The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most famous stretches of road in the country. It is 469 miles long and connects The Great Smokey Mountain National Park in North Carolina to The Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. In Western North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway extends for 252 miles along the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is one of the most beautiful spots in the state, and living in Avalon puts you very close to this celebrated place!
There are many mileposts along the Blue Ridge Parkway that have fantastic views and things to do. Let me highlight some places that you need to stop at along the way!
Linn Cove Viaduct
Located north of Asheville, at milepost 304, this 7 mile part of the parkway runs along the southern face of Grandfather Mountain. The S- curve road seems as if it is suspended in the air! It was the last section of the parkway to be completed and was designed to preserve and protect the habitat of the mountain. Linn Cove Viaduct is known as an engineering wonder because instead of cutting down trees and leveling part of Grandfather Mountain to build this section of the parkway, designers built it around the mountain and even camouflaged the beams needed for road support to look like they belong there. You can see breathtaking views and even hike along and under the viaduct!
Julian Price Memorial Park
This spectacular park in located 7 miles north of Linn Cove Viaduct, at milepost 297. It is a 4,300 acre park with gorgeous mountain scenery and a lake. You can rent boats and canoes to travel the lake and fish! There are designated picnic areas along the lake and hiking trails to explore, too. The park is open year round, seven days a week.
Moses H. Cone Park
A little further down the parkway, at milepost 294, is this park. The land was once the country estate of famous NC textile manufacture, Moses Cone. There is a 23 room mansion, carriage roads, 2 man-made lakes, and an apple orchard on the property. Today, the carriage roads are used for hiking, horseback riding, and cross country skiing. The Parkway Craft Center at Moses Cone Manor also displays mountain handcrafts and has demonstrations for the public.
Located at milepost 305, this is one of the best places to see the colorful display of fall foliage! While there, check out the following:
- The Colors of Grandfather: This is a guided walk of the fall leaves changing colors at the mountain. It is offered every weekend in October.
- Mile High Swinging Bridge: This is America’s highest suspension bridge! It is 228 feet and spans an 80 foot chasm! From the bridge, you have a 360 panoramic view, and Top Shop even provides elevator access to the bridge for those with disabilities.
- Nature Museum: This museum has exhibits that show the history of the mountain and its surrounding region. It has the best collection of NC gems and minerals, which includes the largest amethyst found in North America! There are also exhibits on the birds of NC, Native American artifacts found on Grandfather Mountain, and animals that live on the mountain.
Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor’s Center
The center is located at milepost 384, 8 miles east of downtown Asheville (specific address is 195 Hemphill Knob Rd. in Asheville, NC). The visitor’s center is open daily from 9am to 5pm, and it introduces visitors to the natural and cultural history of the Blue Ridge Parkway and its construction. You can watch a 24 minute film about the parkway and see exhibits about it. Information about recreational activities along the parkway is available here, as well. There is even a retail shop with parkway collectibles, apparel, and books. For the hikers, there is a 1.2 mile hiking loop that joins the North Carolina Mountains to the Sea hiking trail.
Folk Art Center
Two miles to the north of the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor’s Center, at milepost 382, is the Folk Art Center. Here, you can see traditional and contemporary crafts of the Southern Appalachians. The Folk Art Center is also home to the Southern Highland Craft Guild and is open daily from 9am – 6pm April through December and 9am – 6pm January through March. While here, be sure to take note of the following:
- 3 exhibition galleries: The permanent gallery contains handmade quilts, baskets, pottery, furniture, dolls, and woodcarving. Some even date back to 1855!
- daily craft demonstrations
- Blue Ridge Parkway Book Store and information desk
- Craft Shop: This is “the oldest continuously operating craft shop in the U.S.”.
There is so much to see, do, and explore along Western North Carolina’s stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway! This historic road is more than just a picturesque drive! You cannot go wrong spending a day traveling the parkway. Take your time, make plenty of stops along the route, and experience all it has to offer!
*image courtesy of iStock.