There we go! About to drive through one of the many rustic-stone tunnels located along the historic, 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, America’s longest linear park. Part of the Appalachian Mountains, the BRP runs through North Carolina and Virginia, and though it’s not technically a National Park, it has been America’s most visited park every year since 1946, except one! How we never even knew about it until this trip blows my mind.
Spotted with short hikes, lush nature trails, waterfalls, quaint towns, sweet cafes, unique restaurants and inns, the Blue Ridge Parkway is an incredible destination for road-trippers, bicyclists and motorcyclists alike. During the summer and fall months it’s extremely crowded with visitors hoping to see the vibrantly-colored fall leaves and swim in the cool, sparkling waters. The beauty in traversing it during the winter months, like us, is that we felt like we had the entire place to ourselves:
If you’re looking to truly enjoy the sites and take in the entire experience, we recommend spending at least a week journeying across the Blue Ridge. Unfortunately, we had but a day, but we did what we do best and we packed in as much adventure as we possibly could! Here’s the story on how we completed 3 hikes in 1 day traveling along the historic Blue Ridge Parkway.
Starting at the BRP Visitor Center located just outside of Asheville, we watched the welcome video, gathered some maps, asked about the must-do hikes along the way and of we went!
After just a few short miles we found ourselves at stop #1, Craggy Gardens. This easy, 1.4-mile roundtrip hike gains a moderate 200-feet in elevation before presenting you with one of the most sweeping, 360 degree views along the BRP.
Next up at 6,684-feet was Mount Mitchell, the highest point East of the Mississippi. From the parking lot, we took the stunning 3/4-mile, snow dusted Balsam Nature Trail which lead us to the paved observation deck at the very top.
After taking in the sites and enjoying a simple picnic, we hopped back into our sprinter van and attempted to drive a bit without being distracted by the urge to get out at every stop… this proved to be very difficult.
A few miles later, Drew insisted on one final trek, Linville Falls, the “Grand Canyon of the Southern Appalachians.” This spectacular, three-tiered waterfall plunges into sparkling Linville Gorge, and with numerous trail options and a number of angles from which to view the beautiful falls, naturally we went for the most strenuous and rewarding.
The 1.4-mile Gorge Trail (map here) took us all the way down to the bottom of the falls where we could experience the fresh air and cool mist, it was a strenuous last leg, but Drew helped me appreciate it: