Much of the press on the Blue Ridge Parkway celebrates it as a wonderfully preserved 469-mile scenic route.
But much of what makes the world-renowned road trip so wonderful is the incredible 200 or so Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks you can stop at along the way.
There are beautiful wildflower blooms to see in spring, creeks and lakes for cooling off in the heat of summer, a myriad of fall colors in Western NC to appreciate in autumn, and diverse wildlife to spot all year round.
Located in the North Carolina High Country near the towns of Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk, Julian Price Memorial Park is a first-class way to experience the natural beauty the Blue Ridge Parkway has to offer.
For those driving the entire BRP, Price Lake camping is just 77 miles northeast of Asheville NC, with possible stops at Craggy Gardens, Mt. Mitchell State Park, Little Switzerland, and Linville Falls along the way.
But before we go daydreaming about places beyond the boundaries of Julian Price Park, read on for an in-depth guide to the 4,200 acres that include the Julian Price Campground, Price Lake, and some of the area’s most popular hiking trails.
Julian Price Memorial Park Campground Info
ADDRESS: Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 297
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: NPS.gov
CAMPING FEES: $20/night
Julian Price Park History
Julian Price, for whom the Memorial Park was named, was an insurance executive who bought this huge expanse of rugged land in the 1930s and 1940s to serve as a recreational retreat for his employees.
Unfortunately, Price died in 1946, before his plans fully came to fruition.
Instead, the large block of land went to the Jefferson Pilot Standard Life Insurance Company of Greensboro NC, which ultimately donated it to the National Park Service (which oversees the BRP).
When making the donation, the company requested that the Boone Fork Creek (a great spot for fly fishing) be dammed.
The park service honored the request and created the 47-acre Price Lake, with the Blue Ridge Parkway running right over the top of the dam.
Today, the Julian Price Campground is the largest camping hotspot on the Parkway, with nearly 200 campsites.
In conjunction with the adjacent Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Julian Price Memorial Park is also part of the largest developed recreational space on the BRP (around 8,000 acres).
Julian Price Memorial Park Features
Julian Price Lake
Created by a damming of the Boone Fork, Julian Price Lake is a 47-acre lake in the North Carolina mountains located right alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Canoeing and kayaking on the lake are permitted, and there’s a Price Lake boat rentals service on the property.
They have canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and kayaks available from April (weekends only from April 2 through mid-May) to the end of October (weekends only in October).
Fishing is permitted with a valid NC or VA fishing license. Price Lake is stocked about once a month with rainbow trout, brown trout, and brook trout, as well as smallmouth bass.
Note that fishing in Price Lake is not allowed from the dam wall or the picnic area footbridge.
Julian Price Picnic Area
With such a beautiful setting, it’s no wonder that Julian Price Park gets a lot of visitors on day trips looking for a good spot to lounge away a few hours.
The park has a 100-site picnic area, with sheltered picnic spots nestled amongst the park’s tranquil creeks.
Look for this spot between Moses Cone Park and Julian Price Lake (at BRP Milepost 296.4).
The picnic area is open year-round, assuming this section of the Parkway isn’t closed due to snow. But the restroom facilities do shut down in the wintertime.
Note that the NPS has a strict “Leave No Trace” policy for picnickers. Please pack out everything you bring in, as food waste tends to attract bears.
Julian Price Hiking Trails
There are a few really nice hiking trails in Julian Price Memorial Park.
Included in the mix is an easy kid-friendly route, a challenging creekside jaunt, and a section of the 1175-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail in Western North Carolina.
Price Lake Trail
If you’re looking for a lengthy, leisurely lakeside stroll, the 2.7-mile Price Lake Trail circles the lake, with very little change in elevation and lots of lush evergreens.
This first mile is an interactive TRACK trail, which is especially fun for the kiddos.
This trail is accessible from either the Price Lake Overlook or the Boone Fork Overlook.
Green Knob Trail
The 2.3-mile Green Knob Trail is a relatively short, but somewhat strenuous loop.
From the Sim’s Pond Parking Area, it winds through rhododendron thickets and past huge hemlock trees, climbing to the top of Green Knob at 5,090 feet.
From on high, there are stunning views of Calloway Peak (the top of Grandfather Mountain) and Price Lake.
Boone Fork Trail
The Boone Fork Trail is a serious day-hiker’s favorite. At 5.5 miles, it’s got enough length to get in a few hours of heart-pumping hiking.
The route traverses several types of environments, from creeks and cow pastures to rocky outcrops and rhododendron forests.
For many visitors, Hebron Falls is the highlight of this hiking trail.
The Tanawha Trail is a 13.5-mile trail that goes from Julian Price Memorial Park (BRP Milepost 297) to the Beacon Heights Overlook (MP 305.5).
It moves along Grandfather Mountain roughly parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
This trail was built in 1993, a few years after the final section of the BRP— the Linn Cove Viaduct—was completed.
Like the Viaduct (which the trail goes under), the Tanawha Trail cuts through an ancient and fragile eco-system.
Julian Price Park Campground
In other words, this is one of those rare NC campgrounds that is virtually never completely full.
The campground has flush toilets, a dump station, an amphitheater, and showers. All campsites are equipped with a picnic table, fire ring, grill, and lantern posts, and fresh drinking water is also available.
There are some campsites here that can accommodate both tents and RVs. But there is a no-generator policy to help keep things quiet and peaceful.
Of course, the big draw to this campground is the accessibility of Price Lake (which is adjacent to many campsites), and the proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Primitive backcountry camping is also permitted near John River Road, but campers must obtain a free permit from the Julian Price Campground office.
Attractions near Julian Price Campground & Memorial Park
Within just a few miles, Price Park campers can check out some of the most popular North Carolina attractions the Blue Ridge Parkway has to offer:
Grandfather Mountain State Park
Located in Banner Elk NC at MP 305, Grandfather Mountain is the tallest mountain in the NC High Country.
Its peak tops out at 5,945 feet, from which it’s possible to spot Downtown Charlotte some 90 miles away!
There are some extremely challenging trails in the popular NC State Park, plus a paid private attraction next door with a Mile-High Swinging Bridge, nature museum, wildlife habitats, a restaurant, and more.
Moses H. Cone Memorial Park
Named after NC’s famed “denim king,” Moses H. Cone Memorial Park (MP 294) is famed for its miles of horse-drawn carriage roads.
It also has Flat Top Manor, a registered historic mansion that was built in the early 1900s.
The property includes a couple of lakes, old apple orchards, nice hiking trails, and plenty of picturesque places to have a snack or picnic lunch.
Linn Cove Viaduct
The Linn Cove Viaduct (MP 304) is a celebrated feat of engineering that was created to protect Grandfather Mountain, which is one of the world’s oldest mountains.
The behemoth of a bridge is a sweeping S-curve around Linn Cove. It was constructed from the top down, with only the viaduct itself to access the building site.
This was the last section of the Blue Ridge Parkway to be completed, with the ribbon-cutting ceremony in September of 1987. Check out a Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor Center to learn more about the historic site.
Linville Falls (MP 316) is possibly the most photographed Blue Ridge Parkway waterfall in North Carolina.
The three-tiered behemoth marks the beginning of the 18.42-square-mile Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, which is sometimes referred to as “the Grand Canyon of the East”.
Linville Falls has a drop of 150 feet in total, and there are several hiking trails to the base of the falls, as well as trails leading to lookouts high above the falls.
Blowing Rock, the natural wonder and historic attraction, is also in town, and there’s a great hike to Glen Burney Falls.
This would be a good place to take a break from the majesty of nature for one day and get into some Western NC small town mountain living. -by Jonathon Engels; lead photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett