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View from Waterrock Knob

Whether you are enjoying the entire Blue Ridge Parkway or just visiting regions in North Carolina or Tennessee, there are many ways to enjoy nature and the outdoors, even in the lodging opportunities available along the route.

Highlands Region – North Carolina

BRP Milepost 217-340Parkway CyclistsIn North Carolina, just a dozen miles from the Parkway, you’ll discover Mount Airy, made famous by Andy Griffith and the fictional town of Mayberry. In Surry County and neighboring Wilkes County you’ll also find farms, vineyards & orchards, hiking, rock climbing, paddling on the Yadkin River, fishing, birding, zip lines, rock climbing, 50 scenic bikeways, and not one, but two state parks (Pilot Mountain and Stone Mountain)! Charming accommodations are available at romantic Pilot Knob Inn on over 100 acres with lakes, whirlpools, sauna and a full breakfast in Pilot Mountain and secluded cottages at On the Windfall surrounded by abundant wildlife, wildflowers, awesome long range views, and magnificent starry nights in Lansing.  If you’d like to consider making your home here in the Yadkin Valley, check out the private community of Fleetwood Falls.

South on the Parkway are the communities of Boone and Blowing Rock.  Both are bursting with outdoor activities from challenging mountain sports to cozy highland cabins, from a variety of annual festivals to well-known landmarks such as The Blowing Rock, Tweetsie Railroad, and Grandfather Mountain. From fly fishing and canoeing, to zip lining (try High Gravity Adventures) and skiing, the NC High Country is the perfect getaway for adrenaline junkies and leisure seekers alike at any time of year. For area details and directions, visit the NC High Country Host & Regional Visitor Center or request a free vacation planner to help plan your trip. Local lodging options include Lovill House Inn, a full-service B&B in a historic home on 11 wooded acres just off the Parkway in Boone; 40 cabins and chalets at Swiss Mountain Village in Blowing Rock where you can retreat and relax in close proximity to numerous outdoor opportunities; cozy rooms at the Alpine Village Inn located in downtown Blowing Rock in a country garden setting but close to major attractions; or one of a wide variety of homes throughout the Blowing Rock area  managed by Jenkins Rentals.

Exit the Parkway at milepost 317.4 to visit Linville, North Carolina.  Linville Caverns, North Carolina’s only show caverns, can be toured year-round on the weekends and seasonally on weekdays. Multiple lodging options are available near the popular Linville Falls and Linville Gorge Wilderness Area that is accessible directly from the Parkway.  Linville Falls Lodge & Cottages and pet-friendly Cross Creek Cabins provides lodging within walking distance of the falls, The Catawba River Inn bed and breakfast is adjacent to a golf course, Linville Falls Campground offers a variety of sites and cabins shaded by oaks and surrounded by mountain laurel and rhododendron, and Parkview Lodge & Cabins consists of clean, comfortable & quiet pet-friendly accommodations and even includes breakfast.

Little Switzerland is a picturesque village right off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 334 in Mitchell County filled with charm, character, and stunning mountain views.  It is home to many outdoor activities including hiking trails such as popular Crabtree Falls and Grassy Creek Falls and gem mining at two local mines.  Other outdoor activities include rappelling, rafting, tubing, yoga hikes, and rock climbing (check out local adventure guide company NC Outdoor Adventures). For motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts, driving the DiamondBack route with 190 steep climbing curves in only 12 miles overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains is a thrilling experience! Lodging options include Bear Den Mountain Resort, Springmaid Mountain Cabins & Campground, Peak Mountain Cottages & Retreat Center as well as Switzerland Inn.  You can find a variety of amenities including acres of solitude, pools & jacuzzis, golfing, fishing, hiking, tubing, and even horseback riding. The choice is yours!

Heading South toward Mount Mitchell, North Carolina’s highest point, you’ll find even more places to stay where you are surrounded by nature, waterfalls and spectacular views including Carolina Hemlocks Recreation Area & Campground, Black Mountain & Briar Bottom Campgrounds, Albert’s Lodge at Mt. Mitchell, the Mount Mitchell Golf Club & Lodge, and nearby Alpine Inn and pet-friendly Inn on Mill Creek.

