The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway and All-American Road in the United States, noted for its scenic beauty. The parkway, which is America's longest linear park, runs for 469 miles (755 km) through 29 Virginia and North Carolina counties, linking Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It runs mostly along the spine of the Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. Its southern terminus is at U.S. 441 on the boundary between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina, from which it travels north to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The roadway continues through Shenandoah as Skyline Drive, a similar scenic road which is managed by a different National Park Service unit. Both Skyline Drive and the Virginia portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway are part of Virginia State Route 48, though this designation is not signed.
The parkway has been the most visited unit of the National Park System every year since 1946 except three (1949, 2013, and 2016). Land on either side of the road is owned and maintained by the National Park Service, and in many places parkway land is bordered by United States Forest Service property. The parkway was on North Carolina's version of the America the Beautiful quarter in 2015.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway route map
|Maintained by NPS|
|Length||469 mi (755 km)|
|Existed||June 30, 1936–present|
|Blue Ridge Parkway|
|North end||US 250 in Rockfish Gap, VA|
|South end||US 441 in Swain County, NC|
|States||Virginia, North Carolina|
National Scenic Byway
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
The parkway near Grandfather Mountain
|Location||North Carolina & Virginia, USA|
|Nearest city||Asheville, NC & Roanoke, VA|
|Area||93,390 acres (377.9 km2)|
|Established||June 30, 1936|
|Visitors||16,093,765 (in 2017)|
|Governing body||National Park Service|
Begun during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the project was originally called the Appalachian Scenic Highway. Most construction was carried out by private contractors under federal contracts under an authorization by Harold L. Ickes in his role as federal public works administrator. Work began on September 11, 1935, near Cumberland Knob in North Carolina; construction in Virginia began the following February. On June 30, 1936, Congress formally authorized the project as the Blue Ridge Parkway and placed it under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Some work was carried out by various New Deal public works agencies. The Works Progress Administration did some roadway construction. Crews from the Emergency Relief Administration carried out landscape work and development of parkway recreation areas. Personnel from four Civilian Conservation Corps camps worked on roadside cleanup, roadside plantings, grading slopes, and improving adjacent fields and forest lands. During World War II, the CCC crews were replaced by conscientious objectors in the Civilian Public Service program.
The parkway's construction created jobs in the region, but also displaced many residents and created new rules and regulations for landowners, including requirements related to how farmers could transport crops. Residents could no longer build on their lands without permission, or develop land except for agricultural use. They were not permitted to use the parkway for any commercial travel but were required to transport equipment and materials on side roads.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians were also affected by the parkway, which was built through their lands. From 1935 to 1940, they resisted giving up the right-of-way through the Qualla Boundary, and they were successful in gaining more favorable terms from the U.S. government. Specifically, the revised bill "specified the parkway route, assured the $40,000 payment for the tribe's land, and required the state to build [a] regular highway through the Soco Valley". (The highway referred to is part of U.S. Route 19.) Cherokee leaders participated in the dedications when the Cherokee sections opened in the 1950s.
Construction of the parkway was complete by the end of 1966 with one notable exception. The 7.7-mile (12.4 km) stretch including the Linn Cove Viaduct around Grandfather Mountain did not open until 1987. The project took over 52 years to complete.
The bridge above Interstate 26 is set to be replaced in a widening project for that interstate which will begin in September of 2019. The new bridge will be built just to the south of the existing bridge, so there are no foreseeable closures associated with the bridge replacement.
Flowering shrubs and wildflowers dominate the parkway in the spring, including rhododendrons and dogwoods, moving from valleys to mountains as the cold weather retreats. Smaller annuals and perennials such as the daisy and aster flower through the summer. Brilliant autumn foliage occurs later in September on the mountaintops, descending to the valleys by later in October. Often in early-to-middle October and middle to late April, all three seasons can be seen simply by looking down from the cold and windy parkway to the green and warm valleys below. October is especially dramatic, as the colored leaves stand out boldly and occur mostly at the same time, unlike the flowers.
