Mount Mitchell State Park/ Shutterstock Image

Mount Mitchell State Park/ Shutterstock Image

29 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes From Virginia to North Carolina

Robin, Matt & Bob

The Blue Ridge Parkway offers numerous scenic overlooks and spectacular views from the road–but the best way to experience the wonder of the Blue Ridge Mountains is to get out and explore them.

From short and easy paved trails to challenging wilderness treks, there are hikes for every age and ability along the parkway. In this hiking guide, we’ve split the trails by region:

Whether you’re looking to chase waterfalls, watch a sunrise from a mountaintop, or meander through peaceful woodlands, there’s a trail for you. So lace up those hiking boots and get ready for a Blue Ridge Parkway adventure.

Hikes in Virginia

The Blue Ridge Parkway between Roanoke, Virginia, and Shenandoah National Park offers some tremendous hikes of the northern Blue Ridge Mountains. And come autumn, the fall colors are absolutely stunning. Check out these hikes along our Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia Tour route.

1. Riverside River Trail (MP 115)

  • Distance: 0.5 miles round trip
  • Length: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

One of several hiking trails at Explore Park, the Riverside River Trail passes through a mix of authentic and replicated pioneer buildings. It also connects to the longer River Walk trail.

2. Harkening Hill Loop (MP 85.9)

  • Distance: 3 miles round trip
  • Length: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

This is one of the trails we recommend at the historic Peaks of Otter resort. There are a few steep inclines here, but you get a good mountain view about halfway into the hike. And if you take the full loop, you’ll pass the historic Johnson farm. The trailhead is next to the visitor center.

3. Elk Run Loop (MP 85.9)

  • Distance: Under a mile round trip
  • Length: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy

This is an easy one, save for one small, steep hill. It sticks to the forest, so it’s also shaded. Information panels share information about the local trees. Like Harkening Hill, this trailhead is next to the Peaks of Otter visitor center.

4. Sharp Top (MP 85.9)

overview of mountain in blue ridge parkwayImage from Flickr by 

  • Distance: 3 miles round trip
  • Length: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

Straight across the Parkway from the Peaks of Otter visitor center is Sharp Top, one of the three “Peaks of Otter” and the real star of the resort, with a breathtaking view from the summit.

This hike climbs about 1,000 feet in a short amount of time, so prepare for some uphill hiking. If you’re interested in this hike, be sure to stop at the visitor center for a trail map, and—pro tip—for a shuttle schedule to the summit. That’s right, for a small fee, you can ride most of the way up.

5. Apple Orchard Falls (MP 78.4)

  • Distance: 3 miles round trip
  • Length: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Hard

This is one of the hardest hikes we recommend on the Shaka Guide Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia Tour. The hike takes you down a mountain, and then back up to the parking lot. But the reward at the bottom is a 200-ft waterfall. The only bummer is the lack of apples!

6. Otter Lake Loop Trail (MP 63.1)

lake at sunriseImage from Flickr by 

  • Distance: 1-mile round trip
  • Length: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

The loop trail features a man-made waterfall and beautiful views of a scenic lake. But prepare for a couple of inclines.

7. Yankee Horse Ridge (MP 34.1)

  • Distance: 0.5 mile + 0.5 mile round trip
  • Length: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

There are two very short, very easy trails at the Yankee Horse Ridge Trailhead, each half a mile long at most. The first trail leads to a restored section of the Old Irish Creek railroad tracks. The other trail leads to a pleasant waterfall called Wigwam Falls. 

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8. Humpback Rocks (MP 6)

overview of forestsImage from Flickr by 

  • Distance: 2.5 miles
  • Length: 2-3 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Close to Mile 0 of the Parkway, Humpback Rocks is either the grand entrance or final farewell for folks driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, depending on which direction you’re driving.

The jagged, exposed cliff is one of the most popular trails on the Parkway.  It’s pretty steep, but at the top, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful 360-degree view.

