Blue Ridge Parkway
One of Asheville, NC’s most valuable assets is its close proximity to the magnificent Blue Ridge Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway, with its astounding mountain views and beautiful winding roadway, is unsurprisingly the most visited unit in the National Park System.
As with other great engineering projects in the United States, the Blue Ridge Parkway was born during the Great Depression as a way to get Americans back to work. The 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway was started on September 11, 1935 but the parkway was not completely finished until 1983. Created as a link between the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and the Great Smokey Mountain Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, The Blue Ridge Parkway is a marvel of engineering and landscape architecture.
There are no entrances to the Blue Ridge Parkway from major highways because “America’s Favorite Drive” is designed for plenty of stopping. Travelers along the Parkway can enjoy exquisite views of the seemingly endless mountain ranges.
Here in Asheville, we are fortunate to have five entrances to the Blue Ridge Parkway close by. Thirty-three miles North of Asheville, at Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 355, is Mount Mitchell State Park. At 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell has the distinction of being the highest peak in the eastern United States.
At the park you can experience the incredible landscape from atop the stone observation tower, enjoy tent camping, and walking or hiking the beautiful nature trails. While there, be sure to take advantage of the Natural History Museum and hands-on Nature Center. The park includes clean comfort facilities and a seasonal restaurant open May – October.
South of Mount Mitchell, at milepost 364, is another favorite stop, the incredible Craggy Gardens. With its over 5000 feet high vistas and panoramic views, it is a delight for hikers and picnickers alike. Spring visitors marvel at splendid natural displays of Rhododendrons as the Craggies burst into pink and purple blooms.
Continue south to milepost 382 for another unmissable attraction, the Folk Art Center. Visited by over 300,000 people each year, The Folk Art Center is the museum and gift store of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. The parkway’s Folk Art Center is the premier showcase of traditional and contemporary arts and crafts of the Southern Appalachian region. Blue Ridge Parkway travelers can enjoy live craft demonstrations daily from March until December and educational programs throughout the year. The Blue Ridge Parkway’s Folk Art Center is open everyday except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.
Another delight as you travel south along the Blue Ridge Parkway is the North Carolina Arboretum at milepost 393.6. The Parkway’s’ arboretum sits on 496 premium acres with greenhouses, a variety of exquisite gardens and fountains, and an exhibition hall and gift shop. Travelers won’t want to miss the beautiful new bonsai exhibit, or the well-kept trails.
Further South on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the drive gets steep and windy as you quickly climb in elevation. Stone tunnels and overlooks are plentiful you ascend to Mount Pisgah at milepost 407.6. Mount Pisgah is one of the most developed facilities along the Blue Ridge Parkway with camping amenities, a laundry-mat, one of the only gas stations along the parkway, and the beautiful Pisgah Inn. The popular Pisgah Inn, situated at an elevation of 5000 feet offers astounding views from its casually elegant dining room, parkway observation deck and comfortable rooms.
The varying elevations along the Blue Ridge Parkway create different temperature ranges. Be sure to have a sweater or light jacket handy, even in the summer. Often certain parts of the parkway are closed because of inclement weather or repair work. It is wise to check with the National Park Service to be sure there is access to any part you may want to explore. The park information hotline number is (828) 298-0398. Information is updated daily.
So whether your touring by car, motorcycle, or bicycle, the Blue Ridge Parkway, with its many scenic overlooks, hiking and biking trails, waterfalls, and wealth of natural beauty is a must-see for any visit to the Asheville, NC area.
For Your Health
For those interested in spa vacation retreats, or a full-service spa in the comfort of the cabins while you enjoy your stay, Appalachian Spa Ventures can come to you.