa View (MP 320.8)
Probably one of the most underrated stops on the Blue Ridge Parkway is Chestoa View. And if you approach it, please pull over and get out of your car!
While it doesn’t look like much from the road, the quarter-mile walk from the parking lot leads you to a rock-walled observatory that peeks into the Linville Gorge.
On a clear day, you can see Grandfather Mountain and Table Rock. This view is also perfect during fall when the leaves are changing.
Another great stop a few miles down is Bear Den Overlook (MP 323).
The Orchard at Altapass (MP 328.3)
The Orchard at Altapass is an iconic Blue Ridge Parkway stop, just below a beautiful overlook that offers sweeping views of the apple trees.
You can pick apples and sip hot apple cider here, but remember to bring your dancing shoes! During a typical year, live music creates a fun festive mood from Thursday to Sunday during the apple season.
This 100-plus-year-old farm also has some of the best apple picking in North Carolina.
Little Switzerland (MP 334)
Little Switzerland is a small town that despite some shameful beginnings is warm and welcoming today. If you book a room at the Switzerland Inn or enjoy dinner there, just off the Parkway, you’ll be treated to some of the loveliest views of the mountains and valleys in the distance.
While you’re in the area, a quick hike will take you to the beautiful Grassy Creek Falls. And just down the Diamondback, you can enjoy some wood smoked North Carolina barbecue at the Switzerland Cafe.
Crabtree Falls (MP 339.5)
Crabtree Falls is an impressive 70-foot waterfall and one of our favorites near Asheville. A moderate 2.5-mile loop will take you to the falls about 1.6 miles in and once you reach Crabtree, it will leave you speechless.
We recommend completing the loop rather than making your trip out and back from Crabtree Falls. While the ascent directly after the waterfall is steep, this Black Mountains hike levels out and follows a beautiful creek.
Between Crabtree Falls and the turn for Mount Mitchell State Park is Highway 80 (MP 344). This road will take you to Burnsville, but also a couple of our favorite waterfalls. They are Roaring Fork Falls and at Black Mountain Campground, Setrock Creek Falls.
Mount Mitchell State Park (MP 355.3)
The entrance to Mount Mitchell is on the Blue Ridge Parkway, though you’ll still drive five miles to reach the parking lot outside the observation tower. We think Mount Mitchell is definitely a Parkway stop that you cannot miss.
It’s the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, towering at 6,684 feet. But as we mentioned, you can drive to the parking lot and reach the summit after a short, 300 yard walk.
More difficult hikes are found here, too. You can hike along the Deep Gap Trail to reach Mount Craig, the second-highest peak in the East.
You can extend your time around Mount Mitchell by exploring all the wonderful things to do in Burnsville and Yancey County!
Glassmine Falls (MP 362)
Continue North on the Parkway and you’ll see Glassmine Falls, which is viewable from the road. The waterfall is advertised as 800-feet tall but is likely much shorter, especially during drier times.
Craggy Gardens (MP 364)
One of the best spots in North Carolina to see the rhododendrons bloom, Craggy Gardens is aptly named for its rocky outcrops. From the Craggy Gardens Visitors Center (MP 364.2), you can meander through rhododendron tunnels that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to a fairytale.
You can even reach Douglas Falls from the Visitors Center, though it’s 8 miles round trip and a tough hike.
If a view is what you are looking for, head north of the visitors center of the Craggy Dome parking area (MP 364.2). This is where the Craggy Pinnacle trailhead will take you on a short hike (1.2 miles round trip) while climbing 250 feet for an overlook onto the Parkway.
The Southern End of the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Southern and last leg of the Blue Ridge Parkway stretches from Asheville to Cherokee. This is the most rugged part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, with lots of twists and turns.
Folk Art Center (MP 382)
The Folk Art Center was established by the Southern Highland Craft Guild in 1930. It’s the oldest operating craft shop in the United States.
With 30,000 square feet and an ADA accessible trail, this stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway is a must!
Access to Downtown Asheville from the Blue Ridge Parkway can be made at MP 382.5. From there it’s easy to explore popular attractions like Biltmore, the Western NC Nature Center, and of course, Asheville’s amazing restaurants.
Mount Pisgah (MP 408.6)
The 5,721 foot Mount Pisgah was once was owned by the Vanderbilts of Biltmore Estate fame. Today, the Mount Pisgah Campground and Pisgah Inn are here and at Milepost 408.6 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
In addition to rewarding views, those looking to hike the Mount Pisgah Summit Trail can find the trailhead at Milepost 407.7.
Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower (MP 409.6)
Built in 1941 by the United States Forest Service, Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower provides 360-degree views from the stairs. The 1.5-mile roundtrip hike is super easy and the views are epic!
While the actual fire tower is locked, you can climb five stories and look out at the rolling mountains in the distance.
We featured Fryingpan Mountain among our favorite hikes near Asheville!
Cold Mountain Overlook (MP 411.9)
Besides Mount Mitchell and Mount Craig, did you know that North Carolina has 40 peaks over 6,000 feet? Cold Mountain is one of them and if the name sounds familiar, there was a 2003 Academy Award-winning film by this name featuring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law.
While there aren’t any hiking trails to Cold Mountain from the Parkway, you can get some good views of it from the scenic overlooks!
Cold Mountain was not actually filmed here but the story is set in North Carolina. We share its story in our guide to movies filmed and set in North Carolina.
Looking Glass Rock (MP 417)
The mountain that is a half bare rock that shines in the sun? Yep!
That’s appropriately named Looking Glass Rock. The overlook at Milepost 417 grants amazing views, but did you know that there is also an incredible waterfall that is easy to access?
That would be Skinny Dip Falls, which is reachable via a short hike. It’s a very popular swimming hole, with a beautiful three-tiered waterfall and icy cold water!
Skinny Dip Falls and the next place we’ll mention are just a couple of our favorite waterfalls near Asheville.
Graveyard Fields (MP 418.8)
If you have to use the potty while on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Graveyard Fields is one of the few trailheads with a toilet. Beyond that reason to stop, the Graveyard Fields Loop Trail is an easy hike to a spectacular waterfall.
You can follow a longer loop to a harder to find cascade.
Graveyard Fields is popular in July and August for the wild blueberries, but throughout the year, this is a truly beautiful stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway!
Black Balsam Knob (MP 420.2)
Black Balsam Knob is one of our favorite kid-friendly hikes near Asheville. The fact that this 6,000-footer is easily accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway is an added bonus!
Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain are part of the longer Art Loeb Trail that winds along luscious mountain balds for scenic views. You can hike a half-mile up to the first balds or see more via a 5-mile loop.
The wide-open fields are a geological mystery, and this is one of the most stunning hikes in Western North Carolina.
Devil’s Courthouse (MP 422.4)
Short and strenuous, Devil’s Courthouse can be found at milepost 422.4. The trail is mostly-paved and takes you to a rock overlook at 5,720 feet.
Legend says there is a cave within the mountain where the devil holds his court, but we’re really just interested in the sweeping mountain views and rare flora.
For a couple of waterfalls nearby, follow a Forest Service road that starts just about MP 423. Four miles later and you’ll reach the trailhead for Dill Falls and Upper Dill Falls, which are reachable via a one mile round trip hike!
Richland Balsam Overlook (MP 431.4)
Richland Balsam Overlook is the highest point of the Blue Ridge Parkway at 6,047 feet. From here, you can hike the summit of Richland Balsam (6,292 feet) via a moderate 1.5-mile loop.
Waterrock Knob (MP 451.2)
The most ideal spot for sunsets along the Blue Ridge Parkway is Waterrock Knob. Even from the parking lot, this is a perfect spot for a picnic with panoramic views
But honestly, the best views are from the 1.2-mile summit trail. Gaining 412 feet in elevation, the trail is strenuous but worth it.
If you are up for some off-the-beaten-path excitement, there is also a plane crash site that is reachable from a spur on this trail.
Four miles past Waterrock Knob is US-19 (MP 455.7). From there, you can drive to the Soco Falls parking lot.
Southern End (MP 469.1)
You will reach the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 469.1. The Parkway will end and intersect with US-441, just a mile away from Cherokee on one side and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance on the other.
The end of the Parkway is where the Oconaluftee Visitor Center sits. It’s also a very popular place for Elk watching.
These majestic animals often pass through this area in the early mornings or around sunset. Please remember not to approach the elk and to remain in your vehicles when they are roaming.
Which Blue Ridge Parkway Stops Do You Love?
If you’ve been on the Blue Ridge Parkway (especially in North Carolina), which stops are your favorites? Are you more into hikes or overlooks? And if you’ve never been on the Parkway, we’d love to know which stops you’re checking out first.