The Blue Ridge Parkway is touted as one of America’s scenic roads spanning between two states and runs for 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina. It is a part of the Appalachian mountain range connecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
That’s a lot of mountains in between.
There are numerous references and information you can read about the Blue Ridge Parkway online not to mention hundreds of free tourist brochures on display in rest stops, visitor centers, restaurants, gas stations and hotels along the way. They even have a Blue Ridge Parkway app! So if you are in the area, there is never any reason you stay uninformed about this pretty popular drive. Take a quick detour and go on a few miles along its winding roads. Whats more, there is also never any shortage of fun stuff to do.
There is something for everyone along this long stretch of concrete and its nearby areas. From the adventure seekers to the quiet creative ones. You can joyride with your car/truck/motorcycle/RV (traffic can be slow at 45 miles/hr specially during peak season in Fall), take thousands of pictures, camp at private or BRP designated campgrounds, take a hike, bike, view/swim/play in waterfalls/rivers/streams, visit museums/vineyards/wineries/farms, enjoy whitewater rafting/kayaking/canoeing/stand up paddle boarding/tubing/horseback riding/zip lining/canyoneering, go on a hot air balloon, attend festivals/flea markets/farmers’ markets, you get the idea… The.List.Is.Endless.
My husband and I both love nature so every chance we get, we like to go out hiking. Over the years, we have been coming back to this part of the country to stay for a few days. You could say we can’t help but fall in love with this place every time we visit. It just keeps on getting better. When we landed this travel nurse opportunity this year, we grabbed it head on.
We’ve done a couple of hikes here and there along the parkway. So far, we haven’t been on one that we didn’t like. Each trail offers something different hence, every experience is different. However, some of them were way off the parkway so I am not including them on my list here.
From Asheville, head up North along the Blue Ridge Parkway till you reach Mile Post 364. (Tip: Mile Post 0 starts in Virginia, so the further North you go, the lower the Mile Post will be) There is a visitor center once you get there, bathrooms and drinking water. Picnic areas can also be found close to the visitor center.
The weather can quickly change up in the mountains, as you can see in the photo above. Fog and clouds can creep up as quickly or as slowly and the next thing you know, it is a few degrees cooler than the city. Or worse, it could rain. So, bring a jacket!!!
I didn’t. It was a nice warm sunny day in June in Asheville. Who needs a jacket? You will be hiking and sweating anyway. Boy was I wrong. Good thing my hubby left his
sweat shirt hoodie in the car. He didn’t need it. He doesn’t get cold right away, unlike me.
Now that we got the essentials out of the way, there are two trails here. Craggy Gardens Trail, which we took, the shorter one since we were pressed for time and Craggy Pinnacle Trail which boasts of panoramic views at the top.
Check out this old post about this hike.
The highest peak east of the Mississippi River with an elevation of 6,684 ft. This one is a few miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway laying Northeast of Asheville and is part of the Mt. Mitchell State Park.
There are several trails leading to the top of the mountain ranging from easy to strenuous. Heck, you can skip walking and just drive up to the peak, well, not to the very peak since you have to park your car and then walk a short distance uphill on a paved road to get to the summit.
We took the Old Mitchell Trail which was marked as moderate to strenuous. It was a 4 mile roundtrip hike starting at the Park Office.
Lots of beautiful flowers along the trail. The bees were busy pollenating and there were even raspberries that my husband was snacking on as we walked. Eventually, the trail got steeper and steeper, the woods denser, lots of roots and rocks to watch out for and to make matters more exciting, we “almost” got lost when we missed the switchback.
I had a bad feeling about the path that we took because it was just so many trees in front of us, they were literally in your face. We were climbing straight up the mountain with no clear marked trail until we got to a fallen tree that looked as if it was there forever with moss and lichen covering it when I insisted we go back track to the last trail sign we saw because my gut tells me that this is just wrong.
Further, to make matters worse, upon turning back because it was so steep, my husband slipped and almost hurt himself because he was hurrying to get to that trail sign.
It couldn’t be that hard. All we need to do was follow the yellow dots.
Suffice it to say, I was more or less huffing and puffing most of the way up. Thank God for hiking poles! Not to mention I was scared shit from that earlier wrong turn we took. I didn’t want to run into any bears (hikers reportedly heard someone seeing a bear in the area) nor did I want us to fall off an unseen cliff or something horrible like that.
Two hours later, we get to the top along with several others who either hiked a different trail or drove up.
After all our efforts, we were rewarded with this.
After a few minutes of breathing in the summit air while enjoying the breathtaking 360 degree scenery and at the same time taking some photos, it was time to go back down again.
Can’t we just hitch a ride back to the parking lot, I say out loud? Fat chance, hubby gave me that look. But I knew going down is much easier than going up so off we went to finish our hike for the day.
Not that we were warned to begin with.
For more hiking stories, stay tuned for Part 2.