Hiking Adventures along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Some of these trails, such as Humpback Rocks, share space with the famous Appalachian Trail. So you can brag that you hiked one of the longest trails in the world! Just don’t tell anybody how much of it you hiked.

But whichever trail you choose, the Shaka Guide Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia Tour will take you there, as well as other must-see places along this incredible scenic drive.

Hikes from Asheville to Blowing Rock

The Blue Ridge Parkway is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Whether you’re a hard-core hiker or fair-weather walker, you’ll find plenty of trails on the parkway to fit your interests and fitness level.

Between Asheville and Blowing Rock, you’ll find trails that take you to high-elevation spruce-fir forests, mountain meadows, peaks, and overlooks with spectacular viewpoints, beautiful waterfalls, and pristine lakes.

Hike as little or as much as you’re able, but make sure to get out onto the trails occasionally. There are some things on the parkway you can only see on foot. 


9. Rhododendron Heath Bald at Craggy Gardens (MP 364.4)

  • Distance from Asheville: 20 miles 
  • Difficulty level: Easy-Moderate 
  • Length: .6 miles 
  • Completion time: 30 minutes 

The heath bald at Craggy Gardens is one of the parkway’s prettiest spots. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the visitor center to this secluded mountain meadow. Follow the Craggy Gardens Trail to the rustic trail shelter.

After walking through the shelter, take the short spur trail on the left and follow it to the heath bald.

From this mile-high meadow, you can see distant mountains and valleys that are often blanketed by mist.

It’s one of the best places to view wildflowers and catch the spectacular Catawba Rhododendrons in full bloom.

Check out Craggy Gardens on Shaka Guide’s Blue Ridge Parkway Asheville Tour. 

10. Balsam Nature Trail on Mount Mitchell (MP 355.4)

nature trail with lots of woodsImage from Flickr by 

  • Distance from Asheville: 35 miles 
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Length: .9 miles
  • Completion time: 25-30 minutes

Take a walk through the magical Fraser-fir forest near the summit of Mount Mitchell on the Balsam Nature Trail. This enchanting loop trail meanders through the dense, shadowy forest under a thick canopy of trees.

The trail features interpretive signs that highlight the unique and fragile high-elevation forest which is home to many endangered species including the Spruce-fir moss spider and the Carolina northern flying squirrel. 

Check out the Balsam Nature Trail on Shaka Guide’s Blue Ridge Parkway Asheville Tour

11. Flat Rock Trail (MP 308.3)

  • Distance from Asheville: 76 miles 
  • Difficulty level: Easy-Moderate
  • Length: .6 miles
  • Completion time: 30 minutes

Off the beaten path, Flat Rock Trail is one of the parkway's hidden gems. This short, easy 0.6-mile loop trail offers views of interesting trees, plants, and fascinating geological features called "bathtubs."

There are numerous large, flat rocks made of quartzite from which you can enjoy sweeping panoramic views of Grandfather Mountain and Linville Valley below.

Less crowded than other trails, Flat Rock is the perfect place to bring a picnic, sit on a rock, and enjoy the peaceful setting.

The trailhead begins in the parking area. Stay to the left and hike the path clockwise, following the yellow arrows once you get to the top to complete the loop.

Check out Flat Rock Loop Trail on Shaka Guide’s Blue Ridge Parkway Asheville Tour.  

12. Beacon Heights Trail (MP 305.2)

overview of forests atop a rockImage from Flickr by 

  • Distance from Asheville: 79 miles 
  • Difficulty level: Easy-Moderate
  • Length: .6 miles
  • Completion time: 20-30 minutes

A short, one-mile round trip hike, Beacon Heights Trail begins with a walk through the dense forest canopy and ends with spectacular views from large quartzite rock outcrops.

The trail is clearly marked, so just follow the signs at the junctions. When the trail splits at the top, you can choose from two different viewpoints--both offer beautiful panoramic views of distant mountain ranges.

Bring along a picnic for an incredible outdoor dining experience. It’s a great hike for kids and also a fantastic spot to catch the morning sunrise.

