Located in North Carolina between Blue Ridge Parkway mile markers 238.5 and 244.7, Doughton Park is actually the largest recreation area along the famous road.
This Blue Ridge park spans about 7,000 acres and includes picnic areas, campgrounds, an official Blue Ridge Parkway visitor center, two historic cabins, and a collection of beautiful mountain streams.
Additionally, it is renowned for excellent wildlife watching and has a diverse collection of trees to enjoy in spring (flowers) and fall (foliage). In terms of hiking, Doughton has over 30 miles of trails to explore.
When driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, Doughton Park is roughly 45 miles north of Boone (which takes about an hour), or about 30 miles south of Galax (around 45 minutes). But it’s closest to the mountain town of Sparta, at an elevation of nearly 3,000 feet.
The park’s main campground and picnic area is right along the northern side of the Blue Ridge highway, with the bulk of the park itself to the southern side.
If you’re on a Blue Ridge road trip, the park is located between the Northwest Trading Post in North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Music Center in Virginia.
The Northwest Trading Post, a.k.a. Sally Mae’s on the Parkway, is a mercantile with locally crafted products for sale. The Blue Ridge Music Center is a live music venue that offers bluegrass, old time, and Americana music shows daily from May through October.
Doughton Park/Blue Ridge Parkway Info
ADDRESS: [45356 – 45384] Blue Ridge Pkwy, Sparta, NC 28675
CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS: 877-444-6777
SEASON: Open April 26 through November 3
DOUGHTON PARK CAMPGROUND: Open May 15 through October 31
VISITOR CENTER HOURS: Thurs-Mon 10:00am to 5:00pm. Closed Tues-Wed.
ENTRY FEES/PASSES: There is no cost to travel the Blue Ridge Parkway. Doughton Park Campsites range from $20 to $35 per night.
Table of Contents
- Doughton Park History
- Doughton Park Hiking Trails
- Other Things To Do in Doughton Park
- Camping in Doughton Park
- Nearby Blue Ridge Parkway Lodging Options
DOUGHTON PARK HISTORY
Originally known as The Bluffs, this NPS park was renamed in honor of a North Carolina politician in 1961. Bob Doughton came from Laurel Springs, NC, which is just a few miles from where Doughton Park is located today.
Sometimes referred to as Farmer Bob, Doughton served in the US House of Representatives from 1911 to 1953, and was instrumental in getting the Blue Ridge Parkway built. Originally a farmer and banker, he passed away in 1954 at the age of 91.
Prior to the Blue Ridge Parkway being built, pioneers had originally settled this land. One of the main attractions of the park is visiting the remains of the old Caudill homestead.
Built in 1890, the old log cabin of Martin and Janie Caudill still stands today. Martin and Janie raised 14 children, the first six of which were born at the cabin. The fields for their staple crops, such as corn and potatoes, are still recognizable around the homestead.
The Blue Ridge Parkway and National Park Service acquired the cabin in 1938.
At milepost 239 you’ll find the Brinegar Cabin, which was built around 1880 and remained occupied for the next 50 years. Martin and Caroline Brinegar lived in it until, as a widow, Caroline sold the cabin to the NPS in the 1930s.
Now, it stands as a glimpse into life in the Blue Ridge Mountains of the late 19th and early 20th that’s more easily accessible than the Caudill place.
Together the Brinegars raised various grains and livestock, Caroline was great on the loom, Martin was a cobbler, and they also foraged and sold local herbs.
DOUGHTON PARK HIKING TRAILS
Doughton Park offers over 30 miles of Blue Ridge Parkway hiking trails. Along these trails, there are different routes that are beloved for birdwatching, spots for trout fishing, and hikes for those who like a challenge.
The top Doughton Park hiking trails include the Cedar Ridge Trail, Grassy Gap Fire Road, Flat Rock Ridge Trails, Bluff Mountain Trail, Basin Creek Trail, and Flat Top Ridge Trail.
