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Advice for Blue Ridge Parkway

Suffolk, United...
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Advice for Blue Ridge Parkway

We are travelling from England in the third week of September and aim to spend a couple of days driving the Parkway. I'd be grateful for any help identifying things to see in addition to a beautiful drive. We enjoy short hikes, just admiring fantastic scenery and seeing the local area.

1. We plan to stay overnight in Asheville - other than Biltmore are there any other recommendations for the first time visitor?

2. We intend to drive to Blowing Rock the next day - any key stopping points or diversions?

3. From there we would like to do as much of the parkway as possible and end up in Charlotte in the evening. What route would you recommend to make the most of the BRP?

Thanks very much. It appears to be such a beautiful area we don't want to miss anything obvious. I appreciate that weather can be very changeable but any thoughts on what we can expect in general, just so we take sufficient clothes for the holiday.

Thanks

Hendersonville...
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1. Re: Advice for Blue Ridge Parkway

If you are staying in Asheville and will be traveling to Blowing Rock, and want to ride the parkway anyway, you'd might as well ride the parkway to Blowing Rock from Asheville. There will be plenty to see and do on the parkway between the 2.

Clemmons, North...
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2. Re: Advice for Blue Ridge Parkway

Hi Brent,

If you want to end up in Charlotte, you may want to rethink your route. Both Asheville and Blowing Rock are 2 hours or less from Charlotte, so ideally you'd want to end up in one of those two places. You could do as you describe, and head north from Blowing Rock on the Parkway towards Sparta, which is also roughly 2 hours from Charlotte. But there aren't a whole lot of attractions on this stretch of the parkway--it's beautiful scenery for sure, but it can get monotonous after a while due to the low speed limits and many curves. The best parts of the parkway for both spectacular views and interesting stops are the stretches north and south of Asheville, north to Blowing Rock and south to Cherokee. So I'd suggest trying to cover these parts.

You didn't say where your starting point is, but I'll assume Charlotte since that's where you want to end up. If so, then you could drive from Charlotte to Blowing Rock via I-85 to US 321, spend some time there, then take a day or so to drive the BRP down to Asheville. After exploring Asheville for a while you can take the parkway south to its intersection with US 74 which offers easy driving back to Asheville and on to Charlotte. And if you have time, you could continue on the BRP as far as Cherokee, and return to Asheville via US 19 to US 74. Of course, if you prefer you could reverse the order and drive to Asheville first from Charlotte, do the southern BRP stretch, then drive to Blowing Rock from Asheville.

There are lots of great stops along the BRP between Asheville and Blowing Rock, including Craggy Gardens, Mt. Mitchell, Linville Falls, and Moses Cone Park. I would also strongly recommend the short side trips to both Linville Caverns and Grandfather Mountain--both are well worth a visit.

Regarding Asheville, one of the best things about it is just wandering around the downtown area on foot and checking out the shops, bars, etc. It's not a huge downtown, so you can just park somewhere and start walking. My favorites include Mast General Store, Malaprops Bookstore, Grove Arcade, LOFT, and the Woolworth Walk, among many others.

Good luck, and if you have more questions just ask!

Suffolk, United...
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3. Re: Advice for Blue Ridge Parkway

That's fantastic information. Thanks. We are trying to see as much of this fabulous area as possible as we don't know it at all and probably cramming too much in without enough research, but that's largely because flights and cars have to be booked so early to get the best prices. We are actually on a round trip from Atlanta so coming through the Smoky mountains and down through pigeon forge to Cherokee. If I've got this right it might be best to pick up the parkway from just north of Cherokee through to Asheville - are you able to give me an indication of likely driving time for this stretch of the parkway please? From Asheville we thought through to Blowing Rock and then Charlotte for shopping, before having a week at folly beach, so might be best to head for Charlotte direct from Blowing Rock?

Thanks again for taking the time to respond in such detail. That really is brilliant.

