The Blue Ridge Parkway: Gateway To The Appalachians

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Spanning 469 miles across the crests of the Southern Appalachian Mountains is one of the most magnificent roads in the United States- The Blue Ridge Parkway. This landscape- the people, the places and the peaks holds a special place in our hearts, for a long time we called it home,  even after all theses years it still feels like going home wandering into these woods. There is nothing that I do not love about Western, NC- so attempting to be concise is going to be hard. Really, hard. But i’m going to try and keep this post short- or not long at least. Try.

This was one of those magical trips where planning and necessity met in the middle. We had already had plans in place to head West to see the leaves change and live the idyllic autumn life style for a weekend, sipping cider during a crips fall night next to a crackling campfire. It just so happened that, that same weekend Hurricane Matthew decided to bear down on the East Coast- with hurrication reservations already in place, we headed to the mountains.

There is an amazing amount of things do along the Blue Ridge Parkway. One of the best is to just drive- it is a parkway after all. This crazy cool drive can take days but whether you choose to do the whole thing or just bits and pieces you won’t be sorry. From the North headed South the Parkway begins as the Skyline Drive in Virginia taking you through the heart of Shenandoah National Park (check that one off the bucket list) and finishes in the Nantahala National Forest and Great Smoky Mountain National Park (double check). Two National Parks in one trip?  You’re welcome!!!!

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Price Park Loop Trail 

Sleep:

If you’re not park hopping and want a contained (can be done in a weekend trip) to enjoy this gorgeous parkway and tons and tons of its perks. Pack your bags and or your tent and head to Blowing Rock, NC. Ok so I might be partial- Blowing Rock was after all home for 4 years- but I really don’t think you can do a whole lot better this sleepy mountain town as your base camp for a weekend of adventure. If you’re a comfy bed, warm shower, kind of traveler both Blowing Rock and nearby Boone, NC (home to Appalachian State University- Go Mountaineers!) Offer a TON of accommodations. A comprehensive list of area hotels can be found here.

If you’re looking to embrace your wild side and get primitive. Camping can be found throughout the area, but if you want to be right on the parkway, Julian Price Park Campground (located at mile marker 297.1) is the place to be. In this case, primitive equals sites for tents, vans and large RV’s but no water, or electric hook-ups. Flush toilets are available, but no shower folks. Bring the baby wipes, seriously they’ll save your life!

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Julian Price Park Campground

  • Travelers Tip: Sites book-up quickly on weekends during the fall, make advance reservations online here. Sites A09-A27 are right on the lake, Site 44 doesn’t have lake views is but great for vans, and gives you a bit of extra space and privacy if you have dogs or kids who need the extra room to stretch their legs!

Eat:

 If you’re camping it’s a given that cooking for yourself is the way to go! With a little thought and some creativity there is a veritable plethora of foods you can make cooked right over a hot campfire or using some of these nifty camping stoves .

But…

If you’re looking for a hearty meal, that is guaranteed to make your tummy smile here is a quick list of our local favorites and why!

img_9992   Lost Province Brewery In Boone

In Blowing Rock-

  1. Woodlands BBQ- You guessed it! They sell BBQ, good damn BBQ! NC style with a tasty vinegar sauce cooked over a wood smoker! Live, music and local regulars make this a fantastic place to grab a hearty plate of happiness!
  1. Canyons- Typical bar food, great atmosphere, but what makes this place stand out is the view. Get a window or deck table ( if the weather is nice) enjoy a seat high above a cliff looking out on all the beauty that is the Blue Ridge/ Appalachian Mountains. Canyons is the best, for so, so many reasons!

In Boone –

  1. Melanie’s Food Fantasy– This place makes the greatest breakfast ever. I literally dream about their “potato madness” with a feta cheese and topped with a fried egg. Eat here; you’ll be glad you did.
  1. Lost Province Brewery– This one was new to us, and is a relative new addition to Boone. It’s cool to finally have a micro brew right in the heart of downtown. The food was rocking! Wood-fired mac and cheese with bacon, and hushpuppies the size of my fist (the pizza’s looked pretty amazing too-but we didn’t get to taste one this visit…) tasty local beer is an added bonus for this place!
  1. Stick Boy Bread Co.- Not a lunch and or dinner place, BUT if you want awesome coffee, tasty pastries, and or some amazing bread, stop into Stick Boy and get a cream cheese cinnamon roll. You won’t be sorry!

