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15 Outstanding Overlooks for Sunsets on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Along the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway are hundreds of scenic overlooks, hiking trails, and hidden destinations. But which of these have the best view for stunning sunsets?

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There are two types of scenic overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway: those with a great view of sunset, and those that never see the sunset. The last thing you want to be doing fifteen minutes before sunset is pulling over at every overlook to check if you can see it. More than likely, you’d watch the colors dance across the sky while buzzing down the parkway in your car.

That’s why this travel guide is so handy.

When I drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, I always begin looking for a place to watch the sunset an hour early. I have apps and tools for finding the best places. And I have years of experience from driving the Parkway end-to-end twice.

Keep reading to see a list of the fifteen best scenic overlooks to watch the sunset on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Download the map for offline use so you’ll be able to find your way. And then, leave me a comment and let me know how the sunset looked.

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Map of Sunset Overlooks

How to use this map: Click the icon in the top-left corner to open the Map Legend, then click on any of the legend items to display more information. If you have a Google account, click the star beside the map’s name to save this map to your account, then access the map from your smartphone during your trip.

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No. 1

Ravens Roost Overlook at Milepost 10.7

Standing at the Ravens Roost Overlook can make you feel like you’re walking in the clouds. It’s a sweeping view across the western horizon with a glimpse at the Shenandoah Valley. One of the reasons this is such a great place to watch the sunset is because there is plenty of room. Stay near your car at the rustic stone wall, or walk a few minutes to a rocky outcropping and favorite place for people to hang hammocks.

Best Time of Year: June – July

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No. 2

Thunder Ridge Overlook at Milepost 74.7

A small parking area just off the Parkway provides access to an equally short trail to an overlook on the edge of the mountain. Just below the overlook is the Appalachian Trail. From here visitors can admire the beauty of the Allegheny Mountains across the horizon, Purgatory Mountain to the left, and House Mountain on the right.

Best Time of Year: June – July

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No. 3

The Great Valley Overlook at Milepost 99.6

This overlook has a large parking area perfect for RV’s and campers and features a great sunset view in the early summer months. In the later months you may not be able to see the sunset directly because of trees and foliage, but you can still see the color splash across the sky over The Great Valley.

Best Time of Year: March – October

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No. 4

Raven Rock Overlook at Milepost 289.5

A rocky outcropping at the edge of the parking area offers a good place to lounge while watching the sunset at this overlook. The overlook faces a slightly northwest direction, but with a sweeping panorama vista you’ll be able to see the sunset’s colors.

Best Time of Year: March-September

Pro Travel Tip

The Thunder Hill Overlook at Milepost 290.4 offers one of the best sunrise views on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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No. 5

Julian Price Lake Overlook at Milepost 296.7

The 47-acre Julian Price Lake is a great place for kayaking and spectacular place to watch sunset on the Blue Ridge Parkway. From the parking lot, walk across the bridge to the corner of the lake where you can watch the sunset behind Grandfather Mountain.

Best Time of Year: October – March

Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain is one of the best attractions along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Home to the infamous Mile High Swinging Bridge, the views in all directions are spectacular. However, Grandfather Mountain is a private attraction and never stays open past sunset.

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No. 6

Beacon Heights Overlook at Milepost 305.2

The parking lot just off the Parkway offers a pretty nice view of Grandfather Mountain, but you’ll need to do a little hiking for a great sunset view. The trail is short but ascends 1,400′ making it rather strenuous. Atop Beacon Heights there is an exposed rocky outcropping facing east and another facing west, making this a great spot to catch sunrises and sunsets.

Best Time of Year: January-May, August-October

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No. 7

Black Mountains Overlook at Milepost 342.2

The pull-off on the side of the Blue Ridge Parkway at this scenic overlook offers a chance to watch a spectacular sunset from the comfort of your car. It will be an early sunset, though. The Black Mountains loom over the horizon near the overlook which means the sun will disappear about half an hour before the typical sunset time.

Best Time of Year: February – June

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No. 8

Mount Mitchell at Milepost 355.4

At 6,684′, Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. The state park is uniquely situated where visitors can only enter the park via the Blue Ridge Parkway. After a long drive on the winding road to the top of the park, you’ll have to walk another 15-20 minutes on a steep concrete path to an observation deck on the mountain’s summit. Endless views in all directions offer a chance to see sunset, albeit seasonally – the park is only open past sunset May through October.