Cedar Ridge Trail gets top marks for birdwatching, with Grassy Gap Fire Road, Flat Rock Ridge Trail offering additional chances to spot our fine-feathered friends.
Bluff Mountain Trail is the route to take for stunning scenic vistas and less strenuous, though still lengthy, hikes. Basin Creek and Cove Creek are great options for trout fishing.
In addition to having its own series of noteworthy trails to enjoy, Doughton Park’s trail system is part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The MST is a long-distance trail network (1175 miles) connecting the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Most of the MST running through Doughton coincides with the Bluff Mountain Trail. The park also boasts a primitive campsite for overnight Blue Ridge Parkway camping.
Grassy Gap Fire Road
Grassy Gap Fire Road is 6.5 miles of wide track that’s available to horses and has lots of creeks gurgling and gushing at its side.
This trail can be accessed from both the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance and from a back entrance off Longbottom Road.
Bluff Mountain Trail
The Bluff Mountain Trail covers 7.5 miles of terrain that runs parallel to the parkway and stretches the actual ridge of the park, from Brinegar Cabin to Basin Cove Overlook.
This is the primo hike for spectacular views, and can be accessed from several points along the parkway.
Basin Creek Trail
Basin Creek Trail is 3.3 miles of trail that can only be accessed via Grassy Gap Fire Road.
This is the sole route to the Caudill Cabin, and comes with plenty of cascades to enjoy along the route.
The hike to the cabin takes a good bit of time, and is shorter (about 10 miles round-trip) when accessed from Longbottom Road rather than the parkway (18 miles round-trip).
Fodder Stack Trail
Highly recommended for families, Fodder Stack Trail is 2 miles of relatively easy hiking.
The surroundings along the way play with the senses, both with colorful wildflower displays and fragrant evergreens.
Fodder Stack Trail is accessed from Wildcat Rocks Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Fairs in North Carolina to Visit
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN DOUGHTON PARK
Besides hiking, there lots of are other things to do in Doughton Park.
The Blue Ridge Parkway’s Western North Carolina section is choc-a-block with stops, including pull-off overlooks to soak in the scenery and full-fledged highlights of which to partake. Doughton has a good sampling of it all.
It’s got the rusticity of acre upon acre of forests and wildlife, as well as the educational aspects of the park’s modern visitor center.
There’s options for hiking into the park for primitive camping and fishing, or setting up an RV for cozy ovrenight Blue Ridge Parkway lodging.
Whatever interests bring you to the park, these are some of the best things to consider adding to your Blue Ridge Mountains of NC itinerary.
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Brinegar Cabin & Caudill Cabin
For a glimpse into local history, the Brinegar Cabin and Caudill Cabin both offer a unique look into the lives of those who trod the early pathways that would ultimately become the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC.
The Caudill Cabin is an adventure to get to, with a minimum of 9.8 miles of hiking when accessed via Longbottom Road (or about 18 miles from the Parkway). However, Brinegar Cabin is much easier to reach, as it’s located right off the highway.
Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks
The Blue Ridge Parkway is renowned for its panoramic vistas of the North Carolina Piedmont to the east and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the West.
There are many exceptional overlooks along the route, but Doughton Park definitely has some worth stopping for and hiking to. The Bluff Mountain Trail and Wildcat Rocks Overlook are both particularly worthy of note.
In late spring, the rhododendron and flame azalea blooms are dramatic. Then there’s a whole new collection of colors that shade the mountain landscape in Fall.
Blue Ridge Parkway Picnic Areas
With so many stunning overlooks and vistas available, it would seem foolish not to bring a picnic lunch and linger over them.
Doughton Park offers the Bluffs Picnic Area, an established spot with tables, bathrooms, and other convenient amenities.
The tables here overlook the valleys below and can be easily accessed by car. There are some short, easy NC hiking trails attached to them.
Even for those travelers who can’t explore Doughton Park for very long, this is a great stop on a Blue Ridge Parkway road trip.
The Blue Ridge Parkway has a handful of areas that are open to horseback riding, and Doughton Park is one of them.
