The Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville NC is one of the top destinations and scenic drives in the entire Blue Ridge Mountains. The Parkway winds its way through the mountain peaks and tree covered landscapes.
This world famous roadway offers breathtaking views, charming small mountain towns, and ample outdoor activities for everyone. The Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville is a retreat for outdoor enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and those seeking a peaceful and serene escape from the hustle and bustle of life
In this article, we will share with you some of our favorite of the points of interest along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville and also providing practical tips to help you make the most of your parkway journey.
So buckle up, roll down the windows (or lower the top), and let's head down the Blue Ridge Parkway around Waynesville NC!
Accessing the Blue Ridge Parkway from Waynesville NC
The Blue Ridge Parkway can be easily accessed from Waynesville NC at Balsam Gap, just outside of Waynesville. Just take the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway (US-23/US-74) towards Cherokee. After about 4 miles, watch for the Parkway entry signs on the right, and turn right for the parkway access road.
At the Parkway, you can go left to Asheville or go right to Cherokee. Both are beautiful, and have their scenic merits and stopping points.
Blue Ridge Parkway - Waynesville to Asheville
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic road that runs through the Blue Ridge Mountains, spanning 469 miles through North Carolina and Virginia.
For those traveling the section of the parkway from Waynesville to Asheville in North Carolina, there are several points of interest and attractions to explore. You're also in for a real treat, as it's one of the most beautiful sections of the entire Blue Ridge Parkway
The drive from Waynesville to Asheville covers a distance of approximately 30 miles and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and forests. Along the way, visitors can stop at several scenic overlooks and take in panoramic views of the landscape.
Highest Point on the Parkway, Richland Balsam Overlook
The highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway is located at Richland Balsam at 6,053 feet in elevation. This makes it the highest point on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway.
At the Richland Balsam overlook, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and forests, as well as access to several hiking trails and picnic areas at the secondary overlook a little further down the parkway. Richland Balsam Trail is a 1.5-mile round-trip hike that leads to the summit of Richland Balsam and offers excellent views along the way.
The main overlook offers a large sign, indicating the highest point on the parkway. This sign is a popular photo opportunity for those traveling the parkway, and especially for those riding motorcyles.
For a more challenging hike and a breathtaking view, head to Devil's Courthouse, located at Milepost 422.4. This 5,720-foot peak offers a panoramic view of four states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia.
The hike to the summit is short, steep and rewarding. The views from viewing platform the top are some of the best in the area. This should definitely be on your "must stop" list as you travel along this section of the Parkway.
Another popular stop, and one of our favorites, along this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway is Graveyard Fields.
Located at Milepost 418.8, this unique area features a landscape of rounded granite boulders, cascading waterfalls, and fields of wildflowers and wild blueberry bushes.
The name "Graveyard Fields" comes trees that fell during a bad storm many years ago. The stumps of the trees remained for years, and moss grew on them. From a distance, they resembled grave stones.
The area is a popular spot for hiking, fishing, and picnicking, and it's especially beautiful in the fall when the leaves change color. There are also two easy to access and beautiful waterfalls here. Lower Falls is also a very popular swimming hole.
In the late summer and early Fall, you can also visit here to pick wild blueberries. Speaking of Fall, Graveyard fields, due to the unique vegetation is one of the most beautiful places for Fall color, with lots of vivid reds and oranges. The area is also one of the first places on the parkway to turn color each year.
Looking Glass Rock Overlook
The Looking Glass Rock Overlook at Milepost 417, is one a popular and scenic stop on the Parkway. The overlook offers the best views of the impressive Looking Glass Rock, a massive granite dome that rises over 3,900 feet in elevation.
The rock is named from the ice that forms along the smooth rocky cliffs and the way it reflects the sunlight.
For those interested in hiking, the Looking Glass Rock Trail is a popular and challenging hike that leads to the top of the rock. The trail is approximately 6.5 miles round-trip and features steep inclines and rocky terrain, but offers incredible views of the surrounding mountains and forests. The trail is not accessible from the overlook.
This overlook is also the location for the trailhead to the Skinny Dip Falls area, and the well known "Dragon Tree". The trailhead is located across the parkway from the overlook. Skinny Dip Falls was an incredibly popular natural waterfall and swimming area, but was all but destroyed in the floods of 2021.
Pisgah Inn and Mount Pisgah
The Pisgah Inn and nearby Mount Pisgah are both popular destinations to visit when traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville NC.
