Scenic drives abound throughout Appalachia, but few are quite as stunning or diverse as the Blue Ridge Parkway. While this national parkway spans hundreds of miles, the section near Asheville is especially worth navigating, as it offers some of the drive’s most expansive vistas. This section is also home to several charming attractions.
Carefully timed stops can enhance your appreciation of the mountains while also keeping you and your companions feeling fresh and energized throughout the duration of your journey. Be sure to include at least a few of the following spots on your itinerary as you explore Asheville’s Blue Ridge Parkway:
Short and sweet, the brief hike on the Linville Falls Trail grants you beautiful waterfall views, as well as a serene experience featuring an abundance of rhododendron, white pines, and hickory trees. Once you’ve arrived at your scenic destination, you can traverse a series of spur trails to see the falls from several angles. This hike is prized for its convenience as much as it is for its views; it all starts at the Linville Falls Visitor Center, where you’ll find ample parking and, during the summer and fall months, restroom facilities.
Named after textile magnate Moses H. Cone, this stunning park is home to the vast Flat Top Manor, where Cone and his wife once resided. The estate is now included on the Register of Historic Places. History buffs will enjoy learning more about the famed aristocrat’s family, while nature lovers will have a blast winding along the park’s carriage trails.
Don’t leave Moses Cone Memorial Park without visiting the onsite Southern Highland Craft Guild, where you’ll find intricate creations from some of Appalachia’s most talented artisans. Interested in seeing these talented individuals in action? Stop in during a craft demonstration, during which you’ll learn more about the techniques and extensive training required to create the beautiful works of art on display in this site’s various galleries and exhibitions.
4. Mast General Store
The Mast chain boasts several locations throughout the region, but none are quite as charming as the original general store. For well over a century, this small store has supplied the area with all of the essentials. For this reason, Mast is often credited for the phrase, “If you can’t buy it here, you don’t need it.” Today, the store is a top tourist destination, and with good reason — beyond its charming exterior, visitors appreciate its selection, which remains as impressive as ever.
Experience the beauty of the Smokies on horseback, where you’ll enjoy a slice of Americana alongside the gorgeous scenery. You’ll feel like an integral part of the Dutch Creek family as you join in on a horseback expedition lasting just over an hour. The staff’s passion for horses — and Appalachia in general— is evident from the get-go. Don’t worry if you’re new to horseback riding; you’ll quickly feel comfortable, even as you navigate rocky sections of trail. You’ll leave with a true sense of accomplishment, as well as a better feel for the Appalachian spirit that makes this region so special.
If you only have time to explore one Blue Ridge destination, keep Grandfather Mountain at the top of your list. As one of the Blue Ridge’s highest peaks, it offers arguably the best views of the region, distinguished by rugged terrain and, during the autumn season, stunning foliage. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the swinging bridge, which combines 360-degree views with the thrills of mile-high elevation. Spanning an 80-foot chasm, this impressive structure stretches over 200 feet and is consistently referenced as a Blue Ridge highlight.
Lace up your hiking boots and hit up the Craggy Gardens for short, but intense hike that will deliver some seriously memorable views. At just 1.4 miles round trip, this hike offers a great opportunity to stretch your legs without forcing you to stray too far from your road trip itinerary. Stop by in the morning or evening to catch a gorgeous sunrise or sunset. You’ll return feeling satisfied with your journey, but also capable of taking on other local adventures.
As America’s largest home, The Biltmore truly is a sight to behold. Constructed for George Vanderbilt, this Châteauesque-style mansion is chock full of opulent details. Explore this elegant environment at your own pace during a self-guided tour, which traverses three stories and a basement. Along the way, you’ll encounter original works of art by John Singer Sargent and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as well as a vast collection of vintage clothing and furniture.
Tucked into the Pisgah National Forest’s Bent Creek Experimental Forest, the North Carolina Arboretum is home to dozens of acres of cultivated gardens, as well as several miles of hiking and biking trails worth exploring. Reconnect with nature as you wander the arboretum’s paths and view its educational exhibits. Enjoy a fresh meal at the bistro, which serves seasonal, locally-sourced fare. Don’t forget to grab a gift from the shop before you continue on your way.
Lovely sights abound at Gorges State Park, but Rainbow Falls arguably offers the park’s best views. The destination is stunning, of course, but you’ll be just as impressed by the sights and sounds you encounter along the way. Wildflowers abound during this brief hike, which also offers a spur trail leading to hidden falls. The trail is decidedly hilly, but your efforts will be rewarded with close access to photo-worthy waterfalls.
From hikes to mansions and even craft guilds, the Blue Ridge Parkway truly offers something for everyone. Set aside plenty of time to explore this scenic drive at your own pace. You’ll never regret taking a few extra moments to experience the unforgettable beauty and history of the region up close and personal.