Blue Ridge Parkway at Fall/ Shutterstock Image

Blue Ridge Parkway at Fall/ Shutterstock Image

Blue Ridge Parkway Asheville Itinerary


blue ridge parkway asheville tour stops map



The Blue Ridge Parkway displays the Blue Ridge Mountains' natural beauty, stretching 469 miles from Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

This unique scenic route winds through Virginia and North Carolina's Southern Appalachian Mountains, providing breathtaking views at every bend.

From Asheville to Blowing Rock: A Scenic Journey

road with autumn trees around

On this section of the tour, we’ll take you from Asheville to Blowing Rock, North Carolina, along 90 of the most scenic miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Here you’ll find breathtaking views of mountain ranges fading into the horizon, high-elevation peaks with sweeping panoramic vistas, and close-up views of waterfalls and lakes.

You’ll get to walk through dense forests of evergreens, drive through hillsides on fire with color in the fall, and hang out on heath balds that blaze with pink and purple come spring. 

Explore at Your Pace with Shaka Guide ?

With Shaka Guide leading the way, you’ll explore at your own pace. There’s no schedule to keep or crowd to follow. You’re in the driver’s seat—literally, so take your time!

Or, if you’re in a hurry, feel free to skip a stop. We promise we won’t take it personally. We’ve taken all the guesswork out so all you have to do is enjoy yourself. 

Plan Your Day

This driving tour will take 6 to 10 hours to complete. That’s 2 to 3 hours of driving plus time for you to get out and explore. With over 25 potential stops and 60 points of narration, you can be sure to get the most out of your visit to this section of the parkway.

We highly recommend you get an early start to your day. The park is open 24/7. If you plan to do any hiking, hitting the trails early will help you avoid the crowds and give you more time for additional hikes or optional visits to any of the suggested tourist attractions. 

Blue Ridge Parkway Itinerary Map

Important Information

The official tour starting point is located just north of the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center in Asheville. To begin narration, make sure the app is turned on before you pass the visitor center heading north on the parkway. 

Blue Ridge Parkway Itinerary

To get the most out of the tour, we highly recommend you start by 8:00 a.m. An early start does mean you won’t be able to stop at either the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center which opens at 9 am or the Folk Art Center which opens at 10 am.

However, getting on the road first thing in the morning ensures you’ll have more time to pack in all the things you want to see and do. 

1. Starting Point - The Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center

visitor center facadeImage by Robin Montgomery

While not an actual stop on the tour, the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center is the official starting point. Narration will begin on the parkway heading north immediately after the visitor center.

You don’t need to stop at the center to begin the tour since it starts on the parkway itself. However, you’re certainly welcome to begin here if you want to visit the restrooms first or grab a park map.

It opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 4:30 p.m. daily. As the main visitor center for the entire parkway, it features exhibits on the parkway’s design and construction, area information, parkway maps, and hiking trails.

Fueling Your Adventure

It’s also a good idea to make sure you’ve got all the supplies you need for the tour before you leave town. There’s gas and food off of Highway 70/Tunnel Road.

There won’t be another place to pull off conveniently until we reach the Museum of North Carolina Minerals in Spruce Pine–halfway on our tour.

There are also several scenic picnic spots along the way, so plan ahead to stock up on snacks, food, and water if you want to take advantage of the parkway’s fine outdoor dining.

If you’d like to grab something delicious and healthy, consider ordering a to-go meal online at the Early Girl Eatery and picking it up at their Henderson Road location near the parkway entrance. There are a few other restaurants and grocery stores on that road as well.

2. Folk Art Center

folk art center in blue ridge parkwayImage by Robin Montgomery

Approximate Time: 10-15 minutes

The Folk Art Center at Milepost 382 in Asheville is open year-round from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The center showcases Appalachian arts and crafts in its Folk Art Gallery and also houses the headquarters of the Southern Highland Craft Guild.

A gift shop sells handmade Appalachian crafts. You can hike a section of the Mountain-to-Sea Trail behind the center.

3. Tanbark Ridge Overlook

valley overlook with signboardImage by Robin Montgomery

Approximate Time: 5 minutes 

Tanbark Ridge is the first scenic overlook we’ll be stopping at. There are many more on this section of the parkway, and you are free to stop at any or all of them–even if they aren’t mentioned on the tour.

However, we’ve chosen 10 of our favorites to share with you because of their spectacular views or fascinating stories. We hope you’ll agree!