Major trees include oak, hickory, and tulip tree at lower elevations and buckeye and ash in the middle, turning into conifers such as fir and spruce at the highest elevations on the parkway. Trees near ridges, peaks, and passes (often called gaps or notches) are often distorted and even contorted by the wind, and persistent rime ice is deposited by passing clouds in the winter.
The Blue Ridge Parkway tunnels were constructed through the rock—one in Virginia and 25 in North Carolina. Sections of the parkway near the tunnels are often closed in winter. Because groundwater drips from above with freezing temperatures and a lack of sunlight, ice often accumulates inside these locations despite above-freezing temperatures in the surrounding areas. The highest point on the parkway (south of Waynesville, near Mount Pisgah in North Carolina) is 6,053 feet (1,845 m) above sea level on Richland Balsam at milepost 431 and is often closed from November to April because of inclement weather such as snow, fog, and even freezing fog from low clouds. The parkway is carried across streams, railway ravines and cross roads by 168 bridges and six viaducts.
The parkway runs from the southern terminus of Shenandoah National Park's Skyline Drive in Virginia at Rockfish Gap to U.S. Route 441 (US 441) at Oconaluftee in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, North Carolina. There is no fee for using the parkway; however, commercial vehicles are prohibited without approval from the Park Service Headquarters, near Asheville, North Carolina. The roadway is not maintained in the winter, and sections which pass over especially high elevations and through tunnels are often impassable and therefore closed from late fall through early spring. Weather is extremely variable in the mountains, so conditions and closures often change rapidly. The speed limit is never higher than 45 mph (72 km/h) and lower in some sections.
The parkway uses short side roads to connect to other highways, and there are no direct interchanges with Interstate Highways,[a] making it possible to enjoy wildlife and other scenery without stopping for cross-traffic. Mileposts along the parkway start at zero at the northeast end in Virginia and count to 469 at the southern end in North Carolina. The mileposts can be found on the right-hand side of the road while traveling southbound on the parkway. Major towns and cities along the way include Waynesboro, Roanoke, and Galax in Virginia; and in North Carolina, Boone and Asheville, where it runs across the property of the Biltmore Estate. The Blue Ridge Music Center (also part of the park) is located in Galax, and Mount Mitchell (the highest point in eastern North America) is only accessible via a state highway (NC 128) from the parkway at milepost 355.4.
It is not unusual for small sections of the parkway to be temporarily closed to repair damage caused by the cold winter climate of the mountains or for other maintenance. Detours caused by these closures are well marked and are arranged to cause as little disruption as possible, though maintenance such as repaving only warrants a stop/slow switch with a one-lane-only restriction.
Due to serious damage in 2004 from Hurricane Frances, then again by Hurricane Ivan, many areas along the parkway were closed until the spring of 2005, with two areas that were not fully repaired until the spring of 2006.