Pisgah Inn is a seasonal historic inn, restaurant, and gift shop located at Milepost 408.7 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The inn offers gorgeous panoramic views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, as well as nice accommodations and delicious food at their very popular restaurant. Visitors can stay overnight to enjoy the peaceful and scenic mountain setting and a top notch meal (only guests with overnight reservations can dine at the restaurant).
Mount Pisgah is located nearby on the Parkway as well, and is a popular hiking destination. The mountain features a challenging 1.5-mile hike to the summit, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, forests and Asheville NC. The hike is steep and rocky, but well worth the effort for the incredible views from the top.
In addition to hiking, visitors to the area can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including fishing, camping, and picnicking. In fact there is a really nice picnic area at the Mount Pisgah parking area and overlook.
The Folk Art Center
If you need a break from driving along the parkway, be sure to stop at the Folk Art Center in Asheville NC, located at Milepost 382.
This historic center showcases the work of local artisans and craftspeople. You can browse handmade pottery, textiles, jewelry, and more, and even watch artisans at work in the studios. The center also offers a variety of educational programs, workshops and musical performances during peak season.
Nearby, you can also explore the many things to do in Asheville NC, including the famous and historic Biltmore Estate, a victorian-age mansion and gardens built by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s. The estate features guided tours, hiking trails, a variety of wonderful dining and shopping options, and luxury hotels to stay in.
Blue Ridge Parkway - Waynesville to Cherokee
The Waynesville to Cherokee section of the Blue Ridge Parkway is a beautiful drive that showcases the pure beauty of the Ridge Ridge Mountains. This popular section of the parkway covers over 50 miles and winds and weaves visitors through some of the most stunning scenery in the region.
Starting just outside of Waynesville, the drive offers breathtaking views of the forests and mountains, with plenty of opportunities to stop and take in the scenery at a number of overlooks. You'll also pass several hiking trails (including the famous Mountains-To-Sea Trail), picnic areas, and scenic overlooks where travelers can stretch their legs, soak in the beauty of these mountains, and of course grab some amazing photos.
As the parkway winds its way towards Cherokee, visitors will pass by the famous Waterrock Knob area, which offers nearly 360 degree and long distance views of the surrounding Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains.
Soon after, you'll pass the entry and access point for Maggie Valley NC, home of the now closed Ghost Town in the Sky amusement park. Maggie is a small, quiet and beautiful mountain town full of shops, restaurants, and attractions. If you're lucky, you'll see Miss Maggie!
Mount Lyn Lowry Overlook
The Mount Lyn Lowry overlook is one of many scenic overlooks on the Parkway and located at Milepost 446.7. The overlook offers beautiful views, and a view of a mountain, which has a story.
The overlook itself is named after Mount Lyn Lowry, which rises to the east of the overlook. The overlook is at an elevation of 5,605 feet, one of the taller overlooks on the Parkway. Near the top, on the side of a mountain is a lighted cross.
Mount Lyn Lowry and the Lyn Lowry cross are named after a young girl named Lynn Lowry, who passed away at the age of 15 from leukemia in 1962. The cross was erected in her memory by her parents and has become a treasured landmark in the region, attracting visitors who come to pay their respects and hike to the cross to enjoy the stunning views from the summit of Mount Lyn Lowry.
One of the most popular stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville is Waterrock Knob.
Located at Milepost 451.2, Waterrock Knob is a 6,292-foot peak that offers nearly 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains. The parking area and overlook is a popular spot for sunrises and sunsets, and on clear days you can see as far as Tennessee and Georgia.
This is a fantastic spot for those wanting incredible long distance and wide open views, without requiring a hike or long walk. The views are available from the parking area, and it's handicap accessible.
Waterrock Knob features a visitor center, a hiking trail to the top "the knob", access to the Mountains to Sea Trail, and picnic tables.
Just off The Blue Ridge Parkway, is a small parking area at the trailhead for Soco Falls. The parking lot only holds a handful of cars. A short and moderate trail leads down to a viewing platform for the stunning Soco Falls.
Soco Falls is formed by two creeks flowing together into one waterfall, and it's gorgeous. For those seeking better views or photos, you can take a "scramble" trail down the bottom. This waterfall is truly a hidden gem.
Maggie Valley is a charming town located in western North Carolina, just a short drive from the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is a popular destination for travelers who are driving the parkway, as it offers a range of attractions and amenities that make it a convenient and enjoyable place to stop.
One of the main attractions in Maggie Valley is the Wheels Through Time Museum, which houses a collection of vintage motorcycles and other rare vehicles. The museum is a must-visit destination for anyone with an interest in automotive history or antique motorcycles.
Another popular attraction in Maggie Valley is the Cataloochee Ski Area, which offers skiing and snowboarding during the winter months. The ski area also features a variety of other activities, including snow tubing, ice skating, and snowshoeing.
