After completing Shenandoah’s Skyline Drive, it only made sense that we continued south down into North Carolina for a Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. Who wouldn’t want to check out the Great Smoky Mountains with their own eyes?! Like the Skyline, there are many places to pull over for hikes and viewpoints. Unlike the Skyline, they’re not as well marked, so keep an eye out!
One of the many beautiful stops on our Blue Ridge Parkway road trip!
All photos in this article taken by David M Gallo Photography. This page contains affiliate links, meaning that The Five Foot Traveler may receive a small commission when you purchase any flights or accommodations using the links in this article at no extra cost to you. I appreciate your continued support!
Where is the Blue Ridge Parkway?
The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles long, crossing from Virginia to North Carolina; it connects Shenandoah with the Great Smoky Mountains. The parkway hugs the southern and central Appalachians, which is one of the many reasons why a Blue Ridge Parkway is an absolute must.
Get ready for views like this!
The largest cities to bear in mind on your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip are:
- Asheville, North Carolina
- Boone, North Carolina
- Roanoke, Virginia
- Knoxville, Tennessee
These will be your best options when it comes to finding flights to/from the Blue Ridge Parkway too. Check out your best flight options here.
And, of course, with this being a road trip, you will need a rental car if you don’t have your own vehicle! Get the best rates on rental cars here.
Blue Ridge Parkway Campsites and Lodges
There are many options when it comes to Blue Ridge Parkway campsites. We chose to stay at Fort Wilderness Campground, and it was incredibly comfortable. It’s a quiet campground (with strong WiFi!) in an extremely convenient location. The staff was as friendly as could be, and even went out of their way to deliver me a package.
Blue Ridge Parkway Campsites
Of course, there are plenty of Blue Ridge Parkway lodges and hotels, if camping isn’t your thing. You’ll find an array of budget and luxury accommodations – something to suit everyone. Have a look at your options for the Blue Ridge Parkway lodges here.
Blue Ridge Parkway Lodges
Things to do on your Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip
While I could get lost for weeks in these mountains, here were some of my favorite things to do on our Blue Ridge Parkway road trip.
1. Elk Knob
Begin this hike early because, if you don’t, you will find yourself on quite a crowded trail. As David and I had known about this prior, we set off around 7am and had the entire trail to ourselves. Elk Knob offers stunning views of the surrounding mountain range, and is an absolute must if you’re driving through North Carolina. It’s a 1.9 mile summit, with a steep 1 mile descent down the old carriage road. While the carriage road isn’t very well maintained, it will shave off quite a bit of time on your descent.
Fantastic overlook from the Elk Knob summit
2. Linville Falls
It’s funny, I had no desire to see yet another waterfall at this point in our road trip, and yet I’m so happy that we stopped for Linville Falls — they were absolutely stunning! It’s only a 1.7 mile route and suitable for people of all ages. Due to this, the falls are extremely crowded. If you’re doing your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip to check out foliage (as we were), Linville cannot be missed, as the autumnal colors go beautifully with the waterfalls. Get ready for some gorgeous views!
I told you Linville Falls was breathtaking!
3. Craggy Gardens Viewpoint
Along the route, there are many (poorly marked) hikes and Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks. While we were relatively unimpressed with the viewpoints compared to those of Shenandoah National Park, we did really enjoy the Craggy Gardens viewpoint and I definitely think it’s worth a stop.
Worthwhile Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks
4. Oconaluftee Indian Village
If you’re in North Carolina, it’s worth heading to Cherokee for a day to check out their Indian Village that will take you back in time to the 1760s in an authentic way.
A local Cherokee showcases the weaving process
5. Clingmans Dome
There was quite the traffic backup leading to the dome..and quite a lot of fog. We didn't go up to the Dome the first day because there was zero visibility, but the second day we saw what it was all about as we had a beautiful, clear day. The short climb to Clingmans Dome was far steeper than I had expected since it’s a paved hike for anyone, but it was worth it. At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the third highest point east of the Mississippi. The summit of Clingmans Dome offers stunning 360 degree views of the Smokies and all of the surrounding areas.
Clingmans Dome – Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip
Blue Ridge Parkway Maps
There are many different entrances to Great Smoky National Park, so I recommend having a few Blue Ridge Parkway maps handy. I’ve mapped below my favorite things to do on a Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. Should you have any questions, please feel free to leave them below!
Asheville, North Carolina
Boone, North Carolina
Fort Wilderness Campground
Craggy Gardens Viewpoint
Oconaluftee Indian Village
Know Before You Go!
Packing For Your Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip
Now that you have your Blue Ridge Parkway maps on hand and have read about some of my favorite hikes and overlooks, make sure you’re prepared! If you’re camping, ensure you have a reliable tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, camping pillow, and a warm coat at absolute minimum, especially if you stay at an Acadia campground. All of the gear I linked to, I own and recommend personally. Of course, there are many more things that I recommend packing for your trip though, and I highly recommend that you check out my “137 Travel Essentials” to pack for your trip to the Great Smoky Mountains.
The Best Travel Card
Before you leave for your next trip, I highly recommend opening a free Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account. I know that might sound a bit overwhelming, but don’t worry, you don’t need to be an investor to open an account! This provides you with your own Schwab Bank Visa Platinum Debit Card, which offers a ton of benefits both at home and overseas. I’ve been using a Charles Schwab Debit Card since 2011, and it’s honestly the best free travel card out there because you can withdraw from any ATM around the world, and Charles Schwab will reimburse you any ATM fees! They also don’t charge foreign transaction fees either, which is, of course, important when you travel. It is worth noting there there is no minimum balance requirement and that they offer free online transfers between accounts (so it’s totally fine if you have another credit card, debit card, or bank account with another company). Open your Charles Schwab account today – FOR FREE – by following this link.
Purchase Travel Insurance for your Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip
I hope you don’t embark without travel insurance! If you do, you better think again. Travel insurance is arguably the most important thing to have on hand (after your passports and visas) for a trip like this. I’ve had to use my travel insurance multiple times on the road, even though I’m healthy. You never know when something might happen; take comfort in knowing that whether your flight gets cancelled or you wind up sick and in the hospital, you will be covered. I recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance for each and every one of you travelers. You can get a free quote here.