Linn Cove Viaduct/ Shutterstock Image

Linn Cove Viaduct/ Shutterstock Image

Blue Ridge Parkway South Itinerary


blue ridge parkway south tour stops


The Blue Ridge Parkway between Asheville, NC, and Cherokee, NC is an unforgettable driving experience amidst some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in the Eastern United States.

The scenic road winds up into the heavily-forested mountains, and teases drivers with view after stunning view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Our Shaka Guide tour takes you through the highest portion of the entire Parkway, which runs from Great Smoky Mountains National Park all the way to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

In this section, you’ll visit overlooks, hiking trails for all abilities, waterfalls, and so much more.

With 24 stops and 77 audio points, you know you’re getting the highlights of the Parkway, and the best stories to guide you through the natural and cultural landscape.

aerial view of blue ridge parkway

Important Information

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a unit of the National Park Service, but it isn't technically a “national park.” The road may stay open year-round, weather permitting, but don’t be surprised if portions are closed in the winter or early spring due to rainy or snowy conditions.

The road can be popular, especially on summer weekends and during the spectacular peak season for fall colors. So, you may want to get an early start to avoid crowded parking lots.

You can take this tour in either direction, starting from Asheville, NC or Cherokee, NC. The drive takes a little under three hours, but with frequent stops and some hiking, expect to spend the whole day out on the Parkway.

Blue Ridge Parkway South Itinerary

With two entrances, the tour is designed to go run north to south, or south to north.

The itinerary below starts from the north, leaving from Asheville and going all the way to the Parkway’s southern terminus in Cherokee, only a couple minutes away from the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

1. North Carolina Arboretum

garden of flowersShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 60 minutes

This elegant arboretum is a massive 400-acre park with cultivated gardens, a cool Bonsai tree display, and some hiking trails through forests and mountains. There’s a small cafe that’s handy for a light meal or beverage.

Those looking for easy or accessible walks through beautiful gardens and trees should make this stop a priority.

2. Bad Fork Valley Overlook

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Heading south from Asheville, this is the first overlook after you’ve driven up into the mountains and gained some more elevation. But, there are plenty of overlooks to come.

3. Mills River Valley Overlook

valley overlook on clear skyShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Most overlooks along the Parkway offer a view pointed in one direction. But here, up on a ridgeline, you can get a lovely view in either direction from the parking lot.

4. Mt. Pisgah Trail

fields overview by robert pisgahImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 2 to 3 hours

Mt. Pisgah is easily visible from the Asheville area, and now you have the opportunity to hike to the top. It’s about a 4.5 mile, or 7 kilometer, round-trip hike to the top, and rated moderate to strenuous. It’s a rewarding view when the summit’s not covered by clouds. 

5. Pisgah Inn

Approximate Time: 15-30 minutes

A touch of civilization before heading further into the woods. Grab a meal at the restaurant, or some grab-and-go food and snacks at the shop or wayside building.

But make sure to check out the observation deck and rocking chairs, just behind the restaurant, for a really marvelous view of the mountains.

6. Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower

valley lookoutShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 1 hour

This hike is 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. The hike is about a mile and a half round trip.

7. Cradle of Forestry Overlook

mountain overviewImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

This overlook stands above the site of an old forestry school owned by the Vanderbilts. Today, the grove of trees is still going strong.

8. Cradle of Forestry of America Museum

scenic roadShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 1-2 hours

Learn about the birth of forestry education at this tidy little museum. The interactive exhibits are a nice change of pace for kids in tow, and everyone will enjoy the air-conditioning and history. The grounds include easy, paved trails that pass the buildings from the school. 

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9. Sliding Rock

falls around orange treesShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 1 hour

This gently-graded waterfall doubles as a natural waterslide! Don your swimsuits, then wait in line to slide down into the chilly pool below. A lifeguard is on duty during the busy summer months.

10. Looking Glass Falls

waterfallsImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

This 60-foot, or 18-meter waterfall, is one of the most popular in North Carolina because you can see it from the road! There’s no need for a hike for this one.

11. Coon Tree Picnic Area

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Flush toilets and picnic tables are the highlight here, and it’s also a handy spot to turn around and park for Looking Glass Falls.

12. Skinny Dip Falls Trailhead/Looking Glass Rock Overlook

fallsSkinny Dip Falls/ Shutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 45 minutes

The trail to Skinny Dip Falls is about a mile round trip and is easy to moderate. It’s not the most impressive waterfall on the tour, but some people enjoy taking a dip in the pool.

The trailhead is across the Parkway from Looking Glass Rock Overlook, which is a great view of the granite monolith Looking Glass Rock.

13. Graveyard Fields

waterfalls with big rocksImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 1-2 hours

Graveyard Fields got its spooky name, and look, from a series of natural disasters. But it’s also 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. To see the other waterfall, add another mile and a half on a connected spur road. 

14. Black Balsam Knob

overview of valley in pink skyShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 1 hour

Just off the Parkway, this trail is about one and a half miles round-trip. The 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. The view is open most of the way up, so the reward is well worth the effort.

15. Devil’s Courthouse

mountain overviewImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 45 minutes

You can enjoy this impressive cliff from the overlook, or you can hike to the top. A path heads up through the woods and comes out at the summit, where you can see four states. It’s under a mile round-trip, and will probably take around 45 minutes. But it’s also a pretty steep hike.

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16. Cowee Mountain Overlook

valley overlook on a orange skyShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Our vote for the best overlook on the tour! There’s nothing blocking your view as you gaze at miles upon miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

17. Richland Balsam Trail/Haywood Jackson Overlook

nature trailImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 1 hour

The view from the overlook is just okay, but the main attraction here is the Richland Balsam Trail, a moderately difficult one-and-a-half-mile loop through the forest. It’s a nice walk through the woods if you have time.

18. Richland Balsam Overlook

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

The view from this overlook is mostly concealed by trees, but it’s the highest point on the entire Parkway at 6053 feet or over 1800 meters. There’s a sign designating the overlook as the highest point, which is a popular photo opp.

19. Lone Bald Overlook

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

There are a series of excellent overlooks in a row on this stretch of the Parkway. We like this one because of the nice layered look of the mountains marching away in the distance.

20. Standing Rock Overlook

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Near the entrance to this overlook is a large, standalone boulder that’s a popular photo op.

21. Waterrock Knob

mountainn overviewImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 45 minutes

The view from this large overlook is one of the best on the entire Parkway, from over 6,000 feet up. There are plenty of picnic tables, as well as a small visitor center.

There’s also the Waterrock Knob Trail. This 1-mile round-trip hike is not especially easy, but it goes to the top of Waterrock Knob for another incredible view. 

22. Thunder Struck Ridge Overlook

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

This is another splendid overlook of the layered mountains and valleys beyond.

23. Soco Falls

waterfallsImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

Just about a mile off the Parkway, Soco Falls is a double waterfall, with two cascades meeting together at a pool. The waterfall is actually visible a few steps from the parking lot. But, if you’re game for a little scramble, the best view is at the base of the falls. 

24. Bunches Bald Overlook

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

A lower elevation overlook, compared to the heights up near Waterrock Knob, but still lovely and possibly a terrific spot for fall colors.

After you complete the last stop on the tour, feel free to enjoy nearby Smoky Mountain National Park! 

Explore with Shaka Guide! ?

So are you ready to explore the southern portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway? Here’s everything you need to know before you go! And, if you’re looking for the ultimate Blue Ridge Parkway road trip, check out the Blue Ridge Parkway Tour Bundle! 

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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 article!

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blue ridge parkway


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 Virginia Itinerary


29 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes

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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