Note--you can also access the beginning of the 13-mile Tanawha Trail by taking a left at the first fork. 

13. Price Lake Trail (MP 305.2)

  • Distance from Asheville: 88 miles 
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Length: 2.7 miles
  • Completion time: 40-60 minutes

Take a stroll around beautiful Price Lake on this easy 2.7-mile loop trail. The trail meanders along the shore through clusters of rhododendrons offering several scenic views of the lake and access to the water.

Wooden boardwalks and footbridges cross an area where beavers have been active. A portion of the trail is a National Parks TRACK Trail designed especially for kids complete with self-guided brochures and signs.

While swimming is not allowed, the lake is a great place to paddle a canoe or kayak, and boat rentals are available.

14. Bass Lake Trail at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park (Milepost 294)

lake with lots of water lily and a photographer on the sideImage from Flickr by 

  • Distance from Asheville: 90 miles 
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Length: .9 miles
  • Completion time: 20 minutes

Pretty as a picture, this beautiful, sparkling gem sits at the lower end of the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park near Blowing Rock. A lovely 0.9-mile path circles the lake, making for an easy 20-minute stroll.

As you walk around it, you can look up and see the magnificent Cone Manor House on the hill above. The trail is flat and wide, perfect for most wheelchairs and strollers, and great for walking with friends.

You can easily access the lake by car via US 221 near Blowing Rock or, if you are up for a longer hike, take the carriage trails down from the Manor House. Restrooms are available.

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15. Craggy Pinnacle Hike (MP 364.1)

overview of mountain on sunriseImage from Flickr by 

  • Distance from Asheville: 20 miles 
  • Difficulty level: Moderate - steep uphill climb with rocks and roots on the trail
  • Length: 1.4 miles 
  • Completion time: 40-60 minutes 

A steep out-and-back trail, the hike to Craggy Pinnacle offers stunning panoramic views that are so worth the climb. The rocky path will take you through shadowy tunnels of rhododendrons and sweet birch trees, twisted and shaped by the wind.

Wildflowers bloom abundantly along the trail. Just before the summit, a spur trail to the right leads to a lower overlook. The trail ends at the upper overlook, a stone observation platform on the summit with breathtaking 360-degree views.

At nearly 6,000 feet high, Craggy Pinnacle is a popular place to watch the sunrise or sunset, especially in the summer. The trailhead begins at the Craggy Dome Overlook, just past the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center on the left.

16. Crabtree Falls Hike (MP 339.5)

  • Distance from Asheville: 45 miles 
  • Difficulty level: Moderate to strenuous with steep sections and rocky terrain
  • Length: 2.5 - 3 miles 
  • Completion time: 1.5 - 2.5 hours 

Crabtree Falls, a spectacular 70-foot waterfall with a pool at the bottom and a picturesque footbridge, is a photographer's delight. You can opt for the shorter two-and-a-half-mile in-and-out trail or complete the entire three-mile loop trail.

This moderately challenging hike includes steep sections with lots of rocks and roots. Park at the old visitor center parking lot and follow the signs to the “Falls” trailhead which is in the campground area about a third of a mile from the parking lot.

Follow the trail to the “T” intersection and stay right to head down to the falls via the stone staircase. You can return the same way or complete the longer loop by crossing the bridge and hiking up the switchbacks over the ridge above the falls. 

17. Linville Falls - Erwin's View Trail (MP 316.3)

Linville falls in blue ridge parkwayShutterstock Image

  • Distance from Asheville: 68 miles
  • Difficulty level: Moderate 
  • Length: 1.6 miles
  • Completion time: 1-1.5 hours

Linville Falls is a definite must-see. The scenic Linville River cascades through two spectacular falls before descending through a beautiful and rugged gorge.

Wide and well-maintained, the 1.6-mile roundtrip trail to Erwin’s View is a moderate hike with a big payoff. This trail includes four views of the waterfall.

The first stop takes you to the scenic Upper Falls where you can climb down steep stairs to the wide boulders below the cascade.

