Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes in NC

Looking Glass Rock Blue Ridge Parkway Asheville North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a ribbon of road that weaves through the stunning landscapes of the Appalachian Mountains, offering travelers breathtaking vistas, diverse wildlife, and access to some of the best hiking trails in the United States. In North Carolina, this scenic byway exposes a multitude of hiking opportunities, each with its own unique charm and challenges. Whether you’re a seasoned trekker or a casual nature enthusiast, the Blue Ridge Parkway has something for everyone. Let’s dive into some of the best hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway, so you can better plan your next North Carolina mountain adventure.

 

Always practice waterfall safety! Do not climb on rocks near waterfalls and use extreme caution when walking along riverbanks. These rocks are slippery from mist and algae. The top of any waterfall is dangerous—never play in the stream above a waterfall.

Graveyard Fields Loop Trail

graveyard fields blue ridge parkway north carolina
  • Milepost 418.8
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Mileage: 1.3 miles (round trip)

The Graveyard Fields area off the Blue Ridge Parkway is a unique, high-elevation valley (5,120 feet above sea level) characterized by its landscape of wildflowers, cascading waterfalls, and wild blueberries. Named after the topography which remained after severe winds and logging flattened much of the area, it was noted that the remaining tree stumps reminded viewers of headstones in a graveyard. Visitors flock to this section of the Blue Ridge Mountains every year due to its easily accessible trail and diverse landscape. If you happen to visit in October, you’ll also discover it’s one of the first areas in North Carolina to start showing off its vibrant leaf color changes. The collage of colors found here often reminds viewers of a bowl of Fruity Pebbles!

 

The popular loop trail begins at the parking lot and takes hikers through a variety of ecosystems, including open meadows, dense forests, and along the banks of idyllic mountain streams. Along the way, hikers can gain insight into the history and ecosystem of this fragile habitat by reading informative signs placed along the path. The highlight of the hike is undoubtedly Second Falls, one of the most impressive waterfalls in North Carolina! Here, visitors can cool off at the base of the waterfall in a clear, deep, natural swimming hole. To access this popular swimming hole, veer right after walking over the footbridge near the start of the loop trail. Overlooks and wooden stairs dot the path when approaching the waterfall, so you won’t have to scramble over boulders if that’s out of your comfort zone.

 

The remainder of the trail meanders through mostly level ground where you’ll experience deep, old-forest growth and a wooden boardwalk which helps visitors avoid trampling fragile vegetation underneath. For more information on the Graveyard Fields area and its waterfalls, check out Graveyard Fields Hike, North Carolina.

Mount Pisgah Trail

  • Milepost 407.6
  • Difficulty Level: Strenuous
  • Mileage: 2.4 miles (round trip)

For those seeking a more challenging adventure, the Mount Pisgah Trail, located approximately 18 miles southwest of Asheville, delivers with its steep inclines, rocky terrain, and rewarding summit views. The trail begins near the historic Pisgah Inn and climbs steadily through dense forests before emerging onto a wooden viewing platform with sweeping panoramas of the surrounding mountains. The trail gains approximately 700 feet in elevation over a distance of 1.2 miles (one way), making it a challenging but rewarding ascent. Much of the trail’s terrain is formed by natural stone steps, so even though the elevation gain is significant, you’ll have sturdy footing the entire hike.

 

The highlight of the Mount Pisgah Trail is undoubtedly the summit, which sits at an elevation of 5,721 feet. From the top, hikers are treated to a 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape, including the sprawling Pisgah National Forest, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and on clear days, even glimpses of the Great Smoky Mountains to the west. The expansive viewing platform is the perfect spot to take a break before heading back down the mountain.

 

If the natural scenery isn’t enough, this popular hike off the Blue Ridge Parkway also holds cultural and historical significance in the region. Mount Pisgah earned its name after the biblical mount from which Moses first saw the promised land. At the Mount Pisgah summit, hikers will find the remnants of an old fire tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. While the tower is no longer in use, its stone foundation serves as a reminder of the area’s rich history and the role of early conservation efforts in preserving these mountains.

