The 15 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes for NC Day Trips

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The Blue Ridge Parkway road trip is an American classic. It’s possible to traverse the entire 469-mile route on rubber alone, stopping at some of the 200+ overlooks for those famous scenic mountain views, without ever breaking a sweat.

The list of the area’s attractions is so extensive, your Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary could easily last for several weeks.

And while it might be possible never to venture far from the car, it’s much more fun to grab a daypack and go on a plethora of outdoor adventures along the route.

Hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains allows us to immerse ourselves in one of the most beautiful regions in the US, replete with sprawling vistas, cascading waterfalls, and colorful flora.

For travelers visiting North Carolina (or residents looking to get out and about), there are an array of fantastic Blue Ridge Parkway hikes available, from the southernmost reaches of the state to the northern border with Virginia.

Here’s a look at our picks for some of the best hiking trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

READ MORE: 20 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks in NC & VA

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes in NC Guide

  1. Devil’s Courthouse
  2. Graveyard Fields Loop
  3. Mt. Pisgah Trail
  4. Craggy Pinnacle Trail
  5. Crabtree Falls Loop Trail
  6. Erwins View Trail
  7. Tanawha Trail
  8. Price Lake Loop Trail
  9. Boone Fork Trail
  10. Green Knob Trail
  11. Bass Lake Loop via Cone Manor House
  12. Flat Top Road
  13. Cascades Trail
  14. Bluff Mountain Trail 
  15. Gully Creek Trail Loop
Devil's Courthouse Overlook on Blue Ridge Parkway in NC
Devil’s Courthouse, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

1. Devil’s Courthouse Trail (Mile Marker 422.4)

Though it’s not a long trail, the Devil’s Courthouse Trail is considered one of the best hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina because it features one of the area’s best views.

The trail is only about a half-mile to the summit, half of which is paved. Nevertheless, it is considered moderately difficult due to the elevation gain.

The summit is 5,720 feet, and there are observation platforms along the way with informative viewing plaques that explain the landscape on the horizon.

The rocky cliffs below are home to delicate habitat, and even include nests of Peregrine Falcons, the fastest animals on earth.

The Devil’s Courthouse also features prominently in lore of the region, particularly within the Cherokee culture.

READ MORE: Pisgah National Forest: A Beginner’s Guide

Best Pisgah Trails - Graveyard Fields
Graveyard Fields Sign

2. Graveyard Fields Loop (MM 418.8)

Spooky as it may sound, Graveyard Fields is anything but.

The name actually comes from the early 1900s, when wind-blown trees left a lot of stumps across the landscape, which were said to resemble tombstones.

A large wildfire in 1925 laid waste to the stumps. Now, what remains is a beautiful collection of wild blueberries, waterfalls, and wilderness that make up a killer Blue Ridge trail.

The Graveyard Fields Loop is a little over three miles long, veering between 4960 feet and 5320 feet above sea level. It features several natural pools fed by waterfalls (which are great for swimming), as well as well-maintained trails.

Word to the wise: This trail can get extremely busy on weekends, and even weekdays in peak season. So go early if you want to beat the crowds.

READ MORE: Fall in North Carolina: The Best Places to See Fall Colors in Western NC

View Behind Pisgah Inn in Peak Fall Colors
View behind Pisgah Inn, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

3. Mt. Pisgah Trail (MM 407.6)

When you’re admiring the rugged landscape south of Asheville NC, few (if any) features are so recognizable as Mt. Pisgah.

Mt. Pisgah is the namesake of Pisgah National Forest. For that alone, it deserves the respect of any Blue Ridge Parkway hikers who want to summit it.

Luckily, the hike to the top of Mt. Pisgah from the BRP is barely over 1.5 miles (3 miles roundtrip), about half of which isn’t all that strenuous.

The Mt. Pisgah Trail starts from the Mount Pisgah Picnic Area and leads hikers to the 5,721-foot summit. There are also other great hiking trails emanating from the same spot, in particular the one to Frying Pan Fire Tower.

READ MORE: The 27 Best Waterfalls Near Asheville NC

Craggy Pinnacle Trail
“Craggy Pinnacle Trail” by BlueRidgeKitties via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

4. Craggy Pinnacle Trail (MM 364.2)

When traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway, it becomes something of a cliché to claim a destination offers one of the best views. But it’s impossible not to do so here.

The Craggy Pinnacle Trail is definitely in the running for the best Blue Ridge viewpoints, so it has to feature among the best hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Stretching less than a mile long, Craggy Pinnacle Trail climbs from the Craggy Dome Overlook up to the summit of a mountain, yielding a 360-degree panorama of the world below.

Along the way, the flora is a flowery mix of rhododendron, blueberries, and mountain laurel.

