Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hiking Trails

The 10 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes for NC Day Trips

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 400+ 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 northerm 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. Craggy Pinnacle Trail
  4. Crabtree Falls Loop Trail
  5. Erwins View Trail
  6. Boone Fork Trail
  7. Green Knob Trail
  8. Cacades Trail
  9. Bluff Mountain Trail 
  10. Gully Creek Trail Loop

READ MORE: The 30 Most Comfortable Walking & Hiking Shoes for Women

Blue Ridge Parkway Trails - The Devil's Courthouse
Devil’s Courthouse by Kadoka1 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

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.

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, so go early if you want to beat the crowds.

3. 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)

Blue Ridge Parkway Trails - Crabtree Falls
Crabtree Falls, NC by ForestWander.com is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

4. Crabtree Falls Loop Trail (MM 339.5)

Waterfall junkies will find Crabtree Falls 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.

5. Erwins View Trail (MM 316.4)

While there are two main trails to Linville Falls (the other is Plunge Basin), 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 Top 15 North Georgia Waterfalls (& How to Get to Them)

Blue Ridge Parkway Trails - Linville Falls
“Linville Falls” by pkinney62 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

6. 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 becomes crowded around mid-morning.

7. 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.

8. 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 it has an interesting waterfall that sort of 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 old log springhouse.

To do this, start at Tompkins Knob Trail (Blue Ridge Mile Marker 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

9. 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)

 

10. Gully Creek Trail Loop (MM 217.5)

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

In that regard, Gully Creek Trail Loop in Cumberland Knob thoroughly meets the standard.

The loop is a modest 2 miles long, but is nonetheless classified as strenuous. It has a small waterfall, cascades, two foot 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 are heading south along the parkway into NC.

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

Blue Ridge Parkway Trails NC
“Blue Ridge Parkway – North Carolina” by Dougtone is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Every spot we’ve featured here is truly a haven for nature lovers.

And whether you’re interested in taking an easygoing road trip or tackling these Blue Ridge Parkway hiking trails, this incredible area offers something for us all to enjoy.

As soon as you head north on the parkway out of Asheville, there’s almost always a quality trail for a day-hike nearby.

So get yourself a free map here courtesy of the National Park Service, and plan your next adventure hiking on the Blue Ridge Parkway! –Jonathon Engels, main 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.