Seven Scenic Spots Along the Blue Ridge Parkway
By Shelby DeCusati, Girls Who Hike Georgia Ambassador
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most extraordinary areas in the southeastern United States and deserves to be celebrated every day of the year. This windy highway extends over 469 miles from North Carolina all the way to Virgina. It dates back to June 30, 1936 making this highway over 82 years old. Millions of people travel to visit this treasured highway for its scenic path and trails; to take in natural beauty. I’d like to share with you seven scenic spots of North Carolina along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
1. Frying Pan Tower
Do you enjoy the thrill of heights? Does the thought of climbing up above the clouds for panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains excite you? Frying Pan Tower is the tallest US Forest Service lookout tower in western North Carolina. It stands 70 ft’ tall at the top of a ridge. It’s located along the parkway near the Pisgah National Forest with a 1.5 mile round trip moderate hike. As you approach the tower you will find 5 flights of stairs. Sometimes the top of the tower can be locked, but you can easily climb up to sit on the stairs below to take in the iconic views that surround you. On one side of the tower you can see remarkable views of the famous Cold Mountain. Then, located south of the tower you can easily see Looking Glass Rock. I highly recommend this if you have the time to catch a sunset here once in your lifetime! My experiences of conquering my fear of heights, climbing those stairs, and sharing a trail beer with a complete stranger over a summer sunset will be a memory that lasts me a lifetime.
2. Linville Falls
Linville Falls is what some consider the “Grand Canyon” of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. This is simply because this is the most well-known waterfall of western Carolinas, probably because it is easily accessible to so many as they explore the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Erwin trail shares 3 tiers of waterfalls, a 1.6 mile strenuous hike, and Chimney overlook peering into the gorge. One thing I enjoyed was peering into the overlooks and witnessing other hikers enjoy the unique qualities that this gorge provides in the area.
3. Rough Ridge
Looking for some seriously iconic views? Rough Ridge has some “rocking” views of the Blue Ridge Mountain that any hiker can appreciate. Once you climb this 2.2 mile trail you’ll be able to see Grandfather Mountain, views of the winding Linn Cove Viaduct, and distant ridges of the Pisgah National Forest. This rocky mountain protects some fragile vegetation and large boulders that you can sit and chill on top of. One thing that hikers do is climb to the very top rock faced ledge to capture a “rough ridge photo.”
4. Black Balsam Knob, Sam Knob, and Tennant Mountain
These treeless knobs in the Pisgah National Forest are a must see of the Blue Ridge Parkway. People travel from all over to hike these mountains because of their extraordinary one-of-a-kind views of the Southern Appalachians. These mountains share an alpine feel and you can easily hike all three of these spots at the beginning of the Art Lobe Trail with a 5 mile loop trail. If you have the opportunity to catch a sunset or sunrise here, I highly recommend it!
5. Max Patch Bald
Some like to call this trail “the crown jewel” of the Southern Appalachian Mountains located close to the North Carolina and Tennessee border. Hiking to the top of this bald can offer you full 360 degree views of endless possibility and mountains galore! This has been considered one of the most anticipated and loved trails along the Appalachian Trail for its truly scenic qualities. Many wander to the top seeking to catch views such as: sunrises, sunsets, or the wildflowers blooming all over the mountain. One could easily could plan a picnic or even star gaze from the top of this mountain if they desired. Last time I was there clouds began rolling in and I literally found my head up in the clouds because it’s that high up!
6. Devil’s Courthouse
This is one of the most unique and easily recognizable rocky ridges along the Blue Ridge Parkway. As you make your 0.7 mile stroll to the top you’ll find yourself with views of 3 different states including Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee along with a wondrous 360-degree panorama. Devil’s Courthouse might seem like a bizarre name for this place because of its beautiful qualities, but there is a Cherokee Legend behind this spot. Cherokee’s believed that the rocky ridge was sinister to a degree and that the devil could hold court in a cave which lies directly underneath the rock. One other interesting quality of this location is that there are rare native high-altitude plants to this region that grow specifically on this ridge dating all the way back to the last ice age. Things you can find other than breathtaking views are birds such as eagles, hawks, and falcons gliding in the air currents across the valleys.
7. Craggy Gardens
Craggy Gardens is rightfully named for the jagged, rocky, and twisted craggs that can be found within the gardens. This high elevation natural garden is a place where others travel from near and far to witness truly radiant and colorful wildflowers such as blackberries, May-apple, Turkscap lily, and violets. Others also enjoy scenic views. During the month of June, one can expect to spot the pink and purple blooms of Catawba rhododendrons blanket the area, which are very unique to this particular area. This is a spot you’ll want to wander the winding Craggy Pinnacle 1.5 mile path and take in the extraordinary panoramic beauty that the Blue Ridge Parkway has to share. One of my favorite memories shared here was spent hanging in a tree and enjoying the simplicity of this spot with my best girl friends
The Blue Ridge Parkway encompasses so much natural beauty and mountain culture for the southeastern United States. This wild and winding highway truly offers explorers opportunities to make some extraordinary memories and experiences along the trails. There are an abundance of scenic spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway and I hope this sneak peak of what North Carolina offers encourages you to explore even more.