Further on, you can catch a view of the spectacular Lower Falls and Linville Gorge at Chimney View, Gorge View, and Erwins View overlook. 

Check out Linville Falls - Erwins View Trail on Shaka Guide’s Blue Ridge Parkway Asheville Tour. 

18. Rough Ridge Lookout (MP 302.8)

  • Distance from Asheville: 82 miles 
  • Difficulty level: Moderate, steep 
  • Length: .6+ miles
  • Completion time: 30-60 minutes

Rough Ridge Lookout on the Tanawha Trail is one of the top places to view fall colors on the parkway. It’s just a short .3-mile climb up to the first landing in a series of wood boardwalks and stairs.

The higher up you go, the more spectacular the views. The lookout features a view of the entire Linn Cove Viaduct and Grandfather Mountain plus lots of large boulders along the way that make great spots to sit and soak in the breathtaking scenery. 

Check out Rough Ridge Lookout on Shaka Guide’s Blue Ridge Parkway Asheville Tour. 


19. Tanawha Trail (MP 305.2)

  • Distance from Asheville: 79 miles 
  • Difficulty level: Moderately challenging 
  • Length: 13.5 miles 
  • Completion time: 30-60 minutes

The Tanawha Trail is a scenic 13.5-mile trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway between Beacon Heights and Julian Price Memorial Park.

Following the contours of Grandfather Mountain, the trail passes through the fragile and beautiful northern hardwood and spruce-fir forests and thickets of laurel and rhododendron.

Along the trail, you'll find spectacular viewpoints, beautiful footbridges, huge boulders, and wooden boardwalk stairs.

With several access points along the parkway, you can choose how much or how little of this trail you want to hike.

Because it traverses such a wide variety of terrain, the trail varies in difficulty from easy to moderate with a few strenuous sections near the Linn Cove Viaduct and Rough Ridge.

The Tanawha Trail overlaps with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and gives hikers access to Rough Ridge Lookout, close-up views of the Linn Cove Viaduct, and Grandfather Mountain State Park trails. 

20. Table Rock Mountain (MP 317.4)

  • Distance from Asheville: 70 miles 
  • Difficulty level: Moderately Strenuous
  • Length: 2 miles 
  • Completion time: 60 minutes

A relatively short but moderately strenuous climb up several switchbacks will take you up to the broad, rocky summit of Table Rock Mountain.

The breathtaking views of the Linville Gorge from this almost 4,000-foot-tall peak are spectacular!

Bring along a picnic to enjoy from one of the large rock outcrops, but keep an eye on the little ones as there are no guardrails near the steep drop-offs.

Note–the last seven miles of road leading to the trailhead are unpaved and best suited for vehicles with higher clearance.

21. Hawksbill Mountain Trail (MP 317.4)

  • Distance from Asheville: 70 miles 
  • Difficulty level: Moderately Strenuous
  • Length: 2.2 miles 
  • Completion time: 60-80 minutes

Hike up to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain for stunning panoramic views of the beautiful and scenic Linville Gorge nearly 2,000 feet below.

The steep, rocky trail splits at the end offering two routes to the top, but the right option offers the best vantage point.

On a clear day, you might even be able to see the skyline of Charlotte–nearly 90 miles away! Enjoy a picnic on one of the large rock outcrops, and soak in the views while you dine.

Note–the last seven miles of road leading to the trailhead are unpaved and best suited for vehicles with higher clearance.

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Hikes between Asheville and Cherokee, NC

The Blue Ridge Parkway between Asheville and Cherokee, NC is the highest section of the entire Parkway. So, it’s fitting that some of the hikes here are some of the grandest and most rewarding as well.

Our Blue Ridge Parkway South Tour stops at many of the best hikes. Although there are dozens of potential hiking trails in the area, we mostly stuck to hikes that are doable in an hour or two.

22. Waterrock Knob (MP 451.2)

  • Distance: 1-mile round trip
  • Length: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: Hard

This hike is not especially easy, but it goes to the top of Waterrock Knob for another incredible view from higher than the parking lot and visitor center.

