Randy Johnson is the author of several books about Western North Carolina, including Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway ($19.95; Falcon) and Best Easy Day Hikes Blue Ridge Parkway ($9.95; Falcon). We asked him to list his favorite BRP spots for hiking.
Milepost 5.8 (Humpback Rocks, in Virginia). Its a really great hike to one of the most spectacular views on the northern part of the parkway. Whats neat is that youre overlooking the complete pastoral scene of the Shenandoah Valley. To the east, youre seeing the Virginia Piedmont. The view is dramatic, and the actual Blue Ridge Mountains are a thin green stripe between the checkerboard of fields and farms.
Milepost 86 (Sharp Top, in Virginia). The Peaks of Otter is a special area, with Sharp Top one of the most conical mountains in the Blue Ridge. In summer, if you dont feel like climbing it, theres a bus you can take to the top on a little mountain road. Or, climb to the top and take the bus down. This is a steep hike, but families do it. Its not too difficult.
Milepost 305-302 (Tanawha Trail). This is the Grandfather Mountain section, from Beacon Heights all the way past the Linn Cove Viaduct to Rough Ridge. The Tanawha Trail along that area is one of the most spectacular hikes in North Carolina. Some of the best views are just a short stroll away from the parkway, if you dont want to hike the whole thing.
Milepost 339.5 (Crabtree Falls). Its a 2 1/2-mile loop hike moderately strenuous, but rewarding. Crabtree is probably the most beautiful waterfall on the parkway. A lot of people like Linville Falls, which is nice, but I think Crabtree Falls is superior (especially after spring rain).
Milepost 469 (Cherokee). Its where the parkway ends, at U.S. 441, the Newfound Gap Road. One of my favorite trails Oconaluftee River Trail is there. This great hike starts in the streets of Cherokee and goes all the way to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Its a flat, easy trail; walk it or take a mountain bike. The trail goes along the river and is beautiful. One of the neatest things on it is a series of beautiful plaques painted by Cherokee artists that describe the Cherokee legends and beliefs. The words on them are written in English and Cherokee. Where the trail ends, at the visitor center, is the Mountain Farm Museum, which has a spectacular collection of log cabins and farm buildings.
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