Looking for an amazing Blue Ridge Parkway 3 day itinerary from Asheville? Well, you’re in for a treat. With scenic overlooks, waterfalls, hikes, and fantastic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, deciding what to see and do along the Blue Ridge Parkway can be a little overwhelming. But fear not! However, you choose to spend your time on your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip, trust us when we say it’s hard to have a bad time in the Blue Ridge Mountains!
When planning our trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains, we decided to use Asheville as our home base. We took day trips on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville, driving anywhere from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours. Along the way, we got to see some of the best sights and overlooks on the North Carolina side of the Parkway. So, let’s get to this Blue Ridge Parkway itinerary, shall we?
Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip Planning
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What Is The Blue Ridge Parkway?
The Blue Ridge Parkway is not only an iconic American road trip, but it’s also America’s longest linear park. The famous parkway runs for 469.1 miles from Virginia through North Carolina.
Originally known as the Appalachian Scenic Highway, the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best ways to explore the Appalachia region. From the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains to flowing waterfalls, viewpoint hikes, and beautiful National Forests, the Blue Ridge Parkway truly needs to be on everyone’s road trip list.
Oh, and you won’t find any overbearing billboards crowding natural views. Instead, you’ll find a road that weaves alongside mountains, through valleys, and past 200 overlooks offering unbeatable views of Virginia and North Carolina. To put it plainly, the Blue Ridge Parkway is magnificent.
Where Does the Blue Ridge Parkway Begin and End?
The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches from Afton, Virginia (just outside of Shenandoah National Park) to Cherokee, North Carolina (just outside of Great Smokey Mountain National Park). Essentially, the Blue Ridge Parkway connects two of America’s most visited National Parks, Shenandoah and Great Smokey Mountains.
You can track where you are along the Blue Ridge Parkway, as every mile has a marker. You’ll find Mile Maker 0 starts in the North, in Afton, Virginia/Shenandoah National Park, and ends at mile marker 469.1 to the south in North Carolina just outside Great Smokey Mountain National Park.
How Many Days Do You Need To Drive The Blue Ridge Parkway?
Now, this answer all depends on what you want to see and do. If you want to take your time, stop at a lot of popular hikes, waterfalls, and overlooks, we recommend 5-7 days. If you’re just wanting to cruise in your car and stop occasionally, we reckon you could drive the whole Parkway in 3-4 days.
Really, it’s up to you, how you travel, and what you want to see along the way, but 4-7 days is a good amount of time to get you through the entire Parkway.
To give you an idea, we spent 3 days on the Blue Ridge Parkway, using Asheville as our home base, and only saw about 1/4 to 1/2 of it. But, we were traveling slow, and honestly had no plans to try and drive the whole thing. There is so much to see and do in certain areas of the Parkway, so plan accordingly!
Can You Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in One Day?
Well, you could, but you would be starting before dawn and finishing after dark. The Blue Ridge Parkway’s speed limit is 45mph and in some sections, drops to 25mph and 35mph. To get from Cherokee, NC to Afton, VA it would take you around 10 to 12 hours without stopping, and trust us, you’ll want to stop!
So while doable, we really advise against trying to squeeze Blue Ridge Parkway in one day. The Parkway is so beautiful, do what you can to make time to see her appropriately.
What Is The Best Time To Drive The Blue Ridge Parkway?
For us, it’s fall. Fall on the Blue Ridge Parkway is AMAZING. Think October to early November. While spring is also lovely, Fall is where it’s at (in our opinion). The air is brisk and to see the fall colors explode all along the Parkway and over the Blue Ridge Mountains is definitely something you won’t soon forget.
Summer can get crowded (schools out), so try to opt to visit and drive the Parkway before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.
TIP: Blue Ridge Parkway can have potential road closures throughout the year due to construction or weather. Prior to road-tripping on the Blue Ridge Parkway, take a look at the latest road closures so you can plan accordingly if needed.
Blue Ridge Parkway Itinerary From Asheville
DAY 1: Mount Mitchell, Crabtree Falls & Craggy Pinnacle
Alrighty, are you ready for day one of the Blue Ridge Parkway 3 day itinerary? You’ll be heading Northeast of Asheville along the Blue Ridge Parkway to reach your first stop of four, Crabtree Falls! This is the furthest stop of the day one itinerary stops.
