Must-See Mileposts On The Parkway
There’s a reason the Blue Ridge Parkway is called America’s Favorite Drive.
Actually, there are lots of reasons – glorious fall foliage, vibrant spring flowers, charming little towns, friendly mountain folks, rich Appalachian culture, dramatic vistas, quiet meadows, intriguing tunnels – the list goes on.
But perhaps what folks love best about the Parkway is its uncanny ability to force travelers to slow down and enjoy the drive.
“The Blue Ridge Parkway is timeless,” says Penn Dameron, executive director of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, a 25-county region that includes the Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “It takes you to a completely different world and serves as a constant reminder of what an extraordinary place we live in.”
Extraordinary, indeed. Here are 25 fun things to do along or just off of America’s Favorite Drive.
Whiz through the air at 50 miles per hour at Scream Time Ziplines. The company offers canopy tours that allow you to fly over grazing cows and horses in a wooded area near Boone.
In Valle Crucis, Mast General Store is one of the oldest continuously operating general stores in America and still sells pioneer products such as kerosene lamps and stone-ground grits. Built in 1883, the store pays tribute to its mountain heritage with occasional back-porch bluegrass jam sessions.
Moses Cone Memorial Park preserves the 13,000-square-foot mansion of Moses Cone, a textile entrepreneur, conservationist and philanthropist. The 3,500 acre park also offers horseback riding, fishing, cross-country skiing, easy trails and a crafts shop.
Campers love Julian Price Memorial Park, where amenities include picnic areas, an amphitheater, campfire programs, and canoeing and fishing in Price Lake.
In Sugar Grove, Dutch Creek Trails is an equestrian paradise. Visitors can take a one-hour trail ride through wooded trails while enjoying the Southern hospitality of Keith Ward and his family, who own the family-friendly operation.
Built at an elevation of 4,100 feet, the Linn Cove Viaduct is a 1,234 foot long S-curve.
“The stunning Linn Cove Viaduct crosses the eastern slope of the mountain and offers the best view on the entire Parkway,” Dameron says.
The nearly 2,500-acre Grandfather Mountain area is part of North Carolina’s newest state park. The nature preserve boasts the Mile High Swinging Bridge, interesting wildlife, picnic spots, hiking trails and a kid-friendly Nature Museum.
Linville Falls offers gorgeous waterfalls, hiking trails and spectacular views of the falls and Linville Gorge.
“Wiseman’s View, Table Rock, Hawksbill Mountain and Shortoff Mountain offer the best views of Linville Gorge anywhere,” Dameron says.
Dig into homemade ice cream or fudge, or take a hayride at the Orchard at Altapass. Built in 1908, the historic apple orchard is an Appalachian cultural center that celebrates the people, music, art and beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
A stone’s throw from the Parkway is the community of Little Switzerland, where the Switzerland Inn offers an enchanting chalet restaurant; day excursions for horseback riding, gem mining and trout fishing; and hiking, golfing and shopping nearby.
Crabtree Meadows is another great campground, with a snack bar, gift shop, camp store, picnic areas and walking trails.
About a mile from Crabtree Meadows, you’ll find the thundering Crabtree Falls, a 70-foot cascade that falls over a rocky cliff. Nearby cabins provide rustic accommodations.
Flower fans shouldn’t miss Craggy Gardens. The high-elevation summits boast some of the most spectacular floral displays along the Parkway, including a breathtaking rhododendron garden that bursts with color in June.
Nearby, Mount Mitchell is the highest point in North America east of the Mississippi River.
The Folk Art Center is the most popular attraction on the Parkway and is operated in partnership with the Southern Highland Craft Guild. The center showcases the finest in traditional and contemporary crafts, and visitors can see daily craft demonstrations from March through December.
The Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center near Asheville is a good place to start your journey. Check out the fascinating, 22-foot interactive Parkway map, watch an award-winning movie about the roadway and shop for books, clothing, souvenirs and collectibles.
Those energetic enough to climb to the top of Chimney Rock, on Highway 74 near Asheville, will be rewarded with magnificent mountain views. If you’re not up for the climb, you can cheat by taking the 26-story elevator cut right through the rock to the top.
Asheville’s famed Biltmore is a must-see for all travelers. Besides exploring the vast estate, you can meander through the property’s gardens, visit the winery and pet the animals at River Bend Farm.
The North Carolina Arboretum is where you can – and should – stop and smell the flowers. Take a Segway tour, learn about the art of bonsai and enjoy lunch in The Savory Thyme Café.
Mount Pisgah provides relaxation via the Pisgah Inn, one of the only places along the Parkway that offers sit-down dining and lodging. It’s also known for beautiful sunrises and excellent hiking.
Located down Highway 276 near Milepost 413, Sliding Rock is a magnet for the young (and the young at heart). You slide down a natural, 60-foot rock waterslide into a refreshing, 7-foot-deep pool at the bottom.
Graveyard Fields features cascading waterfalls, scenic hiking trails suitable for all ages, and even an old-fashioned swimming hole.
The century-old Balsam Mountain Inn in Balsam is the perfect place for a romantic getaway and provides 50 guestrooms and suites, each with its own turn-of-the-century décor. Amenities include an award-winning restaurant, gift shop, library, hiking trails and two 100-foot-long porches lined with North Carolina-made rockers.
Antique shopping doesn’t get much better than the small community of Dillsboro,which holds an annual Antiques Festival in September. The town is also home to the charming Dillsboro Inn, with its riverfront suites, cozy fireplaces and world-class trout fishing.
Experience the rich culture of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians in Cherokee. Here you’ll find the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, the fascinating Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual Inc., the newly renovated Oconaluftee Indian Village and the fabulous outdoor drama, Unto These Hills.
By Jessica Mozo Courtesy of Journal Communications
added: March 2, 2010
updated: February 17, 2011
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