Just a note–if you do decide to stop at a different overlook, just pause the app and resume when finished. Otherwise, it will keep talking, and you may miss the next set of directions!

4. Lane Pinnacle Overlook

mountain overlookImage by Robin Montgomery

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

The views are just starting, and they get even better as we go along! Lane Pinnacle Overlook features a view of Lane Pinnacle, a small peak named after Charles Lane, an early settler who built an iron mine on this land.

As you leave this overlook, you’ll find yourself gradually driving higher and higher into the mountains where the fog and mist can sometimes blanket the road making for a magical ride.

5. Craggy Gardens Visitor Center & Hike to the Craggy Gardens Rhododendron Heath Bald 

people bikingImage by Robin Montgomery

Approximate Time: 15 minutes to 45 minutes

The Craggy Gardens Visitor Center is open seasonally from April 15 to November 13 and highlights the unique ecology of the rhododendron heath bald. The center's daily hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. after October 31.

After visiting the center, take the Craggy Gardens Trail for about 10 minutes and hang a left at the trail shelter to enter the secluded rhododendron heath bald.

This beautiful mountaintop meadow offers stunning views, especially in the spring when the rhododendrons are in full bloom. Another option is to hike up to the top of Craggy Pinnacle for panoramic views of the valley.

It’s one of the most spectacular spots to catch a sunrise or sunset. This section of the parkway is often blanketed in fog and can sometimes be closed due to inclement weather. Check our hiking guide for more details.

6. Mount Mitchell State Park & The Balsam Nature Trail

mountain overlookImage by Robin Montgomery

Approximate Time: 1.5 hours 

When you leave Craggy Gardens, you’ll find yourself driving even higher into the mountains as we get closer to the highest summit in the eastern U.S.–Mount Mitchell!

Located in the high-elevation forests of the Black Mountains, Mount Mitchell State Park is really one of the must-see stops on this tour. It’s free to enter, and the short walk up to the 6,684-foot summit might just be the highlight of your trip.

In addition to several hiking trails, you’ll find a museum, gift shop, restrooms, a seasonal restaurant, concessions, and a visitor center.

To get the fullest experience, visit both the observation deck on the summit for out-of-this-world views as well as the Balsam Nature Trail for a walk through the magical spruce-fir forest.

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7. Green Knob Overlook

valley overlookImage by Robin Montgomery

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

The sweeping views from Green Knob Overlook were featured in the opening scene of the 1992 movie The Last of the Mohicans. It’s one of the overlooks you definitely won’t want to miss!

8. Laurel Knob Overlook

mountain overlook with dead branch on the sidesImage by Robin Montgomery

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

The main attraction at this stop is the gnarly dead tree. This unusual landmark sets this overlook apart from all the others–not to mention it makes a great photo backdrop! 

9. Black Mountains Overlook

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

This time, instead of sweeping views of the valley from above–you’ll get a stunning view of the mountains from below. The entire Black Mountain Range coming right at you! 

10. Crabtree Falls Picnic Area

picnic area in autumnImage by Robin Montgomery

Approximate Time: 5-20 minutes

Just for the record, even if you aren’t hungry, this place is worth a drive-through. Crabtree Falls Picnic Area has to be one of the most scenic places to enjoy lunch on the entire parkway. Each table has a view. Bon Appetit! 

11. Crabtree Falls Hike (Optional Stop)

waterfallsImage by Robin Montgomery

Approximate Time: 1.5-2.5 hours

If you have the time and energy to tackle one of the longer hikes on this tour, consider adding Crabtree Falls to your itinerary. This beautiful 70-foot cascading waterfall is a photographer’s delight and a popular destination for hikers.

The moderate three-mile loop trail includes steep sections with rocks and roots. There’s also a slightly shorter in-and-out option. See the hiking guide for detailed information.

12. Little Switzerland (Optional Stop)

valley overview with white house on the rightImage by Robin Montgomery

Approximate Time: 1-2 hours

One of the closest towns to the parkway, the Alpine-themed village of Little Switzerland offers lodging, shopping, and food. If you have the time and budget, consider checking out Emerald Village.

This fun tourist attraction offers family-friendly mining activities where the young and young-at-heart can:

  • pan for gold
  • Dig for real gemstones
  • tour extensive exhibits in their 10-story Discovery Mill
  • or tour a historic mine

Warning--prospecting for gold and gems requires some digging in the dirt, so pack an extra outfit and bring along Ziploc bags for treasures. Open daily between April 1 and October 31. Check their website for seasonal hours and separate activity fees. 