TIP: When entering points of interest into your GPS, understand your navigation will more times than not, take you off the Blue Ridge Parkway to get you on the fastest route. Please pay attention to your Navigation Route to ensure your directions take you on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and not around it.
Stop 1: Hike To Crabtree Falls
Depending on where you are coming from in Asheville, getting to Crabtree Falls can take you anywhere from 1 hour to 1.5 hours+. While it’s a bit of a drive, you’ll be driving along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, so it’s well worth it! After all, isn’t driving the Blue Ridge Parkway why you came?!
Along the way feel free to stop at any overlook you wish. You’ll pass by quite a few!
So what’s so special about Crabtree Falls? It’s a gorgeous, cascading 60-ft waterfall nestled along a 2.5-mile loop trail through the woods. The trail is dog friendly and rated as moderate as some sections do have some incline. Once you arrive, you’ll park in the parking lot, and follow signs for the falls. You’ll descend 0.9 miles until you eventually find yourself standing on a wooden bridge staring straight at Crabtree Falls.
There are somewhat defined paths on either side of the fall allowing you to get up close to Crabtree Falls. You could easily spend a few hours at this location before heading to your next stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Tip: Crabtree Falls has a total of 81 tent sites/ RV sites if you are looking to camp. Fair warning, campgrounds along the Blue Ridge Parkway book out so you are strongly encouraged to make reservations well ahead of time.
NAVIGATION TIP: We ran into a snafu when getting to Crabtree Falls. There are apparently two Crabtree Falls on Google Maps. One of which takes you nowhere but the side of the road. The other takes you to Crabtree Falls. Make sure your GPS navigation is taking you to Crabtree Falls by Crabtree Campground. An interactive map is towards the end of this travel guide where you can see the correct Crabtree Fall location.
Stop 2: Explore Mount Mitchell
From Crabtree Falls, you’ll drive back the way you came on the Blue Ridge Parkway, for about 30-ish minutes, until you reach the summit of Mount Mitchell. Mount Mitchell is without a doubt one of the highlights of the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains!
At 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the tallest point not only in North Carolina, but it’s the tallest point east of the Mississippi River. And the best part? You can drive, for free, and get close to the summit of Mount Mitchell. Park in the parking lot and walk a short 1/4-mile on a paved, accessible trail to the observation deck where you’ll be greeted with 360-degree panoramic views (on a clear day).
Mount Mitchell is open year-round (except Christmas Day), however, the hours are seasonal. Please check the Mount Mitchell State Park website for the latest hours. It’s also worth mentioning that while the park is open, most services, including the museum, shop, and restaurant are only open from May through October.
Optional Add-On: Hike The Deep Gap Trail
The trailhead to one of the best hikes in the area is conveniently located just off the Mount Mitchel parking lot. The Deep Gap Trail is an 8.6-mile out-and-back trail that takes you to the summits of Mount Craig (second highest peak in the eastern United States), Big Tom, and Balsam Cone.
Now, the best part of this trail is since it’s an out-and-back hike, you can hike as long as you want! Meaning, you don’t have to do the full 8.6 miles. The closest of the peaks to Mount Mitchell is Mount Craig. At just over two miles, round trip, getting to Mount Craig from the parking lot of Mount Mitchell can easily be done.
Plan to pack some snacks and take in the views from Mount Crag or carry on to the neighboring peaks of Big Tom and Balsam Cone. And yes, this hike is dog friendly, so bring that pooch of yours along!
Stop 3: Stop at Graybeard Mountain View Overlook
The next stop Blue Ridge Parkway 3 day itinerary is one of our favorite overlooks, Graybeard Mountain View Overlook. And the best part, no hiking is required. Park in the lot and you’ll have exceptional eastern views of the valleys and layered Blue Ridge Mountains as far as the eye can see.
Graybeard Mountain Overlook sits at 5,592 feet in elevation, just north of Craggy Pinnacle, which is where you are going next!
Tip: If you can manage an early wake-up call, Graybeard Mountain View Overlook is a great overlook for sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway!