It’s short, at only a mile round trip, but most of that time is spent going up. Going down is a breeze, and you’ll wonder how it took you so long to go up.

23. Richland Balsam Nature Trail (MP 359.8)

  • Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
  • Length: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Moderate

This one’s easier than Waterrock Knob and sticks to the forest for much of its length. That means that the views of the surrounding mountains aren’t as impressive, but it’s a nice nature walk through the high-elevation forest.

24. Devil’s Courthouse (MP 422.4)

view from devil's courthouseImage from Flickr by 

  • Distance: Under a mile round trip
  • Length: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: Hard

This short trail from the Devil’s Courthouse Overlook takes you up to the summit of Devil’s Courthouse, an impressive, exposed cliff. To find the trail to the top, follow the path along the Parkway toward the mountain.

The path will head up through the woods and come out at the summit, where you can see four states. It’s a steep, but short climb to the top.

25. Black Balsam Knob (MP 420)

  • Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
  • Length: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: Moderate

One of our favorite hikes is taking the Art Loeb Trail to the top of the Black Balsam Knob. This moderately-difficult hike takes you to a 360-degree panorama of the mountains. So if the weather’s nice, this could be the best view of the day.

There’s some gradual uphill hiking, but the open field means the views are awesome the whole time. The trail continues past the summit to Black Balsam Knob, so just make sure you turn around after reaching the top.

26. Graveyard Fields (MP 418.8)

waterfallsImage from Flickr by 

  • Distance: 3 miles round trip
  • Length: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Graveyard Fields is one of the most popular hiking spots on the entire Parkway because there are two waterfalls. The first waterfall is on a fairly easy loop trail about a mile and a half long.

You’ll wanna start the loop counterclockwise, next to the bathroom. To see the other waterfall, add another mile and a half on a connected spur road.

27. Skinny Dip Falls Trail (MP 417)

  • Distance: 1-mile round trip
  • Length: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Located off the Looking Glass Rock Overlook, the trail to Skinny Dip Falls descends toward the waterfall and then makes its way back up.

Experienced hikers would categorize this one as easy. The waterfall’s not the biggest one on the tour, but some enjoy spending time in the pool.

28. Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower (408.5)

view of small mountains during sunriseImage from Flickr by 

  • Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
  • Length: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Moderate

This hike’s a little different, following an old gravel road instead of a trail. It’s a moderate hike uphill, but it ends at an old, steel lookout tower, and the view from the top is outstanding.

You can climb the stairs up the tower, but the platform at the very top is sealed off. Even so, it’s one of our favorite views on this tour. The trailhead is unmarked, by the gate for the gravel road.

29. Mt. Pisgah Trail (MP 408.6)

  • Distance: 4.5 miles round trip
  • Length: 2-3 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

Like the Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower, this hike takes you to the summit next to a tower, though this time it’s a telecommunications tour. The hike gradually climbs uphill, and is the longest hike on the tour.

But the summit, when not covered by clouds, is another stellar view of the surrounding mountains.

Map of Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes

As we say in the Shaka Guide Blue Ridge Parkway South Tour, our three favorites in this stretch are Black Balsam Knob, Graveyard Fields, and Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower.

We felt these three offered the best bang for their effort. But, no matter what you do, you’ll be treated to tremendous views all day long on the Parkway. Happy trails!

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We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

For more detailed information to help you plan, check out our Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary and Know Before You Go articles.

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Know Before You Go, Blue Ridge Parkway Asheville

Know Before You Go, Blue Ridge Parkway South

Know Before You Go, Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

Blue Ridge Parkway Asheville Itinerary

Blue Ridge Parkway South Itinerary

Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia Itinerary


The Story of the Blue Ridge Parkway

A Guide to Blue Ridge Parkway Entrances

Blue Ridge Parkway Asheville: The Ultimate Tourist's Guide

Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia: Ultimate Travel Guide

List of Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks from VA to NC

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