Road Trip #11

Road Trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway: Asheville to Cherokee, NC

The last section road trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway has a few hidden waterfalls, the highest point on the Parkway, and lots of hiking.

Written by

Jason Barnette

on

April 19, 2019

The final southern section of an epic road trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway features the highest point on the entire Parkway, a few hidden waterfalls, the historic Pisgah Inn, and so many breathtaking scenic overlooks. It also includes my favorite detour of the Parkway along Highway 276 into Brevard. Are you ready to go for a drive?

This is Section 6 of the Road Trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile drive from Waynesboro, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina. Follow the link to learn more about the other sections.

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Section 6: Asheville, NC to Cherokee, NC

80.2 miles

1. Highway 25 at Milepost 388.8

From this interchange you can access Highway 25. Turn north on Highway 25 to reach the Biltmore and Biltmore Village. Downtown Asheville is about 6 miles from this interchange.

2. Highway 191 at Milepost 393.6

Use this interchange to reach the North Carolina Arboretum. In fact you won’t even need to exit onto Highway 191 because the entrance to the arboretum is in the spur road exit of the Parkway.

North Carolina Arboretum

There are two places I visit every time I’m in Asheville: the Western North Carolina Farmers’ Market and The North Carolina Arboretum. Located just off the Parkway it’s an easy place to visit. Begin with a tour through the Baker Exhibit Center where you can pick up a map to the hiking trails. Browse through the small gift shop that was just packed with goodies. You’ll also find restrooms here before heading back outside. Meander through a few gardens around the arboretum along the Grand Garden Promenade, including the Bonsai Garden Exhibition. This beautiful Japanese-style garden is a delight to visit year-round. Hundreds of flowers will bloom during spring throughout these gardens and the summer months you’ll see more butterflies than you can count. There are several trails ranging from less than half a mile to a few miles around the arboretum. Most of them are fairly easy to walk and some are shared with bicycle traffic.

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The North Carolina Arboretum

3. Buck Spring Gap Overlook at Milepost 407.6

Click to enlarge

After passing through the Buck Spring Tunnel you will arrive in the Mount Pisgah area of the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is a lot to see and do here, but my first adventure was at the Buck Spring Gap Overlook. The spur road leading to Buck Spring Gap will continue on to the next overlook but stop here first. The view from the parking lot on either side of the spur road is pretty amazing. The view looking westerly from the large side of the parking lot is a fantastic place to watch the sunset. There is a primitive trail leading into the woods beside the small side of the parking lot; this is the Mountains to Sea Trail. Walk along the trail for just a few minutes to find the remains of Buck Spring Lodge. You can read about the history and the lodge’s connection to Biltmore when you get there.

4. Mount Pisgah Overlook at Milepost 407.6

A little further down the spur road from the Buck Spring Gap Overlook is a small parking area with a trail leading to the summit of Mount Pisgah. The 3.2-mile Mount Pisgah Trail is a strenuous hike with a total 700’ elevation change along the way. At the summit is a simple wooden observation deck with some pretty stunning views in all directions.

5. Pisgah Inn at Milepost 408.6

The Pisgah Inn was built in 1964 and has beautifully withstood the test of time and the elements. Each of the rooms of the two-story building has a commanding view of the landscape below, but if you stay here I recommend getting a room on the second floor for the best view. The inn includes a dining room that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of the week during the open season. Open to guests and visitors alike the dining room offers a stunning view to go along with a great meal. At the end of the parking lot from the inn is a small gift shop and camp store with souvenirs, clothing, and some staple food items. There are restrooms located on the outside of the building.

6. Mount Pisgah Campground at Milepost 408.8

The Mount Pisgah Campground includes 64 tent sites and 62 RV sites, making it one of the largest campground on the Parkway. The campground is nicely secluded with most campsites screened from each other with shrubbery. The campground is built around four loops. There are restrooms and potable water access in each loop. It’s also the only other campground on the Parkway with showers after Julian Price Campground.

