13 Oct 2023
Nicknamed “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway is an epic 469-mile recreational motor road that connects Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks while protecting the natural features of the region. World-renowned for its biodiversity, the BRP was designed as a "Scenic Motor Road,” and the hope, according to Chief Landscape Architect, Stanley Abbott, was for it to fit into the mountains “as if nature has put it there.”
In addition to providing stunning scenery, the parkway allows visitors unique, up-close looks at the area’s flora and fauna as well as the cultural history of our storied mountains.
Divided into four districts, the Ridge and Plateau regions are located in Virginia, while the Highlands and Pisgah regions are located in North Carolina. Comprised of over 270 overlooks (speaking of, you can actually adopt an overlook), 26 tunnels, and over 100 trails, there are countless attractions and beauties to behold along the BRP. To help you narrow your search for the best spots, we’ve created a list of the 7 must-sees during the breathtaking fall color season:
1. “Lion King Rock” at Rough Ridge & Linn Cove Viaduct (Mileposts 302.8 & 304)
Two of the most photographed spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway are “Lion King Rock” at Rough Ridge and Linn Cove Viaduct (you can drive along the viaduct or hike under or above it for phenomenal views). The 1,243-ft. concrete bridge was completed in 1987 and was the last section of the parkway to be finished. It winds around the slopes of Grandfather Mountain and offers million-dollar views in every season but especially in fall when color-changing foliage is at its peak.
Rough Ridge via the Tanawha Trail is less than 5 minutes from Linn Cove Viaduct and offers distant views of it and Grandfather Mountain from epic rock outcrops. The “Lion King Rock” offers the perfect spot for that Insta-worthy selfie.
Similar to "Pride Rock" in the film, this rock outcrop offers truly breathtaking views of the ancient surrounding landscape and allows you to see "everything the light touches." Keep in mind that this trail gets particularly busy in the fall season and is extremely windy. We recommend bundling up with a beanie hat and warm scarf so you can take your time enjoying the views.
2. Mount Mitchell-Milepost 355.4
Located within the Pisgah National Forest in Yancey County just 30 miles northeast of Asheville, Mount Mitchell State Park is known as the “genesis of North Carolina's state parks system.” Boasting an elevation of 6,684 ft, Mt Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River, making it a must-see. Drive to the summit to reach an observation deck that provides breathtaking mountain views on a clear day.
For those looking to hike to Mt Mitchell’s peak instead of driving to it, you can park at the State Park office and begin the challenging 2.2-mile trail (approximately 4.5 miles roundtrip) there. Keep in mind that Mount Mitchell's summit is often 15-20 degrees cooler than the temperature in
Asheville so warm layers are vital!
3. Craggy Gardens and Picnic Grounds
Few locations along the Parkway are as iconic as Craggy Gardens. Not only is the craggy dome visible from many areas around the Swannanoa Valley, both the Craggy Gardens trail and Craggy Pinnacle trail are commonly recommended hikes with close proximity to Asheville.
We find that the Craggy Pinnacle trail tends to be the more traveled trail and is a fairly short 1.2-mile round-trip hike whereas Craggy Gardens adds an extra mile, but is just as beautiful.
4. Sliding Rock
Sliding Rock, as you may assume, is a 60-foot natural water slide that empties into an 8-foot deep pool of water. The area is open year-round and located off of Highway 276 which is a quick 7-mile drive from the Parkway.
We highly recommend arriving early at Sliding Rock as it is very popular and can fill up quickly during the warmer months.
5. The Orchard At Altapass (Milepost 328.3)
Nestled on the side of the Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 328.3 and Spruce Pine, The Orchard at Altapass is a worthwhile visit in the summer through fall months. Hayrides are offered every Saturday/Sunday beginning during the month of June. The Orchard’s apples begin the ripening process in early August and apple varieties continue to ripen through October. The Orchard at Altapass offers over 20 varieties of apples that are available for U-pick.
Built in the 1800s, America’s largest privately-owned home is a must-see destination when in Asheville. The estate which was built as a French Renaissance chateau, has over 250 rooms, and over 175,000 square feet of space. In addition to the home, the Estate includes a winery, restaurants, beautiful gardens, hiking trails, and a hotel.
The Parkway offers easy access to this historic home.
6. Mt. Pisgah & Pisgah Inn Restaurant
With convenient access to Asheville, Mt Pisgah’s over 5700-foot peak can be seen from downtown. The hike itself is considered to be a moderate, 2.6 mile round-trip hike with beautiful views from the top. Atop the summit, sits the TV transmission tower for WLOS. The hike
includes over 750 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead’s 5000 feet in elevation.
The Mt Pisgah Inn and Restaurant are open from April through October, during the time that the Parkway tends to be open. Many rooms in the Inn face toward sweeping views of the mountains below. The Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and also offers amazing
views from windows that surround the main dining room.
Honorable Mention: Mabry Mill (Milepost 176) is approximately 3 hours north of Asheville in Virginia and is another one of the most photographed places along the parkway.
Construction began in 1905, and the gristmill was operational in 1908. The sawmill was added in 1910, and the blacksmith shop was added in
1914, both of which still stand today.
After exploring the mill and snapping some photos, be sure to stop into the restaurant for some homemade Blackberry Cobbler and the gift shop for some Mabry Mill and Blue Ridge Parkway-inspired treasures.
Experience Fall from the Comfort of Home
The much-anticipated fall color season is in full swing, as pops of vermillion, blazing orange, and gold have begun blanketing the higher elevations and emerging in lower elevations. Residents and visitors alike are embracing the taste of fall they've been craving all year long!
Suppose you want to enjoy the beauty of the fall season from the comfort of your home away from home. In that case, Greybeard’s growing inventory of Asheville cabin vacation rentals has something for every kind of traveler—from private log cabins nestled on mountainsides with expansive views to cozy romantic retreats with hot tubs to solo stays in the heart of downtown.
October is one of our busiest times of year, and we currently have a $100 off special running all month long, so don’t wait to book your fall getaway and save!