Scenic Mountain Roads
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is open to drive and enjoy the views. Most picnic areas, restrooms, campgrounds and visitor centers are open; however check before you go – Learn what’s open.
The Parkway begins in Swain County in Cherokee, at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (milepost 469.1). The Parkway is a beautiful drive spring through fall (sometimes closed in winter due to weather), and you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the ride and the views because the speed limit is generally 45 mph. (Remember to factor that in to your time expectations for these trips.) And please note, restrooms and dining spots on the Parkway are limited.
Two Enjoyable Drives on the Parkway…
CHEROKEE TO BALSAM GAP
A nice short segment to drive would be the 26 miles from Cherokee to the Balsam Gap exit at milepost 443, just west of Waynesville, NC on US 74. (return to Bryson City on US 74).
Along the way, you’ll pass the Big Witch Overlook with a view of Cherokee Valley; and Waterrock Knob (milepost 451) where there is a visitor information center, comfort station and a spectacular view. Take the half-mile trail to the summit for an even better view. The nearly-360 degree vantage point is uniquely suited for viewing – and photographing – sunrises and sunsets.
BALSAM GAP TO MT. PISGAH
This 35-mile segment begins just west of Waynesville NC at the Balsam Gap entrance (milepost 443.1). There are several beautiful overlooks on this section including the Richland Balsam Overlook (milepost 431.4) which is the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway (6,047 ft.).
Another stop is Devil’s Courthouse. A strenuous half-mile hike to the “Courthouse” provides a 360-view. (milepost 422.4).
Graveyard Fields Overlook has a loop trail of moderate difficulty, 2.3 miles to Yellowstone Falls. There is a comfort station. Graveyard Fields is well known for blueberries. The peak at that elevation is mid-August; you are allowed 1 gallon per day for personal consumption.
Next stop – Looking Glass Rock (milepost 417), and the Pisgah Inn Restaurant (open April – October at milepost 408.6). The restaurant is always busy, with a possible hour wait at the peak of the fall season.
Return to Bryson City: Backtrack to milepost 412.2 at Wagon Road Gap (US 276). Drive 22 miles north to Waynesville and return on US 74.