Craggy Pinnacle Trail

Craggy Pinnacle Best hike off blue ridge parkway north carolina
  • Milepost 364.1
  • Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
  • Mileage: 1.4 miles (round trip)

Situated at Milepost 364.1 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, approximately 20 miles northeast of Asheville, Craggy Pinnacle Trail boasts an explosion of colorful rhododendrons and panoramic views that are particularly breathtaking during the blooming season in late spring and early summer. The trail begins from a large parking area with portable restrooms, and winds its way up through a thick Appalachian forest setting with rocky outcrops. Although you may be tempted to head straight to the 360 degree mountain view at the summit, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t take the short trails off the main one. These side trails offer their own expansive views of Pisgah National Forest, usually with fewer crowds.

 

One of the most unique characteristics of this area off the Blue Ridge Parkway are the twisted formations found in the trees here. Due to a harsh winter climate and high winds found at this high elevation (5,892 feet above sea level), the trees have been wind-swept into living sculptures. Since Craggy Pinnacle Trail is less than two miles of hiking with mild elevation changes, it’s perfect for families and casual hikers looking for a taste of mountain beauty without an arduous trek. Many families choose this trail as an introduction to hiking for their children. For more information on this hike, check out Two Child-Friendly Hikes Near Asheville, NC.

Rough Ridge Overlook Trail

rough ridge blue ridge parkway north carolina
  • Milepost 302.8
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Mileage: 1.2 miles (round trip)

As one of the most popular hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Rough Ridge Overlook Trail offers a short but exhilarating journey to some of the most stunning vistas in the region. You’ll find the trailhead situated at Milepost 302.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, approximately 7 miles north of the town of Linville and 9 miles south of the town of Boone. It’s easily accessible by car, with a designated parking area located near the trailhead. Make sure to get there early if you want parking, though. The parking area holds a limited number of cars, and this is a heavily trafficked trail during peak seasons.

 

One reason for this trail’s popularity is due to the minimal effort needed to reach a maximum reward. A bird’s eye view of the famous Blue Ridge Mountains, along with the Linn Cove Viaduct, are both accessible after a short, 0.3 mile trek from the parking area. You’ll begin this Blue Ridge Parkway hike by crossing a footbridge across  small waterfall before gradually ascending to the massive mountain views for which this hike is known. If satisfied, simply retrace your steps back to your car. Although it’s only a quick jaunt to the mesmerizing overlook, the Rough Ridge Trail is part of the longer, 13-mile Tanawha Trail. If you’re up for the challenge, you can continue hiking on the designated path after you’ve gotten your fill of the overlook.

Linville Falls Trail

linville falls north carolina blue ridge parkway
  • Milepost 316.4
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Mileage: 1.6 miles (round trip)

Linville Falls is one of the most photographed waterfalls along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and for good reason. The trail to the falls is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway approximately 66 miles northeast of Asheville, at Milepost 316.4. Although there are several options for hiking trails in this area, the Linville Falls Trail offers a series of overlooks, each providing a unique perspective of the cascading water as it tumbles into the rugged Linville Gorge. This relatively short and easy waterfall hike rewards visitors with views from the top and bottom of the famous North Carolina waterfall.

 

You can find the trailhead starting at the Linville Falls Visitor Center, where there’s information about the area’s natural and cultural history. Once on the hike, and you reach the upper falls viewing platform, you’ll be spellbound watching the roaring rapids carve their way through ancient Appalachian rocks. Interpretive signs along the hike enhance your experience as you absorb the rich history of the area and the people that came before you. This trail will take you to distant viewpoints of the lower falls, but if you want a closer look at where Linville Falls meets its end, you’ll want to head to the more difficult Plunge Basin Trail. It’s a steep hike with multiple obstacles, but there are few experiences greater than getting up close and personal with this waterfall. 

 

Consider booking a guided hiking tour to see more of North Carolina’s most impressive waterfalls!

Final Thoughts

The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles of natural beauty, and the hiking trails that wind their way through the North Carolina section of this scenic byway offer a glimpse into the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Appalachian Mountains. Whether you’re chasing waterfalls, summit views, or simply seeking solace in the embrace of nature, there’s a hike along the Blue Ridge Parkway that’s sure to capture your heart and leave you longing for more.

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