Travel

Author selects some favorite views

Randy Johnson's best-selling Blue Ridge Parkway books - "Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway" and "Best Easy Day Hikes Blue Ridge Parkway"- are updated for 2010. Johnson ( www.randy johnsonbooks.com ) is also author of "Hiking North Carolina" and "Best Easy Day Hikes Great Smoky Mountains National Park." Here are his picks for best vistas along the BRP:

RAVEN'S ROOST: "It's hard to beat the views from Raven's Roost Overlook at Milepost 10.7 in Virginia. The patchwork Shenandoah Valley stretches north and south above verdant ridges. Ravens soar above, doing aerial stunts on windy days."

SHARP TOP: "Tackle this famously pointed Virginia peak (Milepost 85.9) the easy way. A modestly priced bus ride whisks you up - then hike the 1.5-mile trail down and impress the folks in the parking lot (and yourself, even if you're not in great shape)."

DEVIL'S GARDEN OVERLOOK: "At Milepost 235.7, just north of Doughton Park, pull into Devil's Garden Overlook. The rocky domes of Stone Mountain State Park's namesake summit lie just below and Pilot Mountain's distinctive plug pops up on the horizon, often above morning clouds."

THUNDER HILL OVERLOOK: "Pull off at Milepost 290.4 near Blowing Rock and marvel at the dramatic drop from this perch atop the Blue Ridge. Better yet, walk across the road and take the short path up the grassy hill to a commanding vista."

MOUNT MITCHELL : "The East's highest peak is a must-see - especially its spiraling summit tower. (Milepost 355). Try the Balsam Nature Trail for an aromatic stroll through Canadian-zone forest."

HAYWOOD-JACKSON OVERLOOK: "For clear, high-altitude stargazing, pick a crisp autumn night and take in the cosmos. At Milepost 431, just 22 feet shy of the highest point on the parkway, daytime visitors can trace the overlook's skyline left-to-right from Cold Mountain, to Mount Pisgah, the white-quartz summit of Shining Rock, and on to Devil's Courthouse."

UPSTAIRS AT CONE MANOR: "You haven't appreciated the scenic beauty of Blowing Rock's Cone Park until you've looked out at it through Moses Cone's bedroom window. The upstairs at Cone Manor House (Milepost 294) is now accessible on weekends at set times via ranger-led tours. Register in advance at the Parkway Craft Center on the main floor."

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