Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a journey through history, filled with Cherokee traditions, music, agriculture, crafts, nature and much more, while being only 5 miles from the Inn. It is the longest road planned as a single unit in the United States and serves to protect the beautiful mountain landscape far beyond the road itself. It is a series of parks providing scenic views for visitors including natural gardens, cascading waterfalls, dense forests and airy meadows. It is continuous in its panoramic views, which offer miles of countryside scenes to motorists and is no stranger to fleeting deer, wild turkey or a red fox. For the less wild side, visitors can enjoy herds of cows grazing in pastures or horses trotting in fields. Although the views and journey seem like enough, the Blue Ridge Parkway continues to delight folks in a chain of recreational activities, small mountain shops, and traditional restaurants that easily fulfill the mountain experience. The Blue Ridge Parkway offers all of this and so much more, making it the most heavily visited unit of the National Park Service. Nearby stops of note on the Parkway include:
Waterrock Knob | Milepost 451
There are fantastic 270° views from the parking area, but a moderate to strenuous 1.2 mile hike will provide near 360° views at an elevation of more than 6,200 feet. From this spot, you can take in spectacular sunrises and sunsets, and views of Maggie Valley, Cataloochee Ski Area and the highest peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Richland Balsam Overlook | Milepost 431
At 6,053 feet of elevation, this point marks the Parkway's highest point. Just 1/3 mile away, a 1.5 mile loop hike from the Haywood-Jackson Overlook takes visitors atop the highest peak along the Parkway as well. This trail leads through a spruce fir forest before reaching the summit of Richland Balsam at 6,410 feet above sea level.
Devil's Courthouse | Milepost 422
Cherokee legend maintains that the devil holds court in the cave just below this mile high rock outcrop just off the Parkway. From atop the formation, one can see well into South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee on a clear day.
Black Balsam | Milepost 420
Some of the most spectacular views in the southern Appalachians can be found from atop any of the several high mountain balds in this area. The highest peak, Black Balsam Knob, measures 6,214 feet above sea level and provides unobstructed views in all directions, thanks to the treeless habitat atop the mountain. In early summer, this area is flush with wild blueberries and blackberries as well.
Graveyard Fields | Milepost 418
This area provides three waterfalls, miles of hiking trails and a stark contrast in habitat from most other areas in the Southern Appalachians. Trees toppled by a great windstorm, along with leftover stumps from logging resembling rudimentary gravestones from a distance, gave the mile-high valley its original name. A catastrophic fire in the 1920s has since left a population of shrubs, tall grasses and wildflowers throughout the valley.