Climbing up from the foot of the mountain, Grassy Gap Fire Road offers 6.5 miles of trails for riders on horseback to enjoy.
Note that all horseback riders must enter and exit the park from State Route 1730, a.k.a. Longbottom Road.
Stream Trout Fishing
Doughton Park is a great place for mountain stream trout fishing along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Basin Creek Cove complex has streams stocked with Rainbow and Brook Trout. Fishing here does require a local state license.
A 10-day pass is available to North Carolina residents for $7, and to non-residents for $18. Kids under 16 can fish without a license.
READ MORE: The 10 Best North Georgia State Parks
CAMPING IN DOUGHTON PARK
When traveling along the Parkway, many visitors love to take the opportunity to fully embrace the area’s natural beauty.
Blue Ridge Parkway campgrounds offer a completely different experience of the mountains, particularly when it comes to viewing the gorgeous night sky and watching the mist roll through in the morning.
As the largest recreation area located along the parkway, Doughton Park offers several different campgrounds to enjoy.
Doughton Park Campground
Near the Parkway, at the top of the ridge, Doughton Park Campground is easy to access, but also in the thick of nature. This campground is a great stop for drivers who are either towing an RV or looking to pitch a tent for a night.
There are 25 RV sites and at least three times as many tent sites in the park’s main campground. These camping spots can be reserved up to 6 months in advance.
The campground has drinking water, flush toilet blocks located within each loop, and trash disposal. Individual sites have a lantern post, fire rings with a grill, and picnic table.
There is even a campfire circle where rangers will give talks during peak summer season.
Basin Cove Primitive Campground
For those with action and adventure on the agenda, Doughton also has a primitive campground to accommodate long hiking routes.
Located at a central spot within the park that’s accessible only on foot, the Basin Cove Primitive Campground is true backcountry camping.
Though it requires an NPS permit to pitch a tent, the campground offers no frills for staying the night. There are 8 tent sites.
Groups are restricted in size to 18. Fires are only allowed within designated fire rings, only downed and dead wood can be burned, and trash must be carried out of the site.
Human waste needs to be buried, and food and other scented items need to be bear-proofed at night.
OTHER BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY LODGING OPTIONS
Of course, it isn’t necessary to stay overnight at Doughton Park in order to visit it.
Should the campground be too full or seem too rustic for your taste, there are numerous options nearby.
Within 20 miles, you’ll find additional campgrounds at North Carolina State Parks, lovely cabins for rent, and even fancy accommodations with fine dining.
Should the Doughton Park Campground be full, there are several other campgrounds at awesome State Parks in the area.
You’ll also find several privately-owned campgrounds that will have signs advertising their presence along the Parkway.
Doughton Hall Bed & Breakfast
If camping at Doughton Park doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, perhaps Doughton Hall B&B– located 11 miles away in Laurel Springs, NC– will be more your speed.
Just two miles off the Parkway, the National Historic Home of Robert L. Doughton now rents rooms.
There are four bedrooms with queen beds, a stream and pond, and a healthy country breakfast in the morning.
Glade Valley Bed and Breakfast
Located 12 miles away from Doughton Park, Glade Valley Bed and Breakfast takes all the roughness out of “roughing it.”
With the feel of a log cabin constructed by first-rate carpenters, this lodge-like experience comes with satellite TV, viewing decks (both private and shared), and possibly a jacuzzi and fireplace.
There is a hand-hewn cabin, much like those historic ones at the park, available on the premises as well. Rooms come with a serious country breakfast (a local source of pride).
Harmony Hill Bed and Breakfast
A rather posh option, Harmony Hill has Victorian-style accommodations with country club grandeur.
The house was built in 1890, but it was renovated in the 1990s, maintaining the original ambience but updating the luxury.
Guests here even get access to fine dining at the nearby High Meadows Country Club (on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) and Old Beau Country Club (on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday). –by Jonathon Engels, photos by Emma Gallagher unless otherwise noted