13. Museum of North Carolina Minerals

signboard of museum of north carolina mineralsImage by Robin Montgomery

Approximate Time: 15-30 minutes

The Museum of North Carolina Minerals, located in the heart of the Spruce Pine Mining District, is home to interactive exhibits about North Carolina minerals and their mining history.

It's open year-round from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed for lunch between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.). The museum sits in Gillespie Gap where the Overmountain Men crossed the mountains during the Revolutionary War on their way to the Battle of King's Mountain.

In mid-September, the museum hosts a re-enactment of the Overmountain Men. You can access the Overmountain Men Victory Trail behind the building. 

14. The Orchard at Altapass (Optional Stop)

mountain overlook at the orchard at altapassImage by Robin Montgomery

Approximate Time: 15-60 minutes

Not only does the Orchard at Altapass pride itself on growing the best heirloom apples possible, but it also works hard to preserve the regional traditions and culture of the land.

Open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October 30, the orchard hosts educational and entertaining activities for all ages. Activities include:

  • Live Old Time Music
  • Apple picking
  • The Clinchfield Model Railway
  • walking trails
  • "Hey" Rides--a storytelling ride through the orchard that brings to life the history of the Overmountain Men during the American Revolution and the fascinating life of early settler Charles McKinney.

Wrap up your visit at the General Store with a serving of fresh, hot apple pie alamode. Check out their website for seasonal hours.

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15. North Cove Overlook

valley overlook with north cove signboardImage by Robin Montgomery

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

From North Cove Overlook, you’ll be able to view the Orchards at Altapass in the distance.

Surprisingly, the orchards were planted over a hundred years ago–not by farmers–but by the Clinchfield Railroad company whose rails once crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains right here at McKinney Gap. 

16. Heffner Gap Overlook

trees overviewImage by Robin Montgomery

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

This is another place where the Overmountain Men passed on their way to the Battle of King’s Mountain during the Revolutionary War.

Later in history, a single mother named Amanda Heffner managed her family farm here during the dangerous days of the Civil War. Her descendants still live in this gap which was named after her. 

17. Bear Den Overlook

mountain overview along the roadImage by Robin Montgomery

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

In addition to more stunning views, this overlook has a “beary” interesting history. The overlook was built on a spot along the mountain where black bears once had a den.

18. Linville Caverns (Optional Stop)

caveImage by Robin Montgomery

Approximate Time: 45-60 minutes

Linville Caverns reveal the natural wonders hidden deep inside Humpback Mountain. Guided cave tours showcase fascinating limestone features like stalactites, stalagmites, the "Ballroom" and a frozen waterfall.

The moderately priced half-hour tours run every 10 minutes and are first-come, first-served. The temperature remains steady at 52 degrees, so bring a jacket or sweater.

The caverns are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and are only open on weekends during the winter. Check their website for seasonal hours and fees, and call ahead to check how busy they are.

If it’s busy, consider purchasing tickets for a later tour, doing the hike to Linville Falls first, then returning to the Caverns afterward.

19. Linville Falls Visitor Center & Linville Falls Hike

outside of visitor centerImage by Robin Montgomery

The Linville Falls Visitor Center features a small gift shop, restrooms, maps, and hiking information for the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. Trails for iconic Linville Falls begin behind the visitor center.

Linville Falls, one of the most popular waterfalls on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a definite must-see. Bring your camera to capture the beauty of the Linville River as it cascades through two spectacular falls before descending through a beautiful and rugged gorge.

Different hiking trails lead to multiple viewpoints of both the upper and lower falls. Wide and well-maintained, the one-mile round trip trail to the Upper Falls is a relatively short, easy hike with a big payoff.

Climb down to the rocks and get a close-up view of the falls. (Swimming is not allowed, however.) You can catch a view of the spectacular Lower Falls by walking just a bit further to Chimney View or Erwin's View.

Up for a challenge? Check out the moderate hike to Plunge Basin offering different views of the falls from the other side. Make Linville Falls one of your Blue Ridge Parkway memories!

20. Lost Cove Cliffs Overlook (Optional Stop)

cliff overlookImage by Robin Montgomery

Lost Cove Cliffs Overlook is one of three places people come to view the mysterious Brown Mountain Lights. Unfortunately, tall trees block most of the view. 