Pisgah Region – North Carolina

BRP Milepost 340-469View from Waterrock KnobComplete with breathtaking scenic vistas and the highest peaks of the Appalachian Mountains, Asheville, North Carolina is an outdoor destination right on the Parkway that is perfect for all-season exploration. Surrounding the vibrant city center are miles of off-the-beaten-path adventures, whisking you away from the routines of everyday life. Step outside and discover the natural wonders that have attracted visitors to this region time and again. The nearby small town of Black Mountain is big on both charm and outdoor pursuits varying from very active to simply rocking on the front porch. Throughout the region you can enjoy hiking through native flora and fauna at Craggy Gardens, on the Mountains to Sea Trail, or on one of many trails at Bent Creek Experimental Forest or the North Carolina Arboretum. Other outdoor activities available include biking, birding, fly fishing, golfing, stargazing, tennis, zip line canopy tours at the Crowne Plaza Tennis & Golf Resort, and water sports such as stand up paddle boarding, tubing or boating the French Broad River.  Immerse yourself in outdoor-oriented lodging options ranging from a unique mountain cabin at Asheville Cabins at Willow Winds, the elegantly rustic yet eco-friendly Bent Creek Lodge bed and breakfast, year-round camping or cabins at Campfire Lodgings, a cabin or cottage of your choice from Greybeard Vacation Rentals, conveniently-located Mama Gertie’s Hideaway Campground with spectacular views, family-owned 2,000-acre Pisgah View Ranch offering scenic horseback rides and homestyle meals, and luxurious Shoji Spa & Lodge, Asheville’s only Japanese outdoor hot tub spa.

Just off the Parkway outside Asheville lies the beautiful outdoor backdrop of Rutherford County and Lake Lure, famous for the filming of “Dirty Dancing.” Portions of “The Last of the Mohicans” were filmed nearby at Chimney Rock. You can hike these areas and enjoy the waterfalls and lake while relaxing at The Esmeralda Inn & Restaurant, luxurious yet hospitable and eco-friendly accommodations and dining. Close by are the outdoor playgrounds of Hendersonville and Brevard/ Transylvania County where you can find the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, and hiking, biking, waterfalls and other recreation opportunities in DuPont State Recreational Forest, Gorges State Park, and Pisgah National Forest. A former NASA facility in the national forest now named the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) offers public events and scheduled visits to enjoy its 200-acre campus and nighttime views. Outdoor-oriented and fully equipped lodging is available in Flat Rock (South of Hendersonville) on a lake at Mill House Lodge and in the Brevard area at the five pet-friendly Cabins at Seven Foxes or one of three restfully serene Trout House Falls Luxury Waterfront Vacation Rentals.

The southern end of the Parkway meanders through rhododendron, spruce and fir trees, tunnels built by the CCC, and rock faces dripping from natural springs, and showcases eye-popping vistas of row upon row of hazy mountain ranges. At Milepost 408.6, Mount Pisgah offers many options: hiking to the top of the peak, overnight lodging at either the campground or the Pisgah Inn with its amazing long-range views, browsing the gift shop and country store, and enjoying a meal at the full-service restaurant. If you’re lucky you’ll get a table with a view! At Milepost 451.2, Waterrock Knob is another highlight offering 360-degree views from almost 6,000 feet. A small visitor center, restrooms and a park store are seasonally available.

In Haywood County, Waynesville and Maggie Valley provide numerous festivals, hiking, skiing and tubing, farms, access to Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where you can see the recently reintroduced elk, and much more.  The resort town of Maggie Valley offers a multitude of lodging options from log cabin mountain retreats to inns and villas, including restored 18th century cabins at Boyd Mountain Log Cabins, Cataloochee Ranch at 5,000 feet elevation with direct access into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, peaceful and pet-friendly Country Cabins, creekside Jonathan Creek Inn & Villas and rustic Nestled Inn The Woods Vacation Cabin Rentals.  The southern terminus of the Parkway lies at the eastern entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in Cherokee, North Carolina, home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and the seasonal outdoor drama “Unto These Hills.”

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Region – NC & TN

Southwest of BRP Milepost 469

In the mountains surrounding Cherokee, you’ll find numerous small towns with plenty of big opportunities.  Most every outdoor activity imaginable is available in Swain County, including the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad depot where you can enjoy round trip excursions from Bryson City.  In nearby Jackson County, you can find a one-of-a-kind adventure like the hilarious Outhouse Races or annual Greening Up the Mountains Festival. Rest for the night at secluded Moonshine Creek Campground.  For information about your trip to the region, visit Smoky Mountain Host in Franklin. Play all day and pull up a site at night at the Franklin RV Park which has all the amenities you could ask for. The Highlands area offers the most biodiverse collection of flora and fauna in North America (and a few waterfalls!).  Van Hook Glade Campground offers 18 sites and Fire Mountain Inn & Cabins even has treehouses at their secluded mountaintop boutique resort.

Turn right at the end of the Parkway in Cherokee to enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).  You’ll find elk, waterfalls, hiking and more hiking, secluded valleys and coves and an unparalleled (and likely chilly!) view from Clingmans Dome, the highest point in Tennessee at 6,644 feet.  GSMNP straddles the North Carolina/ Tennessee border and if you continue to the western edge of the Park, you’ll reach the Gatlinburg area. Outdoor activities include whitewater rafting at Rafting in the Smokies and winter sports, a wildlife encounter and aerial tramway at Ober Gatlinburg.  The Pigeon Forge area has lots of attractions and lodging available and the nearby Tuckaleechee Caverns are a highlight of the region.  Visit again in a different season to see something new!

To continue reading about Nature & Outdoors Along the Blue Ridge Parkway regions in Virginia, click here.