(Fall)ing for the Blue Ridge Parkway: The Carolina Edition
One of the Carolina’s most prized possessions? The Blue Ridge Mountains. Whether you are on foot or riding with the windows down, these mountains are breathtaking. Due to their magnificent beauty, one trip will never be enough to capture it all. Take it from the locals, we have been a hundred times and we still can’t get enough! According to Blue Ridge Outdoors, there are 10 iconic drives and roadside hikes that need to be on your radar for this area.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a whopping 470 miles long stretching from Virginia to North Carolina. Even though the parkway doesn’t quite reach our beloved state of South Carolina, it’s only a short one and a half hour drive from Greenville (which is well worth it if you ask us). The base of the Blue Ridge Mountains does, however, extend itself into our state. In fact, our office sits at the base of them! Most of our clients build in this area and it is no wonder why they are so fond of it.
Roan Mountain is easily accessible from both Tennessee and North Carolina. The drive up the mountain climbs up into Roan Highlands and at 5,500 feet, crosses over Carver’s Gap. Due to this elevation change, visitors are wise to bring some extra clothing. Even in the middle of summer, these elevations can easily be 20 degrees cooler than where you began your journey. The best part about Roan Mountain? It is maintained year round. So, no matter what the weather, this is the perfect, scenic drive. From treeless balds to mountain vistas, Roan Mountain will not disappoint. Hikers can soak in views of the distant Grandfather Mountain and Mount Mitchell and they wander along Grassy Ridge Bald Trail. It is easy to see why Roan Mountain State Park was named the 2016 Park of the Year.
As visitors drive along this scenic byway, they can expect views of farms and art districts surrounded by untouched wilderness and lakes. This drive is 60 miles long and gives a wonderful tour of western North Carolina. While it can be driven in a day, you will definitely want to spend more time here. There are several multisport adventure stops to be made along the way. From Nantahala Outdoor Center, Santeelah Lake, and Fontana Lake, it will be hard to leave (or easy to come back)! On foot, hikers can walk beneath the region’s old-growth trees at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. A lot of the trees in this area over 400 years old and stand over 100 feet! Can you imagine being here when the trees are changing color? (Now that I think about it, I might have to call in “sick” tomorrow).
Yet another scenic byway, Mount Mitchell is perhaps one of the most loved spots on the parkway. With open roads and a few quiet mountain towns, this drive is sure to clear your head. The peak of Mount Mitchell reaches an incredible 6,683 feet, which is the highest peak east of the Mississippi. If you dare, the summit trail hike, 5.5 miles in distance, ascends about 3,500 to the top. However, we can guarantee that the top will make it all worthwhile.
Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway
Last but not least, are the Cherokee Foothills. This area was once used by the resident Cherokee Indians and early fur traders. Now, these country roads are used by many and make the perfect weekend drive easily attainable. Highway 11 is where you can find this beautiful area complete with some of South Carolina’s Upstate favorites. In addition, Highway 11 is also home to the Gabriel Builders Headquarters, and various Cliffs Communities properties.
Lake Jocassee, Table Rock, Keowee-Toxaway, and Lake Hartwell are all located on this stretch. Since this part of the Blue Ridge Mountains is easily accessible, we do recommend coming on a weekday. Table Rock can get quite busy on the weekends. I guess people love this area as much as we do! Caesars Head and Jones Gap are just a short drive up the highway from Table Rock so there are plenty of options for your next adventure on Highway 11!
Wherever you end up, this is the perfect season to explore. Fall foilage will be at its peak in the Carolinas in just a couple of weeks and last until early November. Visit the Carolinas today and you’ll see why our team and clients are so in love with these breathtaking areas.