Explore the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoy these top short hikes – all within two hours of Asheville and perfect for the entire family
The Blue Ridge Parkway is considered by many to be one of America’s most scenic drive. At 469 miles in length, it’s the country’s longest linear park and connects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Hiking opportunities are abundant, and it's often hard to figure out which are worth it. This guidebook highlights some of the top short hikes (<3 miles) along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, all of which are within two hours of downtown Asheville.
Beginning at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, the scenic drive begins by meandering its way into the Plott Balsam Mountains. Waterrock Knob, a National Park Visitor Center located at 6,000’ above sea level, is a popular spot among locals and travellers alike. Enjoy the cooler temperatures and plan a visit at sunrise or sunset to experience this short hike to this high-mountain overlook.
Just 30 minutes up the parkway, the Richland Balsam Nature Trail offers a short hike through forest reminiscent of the Green and White Mountains of Vermont. Enjoy the dark spruce-fir forest and summer foliage along an easy path the summit. As the highest of the Plott Balsam Mountains, there is no defined overlook at the summit, but its peacefulness makes it a must-do hike for any adventurer.
As the BRP curves follows the crest of a ridge, you’ll pass Devil’s Courthouse and Skinny Dip Falls. Enjoy this high mountain vista hidden in a dark forest, then make your way to a pristine swimming hole nestled deep in the mountains. Not listed in this guidebook, Sam Knob, Black Balsam and Graveyard Fields are also excellent destinations for a hike, though typically reserved for a half-day trip instead of 1-2 hours.
Ahead, Mount Pisgah and Frying Pan Mountain both offer excellent short hikes along the roadway. Both visitors and locals frequent these spots due to their immense beauty at sunrise or sunset. Sweeping views of Pisgah National Forest make both top highlights of the entire 469-mile drive.
As you pass through Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway begins a long steady climb into the Craggy Mountains, then the Black Mountains. Visit the Craggy Pinnacle Trail for a short hike with 360-degree views and beautiful summertime flora – including purple Catawba Rhododendron. The Black Mountains are often referenced by their highest peak, Mount Mitchell. As the highest point east of the Mississippi, this grandstand offers incredibly lush views from an observation deck at the summit. Several illustrated placards around the deck highlight the distant peaks.
Linville Gorge and Grandfather Mountain lie ahead, both offering uniquely beautiful ecosystems and a wide array of trail. Explore one of several views of Linville Falls with a short hike that starts just past the campground. If you’re continuing to Grandfather Mountain, the Rough Ridge Overlook is one of the most attainable viewpoints on the entire mountain and offers a vantage point of the nearby Linn Cove Viaduct – a engineering marvel that was also the last section of the entire roadway to be completed.