Leaving Virginia we headed to our next spot located a short drive away from the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Parkway in this area is different from Virginia in that the mountains are higher and more rugged. In Virginia there were small towns near the Parkway and you could get on and off at more places. During our North Carolina stay, we explored the most southern part of the Parkway that extends from the city of Asheville to the town of Cherokee near the entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We drove the Parkway two different times, the first day starting mid afternoon after having our air conditioning unit repaired. Small trailers like ours are not meant to be lived in and we run the unit almost every day. It had stopped working and this was the first day we could get someone out. He was efficient and so nice plus we really appreciated he could come to us and we did not have to take the trailer to a shop somewhere. Mark said that my “travel karma” held out because the repairman had just the right part we needed. But, it was a perfectly sunny day, the mountains were calling and I was eager to get on the road after a few days of wet weather and resting up from our travels.
We began near the end of the Parkway at Cherokee heading north into the highest elevations of the Parkway. Driving through these mountains you don’t see signs of civilization. There are over 250 pull offs and overlooks on the 469 miles of Parkway that travels through Virginia and North Carolina, so plenty of places to stop for views like in the photo below.
We stopped at the highest point of the Parkway at 6,053 feet. I expected grand views here, after all it was the highest point, but it was not as nice as some of the others and did not have the wide open views I was expecting, especially with the tree cover.
After traveling up the Parkway we decided rather than backtracking to get off on a side road for the drive back to our campground before nightfall. We followed a beautiful creek and in one spot stopped to see this cascading waterfall. The drive was picturesque but not entirely relaxing because we had neglected to fill up the gas tank prior to our drive which took us much further than we anticipated. When we finally reached a back road gas station it was closed but my trusty gas buddy app showed another station just a few miles down the road and thankfully it was open.
The next day we headed to Asheville about 20 minutes north of where we were staying. Our plan was to connect here with the Parkway and head south. Our first stop was the Folk Art Center where artists from Maryland to Alabama belonging to the Southern Highland Craft Guild display their works. The building is great and is also a bit of a museum with signboards explaining about early Appalachian crafters and displays of historic crafts such as woodcarving, basketry, pottery, furniture, textiles and dolls. My favorite creations were the corn husk figures, brooms and blacksmithing exhibit with some interesting metal sculptures. There are a number of items for sale which are quite expensive, for example a handwoven dish towel for $90 and a $14,000 coffee table. No photos are allowed inside so I can’t share any of the great artwork on the blog.
Tunnels carved through the mountains are common on the Parkway in North Carolina. I learned there are a total of 26 with 25 being in North Carolina so we came upon them from time to time on this part of the drive.
It is hard for me to pass up a great waterfall (Mark says ANY waterfall) so we got off the Parkway once to drive a very scenic and winding road to Looking Glass Falls. The 60 foot Falls are popular and just off the road with a few different viewing areas as you head down the stairs to the stream below.
After returning to the Parkway we stopped at Graveyard Fields, an area with a hiking loop to two waterfalls. I walked to the first falls, called “Lower Falls” crossing a stream and down a number of steep stairs to the base.
People were enjoying climbing around the rocks to get closer to the cascading falls.
At the time we were visiting before mid October we were hoping to find fall colors, but they were just beginning so we saw only a few trees here and there with some red and orange. From what we heard the colors are a little behind in Appalachia this year due to warmer weather and more rain. In some years it can be the end of October for peak fall foliage. It is hard to predict the best fall color times and even though we missed it on the Parkway, the beautiful green mountain views like you can see in the photo below were certainly worth the drive.
I will close with a few photos from early evening when the sun was starting to go down. The shadows and evening light were beautiful on the mountains. I hope you enjoyed this post about our trek along the North Carolina Blue Ridge.