Stop 4: Watch the Sunset from Craggy Pinnacle
Plan to end your day by watching the sun fall behind the Blue Ridge Mountains! Once the sun starts to set, you’ll soon see why the Blue Ridge Mountains get their name. The way the lights and shadows cast, the mountains really do have a blue hue to them.
To get to Craggy Pinnacle, you’ll park your car in the parking lot and hike the .5 miles to the top. Once at the top, you’ll have 360-degree views of not only the Blue Ridge Parkway but the Blue Ridge Mountains, forests, and valleys below. It’s one of the best views in North Carolina!
This is a very popular location to watch the sunset along the Blue Ridge Parkway, so do your best to get here a little early to get a good spot! Oh, and bring a jacket as you’ll be at nearly 5900 feet in elevation, so once the sunsets, it can get chilly.
DAY 2: Asheville to Blowing Rock on The Blue Ridge Parkway
With day 1 wrapped, it’s time for day 2 of the Blue Ridge Parkway 3 day itinerary! Like day 1, you’ll be heading Northeast of Asheville along the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll take the same route as yesterday so if there is something you didn’t get to see, or you want to see again, the good news is that you’ll be driving right by it! Just be conscious of your time, as you’ll be going the furthest North on the Parkway today.
Stop 1: Take in the Views from Chestoa View Overlook
Before you get to Linville Falls, there is a great little viewpoint to check out. Chestoa View Overlook offers one of the best views on the Parkway! So if you feel like getting out and stretching your legs, this is a great viewpoint to do that at! From the parking lot, take a short .25-mile walk to the rock-walled viewing area.
Stop 2: Explore The Many Viewpoints of Linville Falls
Dropping 90 ft into the Linville Gorge, Linville Falls is arguably one of the most famous waterfalls along the Blue Ridge Parkway. A series of hiking trails take you to six overlooks, all giving you different vantage points of Linville Falls.
Both hiking trails begin at Linville Falls Visitor Center. Four viewpoints can be found along Erwins View Trail, while the fifth and sixth viewpoints can be found on the separate Plunge Basin Trail. Hiking both trails in a day is easily doable and should only take a few hours.
Linville Falls Trail 1 – Erwins View Trail
The trail crosses a bridge over the Linville River, following a wide gravel path through a forest until eventually, you reach a trail sign. To the left (0.5 miles) is the first overlook, Upper Falls and to the right, the other three overlooks – Chimney View (0.7 miles), Erwins View Overlook (0.9 miles), and Gorge View (0.8 miles).
Linville Falls Trail 2 – Plunge Basin Trail
Just before the breezeway of the Visitor Center, turn left and head up the short set of steps leading into the woods. You’ll hike through the woods until you reach a small trail intersection at a third of a mile. Go right for about .5 miles to reach a rocky scenic viewpoint that overlooks Linville Falls below. Retrace your steps back to the intersection and head the other way to descend to the gorge floor of Linville Falls
This trail is 1.8-miles (out-and-back trail) and when compared to Erwin’s Trail, it is the more challenging hike.
Tip: Linville Falls has 50 tent sites and 20 RV sites if you are looking to camp. Fair warning, this is the smallest and most popular campground in the area, so reservations are strongly encouraged to be made well ahead of time.
Stop 3: Experience The Beauty of Beacon Heights Overlook
After a few hours well spent exploring and hiking Linville Falls, it’s time to continue north on the Blue Ridge Parkway for 14 miles. You have Beacon Heights Overlook to experience! The overlook is a short one-mile round-trip hike through the woods from the parking area. Once you emerge from the woods, you’ll be greeted with expansive panoramic and beautiful views from a large weathered rock outcrop.
Take a seat on the rock outcrop and enjoy the views of Grandmother Mountain and Table Rock Mountain!
TIP: Plan to pack a lunch for day 2 and have it from the outcrop of Beacon Heights! The giant flat rock is a perfect place to eat your lunch and take in the amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Stop 4: Drive On Linn Cove Viaduct
One of the more iconic sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway is the Linn Cove Viaduct. The Linn Cove Viaduct is a 1,243 ft bridge that weaves and hugs the side of Grandfather Mountain offering picture-perfect views of the surrounding area.
The viaduct was the last section of the Parkway to be completed in 1987 and to this day remains one of the highlights of the area.
