America's Favorite Drive
Blue Ridge Parkway
During your visit to Haywood County, be sure to take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway
, which meanders 469 miles from
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. In 2010, the Blue Ridge Parkway celebrates its 75th anniversary, making it the perfect year to visit and experience. With a 46-mile stretch of "America's Favorite Drive" located here, opportunities to take in spectacular scenery abound. Stop at some (or all) of the 20 overlooks—including Cold Mountain and the highest point on the entire Parkway—for unmatched vistas of the Southern Appalachian mountain range.
The Blue Ridge Parkway
(open year-round, weather permitting) can be accessed from four locations in Haywood County: U.S. 276 at Wagon Gap Road; N.C. 215 at Mount Hardy Gap; U.S. 23/74 at Balsam Gap; U.S. 19 at Soco Gap. There is no fee for using the Parkway. Check out a Map
of the Southern portion of the Parkway.
Before heading to the Parkway, it would be a good idea to check the current road conditions and/or closures (regardless of the time of year). Call the park information line at 828-298-0398 or check online for current closures
The posted speed limit on much of the Parkway is 45 mph, though lower in some spots. Slow-moving traffic should use overlooks and other pull-offs to allow faster vehicles to pass safely. Stay alert for cyclists, tight curves, wildlife, and sudden changes in weather conditions.
The two most popular times of year to travel the Haywood County section of the Blue Ridge Parkway are June, when flame azalea, mountain laurel and catawba rhododendron typically bloom at higher elevations, and
October, when leaves set the mountains ablaze as they change from their summer green to a spectacular spectrum of fall colors.
You'll find many reasons to pull over along this 46-mile stretch of Parkway. View Cold Mountain
(made famous by Charles Frazier's award-winning and best-selling historical novel
and its film
adaptation starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger) at milepost 412. Looking Glass Rock
, known for its striking granite face, is visable from the overlook at milepost 417 (as well as various other points on the Parkway). At milepost 418.8, explore Graveyard Fields, where a short downhill hike (partly paved) leads to one of three waterfalls. A popular hiking destination, Graveyard Fields morphs into a wild blueberry patch in late summer and fall, so bring your buckets. Pull into the parking area at milepost 422.4 for a view of Devil's Courthouse
(according to Cherokee folklore, the devil holds court in a cave on the mountain). A walk to the bare rock summit is worth every step. The highest point on the entire Parkway, 6,053 feet at Richland Balsam overlook, is located at milepost 431. Waterrock Knob
, at milepost 451.2, offers a panorama of the Great Smokies; there's also a visitor center here, along with a trail and exhibits.
Learn more about the Blue Ridge Parkway's 75th anniversary
in 2010. Explore "America's Favorite Drive" via these loop tours