7. Highway 276 at Milepost 412.2

The 20-mile drive along Highway 276 into Brevard is probably my favorite off-Parkway detour because there is so much to see and do in a short span. It starts with a twisty, curvy, switchbacky steep descent down from the Parkway into a shrouded tunnel in the forest. The first stop to make along this road is at the Cradle of Forestry in America. This heritage area includes a very nice museum to explore, a large giftshop, and three trails to hike. The 1.3-mile Forest Festival Trail includes a walk through the woods to a 1914 Climax locomotive where you can climb on board and ring a bell! The 1.3-mile Forest Discovery Trail begins and ends on the Forest Festival Trail, looping around a deeper section of the forest. My favorite trail, though, was the 1-mile Biltmore Campus Trail. This trail loops beneath the highway and through the former Biltmore Forest School’s campus where you can explore several rustic buildings. A few miles down the road on the right is the popular Sliding Rock. This natural attraction has been used as a summer escape for decades. Bring your swimming shorts and water shoes and slide down the smooth rocks in a torrent of water from the river to a shallow pool at the bottom. Use the embedded handrail to return to the top and do it all over again! Around a bend in the road is Looking Glass Falls, one of the most stunning and easily accessible waterfalls in the state. If you’re heading toward the Parkway from Brevard you can see the waterfall from the road. Coming the other way you’ll need to find a place to park along the road and walk back. You can see the entire waterfall from the side of the road. A staircase leads to the bottom where you can get a better view, set up a chair or blanket, or splash around in the shallow water at the base.

Brevard, NC

When visiting Brevard the one thing you should be on the lookout for is a white squirrel. They are common in this bustling mountain town and the locals love them. Brevard calls itself the “Land of Waterfalls” and they absolutely deserve the title. There are hundreds of waterfalls to view throughout the county. The best place to see several is Dupont State Forest just outside Brevard. The 13-foot Hooker Falls is the easiest to view, and High Falls the most impressive. Downtown Brevard is a wonderful and exciting place to explore. The beautiful streets lead to all kinds of local boutique shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Start at the corner of Main and Broad Street at O.P. Taylor’s, a local business that has been selling toys to children for a very long time. Walk down Broad Street to Rocky’s Grill & Soda Shop for a burger and delicious milkshake in an old-school diner atmosphere. If you want a different kind of atmosphere with your food try The Kitchn on Main Street for some fantastic food and good drink menu. Walk next door to DD Bullwinkle’s for outdoor clothing and gear, and then head across the street to visit the Brevard Brewing Company to finish off your night.

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Explore Brevard, NC

8. Looking Glass Rock Overlook at Milepost 417

From this scenic overlook you can see the exposed rock face of Looking Glass Rock. At 3,970 feet elevation it’s a rather impressive looking rock jutting above the landscape. Just in case you were wondering: yes, it is possible to hike to the summit of that rock. Take Highway 276 toward Brevard. Drive about 10 miles down the highway to a national forest road on the right. Turn up that road less than half a mile to a small parking area and access to the Looking Glass Rock Trail. The 5.3-mile roundtrip hike is about as strenuous as it gets with a total 1,700’ ascent. If you’re up for the challenge the views from the top are worth it. There is a large exposed area to explore at the top. You might also meet some rock climbers while you’re up there.

9. Graveyard Fields at Milepost 418.8

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Graveyard Fields is a fascinating place to explore and also a very popular destination. There is a large parking area but those spaces are frequently taken on warm days. Although parking is usually allowed off the edge of the Parkway there are signs prohibiting that here. I have had to go as far as the John Rock Overlook about a half mile away and walk back. The 3-mile roundtrip hike on the Graveyard Field Trail leads to two waterfalls: Second Falls and Upper Falls. Second Falls is the easiest to reach with about a 15 minute hike from the parking lot. This 55’ cascading waterfall has a lot of room around the base to sit back and enjoy an afternoon. The 40’ tall Upper Falls is located at the end of an out-and-back section of the Graveyard Fields Trail. It’s an easy walk although you’re almost completely exposed; the day I took this hike I got a bit cooked from the sun and ran out of water as a result. Yellowstone Falls is not accessible. The closet you can is the top of the fal

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One Response

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