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.
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.
- Linnville Gorge & Falls: the deepest gorge east of the Grand Canyon (mile 316.4)
- Mount Mitchell: The highest mountain peak in the eastern United States (mile 355.4)
- 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.
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).
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.