|Virginia||Augusta||Rockfish Gap||0.00||0.00||US 250 to I-64 – Charlottesville, Waynesboro, Shenandoah National Park||One-quadrant interchange plus connector road; northern terminus of parkway; I-64 exit 99|
|Reids Gap||13.7||22.0||SR 664 (Beech Grove Road / Reeds Gap Road) – Waynesboro|
|Nelson||||16.0||25.7||SR 814 (Campbells Mountain Road) to SR 56||Unpaved road|
|||16.1||25.9||SR 814 (Love Road) – Sherando Lake|
|Tye River Gap||27.1||43.6||SR 56 – Montebello, Steele's Tavern||One-quadrant interchange|
|Rockbridge||Humphreys Gap||45.5||73.2||US 60 – Buena Vista, Amherst||One-quadrant interchange|
|Amherst||Otter Creek||61.3||98.7||SR 130 – Natural Bridge, Lynchburg||One-quadrant interchange|
|Bedford||||63.9||102.8||US 501 – Big Island, Glasgow||One-quadrant interchange|
|Peaks of Otter||85.9||138.2||SR 43 south – Bedford||North end of SR 43 overlap; north end of VDOT maintenance of SR 43 (southern segment)|
|Botetourt||Powell Gap||89.0||143.2||SR 618 north|
|Bearwallow Gap||90.9||146.3||SR 43 north – Buchanan||Two-quadrant interchange; south end of SR 43 overlap; south end of VDOT maintenance of SR 43 (northern segment)|
|||105.9||170.4||US 460 (US 221) – Bedford, Roanoke||Two-quadrant interchange|
|Roanoke||||112.3||180.7||SR 24 – Stewartsville, Vinton, Roanoke, Booker T. Washington National Monument||Two-quadrant interchange|
|||115.2||185.4||Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center, Virginia's Explore Park (Roanoke River Parkway)|
|||120.5||193.9||Mill Mountain Park & Zoo, Historic Roanoke Star, Downtown Roanoke (Mill Mountain Parkway)|
|||121.4||195.4||US 220 – Rocky Mount, Roanoke||Two-quadrant interchange|
|Adney Gap||136.0||218.9||US 221||Connector road|
|Floyd||||159.3||256.4||SR 860 (Shooting Creek Road)||Former SR 109|
|Tuggle Gap||165.1||265.7||SR 8 – Floyd, Stuart||One-quadrant interchange|
|||174.0||280.0||SR 799 (Conner Grove Road)||former SR 102 north|
|||174.1||280.2||SR 758 (Woodberry Road)||former SR 102 south|
|||174.2||280.3||SR 758 (Buffalo Mountain Road)|
|Patrick||Meadows of Dan||177.7||286.0||US 58 (via US 58 Bus.) – Stuart, Hillsville||Parkway and US 58 grade-separated; two-quadrant interchange with US 58 Bus.|
|Willis Gap||192.1||309.2||SR 771 (Willis Gap Road)|
|Carroll||||199.0||320.3||SR 608 (Lightning Ridge Road)|
|||199.2||320.6||SR 608 (Ranger Road)|
|Fancy Gap||199.4||320.9||US 52 to I-77 – Mt. Airy, Hillsville||Two-quadrant interchange|
|Grayson||Low Gap||215.7||347.1||SR 89 – Mt. Airy, Galax||One-quadrant interchange|
|North Carolina||Alleghany||||217.2||349.5||NC 18 – Sparta, Mt. Airy||One-quadrant interchange|
|||229.6||369.5||US 21 – Roaring Gap, Sparta||Two-quadrant interchange|
|||248.0||399.1||NC 18 – North Wilkesboro, Laurel Springs||One-quadrant interchange|
|Ashe||Miller Gap||258.7||416.3||Trading Post Road – Glendale Springs|
|Horse Gap||261.2||420.4||NC 16 – North Wilkesboro, West Jefferson||Two-quadrant interchange|
|Watauga||Deep Gap||276.5||445.0||US 421 – Boone, Wilkesboro, North Wilkesboro||One-quadrant interchange|
|||280.9||452.1||Old US 421||Connector road|
|||290.8||468.0||Green Hill Road|
|||291.9||469.8||US 221 / US 321 – Blowing Rock, Boone||Two-quadrant interchange|
|Avery||||294.6||474.1||US 221 – Linville, Grandfather Mountain||One-quadrant interchange|
|||312.1||502.3||NC 181 – Pineola, Morganton||One-quadrant interchange|
|||316.4||509.2||Linville Falls Road – Linville Falls|
