View Full Version : 4 days along the blue ridge parkway

09-25-2013, 14:22
Well I am getting out of the military in a few days, and I don't start my new job till early november. Already have a backpacking/front country trip planned to the smokies in early october for a week. We are looking for suggestions for a car camping/day hiking trip? I had hoped to head out west but with the Colorado flooding and cold weather setting in in late october I'm thinking the blue ridge parkway may be a better bet.

I know it may be chilly at night so I'm thinking of staying at hotels/motels along the way, driving a protion of the parkway and doing dayhikes and seein points of interest? What are the best sections of the parkway what are some can't miss attractions or dayhikes along side trails or the AT in that area. Any other planning sugesttions would be helpful.


Alleghanian Orogeny
09-25-2013, 15:07
Thank you for your service, Lyte-w8-hyker.

The more dramatic topography along the BRP is in North Carolina, and so are the majority of hiking trails associated with it. If you're booked into the Smokies in early October, might as well start with some relatively nearby BRP trails, eh?

There are quite a number of trails along the BRP, so many that an entire guidebook covers them: "Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway", by Randy Johnson. Johnson was a principal in the development of most of the backcountry trails on Grandfather Mountain, and having hiked virtually all of them, I can highly recommend them for day-trips.

For free and readily accessible trail information, check out the official NPS website for the BRP. The unofficial website www.blueridgeparkway.org has some guidance links, too.

If you can catch a clear day and want a full one, look at summiting Grandfather Mountain from the Boone Fork Trailhead at about MP 300 on the BRP, not far from motels in Blowing Rock and Boone. By taking the combination of Nuwati, Crag Way, and Daniel Boone Scout Trail (rather than the Daniel Boone Scout Trail all the way), you'll enjoy some stellar views along the Crag Way segment and avoid most of the rhododendron tunnel of the lower 2/3rds of the Scout trail. You'll pick up just under 2,000' of elevation over a little under 4 miles, so it's something of a hump. Grandfather Mountain is now part of the NC State Parks system, but the main tourist attraction nearer the summit is still in private hands and has a spendy entrance fee. Use of the backcountry trails is free. Trail system maps with usable topo contours can be downloaded and printed from the Grandfather Mountain website.

Only 3 miles from the Boone Fork Trailhead, and connected by the Tanawa Trail, is the Julian Price Park trail network, where the 5 mile Boone Fork Loop is my personal favorite. By crossing Boone Fork on a segment of the Mountains to Sea Trail, you can connect to the Moses Cone Memorial Park's carriage trail system. The carriage trails are a network of some 25 miles of trails built by Moses Cone in the late 1800s. They're now solely for hikers and horseback riders, with most of the equestrian usage during the weekends. These trails can be more readily accessed by parking at Trout Lake or at the Cone Manor visitor center, located along Shulls Mill Road and MP 295, respectively.

It's been decades since I hiked any of them, but a terrific network of trails are in the BRP's Craggy Gardens area, down closer to Asheville. I believe Mount Mitchell State Park has a trail network, too, and given the luxury of another clear day, the drive-up to Mt Mitchell would be well-advised even if the trails aren't attractive.

Lastly, there are some short trails leading to various views of Linville Falls and they're worth a look.

Enjoy your well-deserved vacation and thanks again for your service.