Many of western North Carolina’s most popular spots may have hit their Fall color peak, but that doesn’t mean there’s not plenty to see out there! There’s just something about this season and the mountains that makes us just want to head out there. Even if leaf-peeping isn’t your thing, the Appalachians and Smoky Mountains hold something for just about everyone to enjoy. Here are some of our favorites you can find right along the Blue Ridge Parkway!
Mount Mitchell State Park: Located in a 1,855-acre North Carolina State Park, Mount Mitchell (elevation 6,684 feet) is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. About 35 miles northeast of downtown Asheville, Mount Mitchell is accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway, by NC Highway 128 which takes you all the way to the summit. There’s also a paved accessible trail to the observation deck for a one-of-a-kind view. Because of the altitude, many of the plants and animals are like those native to alpine environments of Canada. And talk about old… Mount Mitchell is part of the Black Mountain range, formed more than a billion years ago.
Linn Cove Viaduct: Probably the most photographed spot along the Blue Ridge Parkway, this masterpiece of engineering was constructed to preserve Grandfather Mountain, as the viaduct curves with the contours of the mountain. Stop at the Visitor Center and walk under this marvel to really get a scope of the project size. It was completed in 1987 at a cost of $10 million and was the last section of the Blue Ridge Parkway to be finished. To ride across and get a closer look, drive north on the Parkway from Asheville to Milepost 304. We had the chance to ride out bikes on the Linn Cove Viaduct a couple of years back. We’re still in awe of the view!
Folk Art Center: Arguably the best stop to see and buy some of the finest art and crafts from Southern Appalachia artists. There are several fine art galleries to browse, see daily craft demonstrations, and take a little piece of western North Carolina art home with you! You can also visit the Parkway information center here. The Folk Art Center is the most popular attraction on the Blue Ridge Parkway, welcoming 250,000 visitors each year. From March through December, visitors can observe craftspeople at work in daily craft demonstrations as well as a series of educational events held year round. The Folk Art Center also houses a Parkway Bookstore with National Park souvenirs and Blue Ridge Parkway Information Center.
Moses Cone Park: Another must-see on the Blue Ridge Parkway is this historic mountain estate with thousands of acres and a grand mansion to explore. Located at Milepost 294, it’s about 88 miles north of Asheville and 11 miles north of Grandfather Mountain. Built by textile entrepreneur and philanthropist Moses H. Cone as a summer retreat, it includes 25 miles of the original carriage roads. We’ve made the trip from Charlotte many times to run, ride and hike in this area. And it provides a wonderful “excuse” to get into Blowing Rock! The site is on the National Register of Historic Places and well worth a day trip – or more – from the Queen City.
Mount Pisgah: One of the favorite hiking and picnic spots along the Parkway, with a tough-but-worth-it hike to the summit at 5,721 feet. The view from the top is nothing short of spectacular. On a clear day, you can see the Pisgah Inn, the Shining Rock Wilderness to your west with the famous Cold Mountain at its northern end, the Great Smoky Mountains far to the west and Asheville and Mount Mitchell to the North. From April through October, the Pisgah Inn is worth a visit for an overnighter, or brunch. Most of these lands were bought as part of the original tract owned by George W. Vanderbilt, builder of the famous Biltmore Estate in Asheville.