Road Trip Guide Blue Ridge Parkway Best Stops
With panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, waterfalls, and wildlife, it’s no wonder the Blue Ridge Parkway is known as America’s favorite drive! The Blue Ridge Parkway runs from Virginia to North Carolina with 469 miles making for the perfect road trip you won’t forget!
Did you know the Blue Ridge Parkway has over 20 million visitors a year? The Parkway is also the longest and highest continuous route in the Appalachia region connecting Shenandoah National Park (Virginia) down to the Great Smoky Mountains (NC)!
In this Blue Ridge road trip guide, I am covering the best stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway you won’t want to miss starting from Boone to Cherokee!
You might also be interested in why you should visit the Blue Ridge Parkway in Fall.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Road Trip Guide Blue Ridge Parkway Best Stops
- How Many Days to Spend on the Blue Ridge Parkway
- Best Time To Take A Road Trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway
- Day 1 – Boone and Grandfather Mountain
- Day 2 – Boone to Asheville Blue Ridge Road Trip
- Day 3 – Pisgah National Forest to Cherokee
- Where to Stay Along The Blue Ridge Parkway
- Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip Wrap-up
How Many Days to Spend on the Blue Ridge Parkway
How many days do you need to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway? We took 3 days driving the parkway and found this gave us a lot of time to see many of the best stops and pull-offs. Our main stops were Boone, Asheville, Pisgah National Forest, and Cherokee.
If you plan on starting your road trip from Virginia, I’d recommend 4 or 5 days to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway.
In this Blue Ridge Parkway road trip guide, I have put together our favorite viewpoints, hikes, and waterfalls we covered in a 3 day itinerary!
Best Time To Take A Road Trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a popular road trip all year. With that being said, the fall during peak foliage is easily one of the busiest times to drive the parkway. Parking lots overflow and traffic jams are very likely (especially on the weekend).
However, it’s not all doom and gloom if you want to visit during the fall! We went during peak season but instead visited during the weekday instead. The Parkway was by no means empty, but it was very enjoyable, and we had zero traffic problems!
If you can’t go during the week, just start your day early.
The wintertime will undoubtedly be the least crowded time to visit the parkway. If you love winter activities, I suggest checking out the Blowing Rock/Boone area, where you can go skiing!
The one issue, however, is that some roads could be closed due to snow, so it is always best to check beforehand if you want to drive the length of the parkway.
Day 1 – Boone and Grandfather Mountain
Coming from Raleigh, NC, we decided to start in Boone, NC where some of the best attractions start within the Blue Ridge Parkway.
I recommend staying in Boone/ Blowing Rock, NC, which is a quaint little town that has stunning views and lots of food and shopping.
To start off this Blue Ridge Parkway road trip, make your way to Grandfather Mountain. If I am being honest, Grandfather Mountain may be my favorite place on the parkway, and we didn’t even see everything the mountain has to offer!
Blue Ridge Parkway Tip: If you plan on going all the way up the mountain to the swinging mile bridge, you will need a ticket, and those need to be purchased online ahead of time with a time slot.
However, if you plan on just driving through the mountain, viewing the overlooks and hiking trails, you do not need to purchase a ticket!
We only planned to see some overlooks and hikes and bought the $22 dollar ticket per person, which we, of course, never used.
While all overlooks are incredible while driving through the Blue Ridge Parkway, some of our favorite stops and overlooks include:
- Price Lake
- Wilson Creek Valley Overlook
- stack rock parking area
- Linn Cove Viaduct
- Pull off on the right-hand side right after Rough Ridge parking lot
The most popular hike is undoubtedly Rough Ridge. During the peak fall/autumn season, it can be quite difficult to even get a spot in the parking lot. If you want to hike the Rough Ridge hike, it is best to get there early.
Another beautiful and less crowded hike is Beacon Heights. This short trail (.6 miles) leads out to beautiful mountain views, perfect for a picnic or to watch the sunset.