In addition to its attractions, Maggie Valley also offers a range of restaurants, shops, and accommodations that cater to travelers. There are several hotels, motels, and cabins in the area, as well as a variety of restaurants that serve up local specialties like barbecue and Southern comfort food.
Balsam Mountain Road
Balsam Mountain Road is a scenic drive that connects the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in western North Carolina. For those traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway, taking a detour onto Balsam Mountain Road can provide a unique and rewarding experience.
There are some outstanding overlooks along the road, along with a remote and popular campground called Milehigh Campground. If you drive to the end of Balsam Mountain road, there is a campground and hiking trails. This is also the starting location for the rought and rustic back mountain drive along Heintooga Round Bottom Road.
One of the highlights of driving down Balsam Mountain Road is stopping at the Masonic Monument. Just before you enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park there is a Masonic stone monument that was built in 1938. The monument contains rocks from most US states and many different places around the world. .
Balsam Mountain Road is also a popular spot for Elk to hang out as well, and if you're lucky you might just see some!
The Parkway begins at MP0 at the boundry between the Cherokee Nation and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When the parkway ends, go left to head in Cherokee. Cherokee is a great destination and offers a fascinating glimpse into the history and culture of the Cherokee Nation.
Cherokee is home to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, which houses a vast collection of artifacts and exhibits that showcase the history and culture of the Cherokee people. Here, visitors can learn about the tribe's customs, traditions, and daily life through interactive displays, audio-visual presentations, and guided tours.
Cherokee is also known for its many outdoor activities, such as hiking, fishing, and tubing. The Oconaluftee River and the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park offer a variety of recreational opportunities, including hiking trails, fishing spots, and scenic drives.
One of the main attractions at Cherokee is the Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort, which features a wide range of gaming options, as well as numerous restaurants, shops, and entertainment options.
Finally, if you're interested in Cherokee art and crafts, be sure to visit the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, a cooperative that showcases the work of local Cherokee artisans. Visitors can browse a variety of traditional and contemporary items, including pottery, baskets, jewelry, and textiles.
Cherokee also has plenty of shopping options and restaurants to choose from as well.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Elk!
Instead of going left into Cherokee, to head into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, go right. You'll see the Oconoluftee Visitor Center, the main east side entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Visitor center is a great place to stop and take a break. They have a welcome center for the National Park, restrooms, snacks, a nature museum, and and outdoor farm museum. The farm museum contains historic original buildings from all over the park. In the peak summer season, they even have live displays and animals.
This area, especially the fields around the visitor center, have become very popular with the Elk found the eastern portions of the park. If you arrive here early in the morning or late in the day, you can often see Elk in the large fields surrounding the visitor center. Seeing the Elk is a real treat.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a natural continuation of your scenic journey along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is the perfect lead in to our next featured scenic drive.
Tips for Visiting the Blue Ridge Parkway
We travel the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville often, especially the sections from Waynesville to Asheville and from Maggie Valley to Cherokee. During our numerous travels, we've learned a few tips we want to share with you, to help you make your visit more enjoyable and that will help you make the most out of your visit:
Time your visit - The Blue Ridge Parkway is beautiful year-round, but each season offers a unique experience. Consider visiting in the fall for vibrant foliage, spring for wildflowers, or summer for pleasant weather and lots of green foliage. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, visiting during non-peak times, and espeically the winter. Of course some of all of the Parkway can be closed during the winter, depending on weather conditions, so make sure you check to be sure the locations you are visiting are open.
Plan your visit - Before heading out, check the weather forecast, road conditions, and any parkway closures or alerts. This will help you prepare accordingly and ensure a smooth journey. We also highly recommend reading this guide, and our larger Blue Ridge Parkway Travel Guide on our Blue Ridge Mountain Life website. Failing to plan, could result in you missing out on many things to see and do.
Drive safely - Adhere to speed limits, watch for wildlife crossings, and be cautious on winding roads. Keep an eye out for cyclists and hikers, and use designated pull-off areas for scenic stops. If you want to drive slow and enjoy the scenery, please pull over to allow traffic to go around you.
Explore hiking trails - The parkway offers numerous hiking trails near Waynesville. Consider exploring popular trails and areas like the Graveyard Fields, Black Balsam Knob, Waterock Knob, and Devil's Courthouse. Be sure to read over our Day Hiking Essentials to know what to bring with you when day hiking.