Linn Cove Viaduct Photo Spot
Now, if you want to get a photo of the beautiful Linn Code Viaduct, stopping smack dab in the road to get your photo just won’t do. Instead, opt to head to one of the below locations:
- As you’re driving, roll down the window, look behind you and snap away!
- Yonahlossee Overlook: There are no views from the overlook itself, but a short walk along the footpath (heading toward the Viaduct) will provide you with a nice view
- Hike the Tanawha Trail to an overlook that offers the best spot to photograph Linn Cove Viaduct
- See distant views of the viaduct from Rough Ridge Lookout
Stop 5: Hike To Rough Ridge Lookout
From Linn Cove Viaduct, you have a short 2-minute drive to the next overlook – Rough Ridge Lookout. Fair warning, this lookout is very popular so the parking lot can be quite full. Once parked, you’ll have a short jaunt to the lookout, a 1/3-mile uphill hike. Trust us, it’s well worth it!
At the top, you’ll be greeted with a boardwalk atop the rocky mountain. Continue onto the nearby large boulders where you can sit and take in the views of Grandfather Mountain and Linn Cove Viaduct. Rough Ridge Lookout has to be one of the best short-distance hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway! You definitely don’t want to miss this overlook.
Stop 6: Visit Blowing Rock
Your last stop of the day and it’s completely optional! There are two parts to this stop. Stop 1 is visiting The Blowing Rock. A 4,000 ft cliff that offers impressive views of the River Gorge below. What’s special about The Blowing Rock is it returns light objects cast over the void due to its sweeping winds. Visiting The Blowing Rock is not free, so an admission fee will need to be paid.
The second stop (what we did) is to head into the town of Blowing Rock to grab a snack and have a beer at Blowing Rock Brewery. After being in the car all day, it was nice to get out, walk around town and enjoy some good food at a restaurant.
As we said, this stop is completely optional so feel free to opt out and make your way back to your accommodation in Asheville once you leave Rough Ridge Lookout.
NOTE: From the town of Blowing Rock, you’re a little less than 2 hours away from Asheville. You can drive the route on the Blue Ridge Parkway you just came from, or take 1-40 to get you back to Asheville.
DAY 3: Hiking and Overlooks South of Asheville on The Blue Ridge Parkway
On the last day of the Blue Ridge Parkway 3 day itinerary, you’ll be heading South. From various hikes and overlooks, you’re in for a real treat!
Stop 1: Climb Up To Fryingpan Mountain Overlook
If you’re able to make it for sunrise (or close thereafter), you’ll be greeted with exceptional light to take millions of photos of the amazing views from the lookout. To get to Fryingpan Overlook, you’ll start your 1.5-miles (round trip!) hike at the dirt pull-off located on Forest Service Road 450. You’ll wander a short distance through woods until you reach the 70-ft lookout tower atop the already 5,340-ft. Fryingpan Mountain.
Built-in 1941, the lookout tower was constructed to watch for fires until the early 1990s. Today, it’s no longer used for fire patrol and hikers get to the panoramic views from the tower!
Stop 2: Get Up Close To Looking Glass Falls
Ok, full transparency. Looking Glass Falls is not on the Blue Ridge Parkway. However, it’s so close, we had to add it to the Blue Ridge Parkway 3 day itinerary. From Fryingpan Mountain Trailhead, Looking Glass Falls is around a 20-minute drive…in the opposite direction of your next few stops. So, if you feel like you’ve seen enough waterfalls at this point, feel free to skip it. Totally up to you!
At under a half-mile, round trip, you can easily access the 60 ft waterfall. There is a platter of stepping-stone-like rocks around the falls, allowing you to get up close for a better view. On hot days, you can wade and even swim in the waters of Looking Glass Falls. If you can make the time, this waterfall really is something to see!
Stop 3: Wander Through Graveyard Fields
From Looking Glass Falls, you’ll have a 30-minute drive to Graveyard Fields, one of the most popular hikes south of Asheville.
Getting its name from storm damage where violent winds toppled trees making them look like headstones in a graveyard, Graveyard Fields is anything but ugly. You can take a short 1/3-mile hike to Lower Falls or complete the 2.9-mile loop through a beautiful meadow to see Upper Falls.