Chapel Hill, North...
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4. Re: Advice for Blue Ridge Parkway

I'd skip the Mast Store in Asheville. Go to the old Original Mast Store in Valle Crucis near Boone/Blowing Rock. It dates from the 1800s and is much more of a tourist destination than the other branches of the store. (There's also one in downtown Boone, but forego this one also in favor of Valle Crucis.)

www.boonencmagazine.com/mastgeneralstore.html

…uptake.com/blog/mast-general-store-valle-cr…

I also second the recommendation to visit Grandfather Mountain. You can cross the Mile-high Swinging Bridge if you don't have a fear of heights. www.gradfather.com . They have museums, animal habitats, and if you're up for it you can take a strenuous hike to the top of the mountain, but that is not necessary to get great views. The Linville viaduct section of the Blue Ridge Parkway that goes around Grandfather is one of the most photographed sections of the BRP and something of an engineering marvel. (https://www.google.com/search?q=blue+ridge+parkway+linn+cove+viaduct&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=PgfDUeG7K4Kk9ATzjIDYCA&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1597&bih=1056)

Linville Falls is nice, too. It's a pretty easy hike and very beautiful. There are a lot of other beautiful falls in the Asheville area as well. (www.romanticasheville.com/linville_falls.htm)

There's really so much to do, it's hard to narrow it down—horseback riding, rafting, caving, hiking, gem mining, music, art, etc. Do you have any specific interests?

Clemmons, North...
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5. Re: Advice for Blue Ridge Parkway

^ Yes, coming from Pigeon Forge you'd definitely want to pick up the BRP at Cherokee. If you drove non-stop from Cherokee to Asheville on the parkway, it's roughly two hours. But you'll definitely want to allocate some time to stop along the way, and perhaps do some of the short hikes at places like Waterrock Knob, Devil's Courthouse, Mt. Pisgah, Cradle of Forestry, etc. Same for the Asheville to Blowing Rock stretch--it's a little over 2 hours non-stop, but you should plan to take a full day to give you time to explore the many stops along the way.

If you haven't found them already, here are a couple of links with lots of info:

http://www.blueridgeparkway.org/

http://www.nps.gov/blri/index.htm

The ".org" link provides a mile-by-mile summary of stops and sights along the way. The ".gov" site has a better map--look for the "View Park Map" link on the left side of the page.

I also wanted to address your route from Atlanta to Pigeon Forge. One option is to take I-75 north through Chattanooga to Knoxville, where you'd pick up I-40 eastbound. If you want to visit Chattanooga this is the route to take, but I much prefer a more scenic route: take I-85 north out of Atlanta, then pick up I-985 through Gainesville, Ga. This becomes US 441 which will take you all the way to Cherokee. This is not an interstate, but it is a 4-lane road with only a few slowdowns through a couple of small towns. It's just a much more interesting and pleasurable drive than taking the interstate route, and the timing is about the same.

Hope you enjoy your trip!

Hendersonville...
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6. Re: Advice for Blue Ridge Parkway

I disagree arby. I love the stretch north of Blowing Rock with the Viaduct and across the border in to Virginia with the Mabry Mill and the Chateau Morrisette Winery (very beautiful) right on the parkway.

Clemmons, North...
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7. Re: Advice for Blue Ridge Parkway

Trouty, the Linn Cove Viaduct is south of Blowing Rock, and would be included in my suggested route from Asheville to Blowing Rock. And don't get me wrong, I love all of the BRP. But for someone who's never visited, and with limited time, the two sections I recommended offer more to see and do than the stretch north of Boone. And while I agree that Mabry Mill and Chateau Morrisette are well worth visiting, for someone who's trying to end up in Charlotte they are quite a long distance away.

Hendersonville...
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8. Re: Advice for Blue Ridge Parkway

My apologies, you are right on the viaduct. I had my bearings crisscrossed. I grew up in Brevard so I know the Southern portion like the back of my hand. It's hard for me to give a recommendation because there is so much to see. I would say to take a day and start in Asheville and ride the parkway South till it ends near Bryson City. As far as going north, it's all about how far you'd like to travel.

Edited: 20 June 2013, 15:24
Chapel Hill, North...
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9. Re: Advice for Blue Ridge Parkway

Dang it. I just noticed I left out the N in Grandfather Mountain's web address. It's www.grandfather.com

The google images pictures of the Linn Cove viaduct are here if you don't want to copy and paste that long URL that didn't hotlink. http://tinyurl.com/ld6o5ut

I think the section between Blowing Rock and Asheville is my favorite, and seems a natural fit for your trip. From Blowing Rock you can go down Hwy 321 to Charlotte. It's about 1.5-2 hrs.

Edited: 20 June 2013, 15:49
Suffolk, United...
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10. Re: Advice for Blue Ridge Parkway

Thanks so much everyone. That's really helpful information and just what we needed