Best Time of Year: May – October

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No. 9

Craggy Gardens at Milepost 364.2

There are three stunning places to watch the sunset at Craggy Gardens. The first is to park at Craggy Pinnacle at Milepost 364.1 and hike the short, moderately difficult trail to a pair of overlooks above the Parkway. The second place to watch a sunset is from the comfort of your car at the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center along the Parkway. The view here looks more into the valley but still offers a gorgeous sunset view. The third option is to hike the short and easy trail to Craggy Dome. Once the trail reaches a covered shelter turn left to find the bald spot on top of the gently sloping mountain for an amazing sunset view.

Best Time of Year: Year Round

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No. 10

Mount Pisgah Trailhead at Milepost 408.6

The parking lot of the Mount Pisgah Trail is a surprising, and hidden, destination for sunset views. The first parking area on the left looks over the Parkway to the west and provides a stunning view of the setting sun. The second parking lot just around the corner is on top of the tunnel and provides a decent place to watch the sunset, but not as good as the first.

Best Time of Year: March-May

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No. 11

Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower at Milepost 409.1

The sunset view from the top of the 70′ fire tower is unmatched, but you’ll have to work for it to enjoy this view. From the informal parking lot, it’s a 1.5-mile hike with a 350-foot ascent to the former fire tower. But the effort is worth it with a panorama view from inside the glass-walled observation tower.

Best Time of Year: Year Round

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No. 12

Devil’s Courthouse Overlook at Milepost 422.4

If you pull into the parking lot at Devil’s Courthouse and think you’ll have a great sunset view, think again. This one is gonna require some strenuous hiking. Look for the trail alongside the Parkway, beginning your hike on a paved path. The steep path eventually ends and a primitive path covered with large rocks and roots continues to the top of Devil’s Courthouse. Once at the top a breathtaking overlook built atop a rocky outcropping provides one of the best sunset views on the entire Parkway.

Best Time of Year: Year Round

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No. 13

Cowee Mountain Overlook at Milepost 430.7

This has long been my favorite sunset spot on the entire Parkway and offers one of, if not the, best view for the sunset. The large parking area has plenty of room for lots of cars, although it’s rarely crowded during sunset. There are no trees or foliage to block the view so the overlook provides a stunning 270-degree panorama of the local mountains, with the Great Smoky Mountains on the horizon.

Best Time of Year: Year Round

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No. 14

Richland Balsam Overlook at Milepost 431.4

At 6,053′ the Richland Balsam Overlook is the highest point on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. The view is average, but partially blocked by trees and foliage. Although I wish some overlooks could be cleared again I hope this overlook actually remains just as it is. The southwestern corner of the overlook is mostly free and clear for watching sunsets early and late in the year.

Best Time of Year: January-March, October-December

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No. 15

Waterrock Knob at Milepost 451.2

One of the most popular and most visited sunset locations on the Blue Ridge Parkway is Waterrock Knob. A small visitor center and restrooms are part of what makes this a popular overlook, but really it’s the view. Located on top of a ridge the overlook features views looking toward sunrise and sunset. In the distance during sunset visitors can see the Great Smoky Mountains on the horizon just before the sun disappears of the day. There is a short and moderately strenuous trail that leads to the summit of Waterrock Knob with a couple of overlooks and some nice views, but the view from the parking lot is really the best here.

Best Time of Year: Year Round

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About the Author

8 Responses

  1. Thank you for this article! I’ve been looking around trying to find a place to go watch the sunset for mine and my hubby’s 21st anniversary! I’m hoping one of the two locations I’ve picked will be just what I’m looking for!!!

    1. You’re very welcome! But do keep one important thing in mind: the sun sets at different locations throughout the year. I did my best to describe that in this article. Just be sure it’s a good spot for this time of year.

  2. Really enjoyed your enjoyed selections. I am a frequent visitor to the North Carolina section of the Parkway and every time I come, finding an overlook for sunset is a challenge. You have made my next visit much easier. And for what it’s worth, Cowee Mountain is my favorite so far. Thanks

    1. Haha you’re welcome! I wish I’d had myself as a resource when I first started exploring the Parkway. I think I still have new overlooks to discover, though. I hope you enjoy your next road trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway!

  3. This is amazing! I wish we would have had this list while we visited the Great Smoky Mountains, but that just means we will have to go back! Beautiful photos!

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Do you have a question about travel or road trips? Are you a CVB or DMO interested in working with me? I typically respond to emails within 24 hours. Quicker if you include a good riddle.
Do you have a question about travel or road trips? Are you a CVB or DMO interested in working with me? I typically respond to emails within 24 hours. Quicker if you include a good riddle.
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