Stop 4: Hike Black Balsam Knob
Arguably THE most popular hike south of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway is Black Balsam Knob. You’ll start off hiking through a collection of balsam fir trees until you eventually exit the forest coming to a ridgeline where you’ll hike over a grassy-covered 6,000 ft. mountain with 360-degree views.
Without a doubt, Black Balsam Knob is one of North Carolina’s most beautiful hikes.
Stop 5: Enjoy Picture Perfect Views From Devil’s Courthouse Overlook
The last stop on your Blue Ridge Parkway 3 day itinerary is a short and mostly paved trail, challenging half-mile climb to the top. Once at the top, you’ll be rewarded with vast panoramic mountain views of nearby peaks in the Pisgah National Forest, and vast views into South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee.
Blue Ridge Parkway 3 Day Itinerary Map
Each day is color coded so you get a sense of where you’ll be journeying to on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville. Use the + and – buttons to zoom in and out to explore the map!
Blue Ridge Parkway Stats & Helpful Information
- Miles: 469.1
- Created: Part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Blue Ridge Parkway’s construction began in 1935 and ended in 1987.
- Overlooks: There are a total of 200 overlooks, 68 in Virginia and 132 in North Carolina
- Entrance Fee: $0, there is no fee to enter and drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway
- Hours: Open all year, but some sections and sights can be closed due to snow or inclement weather
- Speed Limit: Mostly 45mph, but some sections can get down to 25mph
- Gas Stations: There are no gas stations on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but you can find Gas Stations in one of the many towns located just off the Parkway.
- Cell Phone Reception: For the most part, pretty good! But there are some areas where there is no reception so be sure to have maps, music, etc. downloaded in case offline use is needed.
- Restaurants: Pisgah Inn, the Bluffs Restaurant, and Peaks of Otter Lodge are a few restaurants found right on the Parkway. Other than that, you’ll want to pack a cooler with snacks or plan to stop in at one of the small towns located just off the Parkway to grab a bite to eat.
TIP: If traveling during colder months, be sure to check out road and facility closures so you know what to expect. Also, if you are planning to visit both Great Smokey Mountain National Park and Shenandoah National Park, consider getting a National Park Pass.
Is The Blue Ridge Parkway Pet Friendly?
Asheville is one of THE most dog-friendly cities we’ve ever been to and so is the Blue Ridge Parkway! With loads of pet-friendly trails, bringing your pup along with you during your Blue Ridge Parkway 3 day itinerary is a must! You’ll have loads of fun hiking to viewpoints and taking in the views from scenic roadside overlooks.
There are a lot of cars that fly by, so it’s mission-critical to keep that pup of yours safe on a 6ft leash and under your physical control at all times. Oh, and please pick up after them. No one wants to accidentally step in your pet’s mess 🙂
Tip: Make sure you pack appropriately for your dog. Bring a portable water bottle and food bowl and maybe one of their favorite toys so they are set up for the day!
Driving An RV on The Blue Ridge Parkway
You can 100% drive an RV along the Blue Ridge Parkway, some sections at least, but there are definitely things to know ahead of time. With the Parkway comes two-lane roads with steep climbs and descents, curves, and tunnels making it not the easiest of roads to conquer with your rig.
However, we definitely don’t want to deter you from your RV road trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but we do want to make you aware of some things so you are prepared.
Things To Know:
- Finding parking at trailheads and popular overlooks can be a problem for larger rigs.
- There are 26 curved tunnels of varying heights along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Be sure you know your RV’s height in comparison to the height of the tunnels to see if you can fit and pass through them. Some RVers avoid the section of the Parkway between Waynesville and Cherokee, NC, where the lowest tunnel heights are located.
- Tree branches can hang low over the roadways so be careful to not damage your rig.
- You’ll need to be mindful of sharing the road with cyclists and keeping an eye out for wildlife.
- There is no boondocking on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Sleeping in a vehicle overnight at a pull-off is not allowed. If you are wanting to camp, you’ll need to do so at one of the Parkway’s eight designated camping areas.
- Definitely use tow-haul mode to get you up and down those mountain grades
We have a 19 ft travel trailer camper and opted to leave it at our campsite in Asheville vs taking it with us on the Parkway. Why? It was just easier. We were able to maneuver with no issues and didn’t have any limitations with parking or worry if we were going to make it through a tunnel or not.
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)