21. Flat Rock Trail

forest with signboardImage by Robin Montgomery

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."

Once you reach the top, you'll see that Flat Rock lives up to its name. 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.

22. Grandfather Mountain (Optional)

bridge on the mountainImage by Robin Montgomery

Grandfather Mountain is a must-see tourist destination that showcases all the beauty and splendor of Grandfather Mountain.

Cross the breathtaking Mile-high Swinging Bridge for one of the most spectacular views on the parkway. Explore easy trails through peaceful forests or more difficult climbs on rugged peaks.

(Note: Grandfather Mountain’s challenging hikes should only be attempted by experienced hikers with the proper gear.)

Visit the interactive exhibits in the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery and see: cougars,

  • elk
  • bald eagles
  • river otters
  • black bears

...up close. And drive the famous "Forrest Gump Curve" featured in the iconic American movie.

Admission is steep, but the experience is priceless. Online reservations are highly recommended as space is limited and slots fill quickly during the summer. Check their website for fees and seasonal hours.

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23. Linn Cove Viaduct

Linn Cove viaductImage by Robin Montgomery

Probably the most photographed structure on the parkway, the Linn Cove Viaduct is an engineering marvel. The complicated bridge appears to float gently around Grandfather Mountain on tall concrete piers.

Its design and construction preserve the fragile habitat of Grandfather Mountain while showcasing its beauty. Completed in 1987, the viaduct was the final segment of the Blue Ridge Parkway to be built.

While the adjacent Linn Cove Visitor Center is no longer open, you can still access trails from the parking lot. A walk along the Tanawha Trail will take you under the viaduct for a close-up view.

24. Rough Ridge Lookout

mountains overviewImage by Robin Montgomery

Rough Ridge Lookout on the Tanawha Trail is one of the top places to view fall colors on the parkway. Just a short 10-minute hike to a wooden boardwalk offers multiple viewpoints the higher up you go.

Even if you miss the fall colors, Rough Ridge Lookout still has plenty to offer including a view of the entire Linn Cove Viaduct and Grandfather Mountain plus lots of large boulders along the trail that make great spots to sit and soak in the breathtaking views.

25. Price Lake 

lake overviewImage by Robin Montgomery

Price Lake is the jewel of Julian Price Memorial Park. Although swimming isn't allowed, you can stroll along the lovely walking path that circles the lake or paddle around in a canoe or kayak.

Fishing is also allowed. Boats can be rented at Price Lake Boat Rentals past the campground. There are no picnic tables or restrooms right at the lake, but they can be accessed at the nearby Price Lake Picnic Area.

26. Moses H. Cone Memorial Park

white houseImage by Robin Montgomery

The centerpiece of the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park is Flat Top Manor, the magnificent summer home of textile giant Moses H. Cone and his wife Bertha.

Open to the public from April 15 to November 27 during seasonal hours, the mansion houses a folk craft store as well as a National Parks Visitor Center with a small gift shop and park information.

The beautiful and extensive grounds of the Cone Estate feature an orchard, fishing lakes, and 25 miles of beautiful carriage trails which are open to the public year-round. 

27. End of Tour - The Town of Blowing Rock

You’ve done it, congratulations! You’ve made it to Blowing Rock and the end of the tour. But there’s still more to see! How about a stroll around picturesque Bass Lake?

Situated at the lower end of the Moses H. Cone Estate, Bass Lake is the sparkling gem you can see from Flat Top Manor. The tranquil fishing lake can be reached by one of the carriage trails or by car via Highway 221.

A lovely one-mile walking path circles the lake and offers a view of the manor home on the hill behind it. The charming town of Blowing Rock is just a few minutes away.

There, you’ll find quaint shops, cafes, lodging, parks, and North Carolina's oldest tourist attraction and town namesake, The Blowing Rock. It’s "The only place in the world where snow falls upside down."

The main attraction is the large jutting rock formation where a strong current of air blows straight up. Open daily, the attraction charges a moderate entrance fee. Check their website for seasonal hours and fees. 

The nearby town of Boone, NC, also offers several tourist attractions. And, of course, there’s more to see and do heading north on the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

Explore Blue Ridge Parkway with Shaka Guide ?

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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.

Ready to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville to Blowing Rock with Shaka Guide? Here’s everything you need to know before you go! 

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