Day 2 – Boone to Asheville Blue Ridge Road Trip
On day 2, we continued our road trip from Boone and started heading down the Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville. There are tons of beautiful pull-offs along the parkway, tons of hiking, waterfalls, and more.
Below were our favorite stops on the parkway from Boone to Asheville. Depending on how many hikes you plan on doing, you can drive from Boone to Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway in 1 day.
Perhaps one most popular waterfalls off the Blue Ridge Parkway is Linville Falls. Since the area is so popular, I’d recommend getting there early.
The heavily trafficked hike to the falls is short and scenic, making it a must-see on your Blue Ridge road trip.
Additionally, if you have time, you might also want to consider making your way to Linville Gorge. The Gorge is a bit away from the parkway but is supposed to be really beautiful and also the deepest gorge in the Eastern United States. We were short on time and were unable to make it.
I can assure you will make many pullovers stops during your Blue Ridge road trip, so make sure to include Chestoa Viewpoint as one of them! In my opinion, it is one of the best viewpoints stops on the Blue Ridge Parkway!
It’s less than a 2-minute walk from the parking lot to a beautiful view of the mountains. You can even see the Sugar Mountain Resort (the only large eyesore of the Blue Ridge Mountains).
Fun Fact: You may notice Sugar Mountain Resort/condo is the only building on the mountain. Originally it was supposed to be 5 stories.
When the resort was completed at 10 stories, all of western North Carolina banned together to stop any additional buildings from ruining the natural beauty of the mountains.
The landmark Mountain Ridge Protection Act (of 1983) was enacted by the N.C. General Assembly went into effect on Jan. 1, 1984.
Even to this day, many West North Carolinians are still sour about the resort, especially when you tell them you are staying there.
Views from Mt. Mitchell
Did you know North Carolina is home to the highest Mountain peak East of the Mississippi River? Standing at 6,684 ft high, Mt. Mitchell offers beautiful views, unique hikes, and the heavenly smell of Christmas Trees everywhere!
Mt. Mitchell is also a part of Black Bear Country. Make sure you prepare yourself and know some important bear safety tips!
On our way to Mt. Mitchell, we also came across another really beautiful viewpoint called Laurel Knob Overlook pictured below!
Craggy Gardens BRP
Another popular place to visit when taking a road trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway includes Craggy Gardens. Even from the visitor center, you will be rewarded with beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains!
Craggy Gardens also offers quite a few hikes. The landscape is very unique. On our short hike down the Craggy Gardens trail, we were greeted with a large open field with mountain views in the background.
The area is perfect for a picnic on a nice day or sunset! We hung out for a while just sitting on the grass enjoying the views.
From Craggy Gardens, we headed to Asheville to end the night. Asheville has a very lively downtown area bustling with restaurants and artsy vibes. While we didn’t spend too much time exploring around the city of Asheville this trip.
However, we have visited Asheville numerous times. If you have one more day in your Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary, I’d recommend visiting the Biltmore Estate, the United States’ largest privately-owned home.
Day 3 – Pisgah National Forest to Cherokee
On day 3 of our Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip, I wanted to see some additional waterfalls, so we made our way to Pisgah National Forest. Additionally, I also really wanted to spot some Elk, which brought us to Cherokee.
Looking Glass Falls
Looking Glass Falls is another one of the most popular waterfalls on the Blue Ridge Parkway because the falls are not only impressive but extremely accessible!
To see Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah National Forest, all you need to do is pull off and the waterfall can be seen right from the road! The falls stand at an impressive 60 ft.
During the summer Looking Glass Falls is a popular place for people to swim. Since the falls are so accessible, to avoid crowds, it is best to get there early.
Address: US-276, Brevard, NC 28712
Sliding Rock & Moore Cove Falls
Sliding Rock and Moore Cove Falls are two other noteworthy places to check out in Pisgah National Forest if you have the time/ nice weather.
Sliding Rock is a natural rock waterslide that you can go down and swim around. It’s an extremely popular attraction in the park during the summer.