 

Play:

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Edge Of A Dream- Shipwreck

Aside from insane mountain vistas around every bend, The Blue Ridge Parkway offers an endless supply of hiking trails, climbing routes, bouldering areas, and wildlife for the adventure-minded explorer. The short list of awesome trails and places to visit is below with links. All of these are within an hour drive of Julian Price Park (keep in mind the max 45 MPH speed limit- everything takes a teeny bit longer to get to than you’d think).

  1. Price Park Lake Trail– At 2.7 miles long, this trail can easily be accessed from the Price Park campground, and follows a level loop around the lake. Great for an early morning trail run, a pre-dinner hike, or a family adventure. In the summer the boathouse nearby rents out canoes for on the water adventures.
  1. Grandfather Mountain (Forest Gump ran up this timeless mountain- if it’s good enough for Forest, well …) This massive mountain hosts a bold variety of opportunity for explorations! For more on our most recent trip to this most epic of mountains, give this a click!
  1. Rough Ridge Trail (Mile Marker 302.8) I almost didn’t add this one to the list, and here’s why. The Rough Ridge & Tanawah Trail Area are classified as a G1 Biosphere Reserve. In un-scientific terms, this means that they contain very delicate and specific plant life many of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world, and are endangered. People should want to protect the environment, but don’t always stick with the plan. If you go, STAY ON THE TRAIL, leave your dog at home or in an air conditioned and or heated vehicle (season dependent), read the sign at the trail head for additional instructions, and simply don’t be an asshole. The Earth for the moment is our only planet, lets be kind to Terra Firma. If you do go- you’ll be so glad you did, all in all it’s a very short hike up for amazing views of the Linville Gorge below- go early and catch a sunrise, bring coffee, a blanket, and a snuggle buddy to share it with. It’s a happy place.
  1. Linville Caverns & Falls– Roaring waterfalls, and an ancient cave system, can add up to a pretty sweet day. While neither of these sites are located ON the Parkway, I promise they are worth spending sometime off of the main vein, in order to explore! Linville Falls is located in the heart of the Pisgah National Forest.  There is a small $8.00 fee  for the caverns, but with it you get a guided tour and a very cool experience. More info on the caves, and about the Linville area visit here.
  1. Price Park Loop Trail– This 5 mile loop is awesome, and is less than a 5-minute drive from both Blowing Rock and or the Price Park Campground. It’s beautiful, follows through rhododendron tunnels, past giant boulders, and rushing creeks. The relative small changes in elevations along the trail make this a super user-friendly path. If you want to make it more challenging run the trail- but don’t forget to stop every once in awhile just to enjoy where you are!
  1. Holloway Mountain Road Crag– If you’re a climber, and want access to a nice top-rope location with routes varying from 5.4 to 5.13 this is the place. Its kind of a locals only place, and can get crowded fast on a nice day- bring a hammock for downtime, and be willing to move routes once you’re finished up on one. For more beta on “Holloway” and how to get to this secret spot visit the Mountain Project.

Never been up a wall? Want to try out rock climbing? Contact Rock Dimensions, in Boone for a guided trip, led by a certified professional.

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  1. Blowing Rock Boulders– Located just off of the Parkway, on Highway 221 -parking is at a small rest stop and the trail head is just next to it. This roughly half-mile hike in is worth it. Yes. Yes, it is. If you’re into bouldering this is place for you with a ton of options to choose from, lots of local climbers can always be found there – but not too many to make it feel crowded. It’s just plain awesome. Don’t forget your crash pads, boys and girls, broken bones ruin a good day.
  1. Shiprock– Some local climbers may disagree with me ( sorry guys) but this is one of my favorite climbs along the Parkway. The views alone are worth the efforts to get to the top. Shiprock has routes for everyone are between 5.6 through 5.12 B some top ropeable, some lead only. The bible for this area is Selected Climbs North Carolina, if you need a good NC Climbing Guide book, this is the winner!  And alllllllll that is just within a few short and condensed miles on and around the Parkway. Imagine how much fun you could have if you drove the whole thing!

Short post? Maybe not- didn’t I promise to try? Well I did, try to keep it contained, that’s gotta count for something, right ?! The truth is The Blue Ridge Parkway just has SO much to offer everyone that it’s hard to keep it concise! As with all places, sometimes you just have to go to really know- so go. Please go. And let us know what you think! We hope it becomes as special to you as it is to us!

Have a favorite spot on the Parkway? Are we missing something? Let us know!! Tell us YOUR tales in the comments section!

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