READ MORE: Exploring Craggy Gardens, NC (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 344.1)

How to Get to Crabtree Falls - Sisters at Crabtree Falls
Photo by Emma Gallagher

5. Crabtree Falls Loop Trail (MM 339.5)

If you love hiking to waterfalls, Crabtree Falls (near Little Switzernland NC) is an ideal place for a day-hike and picnic.

The lengthy (just under 4 miles) but totally doable loop trail spins by a 70-foot waterfall, then winds its way up for an overview. At the base you’ll find lots of rocks perfect for sitting, relaxing and appreciating the stunning falls.

The in-and-out trip to the falls is a quicker version of this, with slightly less incline. But the loop’s topside follows along streams and small tributaries, with lovely bridges to cross them.

The descent to, and ascent from, the base of the falls give this Blue Ridge Parkway hike a strenuous rating. But for the most part the Crabtree Falls Loop Trail trail is smooth and easy.

READ MORE:  How to Get to Crabtree Falls Near Little Switzerland NC

Linville Falls in Linville Gorge Wilderness
Linville Falls photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

6. Erwins View Trail (MM 316.4)

While there are two main trails to Linville Falls, the Erwins View Trail takes the gold because it provides access to some very different perspectives, including Upper Falls, Chimney View, and Erwin’s View.

Plus, the journey takes you through an incredible old growth hemlock and white pine forest.

Under 2 miles in and out, the trail includes a bridge across the river, an amazing viewing platform at Upper Falls, as well as plenty of benches for resting along the way.

The viewpoints are accessed by short side trails, which do technically make the adventure a little longer. But trust us, they are totally worth the effort!

READ MORE: The 20 Best Western North Carolina Waterfalls for Hiking

Rough Ridge Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC
Rough Ridge, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

7. Tanawha Trail (MM 305.5)

For those after a trail that’ll fill the day with amazing vistas, ancient geology, and thickets of understory trees, the Tanawha (Cherokee for “fabulous hawk/eagle”) Trail is a great choice.

At over 13 miles, this trail is not a “quickie.” And there are some strenuous sections (near the Linn Cove Viaduct and along Rough Ridge) to the otherwise easy-to-moderate route.

But the effort pays dividends with sweeping views of the North Carolina Piedmont, lookouts to surrounding mountain peaks (Grandmother, Hawksbill, Table, etc.), and a phenomenal view of the Linn Cove Viaduct from Rough Ridge.

Hiking Tanawha requires some advance planning, as it goes from Price Lake to Beacon Heights. In other words, having two cars would be helpful.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Western North Carolina Mountains for Hiking

Lake Price in Julian Price Memorial Park, North Carolina
Lake Price in Julian Price Memorial Park, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

8. Price Lake Loop Trail (MM 297)

Price Lake is a stunning mountain lake right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and it has lots of noteworthy hiking trails stemming from it. The Price Lake Loop is the easiest of them all.

Measuring in at just over 2 miles, this picturesque trail circles the lake, keeping the water in view throughout the trek.

Price Lake is surrounded by lush foliage, especially rhododendron, and the trail remains flat as it rings it, though the path does get especially muddy after rains.

This trail is a great leg-stretcher after driving the Blue Ridge Parkway for a while. It’s shady and not so strenuous as to make hikers sweaty when they get back in the car.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Lakes in the North Georgia Mountains

Boone Fork Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Photo courtesy of ExploreBoone.com

9. Boone Fork Trail (MM 296.4)

The Boone Fork Trail starts off at the lovely Julian Price Park, with the quintessential mountain lake (Price Lake).

It’s great for those hardy hikers who are up for a little more time and effort on the trail.

The full loop is nearly five miles, with several stream crossings and steep stairs along the way. But the wonderful payoff when it arrives at Hebron Falls makes it more than worth the effort.

Experienced hikers advise taking the loop in a clockwise direction, so that the end of the trail rewards you with the falls and rapids.

They also advise getting there early, because this is a very popular Blue Ridge Parkway hiking trail and often becomes crowded around mid-morning.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Boone NC (BRP MP 291.8)

Green Knob Trail
“Green Knob Trail” by BlueRidgeKitties, via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

10. Green Knob Trail (MM 295.9)

Another part of the Julian Price Park trail system, Green Knob Trail warrants exploration as well. It offers an easier option for those who are not up for tackling the Boone Fork Trail.

The trail is accessed via the US-321 Blue Ridge Parkway entrance, between Boone and Blowing Rock.

Green Knob Trail features lovely pathways along Sims Creek, beginning with a bridge across Sims Pond.

In addition to that centerpiece, Green Knob Trail is surrounded by hardwood forests and provides views of the regionally renowned Grandfather Mountain.

Additionally, the trail encompasses beautiful cascades, wildflower fields, and a wonderful bottoms-up view of the Sims Creek Viaduct.

