The Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited park of America’s national park system, attracting about 20 million visitors annually.
The parkway is loaded with great rides, however, for me, the best riding is from Boone south to Cherokee. This portion of the Blue Ridge offers fabulous curves and spectacular views. Along the way you will visit some of the highest peaks east of the Mississippi. These mountain tops are accessible by road and within short drive off of the parkway. About 30 miles from Spruce Pines (at mile marker 330) is Roan Mountain. The Roan as the locals call it, straddles the North Carolina and Tennessee border and is at 6,285 feet elevation. About 30 miles down from Spruce Pines you will find Mt. Mitchell. Mt. Mitchell is 6,684 feet tall and is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi. Past Asheville you will find Richland Balsam Overlook at milepost 431. This is the tallest point of the parkway at 6,047 feet. All these locations provide beautiful sights, great roads, and a nice day trip.
One of my favorite spots to stop is the Mountain View Restaurant located in Little Switzerland, around mile marker 330. The view is incredible and the food is reasonably priced and tasty. Also at marker 330 is Big Lynn Lodge, another nice little place to stay. There is a restaurant at the lodge and very nice views looking to the east of North Carolina.
Past Asheville is the Pisgah Inn. At milepost 408.7 it is the only inn and restaurant on this stretch of parkway and is located at 5,000 feet. It’s a great place (and very popular) to stop for lunch since their dining room has big windows with beautiful vistas. It is opened through October. Before you travel south of Asheville be sure to fill your tanks with gas. There are few stops along this stretch of the parkway with exits to get gas. At one point it is 50 miles between stations, so fuel up so you can enjoy the view.
The parkway continues to milepost 469.1, ending near Cherokee at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At the end of the parkway you will hit U.S. 441. Turn left and travel to New Found Gap and turn right to the road that goes to Clingman’s Dome. Clingman’s Dome is 6,643 feet elevation with a nice paved walkway to the top from the parking lot and large 360 degree observation deck. Clingman’s Dome is located along the North Carolina and Tennessee border and is the highest point in Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountain Park and the Appalachian Trail. It is the second highest peak east of the Mississippi. If you want to head back towards Cherokee you will find lots to do. One town over is Maggie Valley where you can visit Wheels Through Time museum. This museum features more than 100 motorcycles dating back over 100 years.
If you want to know where and when to see the best colors for the leaves check out the Weather Channel’s Web site www.weather.com, maps, fall foliage. RIDE SAFE!