The Blue Ridge Parkway – Part II

Asheville is considered “home” for the Parkway since the park headquarters is located at Milepost 382.

If you are driving, be aware, there are no gas stations actually on the parkway.  Also, don’t plan on getting anywhere fast. 30 miles on the parkway can easily take an hour to drive.  The speed limit is 45 miles per hour or less in some places. Finally, you will surely want to slow down anyway to take in some of these spectacular views. 

As a side note:  many of you are familiar with the Biltmore House built by George Vanderbilt.  While building the house, he purchased around 125,000 acres including Mount Pisgah for a private hunting retreat for family and friends.  Most of this land was later sold to the federal government to become Pisgah National Forest.

Here's a quick north to south overview:

  • Milepost (MP) 418.8: Created by fire and wind, Graveyard Fields, a popular hiking spot at a 5,600’ elevation, is visible to the north of the parkway.
  • At MP 420.2, a spur road to Shining Rock Wilderness descends from here to more than 13,000 acres of land marked by a striking white quartz outcropping, visible from MP 431.
  • Silvermine Bald, MP 421, is named for an old silver shaft mine that operated here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Between Bear Pen Gap, MP 427.6, and Bear Trail Ridge, MP 430.4, there are 10 recorded spots named after the bears that used to be hunted here in great numbers.
  • Heading on to Lone Bald at MP 432.7, you’ll reach the highest point on the parkway’s 469 miles (at Richland Balsam Knob).
  • At MP 439.7, Pinnacle Ridge Tunnel’s 750 feet reach an end just before Saunook, with a view of Waynesville below from a height of 6,000 feet (MP 440.9 also overlooks the town).
  • In 1776, the first white settlers crossed the Balsams at Rabb Knob, MP 441.9, beginning a period of conflict with the Cherokee who lived in this area already. In 1883 Southern Railway laid the highest standard-gauge crossing in eastern America across this gap, at an elevation of 3,335 feet
  • At night, lights illuminate a 60-foot-high cross placed here, MP 445.2, in 1962. The cross and Mt. Lynn Lowry are both dedicated to the memory of a girl who died of leukemia at the age of 15. The cross was dedicated by evangelist Billy Graham in 1965.
  • Waterrock Knob, MP 451.2, rises to an elevation of 6,292 feet, second only to Richland Balsam as the highest peak in the Balsam mountains. At the top is a 360-degree view and a memorial to H. Getty Browning, who secured the parkway route through N.C.