READ MORE: The Top 10 Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in NC & GA

Flat Top Estate in Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Boone NC
Flat Top Estate in Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Boone NC via CC 1.0

11. Bass Lake Loop via Cone Manor House (MM 294)

Moses Cone Memorial Park is a recreational area and historical site along the Blue Ridge Parkway, not far from Boone. The trails there are open to horseback riders and even carriages, but they’re great for hiking, too.

There are several ways to make a loop hike from Cone Manor House to Bass Lake, so the following suggestion can be modified. But it’s a nice 5-mile jaunt (the shortest possible) that takes about three hours and includes a relaxing stroll around a beautiful mountain lake.

The Bass Lake Loop is a 1-mile trail around the lake, but getting there that adds most of the distance to this hike. Simply take Duncan Road down from the manor, circle Bass Lake, and take Deer Park Road back up.

Carrying a picnic down makes for a memorable lunch stop!

READ MORE: 40 Fascinating Facts About the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway Trails NC
Blue Ridge Parkway, photo by Dougtone via CC BY-SA 2.0

12. Flat Top Road (MM 294)

Another trail stemming from Moses Cone Memorial Park, Flat Top Road rewards hikers with soul-stirring panoramic from an historic lookout tower.

This is a great hike when out more for a lengthy stroll with friends, family and significant others. Though the trip is about five miles, it is fairly flat, and the pathway is wide enough to walk side-by-side.

The trail starts near Cone Manor House, behind the restrooms and Carriage House. It tunnels beneath the Parkway and summits Flat Top Mountain (4,558 feet).

During the summer, the wildflowers in the meadow along the route are stunning and add yet another special something to the already lovely walk.

READ MORE: Stone Mountain, NC: State Park Camping, Hiking & History

Hiking the Cascades Trail via Explore Boone NC
Photo via Explore Boone

13. Cascades Trail (MM 271.9)

When tackled in conjunction with the Tompkins Knob Trail, this trail can provide Blue Ridge hikers with a solid afternoon of trekking.

The Cascades Trail is a short loop, requiring only about 30 minutes in total. But as its name would seem to indicate, it has an interesting waterfall that slides down a rock face.

Adding the Tompkins Knob Trail makes this hike substantial enough to warrant a Blue Ridge Parkway day trip. It tacks on an additional 1.2 miles of hiking, which includes visiting an historic log springhouse.

Start at the Tompkins Knob Trail (BRP Milepost 272.5), walk through the Cascades Picnic Area, take the Cascades loop, then backtrack to the Tompkins Knob trailhead.

READ MORE: Top 10 NC State Parks in the North Carolina Mountains

Blue Ridge Parkway Trails - Brinegar Cabin at Doughton Park
“Brinegar Cabin at Doughton Park” by twbuckner is licensed under CC BY 2.0

14. Bluff Mountain Trail (244.7)

Doughton Park is the largest recreation area along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.

The park is home to two 19th century cabins, 30 miles of trails, and two campgrounds.

It’s a great spot to stop for a picnic, offers gorgeous views overlooking the North Carolina Piedmont, and puts on some amazing flower displays in spring.

For nearly 8 miles its ridgetop walking route– the Bluff Mountain Trail– leads hikers through dense forests, emerging at the park’s premiere scenic overlooks.

Though long, the Bluff Mountain Trail is fairly flat and hugs tightly to the parkway, while somehow maintaining a remote feel.

Families or friends traveling in two cars may want to park one at the far end of the trail in order to save the hike back.

READ MORE: Visiting Doughton Park, NC (Blue Ridge Parkway MM 238.5-244.7)

15. Gully Creek Trail Loop (MM 217.5)

Hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway often involve a mountain stream, a thicket of rhododendron, and a series of stunning waterfalls.

The Gully Creek Trail Loop in Cumberland Knob thoroughly meets that standard. And it’s interesting to note that Cumberland Knob was the site of the first recreational development on the BRP way back in 1937.

The looping trail is a modest 2 miles long, but is nonetheless classified as strenuous. It has a small waterfall, several cascades, two bridges, and a lot of vegetation to enjoy along the way.

At this point, our Blue Ridge Parkway road trip is about to enter Virginia. So this is your last chance to see the glory that is Western North Carolina… or a welcome to its majesty, if you’re heading south along the parkway into NC.  –Jonathon Engels, lead photo via Canva

 

After visiting the Western North Carolina for the first time, Jonathon Engels and his wife Emma spent two years looking for a few acres of property there to establish a permaculture homestead. During that search, he explored the Blue Ridge Parkway, surrounding towns, and parks. He has taught at both Blue Ridge Community College and Surry Community College, is a member of a long-established land conservation community near the town of Dobson, volunteers at the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention, and continues to explore the Blue Ridge, a place he now lovingly calls home.