|||317.5||511.0||US 221 – Linville Falls Community||One-quadrant interchange|
|Mitchell||Gillespie Gap||330.8||532.4||NC 226 – Spruce Pine, Marion||One-quadrant interchange|
|||333.9||537.4||NC 226A – Little Switzerland||One-quadrant interchange/connector road hybrid|
|Yancey||Buck Creek Gap||344.1||553.8||NC 80 – Marion, Burnsville||One-quadrant interchange|
|Black Mountain Gap||355.4||572.0||NC 128 – Mount Mitchell State Park|
|Buncombe||Bull Gap||375.7||604.6||Elk Mountain Scenic Highway – Weaverville||To Vance Birthplace|
|Craven Gap||377.4||607.4||NC 694 south (Town Mountain Road)|
|Asheville||382.6||615.7||US 70 (Tunnel Road) – Black Mountain, Asheville||Two-quadrant interchange|
|||384.8||619.3||US 74A to I-40 / I-240 – Asheville||Two-quadrant interchange|
|||388.8||625.7||US 25 – Hendersonville, Asheville, NC Arboretum||Two-quadrant interchange|
|||393.6||633.4||NC 191 to I-26 – Asheville, Hendersonville||One-quadrant interchange|
|Henderson||Elk Pasture Gap||405.6||652.7||NC 151 north – Candler|
|Haywood||Wagon Road Gap||411.8||662.7||US 276 – Brevard, Waynesville||One-quadrant interchange|
|Transylvania||Beech Gap||423.3||681.2||NC 215||One-quadrant interchange|
|Haywood||Balsam Gap||443.5||713.7||US 74 / US 23 – Waynesville, Sylva||One-quadrant interchange|
|Soco Gap||455.7||733.4||US 19 (Soco Road) – Cherokee, Maggie Valley||Two-quadrant interchange|
|Jackson||Wolf Laurel Gap||458.2||737.4||Balsam Mountain, Black Camp Gap, Masonic Marker (Heintooga Ridge Road)|
|Swain||Ravensford||469.1||754.9||US 441 – Cherokee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg||Southern terminus of parkway|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi|
Blue Ridge Parkway tunnels consist of a total of 26 vehicle tunnels constructed along the 469 miles (755 km) of the Blue Ridge Parkway. One, the Bluff Mountain Tunnel, is in Virginia and twenty-five are in North Carolina.The design standards specified a minimum impact on the land. The vehicle tunnels were often constructed to reduce excessive landscape scarring that open cuts would have produced. They are used in areas of steep terrain where ridges run perpendicular to the roadway alignment.
North Carolina's more rugged terrain required the majority of the tunnels. Most of the work on the tunnel digging was done by hand and provided by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Little machinery was used with the intention of creating manual labor in depressed economic times. They did have for tunneling truck-mounted water-cooled compressed air drills called "Jumbos." After the initial holes were drilled into the substrata, dynamite was used for blasting away the rock.Concrete lining was done during construction due to tunnel cave-ins. This concrete lining was first used in the Devil's Courthouse Tunnel. It was later discovered that it enhanced the interior lighting within the tunnel itself. Where done the lining covered about a quarter of the interior structure. An additional benefit was the elimination of moisture entering the tunnel. Moisture in the winter caused ice problems.The Pine Mountain Tunnel is the longest on the Parkway at 1,434 feet (437 m). Ferrin Knob Tunnel #1 is the first and longest of the triplet tunnels. The local people once referred to ferns as "ferrins." Ferrin Knob Tunnel #2 is located at milepost 401.3 and Ferrin Knob Tunnel #3 is located at milepost 401.5.