Since we visited during the fall on a cold day, we didn’t visit Sliding Rock, but we do plan to make it back out next summer.
If you really love seeing Waterfalls, you might also want to consider seeing Moore Cove Falls. This waterfall is about a 1.5 mile relatively easy round trip hike to a 50 ft waterfall. You can even walk behind this waterfall, although if there hasn’t been much rain, the falls are not “very” impressive.
Moore Cove Falls Address: US-276, Brevard, NC 28712
Graveyards Fields Loop
I should say that before we made it to Graveyard’s Loop, we attempted to see looking Glass Rock, which we did, but we were brought up this dirt path for about 5 miles up and down the side of a mountain.
If you come across this dirt road, skip it, especially if you do not have 4-wheel drive! Learn from my mistakes!
So, I especially loved Graveyads Fields! The landscape and trails were tranquil and scenic. You also have the opportunity to hike to 2 different waterfalls.
Keep in mind that Graveyards Field is also a part of bear country. We didn’t spot a black bear, but I am pretty sure I heard one.
We hiked the Graveyards Loop only since we wasted so much time driving the dirt road I mentioned above, but I’ve heard all trails are really nice, but a little confusing to actually find the larger waterfall.
Address: Blue Ridge Pkwy, Canton, NC 28716
From Graveyards Loop, we started heading towards Cherokee, NC to one of the Smoky Mountain National Park Entrances to see wild elk.
Tip: If seeing elk and possibly black bears do not interest you, consider seeing some other popular hiking spots. Some popular hikes near Graveyards Loop include Black Balsam Knob, Sam’s Knob Trail, and Devils Courthouse.
On your way to Cherokee, also consider pulling off to Richland Balsam, the highest point on the actual Parkway at 6,053 ft.
Additionally, check out Haywood Jackson Overlook at Milepost 431 with an elevation of 6,020 feet.
When driving through Cherokee, you can definitely feel the vibes of a Native American town. As you make your way through the center of the town, Native American gift shops line the streets.
To see the Elk, head to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. It is at the North Carolina Side of the Smoky Mountains!
As you start to pull up, you will likely notice a ton of cars pulled off to the side since the Elk hang out in a large open field next to the visitors center.
The best time to see them is dusk and dawn on hot days. During our visit, we saw over 15 elk! There is also a hiking trail by the river next to the visitor center that also had a bunch of elk.
Address: 1194 Newfound Gap Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719
Soco Falls Near Maggie Valley
On our way back to Asheville, we decided to drive through Maggie Valley to Soco Falls. Enjoy an easy pull-off to see this double waterfall. The path is slightly steep to the observation deck but easy.
Additionally, you can go down to the bottom of the falls with provided ropes to guide you down.
It was really pretty especially with all the fall colors.
Address: US-19, Maggie Valley, NC 28751
Where to Stay Along The Blue Ridge Parkway
During our road trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we stayed in the Boone/ Blowing Rock area and in Asheville.
Since we planned our trip in the fall during high season and very last minute, there were not that many accommodations to choose from that also allowed dogs.
We stayed at La Quinta in Boone twice now. The first time we had a good experience, however, on our second visit, our room was dirty, so we probably wouldn’t stay here again.
In Asheville, we stayed at Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Asheville Westgate. Overall, it was alright, but the ceiling in the shower was peeling, the sink stopper wasn’t working well, and the room smelt of dog big time. Since we brought our dog ourselves, I was understanding of the dog smell, but others might not like it.
When I go back to Asheville, I will more likely stay at one of these properties instead: The Omni Grove Park Inn, Double Tree Hilton Downtown, Crowne Plaza Resort, or Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville, Autograph Collection.
Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip Wrap-up
As you can tell, the Blue Ridge Parkway has a lot to offer and will require a few road trips to see everything.
I hope you have an awesome time driving through the beautiful mountain areas of North Carolina as much as I did, and please remember to respect the signage and stay on the trail, and help promote keeping the trails clean by leaving no trash behind.
Other NC Guide to check out: