Exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile scenic roadway that stretches from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, through the Blue Ridge Mountains, and down to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Western North Carolina. Along the way, it weaves among mountain peaks and forested coves, connecting visitors to hiking trails and waterfalls, wildflowers, wildlife and countless breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“America’s Favorite Drive,” as the Parkway is often known, is free to visit and is open year-round (though closures for ice and snow are common in winter; check the Parkway’s real-time closure updates for details).
The Blue Ridge Parkway is navigated by mileposts — often abbreviated “MP” — starting at the northern end with MP 0 in Virginia and ending at the southern end with MP 469 near Cherokee, N.C.
Top Blue Ridge Parkway Destinations
Be sure to check out these popular Parkway stops during your visit:
- Linville Falls (MP 316.3) — A stunning triple waterfall created as the Linville River cascades into Linville Gorge. Multiple hiking trails offer access to views of the falls.
- Orchard at Altapass (MP 328.3) — A 100-year-old apple orchard dedicated to preserving the history, heritage and culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Enjoy live music, “heyrides,” walking trails, a general store filled with locally crafted goodies and, of course, U-pick apples in the fall.
- Museum of NC Minerals (MP 331) — Explore hands-on exhibits about the history of mining in the area and learn about the forces that created the Blue Ridge Mountains. Gem mining enthusiasts will also want to visit Emerald Village, a collection of mining attractions located about six miles away.
- Little Switzerland (MP 334) — This unique mountain village is modeled after the architecture of Swiss chalets and offers stunning views, plus dining and shopping.
- Mount Mitchell (MP 355.4) — Visitors can stand atop the highest point in the Eastern United States for a birds-eye view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Drive to a parking lot near the summit, or challenge yourself to a hike among the park’s alpine forests. Admission to Mount Mitchell State Park is free.
Favorite Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes & Waterfalls
Whether you’re seeking mountaintop views or awe-inspiring waterfalls, these hiking trails near the Blue Ridge Parkway are sure to impress:
- Chestoa View (MP 320.8) — This quarter-mile trail begins at the overlook at MP 320.8 and leads to a small observation platform with a BIG view! At an elevation of 4,090 feet, it’s possible to see Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock and more of the beautiful Linville Gorge.
- Crabtree Falls (MP 339.5) — Enjoy hiking a 3-mile woodland trail to see a stunning 60-foot waterfall that is beautiful in all seasons. Pack a lunch to enjoy at the picnic area, which is also a prime spot to view wildflowers in spring.
- Roaring Fork Creek Falls (MP 344) — Exit the Parkway onto NC Hwy 80 and drive north for two miles to access this easy 1-mile trail to the zigzagging Roaring Fork Creek Falls.
- Setrock Creek Falls (MP 344) — Also located off NC Hwy 80 about 5 miles from the Parkway, this four-layered waterfall is accessible via an easy, half-mile trail.
- Craggy Pinnacle Trail (MP 364.1) — This popular half-mile trail ends at a beautiful overlook, offering 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains. Visit in late May or early June for a peek at the flowering rhododendrons.
Planning Your Visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway
Area visitors can access the Blue Ridge Parkway from US 221 in Linville Falls (MP 317.4), from Highway 226 at the Museum of N.C. Minerals (MP 331) or from NC Hwy 80 at MP 344 (about 18 miles from Marion).
Knowledgeable rangers provide information at Parkway Visitors Center from May through October:
- Linville Falls Visitor Center (MP 316.4)
- Museum of North Carolina Minerals (MP 331) — This visitor center is open year-round.
- Craggy Gardens Visitor Center (MP 364.5)
- Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center in Asheville (MP 384.5) — This visitor center is open year-round.
Places to stay near the Blue Ridge Parkway include several lodges, inns, and motels plus cabins and privately owned campgrounds near Little Switzerland, as well as private vacation rentals through Airbnb, VRBO and similar listings. Public campgrounds are open seasonally at Crabtree Falls (MP 339.5) and Mount Mitchell State Park (MP 355.4).
Learn more about exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Blue Ridge Traveler's Visitor Guide. Download your guide here.