The distinctive stone masonry portals now on the parkway tunnels were generally not part of the original construction of the 1930s. They were added later.Carl Ray Russell
Carl "Ray" Russell (born March 22, 1957) is a member of the North Carolina General Assembly representing the State's 93rd House district (comprising Watauga and Ashe Counties). He has taught at Appalachian State University since 1991, first in the Mathematics department and later in the Computer Science department. Self-taught in meteorology, Russell founded the popular regional weather website, Ray's Weather Center (RaysWeather.com). In 2016, Russell ran the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway to raise money for the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.Crabtree Falls (North Carolina)
Crabtree Falls is a waterfall located near the boundary of McDowell County and Yancey County, North Carolina.Devil's Courthouse
Devil's Courthouse is a mountain in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina in the United States of America. The mountain is located at the Western edge of the Pisgah National Forest about 10 miles (16 kilometers) northwest of Brevard and 28 miles (45 kilometers) southwest of Asheville. Located at milepost 422.4 (kilometer 679.8 km) of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Devil's Courthouse has a moderate/strenuous trail climbing a half mile to its peak where panoramic views can be seen.Doughton Park
Doughton Park (Doughton Recreational Area) is the largest recreation area the National Park Service manages on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is located between mile markers 238.5 - 244.7 and at 36° 30' 59.0394" N, -81° 8' 40.92" W. The park is named after North Carolina politician Robert L. Doughton.Fire Scale Mountain
Fire Scale Mountain is a mountain in the North Carolina High Country, near the community of Deep Gap. The majority of the mountain is within the Blue Ridge Parkway. Its elevation reaches 3,845 feet (1,172 m).
Split along the Eastern Continental Divide, it generates feeder streams to both the South Fork New River (via Gap Creek) and Yadkin River (via Stony Fork). Ivy Point Ridge juts out southeasterly from the mountain, which is used by US 421 to transition from the Foothills to the Mountains. Deep Gap is a natural gap adjacent to the mountain; it provides both the name of the nearby community and the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and US 421.Grandfather Mountain
Grandfather Mountain is a mountain, a non-profit attraction, and a North Carolina state park
near Linville, North Carolina. At 5,946 feet (1,812 m), it is the highest peak on the eastern escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains, one of the major chains of the Appalachian Mountains. The Blue Ridge Parkway passes by the south side of the mountain and also passes over the nearby Grandmother Gap. It is located at the meeting point of Avery, Caldwell (highest point), and Watauga (highest point) counties.Grandmother Mountain (North Carolina)
Grandmother Mountain is a mountain in the North Carolina High Country, near the community of Linville. It is wholly in the Pisgah National Forest and next to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Its elevation reaches 4,603 feet (1,403 m). The mountain generates feeder streams for the Linville River.
On top of Grandmother Mountain is the WUNE-DT tower, broadcasting the University of North Carolina Public Television (UNC-TV/PBS) on channel 17.Great Craggy Mountains
The Great Craggy Mountains, commonly called the Craggies, are a mountain range in western North Carolina, United States. They are a subrange of the Blue Ridge Mountains and encompass an area of approx. 194 sq mi (503 km²). They are situated in Buncombe County, North Carolina, 14 miles northeast of Asheville. The Black Mountains lie to the northeast, across the upper Cane River valley.
The Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the crest for most of the way between Asheville and Mount Mitchell. Craggy Gardens, an area of 16 km, is covered with purple Catawba rhododendrons in mid-June. The parkway through the area was closed from late 2012 through early 2013 due to subsidence caused by heavy rains, and had to be closed again during summer 2013 due to a reoccurrence of the same issues. Access to Mount Mitchell was only from the north or via detour from the south.Humpback Rock
Humpback Rock is a massive greenstone outcropping near the peak of Humpback Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Augusta County and Nelson County, Virginia, United States, with a summit elevation of 3,080 feet (940 m). The rock formation is so named for the visual effect of a "hump" it creates on the western face of the mountain.
Located six miles (10 km) south of the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesboro, Virginia, Humpback Rock stands out from many other mountain summits in the Blue Ridge due to its exposed rocky summit, in contrast to the heavily vegetated peaks of surrounding mountains. The location features a well-maintained trail and visitor's center.Julian Price Memorial Park
Julian Price Memorial Park is a park of 4,200 acres (17 km2) at the foot of Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, named in honor of Julian Price. It is at milepost 297 on the Blue Ridge Parkway and directly adjacent to the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park. Together these parks comprise the largest developed area set aside for public recreation on the Parkway. The park is managed by the National Park Service which received the lands from the Jefferson Pilot Standard Life Insurance Company shortly after Price's death when they received it through his will. The grounds are also known for the fact that the nation's largest National Lumberjack Association rally is held here annually.Moses H. Cone Memorial Park
The Moses H. Cone Memorial Park is a country estate in honor of Moses H. Cone in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. It is on the Blue Ridge Parkway between mileposts 292 and 295 with access at milepost 294. Most locals call it Cone Park. The park is run by the National Park Service and is open to the public. It contains 3,500 acres (14 km2), a 16-acre (65,000 m2) trout lake, a 22-acre (89,000 m2) bass lake, and 25 miles (40 km) of carriage trails for hiking and horses. The main feature of the park is a twenty-three room 13,000-square-foot (1,200 m2) mansion called Flat Top Manor built around the early 1900s. At the manor, there is a craft shop and demonstration center, along with an information desk and book store.
The activities in the park are walking, hiking, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding. More people use the park for hiking and horseback riding than any other activity. There is also fishing available at the two nearby fishing lakes. Many people also do amateur and professional photography, especially in the autumn. The park is open year-round and sees 225,000 people each year being the most visited recreational place on the Blue Ridge Parkway and second in visitors after the Folk Art Center that sees 250,000 visitors. Together with the Julian Price Memorial Park, it is the largest developed area set aside for public recreation on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
A "moderate" walking trail is the Flat Top Mountain Carriage Trail to the Fire / Observation Tower where one can get a complete view of the park. The observation tower is 2.8 miles (4.5 km) away from Flat Top Manor. The leisurely pathways to Bass Lake and Trout Lake go for a couple of miles. The Cone cemetery where the family burials are located is about a mile walk from the Manor. Cone genealogy family pictures are in the Flat Top Manor along with area information and history books.
Moses obtained advice from noted conservationist Gifford Pinchot, the pioneering forester at the Biltmore Estate and First Chief of the US Forest Service, on planting white pine forests and hemlock hedges.The town of Blowing Rock is two miles (3 km) away where many novelty shops are located along with the area restaurants.
It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013 as Flat Top Estate, a national historic district. The district encompasses four contributing buildings and two contributing sites. They include the historic landscape, Flat Top Manor house (1899-1900), carriage house (c. 1899-1905), Cone Cemetery (1908), Sandy Flat Missionary Baptist Church (1908), and the apple barn.Mount Pisgah (mountain in North Carolina)
Mount Pisgah is a mountain in the Appalachian Mountain Range and part of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, United States. The mountain's height is 5,721 feet (1,744 m) above sea level, and it sits approximately 15 miles (24 kilometers) southwest of Asheville, near the crossing of the boundaries of Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Transylvania counties. It is located on the border of Buncombe and Haywood counties, close to the point where Henderson and Transylvania meet them, but not actually within the latter two counties. The mountain is easily accessible via a hiking trail from the Blue Ridge Parkway, near the Pisgah Inn.Mountains-to-Sea Trail
The Mountains-to-Sea State Trail (MST) is a long-distance trail for hiking and backpacking, that traverses North Carolina from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. The trail's western endpoint is at Clingman's Dome, where it connects to the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Its eastern endpoint is in Jockey's Ridge State Park on the tallest sand dune on the east coast. The trail is envisioned as a scenic backbone of an interconnected trail system spanning the state. As such, the trail's route attempts to connect as many trail systems and natural scenic areas as practicable. A little over half of the trail is complete in multiple segments across the state.
The Mountains-to-Sea State Park Trail was made an official land-based unit of the state park system by the General Assembly on August 2, 2000. Since that time, the State Trail unit has grown to encompass 691 acres (280 ha) in three tracts and 87 acres (35 ha) in conservation easements. Each of these tracts is leased to local governments for management as nature parks, under the guidance of the NC Division of Parks and Recreation (NCDPR). The vast majority of the foot trail is located on lands not directly managed as part of a state park unit.
