Meandering 469-miles through Virginia and North Carolina, from the Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway snakes though some the East Coast’s most stunning scenery. For the last 40-miles—the loftiest stretch of the wilderness-shrouded thoroughfare—the parkway coils around the high peaks of Jackson County in western North Carolina, showcasing everything from wildflower-flecked Appalachian balds to dense evergreen forests to soaring, cloud-swirled summits. The options along the iconic roadway are abundant, but here are a handful of highlights along the parkway’s highest stretch.
Jackson County, North Carolina, features a varied landscape is a veritable buffet for backpackers. Nestled at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, overlaid by the Plott Balsam and Great Balsam mountains, and loaded with strings of soaring 6,000-foot peaks (sixers) amid a massive expanses of forest—the trip options are almost endless. Jackson County’s diversity of trails provides something for backpacking enthusiasts of all stripes, from gear gurus to altitude-immune peak-seekers to cautious car campers striking out into the backcountry for the very first time. So load up the pack, seek out the starry-skied campsites of Jackson County, and spend some time exploring western North Carolina’s wildest spaces.