Winding, twisting, curving and carving through the landscape, the Blue Ridge Parkway travels some of western North Carolina’s most scenic terrain. This 469-mile, all-American road meanders through Asheville, offering access to some exceptional high-elevation views from the overlooks peppered along its path.

But if you’ve only experienced the Parkway for the drive, you’re missing out: scattered along the parkway, trailheads lead to some seriously great hiking and running trails. Grab a hike or trail run to rushing waterfalls, through rolling forest, to lofty summits with see-forever views, and through grassy meadows filled with endless wildflowers and wild berries in the summertime months. Thanks to its already-high elevation, most Blue Ridge Parkway hikes don’t have to venture far – making many of these hikes beginner-hiker-friendly.

The Parkway follows a lofty ridge for much of its drive. Elevations along the road are often much cooler than nearby Asheville, so pack a jacket, even in summertime, and dress in layers to stay comfortable on your hike. And before you go, check the official Blue Ridge Parkway website for road closures, especially in snowy winter months.

Grab your hiking boots (or running shoes), hit the Parkway and get ready for an adventure – and enjoy the spectacular drive to the trailhead, too.

Deep Gap Trail to Mount Craig

Hike the two tallest peaks east of the Mississippi River on the Deep Gap Trail at Mount Mitchell State Park, catching stunning high-altitude views along a ridgeline from Mount Mitchell to Mount Craig and Big Tom Mountain.

Craggy Gardens Trail

It’s a can’t-miss hike just north of Asheville: hike the Craggy Gardens Trail through a beautifully surreal, gnarled forest of rhododendron and blueberries to an idyllic, grassy mountaintop.

Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain Loop

Climb two summits, hike five miles and catch many epic views. This loop hike is one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most scenic, trailing over the grassy bald mountaintops of Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain.

Shining Rock Mountain via the Art Loeb Trail

Hike the Art Loeb Trail from Black Balsam Knob, rolling elevation over grassy, wildflower-covered balds into the Shining Rock Wilderness. The final destination: the summit of Shining Rock, which offers stunning views from enormous, white quartz boulders and rock outcrops.

Linville Gorge: hiking the Plunge Basin Trail

Hike this just-off-Parkway trail to up-close views of the Linville Falls waterfall, trekking to the Plunge Basin Overlook and the floor of Linville Gorge.

Mount Mitchell Summit and Balsam Nature Trail

Hike a two-trail duo to the summit of Mount Mitchell, the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, and through a gorgeous, shady forest filled with sweet-scented balsam fir.

Graveyard Ridge and Graveyard Fields Loop

Hike a loop at Graveyard Fields, one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most popular hiking destinations, to ridgeline views, two waterfalls and through fields of wildflowers, wild blueberries and blackberries.

Craggy Gardens: Hiking the Craggy Pinnacle Trail

Our favorite Craggy Gardens hike climbs to gorgeous 360-degree views on the Craggy Pinnacle Trail, hiking through a mossy, lush, green forest of gnarly-branched rhododendron.

Art Loeb Trail to Black Balsam Knob

It’s one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s best: hike the Art Loeb Trail to the sun-drenched, grassy summit of Black Balsam Knob, climbing through a forest of sweet-scented black balsam fir.

Linville Falls Trail

Hike to exceptional views of some of the best waterfalls near Asheville, trekking to three overlooks with views of upper and lower Linville Falls and some beautiful views into Linville Gorge.

Sam Knob Trail

Hike the Sam Knob Trail to some exceptional summit views, trekking through a wide, open meadow filled with wildflowers, from a trailhead off the Parkway near Black Balsam Knob.

Skinny Dip Falls Trail

Hike to a popular summertime swimming hole south of Asheville, where a multi-tiered waterfall spills into deep, crystal-clear pools in a beautiful, shady cove at Skinny Dip Falls.

Mt Pisgah Trail

It’s a moderately difficult climb, but the views are well worth the effort: hike to the Mount Pisgah summit south of Asheville to catch some stunning long-range views.

Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail

Just south of Mount Pisgah, the Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail summits a mountain and climbs a historic steel fire tower, catching some stunning 360-degree panoramas.

Devil’s Courthouse Trail

It’s a short climb from the Blue Ridge Parkway, but so worth the effort. Hike to the towering, jagged Devil’s Courthouse summit through a beautiful high-elevation forest to catch some stunning summit views from the top.

Graveyard Fields Trail

Two waterfalls, beautiful views from the trailhead and miles and miles of rolling terrain filled with wild blueberries and blackberries: it’s no wonder that the Graveyard Fields Trail is one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most popular hikes.

Written by Eric Champlin for Asheville Trails and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Asheville Trails

Intro

Art Loeb was a man who “deeply loved these mountains.” If you travel to the highest point on the trail bearing his namesake you will see a weathered plaque commemorating these words. On a clear day, from this high point, you will also see picturesque, long-range Appalachian views in all directions. The 30.1 mile trail takes you through the wonders of the Pisgah National Forest before traversing the iconic crest of the Great Balsam Mountains to the crown jewel of the Shining Rock Wilderness. Easy access to both end points, multiple campsites, two shelters, plentiful water and epic views make the Art Loeb a must do on the life list of all Appalachian hikers.

What Makes It Great

This acclaimed trail connects the Davidson River Campground in Brevard to Camp Daniel Boone in Haywood County, NC. The Pisgah National Forest divides the Art Loeb Trail into four sections. The trail’s southern terminus can be found off of highway 276 on the Davidson River Campground Access Road. The first section of trail begins here and takes you to Gloucester Gap. Highlights along this section of trail include an up close view of Cedar Rock and a shelter at Butter Gap. 

From Gloucester Gap hikers begin their climb upwards towards the crest of the Pisgah Ledge. If you are a glutton for punishment you will enjoy every steep step up Pilot Mountain. Eventually you will reach the top and a grand reward, paid with awe-inspiring views, lies on the narrow summit ridge of Pilot Mountain. After you descend the backside of Pilot rest your weary legs and quench your thirst at the Deep Gap shelter. The trail continues upwards, crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway, and ascends a series of steep switchbacks to finally gain the ridge line, and briefly merge with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Once atop the ridge line, a traverse along a pathway cut through a coniferous forest, which lines the airy edge of the Pisgah Ledge, leads hikers to Black Balsam Knob.

Section 3, the reward for your massive uphill climb, starts here. A majestic chain of Appalachian Balds reveals itself atop the summit of Black Balsam. Your next 5 miles of trail will take you up and over a string of lush peaks with panoramic views in every direction. If you goal is a through hike we recommend a campsite within this section of trail. Chances are you will be rewarded with a heavenly sunrise or sunset, and a close up view of starry skies. Shining Rock stands tall and shimmering at the end of the this string of Balds. Quartzite cliffs on Shining Rock’s summit allow some incredibly fun scrambles onto exposed sections with long range views. Shining Rock gap has access to water and rhododendron-canopied camp sites perfect for tents and hammocks.  From Shining Rock the trail crosses a section known as “The Narrows” on its way to Deep Gap, another aptly named, Deep Gap in the ridge line. At Deep Gap a spur trail on your right leads to the summit of Cold Mountain, made famous by a book of the same name. 

The fourth section of trail (3.8 miles) descends steadily along the flanks of Cold Mountain towards the Camp Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp and the northern terminus of The Art Loeb trail. Trailhead information and parking for a shuttle vehicle are available here as well as a lovely creek to cool off in after a completed thru hike.

Who is Going to Love It

Whether you are practicing for a longer trail or rekindling your love for backpacking The Art Loeb Trail is the perfect choice for a 3-4 day trip. Both trailheads are easily accessible and the Blue Ridge Parkway bisects the trail making for easy shuttle and resupply opportunities.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From the trail website: “Starting at the Davidson River near the Davidson River Campground, near Brevard, NC, Section 1 of the trail climbs Shut-In Ridge and travels generally west-southwest.”

Written by Steven Reinhold for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Steven Reinhold