Pisgah National Forest is a huge park and many of the top trails and sights are spread out. It’s a good idea to plot out where they are along the parkway so you save yourself time. In Part 1 we’ll cover the hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway that are South West of Asheville in a linear fashion, starting at 40 minutes from downtown.
+Mount Pisgah Trail, mile marker 407
To be the namesake mountain of a national forest, you better be a pretty great trail. Pisgah delivers. It is a very popular trail indeed, so in the lower lot there is actually a restaurant, restroom, campground, and store. The trail begins in the way back of the upper lot. The hike is 3 miles RT, an out and back which gains 700 foot gain. The trail is rocky and moderately strenuous, but the blossoming rhododendron, mountain laurel, and flame azalea were great distractions.
Before I knew it I summited the mountain and discovered that a big ole’ transmission tower was up there, too. Try to block that out because BAM – those are some seriously sensational views.
+Frying Pan Tower, mile marker 409
The old dirt road up the hill isn’t very exciting, but what’s at the top is.
A 1.5 RT out and back trail with a 350 foot gain to a 70 foot fire tower.
Ignore the communication towers next door and climb on up. Spy Looking Glass Rock in the distance.
Views are unparalleled.
+Skinny Dip Falls, Looking Glass Rock Overlook mile marker 417
A stop at this overlook should be at the top of everyone’s list when driving the parkway. Looking Glass Rock is exceptionally incredible, a pluton (great mass of molten rock hardened under the earths surface) formed by underground volcanic activity.
After viewing, take a walk to the falls. There is no indication of them, it would feel like a great secret if there weren’t so many other people to share it with! It is a very popular hike and swimming hole. Be cautious as you cross the busy street, on the other side you will find a marker for the Mountains to Sea Trail. Follow the clearly trodden path ½ mile until you spot the falls.
At a closer look there are many different levels,
and pools to observe.
The water is so clear, and one section is six feet deep, more than enough for a good dunk. Keep your eyes peeled for marvelous snails!
+Graveyard Field Loop, mile marker 418
It’s great when you wow even before you get out of the car, stunning foggy mountains and rhododendron.
Diverse and ever changing, this exciting hike is a very popular choice. There is a great big parking lot and restroom. Note the trail map before you head out. Graveyard Fields Loop is 1.3 miles roundtrip. It has lovely boardwalks and paths through fields and forests.
As you reach the Yellowstone Prong notice its plentiful cascades. There is a spur which brings to Second Falls .3 RT, a sight you would not like to miss.
It is a great spot to cool down on a hot day. Add on Upper Falls an additional 1.6 RT spur with more elevation gain, less populated do to the extra effort. It is a bit more strenuous, but having the narrow chute to yourself is an added bonus.
Look out for resident juncos along the way.
+Devils Courthouse, mile marker 422
You can see your destination from the parking lot, the rock outcropping on top of a lush speckled mountain side.
Walk along the side of the road and then enter the woods shaded woods which were filled with rhododendron.
The trail is one mile round trip, an out and back which is paved for most of the way and gains 250 feet. It is very popular and due to its short length family friendly. Views from the top are truly breathtaking.
There are plaques to help you identify prominent peaks in the sea of green. Be extra careful to stay on the trail, resident Peregrine Falcons nest in the area and you wouldn’t want to disturb them.
+Richland Balsam Mountain, Haywood Jackson Overlook mile marker 431
The highest peak on the Blue Ridge Parkway is a easy 1.5 lollipop loop that gains 700 feet. It is different from other hikes along the parkway, the trail is dark on account of the dense spruces – which also make it smell delicious.
The summit offers no views,
but completing the loop you will snag a pretty shot.
I had this trail and big parking lot all to myself, it does not seem to be a popular hike which can be a nice thing in such a busy park. Be sure to stop by the highest elevation point on the parkway, less than a mile away.