A Blue Ridge Parkway experience is unlike any other: a slow-paced and relaxing drive revealing stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. The Blue Ridge Parkway meanders for 469 miles, protecting a diversity of plants and animals, and providing opportunities for enjoying all that makes this region of the country so special. Fall offers excellent leaf viewing opportunities. We visited the southern portion of the Parkway in April from Cherokee and Asheville North Carolina.


View from the Blue Ridge Parkway near Cherokee North Carolina


Linking Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Parkway runs mostly along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. Its southern terminus is at U.S. 441 on the boundary between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina, from which it travels north to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The roadway continues through Shenandoah as Skyline Drive, a similar scenic road which is managed by a different National Park Service unit.


View along the Blue Ridge Parkway


Another view along the Parkway in early spring

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a ribbon of road that weaves through the region’s vibrant living traditions. From Cherokee life and agricultural history to Southern Appalachian crafts and music, the Parkway’s 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina offer many ways to explore rich traditions.  This article focuses on sights along the southern section. Mileage is posted along the route and is measured from the northern terminus.
Highlights in the southern section include:
  • Linnville Gorge & Falls:  the deepest gorge east of the Grand Canyon (mile 316.4)
Linnville Gorge

Part of the Linnville Gorge

Linnville Falls

Linnville Falls

Linnville Falls

Linnville Falls


Two other falls along the hike to the Linnville Falls


  • Mount Mitchell:   The highest mountain peak in the eastern United States (mile 355.4)
Mount Mitchell

Mount Mitchell is in a State Park accessed from the parkway

Mount Mitchell

Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River

Mt Mitchell

View from Mount Mitchell


  • Whitewater Falls:  The highest waterfall east of the Rockies (south of Brevard, NC)


  • New River:  The oldest river in North America (west of the Parkway in northern NC and VA)


  • Asheville Visitor Center for the Blue Ridge Parkway (mile 384) is worth a visit. It offers great displays about the history of the Parkway, cultures of the region, and a brief film about the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is a short loop hike from the visitor center parking lot that meanders through typical Blue Ridge woods.
visitor center

Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center in Asheville North Carolina is a great stop


Along the trail from the visitor center


Other highlights in the southern section included hiking on the Craggy Gardens trail (mile 363-369) and visiting the Graveyard Falls and Looking Glass Rock (between miles 415-420).

Craggy Gardens

The trail at the Craggy Gardens

Craggy Garden

Karla on the Craggy Garden Trail

Graveyard Fields waterfall

Graveyard Fields waterfall

Looking Glass Rock

In winter water running down Looking Glass Rock’s stone face freezes, giving the rock its name


The Blue Ridge Parkway’s southern section is a beautiful scenic drive with many worthy stops. Whether you make it a one day trip or split it into several days, there are many small towns just off the Parkway such as Waynesville, Canton, Brevard, Black Mountain, Pineola, and Blowing Rock offering services such as gas, food, and lodging.

highest point

The highest elevation along the Blue Ridge Parkway is at Richard Balsam at 6,053 feet

Blue Ridge Parkway

Another view along the Parkway


Layers of mountains can be viewed from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Looking Glass Falls

Looking Glass Falls is near the Forest Discovery Center in the Pisgah National Forest which the Blue Ridge runs through in North Carolina

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