Touring the Blue Ridge Parkway — North Carolina’s Finest Appalachian Scenery, Wildlife, & Culture

The following is a guest blog post, written by Angie Picardo. Angie is a writer at NerdWallet, a consumer friendly financial literacy site where you can find advice on traveling with your family to comparing long-term care insurance.

BlueRidge1The Blue Ridge Parkway, which follows the Appalachian mountains from North Carolina up into Virginia, is known as “America’s favorite drive” – and its scenic vistas, cultural destinations, and natural wonders make it a one-of-a-kind destination.  Here are a number of sites, activities, and great places to stay along the Parkway:

Mount Pisgah

Located at Milepost 408, the Mount Pisgah wilderness area is a popular hiking and camping destination along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  For those less accustomed to “roughing it,” the acclaimed Mount Pisgah Inn is a scenic and affordable option to stay over-night.  The nearby 16-mile Shut-In Trail – originally created by the Vanderbilt family for hunting parties – offers a number of dramatic views, as does the summit of Mount Pisgah.

Asheville

One of the major urban areas just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville boasts a wide variety of Appalachian attractions ranging from traditional dance, a wide range of music at renowned venues, and authentic restaurants serving traditional dishes.  The town has a literary history as well; Carl Sandburg, Thomas Wolfe, and F Scott Fitzgerald all claimed Asheville as home.  Visitors who are inclined are welcome to explore their local haunts and houses.

Folk Art Center

BlueRidge2The Folk Art Center, located at Milepost 382, showcases the finest in traditional and contemporary craft of the Appalachian mountains.  The Center includes the Allanstand Craft Shop – a tourist attraction since its opening over a hundred years ago – exhibitions in three galleries, an auditorium, and a library.  Year-round educational events highlight different crafts and trades from the Appalachian region, with daily craft demonstrations from March through December.  This stop is an excellent place to find keepsakes from the trip or gifts for friends back home, with a number of hand-crafted treasures on sale.  For more information, contact the Folk Art Center at 828.298.7928 or at www.southernhighlandguild.org.

Moses H Cone Park

The Moses H Cone Memorial Park and the adjacent 4,200-acre Julian Price park, sprawling at the base of Grandfather Mountain, make up the largest area set aside for public recreation along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Seasonal interpretive programs are offered in the amphitheater, with guided walks and evening campfire programs.  Over 100 picnic sites are available for an outdoors lunch along one of the many hiking trails.

Doughton Park

One of the more remote parks along the Parkway, Doughton Park (Milepost 240) is one of the best places to view local wildlife, including white-tailed deer, red and grey foxes, and bobcats.  The strenuous 7.5-mile Bluff Mountain Trail is one of the more scenic hikes, and visitors can check out the Caudill Family Homestead with a hike into Basin Cove.

Cumberland Knob

BlueRidge3Located at Milepost 217, near the Virginia state line, Cumberland Knob is the site where construction on the Parkway began in 1935.  A combination of leisurely day-hikes – and more strenuous expeditions to nearby Gully Creek – offer a range of woodlands and open fields that are home to a variety of birds and wildlife.

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