"Must Do" Stops on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, NC

Linn Cove Viaduct Blue Ridge Parkway Asheville North Carolina

Asheville, North Carolina, is renowned for its vibrant arts scene, award-winning restaurants, and stunning natural beauty. Asheville has enough attractions to keep vacationers engaged without ever venturing outside the city, but one attraction should be on every visitor’s agenda: the Blue Ridge Parkway. This 469-mile scenic highway winds through the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering breathtaking views, hiking trails, and opportunities for outdoor adventure. For those seeking to explore the activities of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, there are several must-visit destinations that promise unforgettable experiences.

Craggy Gardens

Check out this video of the Craggy Gardens Trail for a better idea of what to expect!

Located just 20 miles northeast of Asheville, between Milepost 364.4-367.6, Craggy Gardens is a high-elevation site known for its stunning displays of rhododendron blooms and long range mountain views. Offering several choices of activities, visitors can spend an entire afternoon exploring the area’s options.

 

Craggy Pinnacle Trail is a popular hiking trail in the area with a length of 1 mile (out/back) and a difficulty rating of moderate. Once at the summit, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. A second hiking option is Craggy Gardens Trail. This 2.2 mile hike offers breathtaking views, benches for resting, and picnic tables for enjoying a well deserved snack. Both trails make excellent options if you’re traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway with kids.

 

Before you hit the trails along this stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, take time to visit the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center (open seasonally). There, you’ll find information about the area’s natural and cultural history, making it an ideal starting point for your exploration.

Mount Mitchell State Park

Towering at 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, and it’s just 30 miles northeast of Asheville via the Blue Ridge Parkway. Mount Mitchell State Park offers numerous hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging treks. If you do one hike at Mount Mitchell, make sure it’s the paved path leading to the summit. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with unparalleled views of the surrounding mountains and an opportunity to stand atop the highest point in the eastern United States.

 

During peak season (spring-fall), you’ll find an abundance of activities to keep you and your family entertained. If you’re traveling with children, the Mount Mitchell Visitor Center is an excellent starting point. You can gather information on the surround area as well as fuel up on snacks, souvenirs, and bathroom breaks before heading out on the trails. Be sure to explore the Balsam Nature Trail with your little ones, too. This easy, 0.7 mile trail provides educational plaques along the way helping educate and inform children of the importance of nature. 

Folk Art Center

For a taste of Appalachian culture and craftsmanship, don’t miss the Folk Art Center. Located at Milepost 382, this is one the most convenient activities to experience along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville. Operated by the Southern Highland Craft Guild, this cultural hub showcases the work of regional artisans through rotating exhibitions and a permanent collection of traditional and contemporary craft items. Open daily from 10am-5pm, this is also an excellent location to find maps and souvenirs for the Blue Ridge Mountains!

 

Visitors can watch live craft demonstrations, purchase unique handmade gifts, and gain insight into the rich heritage of the Appalachian Mountains. Make sure to check out their website for various events throughout the year. Favorites include Holiday Sales (first two weekends in December), Mini Pop-Up Craft Fairs (May & June), and Saturday craft demonstrations where visitors can try their hand at local craft making!

Looking Glass Rock Overlook

Looking Glass Rock Blue Ridge Parkway Asheville North Carolina

Rising prominently above the surrounding forest, Looking Glass Rock is a massive granite monolith located near Milepost 417 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Gaining its name from the compressed volcanic rock, the smooth surface of this landmark resembles reflective glass when wet or icy. Visitors traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway hoping to see this historic structure are gifted with a clear view from one of the many overlooks located on the scenic highway. Absolutely zero hiking is required to witness one of Earth’s oldest natural creations, believed to be approximately 340 million years old!

 

For the more adventurous visitors, Looking Glass Rock presents unique opportunities for hiking and rock climbing. Starting in Pisgah National Forest, hikers can climb a moderately difficult 3 miles to reach the summit, where they’ll be treated to unprecedented views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Plan your hiking trip for June and you will get to experience spectacular rhododendron thickets bursting with vibrant wildflowers! 

Linville Falls

linville falls north carolina blue ridge parkway

Approximately 66 miles north of Asheville along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Linville Falls is a must-see natural wonder. This spectacular waterfall cascades into the Linville Gorge, often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the East.” Although this is the farthest “must-do” stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville, it is well worth the drive! You’ll find restrooms available at the Linville Falls trailhead area, as well as multiple trails to different viewing platforms of this popular waterfall.

 

For novice hikers, or those traveling with children, the Linville Falls Overlook Trail is a great choice. You’ll hike a total of 1.9 miles and, along the way, be offered different perspectives of this North Carolina waterfall. The first resting spot is at the top of the waterfall where you can witness the rushing water roaring down the rock gulch. Swimming is strictly prohibited due to the high level of danger! Continue on this trail to reach a distant viewpoint of the plunge pool where the rapids conclude.

 

For hikers who are seeking more of a challenge, try your hand at the Plunge Basin Trail. This 1.2 mile hike may be short on distance, but makes up for it with difficult terrain. When navigating this trail, you’ll be faced with natural obstacles, uneven ground, and steep elevation changes. However, when you reach the bottom of the gorge, you’ll be rewarded with a clear, close up view of the roaring rapids of Linville Falls. Be sure to bring your camera because you will want memories of your time at one of North Carolina’s most iconic waterfalls.

Final Thoughts

Asheville, North Carolina, and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains offer a wealth of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and outdoor adventure opportunities. Whether you’re seeking panoramic views from mountain summits, exploring historic sites, or immersing yourself in Appalachian culture, the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville has something for everyone. When planning your North Carolina mountain vacation, consider booking a guided hiking tour to gain a comprehensive look at all the area has to offer around the Asheville area!

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