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Blue Ridge Parkway

The first road in the world designed for leisure travel, this 469-mile scenic highway hugs Jackson County’s northwest border.

Passing through 29 counties and 180 miles of national forest, Blue Ridge Parkway is a year-round sight to behold—from spring’s showy wildflowers and summer’s bounty of berries to fall’s fiery foliage and winter’s icy splendor. The ride-awhile, stop-awhile adventure offers panoramic views of Jackson County and numerous day-hiking opportunities.

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The 470-mile linear parkway, of which Jackson County borders some 45 miles, connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with Western North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Construction began in 1935 at Cumberland Knob near the NC/VA state line; the final link was finished 52 years later when the Linn Cove Viaduct opened in 1987.

The parkway is open year-round except when closed to vehicle traffic due to inclement weather. Click here for live road closure information.

There are plenty of Jackson County overlooks worth a stop on the Parkway, starting with the Richland Balsam Overlook (Mile 431.4), the highest point at 6,047 feet above sea level. Other Jackson County overlooks worth a stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway include:

Mile 427.6: Bear Pen Gap. While there’s not much of a view, visitors can take a 2.5-mile round trip hike to scenic Wet Camp Gap, a high-elevation grassy area with long-range views. It’s perfect for camping and berry-picking.

Mile 428.0: Caney Fork Overlook. Beautiful views of mountains in the valley below. Elevation: 5,650 feet.

Mile 430.7: Cowee Overlook. This overlook is renowned for its spectacular sunset views. This scenic vista offers sweeping panoramas of the Smoky Mountains, where the sun sets in a mesmerizing display of colors, making it a cherished spot for photographers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Mile 443.1: Balsam Gap. Parkway Entrance: At the US 74-23 Crossover. East 7 mi. to Waynesville, west 12 mi. to Sylva.

Mile 451.2: Waterrock Knob Parking Overlook. Has a visitor information center, and comfort station. The overlook offers a four-state view including a fine panorama of the Great Smoky Mountains. A short trail, with pedestrian overlooks, leads to the top of the knob.

Mile 455.7: Soco Gap. Parkway Entrance: At the US 19 Crossover. 12 miles west to Cherokee, 5 miles east to Maggie Valley.

As one of America’s most scenic drives, the Parkway transforms into a vibrant tapestry of flora each year, offering a spectacular show of nature’s beauty. From delicate wildflowers to lush rhododendrons, each turn along this iconic route reveals a new burst of color and life. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a photographer, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, the blooming seasons along our stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway promise an unforgettable experience. Below, you’ll find a handy guide to the approximate peak bloom dates in our area, ensuring you don’t miss the splendor of these natural wonders.

March – June:

  Buttercups (Ranunculus hispidus)

  Wild Strawberry (Frugaria virginiana)

  Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

  Carolina Rhododendron (Rhododendron minus)

  Pinkshell (Rhododendron vaseyi)

  Red Berried Elder (Sambucus pubens)

  Flame Azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum)

  Fire Pink (Silene virginica)

April – May:

  Pinxter Flower (Rhododendron nudiflorum)

  Hobblebush (Viburnum alnifolium) – Also fruit in August

  Large Flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

April – Frost: 

  Heal All (Prunella vuloaris)

May – June: 

  Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

May – July: 

  Galax (Galax aphylla)

June – July: 

  White Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum)

June – August: 

  Turkscap Lily (Lilium superbum)

Click here to view/download the hiking trail map.

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