The trail is a part of the North Carolina State Trails System, which is a section of NCDPR, and as of January 2019, 669 miles (1,077 km) of trail has been designated as a part of the MST by NCDPR.The segments of MST along the Blue Ridge Parkway were designated as National Recreation Trail in 2005.
The MST has the distinction of being the highest elevation long-distance trail in the eastern United States as it crosses Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet (2,037 m).Peaks of Otter
The Peaks of Otter are three mountain peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains, overlooking the town of Bedford, Virginia, which lies nine miles (14 km) to the southeast along State Route 43. These peaks are Sharp Top, Flat Top, and Harkening Hill.
Manmade Abbott Lake lies in the valley between the three peaks, behind the Peaks of Otter Lodge and restaurant. The National Park Service preserves the peaks and lake as part of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote that "the mountains of the Blue Ridge, and of these the Peaks of Otter, are thought to be of a greater height, measured from their base, than any others in our country, and perhaps in North America." Of course this later turned out not to be the case, but not before Virginia had sent stones from the peaks to be its part of the Washington Monument.Richland Balsam
Richland Balsam is a mountain in the Great Balsam Mountains in the U.S. state of North Carolina. Rising to an elevation of 6,410 feet (1,950 m), it is the highest mountain in the Great Balsam range and is among the 20 highest summits in the Appalachian range. The Blue Ridge Parkway reaches an elevation of 6,053 feet (1,845 m)— the parkway's highest point— as it passes over Richland Balsam's southwestern slope. The Jackson County-Haywood County line crosses the mountain's summit.Richland Balsam's upper elevations (above approximately 5,500 feet) support part of one of just ten stands of Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest. This forest type consists of two dominant tree types— the red spruce and the Fraser fir— commonly called the "he-balsam" and "she-balsam" respectively, although the latter has been decimated in recent decades by the balsam woolly adelgid infestation. Spruce-fir forests are found in the highest elevations of Southern Appalachia due their ability to survive in climates that are too cold and harsh for the hardwood forests which dominate lower elevations. Southern spruce-fir ecosystems resemble ecosystems more commonly found in the northern United States and Canada than in the Southeastern United States.The eastern half of Richland Balsam is protected by the Pisgah National Forest, and most of the western half is protected by the Nantahala National Forest (the exception being the Blue Ridge Parkway corridor, which is maintained by the National Park Service). There is a parking lot and overlook atop Richland Balsam marking the parkway's highest point. A short interpretive trail connects the parking lot with the summit.Tanasee Bald
Tanasee Bald, also called Tennessee Bald, is a mountain near the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina, on the Haywood/Transylvania border. It is 5561 feet high. It is in the Great Balsam Mountains within the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is part of the Appalachian Mountains
Tanasee Bald is the southern limit of breeding of the northern saw-whet owl, which is from the boreal forests of Canada.Tomkins Knob
Tomkins Mountain (variant names: Thomkins Knob, Thompkins Knob and Tompkins Knob) is a mountain in the North Carolina High Country, near the community of Deep Gap. The majority of the mountain is within the Blue Ridge Parkway. Its elevation reaches 4,075 feet (1,242 m) and it also marks the corner between Ashe, Watauga, and Wilkes counties.
Split along the Eastern Continental Divide, it generates feeder streams to both the South Fork New River (via West Fork Pine Swamp Creek) and Yadkin River (via South Prong Lewis Fork). Laurel Spur Ridge juts out south from the mountain; while Husons Ridge goes northwest, marking the Ashe/Watauga county line.Waterrock Knob
Waterrock Knob is a mountain peak in the U.S. state of North Carolina. It is the highest peak in the Plott Balsams and is the 16th-highest mountain in the Eastern United States.The mountain is a popular destination with tourists and amateur hikers, as it is easily accessible from the parkway. A visitors' center is located near its summit and a hiking trail leads to its top. The hiking trail and visitors' center are manned and maintained by the National Park Service, part of the United States Department of the Interior.