The Blowing Rock, in southern Watauga County, proudly claims the distinction of being the first outdoor attraction in the Blue Ridge. A visit here is a nostalgic return to when such natural attractions were popular tourist destinations.
From Charlotte, Blowing Rock is about 90 miles. Plan on a two-hour drive, one way.
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The Blowing Rock has been called “The Crown of the Blue Ridge” with some justification. The compact attraction features short walking trails, a small garden and miniature waterfall, an observation platform, and a gift shop. The centerpiece, of course, is the legendary Blowing Rock, the much-photographed outcropping of jagged stone some 4,000 feet above sea level that overhangs the Johns River Gorge.
“Legendary” is the appropriate adjective: According to Indian lore, this was the place where a young Cherokee brave, in the throes of love, threw himself off the cliff. The prayers of his lover, a grief-stricken Chickasaw maiden, were answered when strong winds blew her handsome brave back to her.
That’s the way the legend goes. In truth, because of how the shape of the gorge affects the wind, lightweight objects that fall from the cliff can indeed be blown back. Ripley’s Believe It or Not once listed the Blowing Rock as a place where snow could actually be seen falling up!
That novel sight notwithstanding, the rock is a far more pleasant place to visit when the weather is fair. Even on warm summer days, the temperature at the Blowing Rock is comfortable, and visitors are almost guaranteed gentle breezes.
On clear days, the views are truly inspiring. The Blowing Rock offers majestic, panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and many of their most identifiable peaks – including Table Rock, Hawksbill, Grandfather Mountain, and Sugar Mountain, are easy to spot.
The nearby village of Blowing Rock has just about everything one might look for in a resort mountain town. The village has much to recommend it, starting with a wonderful mix of shops and restaurants.
The village offers outdoor juried arts and crafts shows one Saturday every month from May through October, other cultural events, and such outdoor recreational activities as horseback riding, canoeing, fishing and hiking. Area tourism info: www.blowingrock.com.