Pack essentials - Bring some basic essentials like water, snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent, comfortable walking or hiking shoes, and layers of clothing. You should expect weather conditions that vary greatly. You may enter the Parkway from WAynesville and it will be close to 80, by the time you get up into the higher elevations it could be in the 60s and raining.
Enjoy scenic overlooks - Take advantage of the parkway's numerous scenic overlooks. Many provide breathtaking and long range views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Pull over at these spots, capture photos, and just enjoy the pure beauty for a few minutes.
Visit nearby attractions - Waynesville and the Parkway are surrounded by charming towns, historic sites, and outdoor destinations. Consider exploring attractions like the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center near Asheville for additional information and exhibits.
Respect nature and wildlife - The Blue Ridge Parkway is home to many different species of wildlife and plants. Respect them by staying on designated paths, not disturbing plants or animals, and properly disposing of waste. Always Leave No Trace.
Gas and Restrooms - You'll want to be sure to have a full tank of gas (or a full charge for electric) before traveling the parkway. Towns with Gas stations can be few and far between, depending on the section you are traveling. Related, restrooms are sparse as well. In both cases plan ahead and be prepared.
From Waynesville, get on the Smoky Mountain Highway (74/23/441) going towards Sylva. The Blue Ridge Parkway access road will be on the right about 4.5 miles after leaving Waynesville. There will be signs indicating the Parkway entrance.
The entire Blue Ridge Parkway offers breathtaking scenery. But which sections is the "prettiest" vary greatly depending on personal preferences. However, with that said, there are a few notable sections that many consider particularly pretty:
- Grandfather Mountain: Located in North Carolina, this section of the parkway offers magnificent views of the iconic Grandfather Mountain. The rugged peaks, sweeping vistas, and the famous Linn Cove Viaduct make this area a favorite among travelers.
- Linville Gorge/Linville Falls: Also known as the "Grand Canyon of the East." Linville Gorge area showcases dramatic views, deep gorges, and the peaceful Linville River. It's a remarkable area for hikers and those seeking breathtaking views.
- Craggy Gardens: Located north of Asheville, North Carolina, Craggy Gardens is well known for its vibrant rhododendron blooms in the spring. The mountainsides are blanketed with colorful flowers, creating a stunning display that attracts countless visitors each year.
- Waterrock Knob: Located in North Carolina near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Waynesville NC, Waterrock Knob provides nearly 360 degree high elevation views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. It's a popular spot for sunset viewing and capturing breath taking photographs.
Ultimately, the "prettiest" section of the Blue Ridge Parkway is very subjective and depends on personal preferences. Each section offers its own unique beauty and charm, so exploring different segments of the parkway allows you to experience a diverse range of stunning landscapes and vistas and is your best option!
The Blue Ridge Parkway winds its way through several mountain towns along its historic and scenic route. Some of the more notable towns and cities that the parkway goes through include:
- Waynesville, North Carolina: Our personal favorite town (yes, we're partial). Waynesville is located in the western North Carolina and serves as a access point to what many consider one of the prettiest sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Waynesville has a wonderful historic downtown full of shops and restaurants. Definitely a great stopping point when traveling the parway.
- Asheville, North Carolina: Asheville is a large mountain city that is well known for its arts, culture, and natural beauty. The parkway through Asheville, allowing visitors to easily access the city's attractions and amenities, including the famous Biltmore Estate.
- Boone, North Carolina: Situated in what is commonly called the "High Country of North Carolina", Boone is a charming mountain and college town that offers numerous outdoor recreation opportunities, scenic beauty, and a lively historic downtown area. The parkway passes between Boone and nearby Blowing Rock NC, providing easy access for visitors.
- Blowing Rock, North Carolina: Blowing Rock is a parkway destination and is known for its stunning views, charming downtown, and attractions like the Blowing Rock itself. The parkway is just a short drive from Blowing Rock, offering scenic drives and outdoor activities.
- Roanoke, Virginia: Roanoke is a vibrant city in southwestern Virginia that offers a mix of urban amenities and outdoor adventure. The parkway passes near Roanoke, providing an opportunity for visitors to explore the city's attractions and enjoy the surrounding natural beauty.
- Waynesboro, Virginia: Located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Waynesboro is a gateway to the northern section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It serves as a starting point for those heading south on the parkway.
Milepost 0 of the Blue Ridge Parkway is located in Cherokee, North Carolina, making it the official starting point of the parkway. More specifically the location is on Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road), between the town of Cherokee and the Oconoluftee Visitor center. Just head west on Newfound Gap Road, and you'll see the parkway entrance on the right just after you enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
From there, the parkway extends northward for 469 miles to its endpoint at Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, Virginia where it connects to Virginia's Skyline Drive.