The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches 469 miles across Virginia and North Carolina. With popular national parks on either end -- Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park -- the Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited National Park service site in the country. With lush forests, rhododendron tunnels, waterfalls, wild berries, and spectacular views, it’s no surprise that over 16 million visitors drive along its winding, scenic roads each year.
Hikers can enjoy a 1.2-mile walkup to the ridge along a wooden boardwalk above fragile vegetation. On the trail, you will find large rock slabs to explore. The top rewards trail-goers with the photogenic “Lion King Rock” -- a massive rock slab jutting out of the mountainside. If panoramic vistas and Instagram-worthy rocks are your thing, then check out the Rough Ridge.
Arguably, the most photographed waterfall in the area, Crabtree Falls is a must-see for anyone exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a moderate 2.6-mile loop hike that features a gorgeous s 70-foot cascading waterfall. Hikers can enjoy walking through lush, fern-filled hardwood forests and rhododendron thickets. We think this is a waterfall worth chasing.
This hike packs in the beauty on a short 1.9-mile out-and-back trail. Revel in rhododendron tunnels, fresh mountain blueberries, wildflowers, and 360° views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hikers can even find a small gazebo tucked away in the lush forest overlooking the valley below. If sweeping views of the Appalachian landscape is what you’re after, then this is the trail for you.
With a cool name like Fryingpan Tower and views of famous peaks like Cold Mountain, Looking Glass Rock, and Mt. Pisgah, it’s not surprising this hike made our list. The retired fire lookout is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Hikers can enjoy sprawling views from the lookout’s viewing platform. If you’re looking for a short hike with a birds-eye view, make a stop at Fryingpan Tower.
Less than 1-mile round-trip, this short hike features the perfect summer swimming hole. With multiple cascades and pools filled with crystal clear water, this trail is an ideal retreat from the heat. The Parkway is packed with trails and you’re never far from another path to explore. Skinny Dip Falls is no different, with easy access to multiple trails from the trailhead parking area including the Mountains-to-the-Sea trail. Don’t let the name fool you -- if you’re planning on taking a dip, then bring your swimming suit.
Curious about the famous bald-topped mountains of the southern Appalachians? Black Balsam Knob via the Art Loeb trail is an excellent way to explore these peaks that attract visitors from near and far. Similar to the alpine, short growing seasons are the cause for these hilltops being void of trees above 6,000 feet. However, balds differ from typical alpine terrain due to a warmer climate. This hike offers wild blueberries in the summer and breathtaking panoramic views year-round. With over 100 designated hiking trails along the Parkway, there is a hike for everyone. Don’t worry if you don’t have enough time to check out all the hikes -- as “America’s Favorite Drive” the Blue Ridge Parkway makes for the perfect road trip, even if you stay in the car! You can support our National Parks by treating yourself to an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. It’s free to drive Blue Ridge Parkway, but the National Parks Pass gives you access to the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park along with over 2,000 other federal recreation sites.
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