Imagine a roadway, 469 miles long, that was created for the sole purpose of giving the public access to the outdoors. The Parkway’s winding mountain road allows for anyone, regardless of age or disability, to get outside and enjoy one of our nation’s greatest parks.
“America’s Greatest Drive”, is the most visited roadway in the entire National Park system. Beginning in Virginia, the Parkway meanders its way through the mountains until reaching the end of the road at the doorstep of the Great Smoky Mountains in Cherokee, NC. With a speed limit of just 45 mph, it allows visitors to slow down their everyday pace and experience solitude in the many vistas and natural areas along the route.
Everywhere you look along the way, you’ll gain an up close look at the nature of the Blue Ridge, it’s mountain vistas, abundant wildlife and rolling green hillsides. Along the roadway you’ll pass through a total of 26 tunnels cut through mountain rock, but its the overlooks that will provide you with the greatest opportunity to truly experience the region.
The Blue Ridge Parkway contains an abundance of overlooks, some 200 of them. These pull offs are areas along the roadway that are signed and designated for automobiles and motorcycles to stop and take in the views. Many of the stopping points offer guests picnic areas, the occasional trailhead access and a sign detailing the location’s featured view and elevation. At a few of the Parkway’s overlooks, such as Waterrock Knob(MM 451), you’ll find a visitors center and restrooms.
Some of the many overlooks along the way are better than others for catching great views of the mountains, but all of them allow visitors to experience the outdoors up close and unspoiled. Some of my favorite overlooks include:
Waterrock Knob MM 451.2 – This is a large stop with a visitors center, restrooms and picnic tables. The area offers access to several hiking trails and is also a great spot for both a sunrise or a sunset.
Roy Taylor Forest MM 433.3 – At an elevation of 5580 feet, this overlook has a short path to a wooden viewing platform providing amazing views of the Nantahala National Forest and the valley below.
Devil’s Courthouse MM 422 – This overlook gives you a birds eye view of the large Devils Courthouse rock formation. There is also a short steep trail allowing visitors to hike up to the top. At 5720 feet, the summit gives visitors amazing 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains. On clear days you can see North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.
Graveyard Fields MM 418.8 – A great stop along the Parkway with some amazing views. There is also a restroom facility here. The overlook also has trailhead access and several waterfalls can be reached from the parking area.
Craggy Gardens MM 364 – Several overlooks in the area with great views at 5640 elevation. There is a small visitors center in the area. Be sure to hike the trail to Craggy Pinnacle for some of the best views in the Blue Ridge mountains.
Chestoa View MM 320.8 – A short pathway leads you to a stone walled viewpoint with a 180 degree view at 4090 feet.
Linn Cove MM 304.4 – Several overlooks and trails in the area allow visitors to see one of the engineering marvels of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Linn Cove Viaduct.
Rough Ridge MM 302.8 – A very popular stop along the parkway. It serves as an access point to the Tanawha Trail. Elevation 4293 feet. On a clear day, see if you can make out the city skyline of Charlotte.
“The idea is to fit the Parkway into the mountains as if nature has put it there.”
-Stanley Abbott, Chief Landscape Architect for the Parkway