Quick. What's America's longest "linear park"?
Answer: The Blue Ridge Parkway. Stretching from Skyline Drive, in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park, to U.S. Route 441 near Cherokee, North Carolina, this breathtaking National Parkway extends 469 gorgeous miles. For most of that way, it runs over the spine of the Blue Ridge, part of the Appalachian Mountain range. And, mile after mile, it offers dramatic views and historical sites galore.
No wonder it's one of the most popular scenic roadways in America. (With low speed limits and limited access, it's also one of the most pleasant to drive.)
Best of all, the Parkway is easily accessible from the Gatlinburg area – just a little more than an hour away via U.S. 441. So, while you're vacationing near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, why not take a day trip to the Blue Ridge? Here are just a few of the fun things you'll find once you get there.
Cherokee Lore and More at Mile 469
At the gateway to the North Carolina Blue Ridge, you'll enter the Qualla Boundary, home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. And, in the heart of it all, you'll find the charming town of Cherokee. Here you can shop for authentic, handcrafted Cherokee artworks – everything from baskets and pottery to carvings, weavings, weaponry, and more. Plus, you can hike fabled trails, view spectacular waterfalls, maybe even spot a few elk.
Before you leave, be sure to stop at Oconaluftee Indian Village for a fascinating look at Cherokee life circa 1760. And don't forget to visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian for a vivid, interactive tour of 11,000 years of Native American history.
Waterrock Knob at Mile 451.2
Located less than 18 miles from Milepost 469, Waterrock Knob is the 13th highest mountain in the Eastern United States. From the Visitors' Center at Milepost 451.2, you can hike the moderate 0.6-mile trail, a 400-foot grade, to the mountain's fir-topped summit, over 6,000 feet above sea level. (The trail's first quarter mile is even paved for your convenience.) At trail's end, you'll have a stunning panoramic view of Maggie Valley and the Great Smoky Mountains. On a clear day, you can see for 50 miles!
Richland Balsam at Mile 431
Ready to hit the heights? Visit Richland Balsam, the Parkway's highest peak, towering 6,410 feet above sea level. Here you can hike a self-guided trail through a gorgeous evergreen forest, one of only 10 spruce-fir stands in the Southern Appalachians. The fragrant scents of red spruce and balsam fir will evoke all the magic of Christmas!
And All This Is Just the Beginning
If you've got some time to spare, you can venture farther along the Parkway to view:
Book Your Mountain Vacation Today
Contact Volunteer Cabin Rentals to reserve your Tennessee Smokies getaway (with easy access to the Blue Ridge Parkway). Choose from a wide range of comfortable cabins in the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area. Rentals fill fast, so book now!.