Much of the beauty of living in Asheville is the city’s amazing accessibility to the Blue Ridge Parkway. With the famed Virginia-to-North Carolina scenic highway – America’s longest linear park at 469 miles – winding along mere minutes from Asheville’s city center, it’s easy to jump on the parkway – whether it’s an impromptu afternoon hike you’re after, or an all-day trek – and still be able to cap the day with dinner downtown. Following, a few favorites to check out:
Mount Mitchell Summit and Balsam Nature Trail
This short hike is 31 miles from Asheville along the parkway. A shady balsam-fir forest shrouds the paths to the top of Mount Mitchell, the tallest peak east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet.
Mount Pisgah Trail
You can be to this moderately challenging trail from Asheville in 40 minutes. Hike through lush green forest to reach the tower-capped summit, which offers 360-degree long-range views.
Craggy Gardens Trail
In season, blooming rhododendron and blueberries line the trail to the grassy mountaintop of Craggy Gardens, 19 miles from Asheville along the parkway. Even when not in bloom, the trail, framed in ghostly gnarled branches, still draws hikers to its surreal beauty.
Graveyard Fields Trail
One of the parkway’s most popular hikes, Graveyard Fields offers waterfalls, gorgeous views, and wild blueberries and blackberries for picking – all just 34 miles from Asheville.
Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain Loop
A 5-mile loop takes you over two summits, affording amazing views from trails that cut through the grassy balds of Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain.
This trail – a mere 21 minutes from Asheville – winds through the remains of an early 1900s estate, with parts of a barn foundation, lodge, spring house, pool and outbuildings still standing for hikers to explore.
Visitor Center Loop
An easy, smooth hike, the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center loop offers the perfect terrain for youngsters or those not wanting to venture too far into the woods or too far away from the parking area.
And when the parkway is closed…
This trail, accessible at the end of Town Mountain Road in Craven Gap, is 15 minutes from downtown Asheville, but feels worlds away. It’s proximity to the city, easy hiking, and beautiful backdrop make it a popular spot for locals and visitors alike – including President Obama and wife Michelle, who hiked the trail during a 2010 visit to the area.
Folk Art Center Trail to Bull Mountain
A popular, well-maintained spot located just outside the city limits, the Folk Art Center Trail winds along the Mountains to Sea Trail, a rolling path interspersed with short steep climbs. Begin or end your hike with a stop into the Folk Art Center.
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