Blowing Rock and Blue Ridge Parkway Getaway

Every fall, we take at least one or two day trips to the mountains of North Carolina to soak in the fall foliage, mountain vistas, and drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway with the windows down! This fall, we decided to kick it up a notch and stay in the mountains for several days instead of just taking a day trip, and it was absolutely one of the highlights of our year. I already miss it so much & have been savoring the memories! The anticipation was almost (almost!) as good as the trip itself, as we were counting down the days for months and looked forward to this getaway with great excitement. While we’ve traveled to NYC, Ohio, and Charlotte several times this year to see family (thank goodness!), we were especially looking forward to a trip for just the two of us with unlimited quality time together. The mountains of North Carolina are so beautiful this time of year, as the leaves are utterly ablaze with color! We are incredibly blessed that North Carolina is such a diverse and beautiful state with the mountains at one end and the beach at the other. We’re just about three hours to the iconic and scenic Blue Ridge Parkway from our home, and it’s such an easy and scenic drive to the mountains.

This year, Rob found us an idyllic little cabin on top of a mountain, nestled into the glowing trees. It was about 15 minutes from Boone and 25 minutes from Blowing Rock – nice and peaceful but not too far from anything. The wraparound porch with breathtaking vistas and views was our very favorite part of the cabin. With beautiful rustic rocking chairs and clear views of the mountains, we spent as much time as possible outside on the deck when we weren’t out exploring: drinking our morning coffee, enjoying a glass of wine, bundled up when it was frigid, and enjoying the solitude and each other’s company. We are already plotting our next trip back here and were so pleased with our little cabin on the mountain! And every year, I pore through peak leaf reports and predictions, hiking blogs and maps, and local websites to develop an overview of an itinerary so that we have some semblance of a game plan in mind. We love to have a general idea of things we want to do and places we want to see but to also leave plenty of room for spontaneity and to simply explore & take advantage of whatever we want for the day. Traveling together is so easy and so fun, and Rob happily puts up with my slightly-more-planner habits. We had a great outline of how we might spend our days in the mountains but were super flexible about those plans. It works very well for us, especially since we’ve been to the area many times together over the years!

We adore Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and we often joke (or not?) about retiring to this beautiful, charming, quaint mountain town. I’ve been going to Blowing Rock for many, many years, and it’s also the town that my absolute favorite Mitford series is based upon! As soon as I learned that a couple decades ago, I was instantly sold on Blowing Rock and love imagining it as my beloved Mitford. Anyway, Blowing Rock and Boone are just about ten minutes apart, and while we much prefer the more charming and quiet Blowing Rock, we explored both towns on this visit, as well as many places nearby and on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I also think we hit the jackpot in terms of when we visited: it wasn’t too overrun with tourists and leaf peepers, though it seemed to be incredibly peak foliage, it was quite cold and brisk outside, and we even enjoyed the first SNOW of the year!!! If you know me, you know I adore snow. And seeing snow settling on top of the vibrant foliage was stunning! The magical snowfall on our second full day in the area was a definite pinch-me moment and simply beautiful.

If you’re headed to the Blowing Rock/Boone/Blue Ridge Parkway area, some of our very favorite destinations and activities include: strolling downtown Blowing Rock and popping in and out of the most charming stores, enjoying a flight of beers and warm meal at Blowing Rock Brewing Company (downtown), taking in the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum (perfect on a rainy or foggy day), strolling around the beautiful Bass Lake near downtown Blowing Rock (we loved this mile loop so much!), walking the Glen Burney Trail in Blowing Rock, cozying up with a hot coffee at Bald Guy Brew, picking up picnic supplies at Blowing Rock Market, exploring Chetola Resort & sitting by the lake on the rocking swings or adirondack chairs, savoring a delicious meal & cocktails at The Speckled Trout, going to Mast General Store (a quintessential NC mountain favorite) in downtown Boone or Valle Crucis, cozying up with a tasting and a glass of wine at Grandfather Vineyard and Linville Falls Winery, grabbing the most delicious burgers and fries at the Comeback Shack in Boone, enjoying casual BBQ at the Pedalin’ Pig, and checking out Happy Valley Filling Station near Lenoir for the most incredible beers and pizzas (owned by our friends’ sister & brother in law!). 

We also loved spending a couple days exploring our beloved Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469 mile parkway through the beautiful mountains of North Carolina and Virginia with countless scenic overlooks, hikes, and picnic spots. It’s so idyllic and the views are unmatched. A few things we always bring for our Blue Ridge Parkway drives: a fun, fall playlist to accompany your drive, snacks for the car (gummy bears are our weakness), water for your hikes/walks, a picnic lunch (there really aren’t any easy to access places to stop once you’re on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and picnics are just too good to resist), a full tank of gas, a picnic blanket, walking/hiking shoes, and a second layer in case it’s chillier than you expect. In our case, we were so glad we threw our big puffer jackets in the car at the last minute, since it was freezing and ended up snowing!

Honestly, one of our favorite things to do once we’re on the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway is to simply pull off at almost every overlook! The sweeping views of the mountains are utterly breathtaking and look so different at every overlook. Going during peak fall foliage is just marvelous, too, and the vibrant colors are astonishing. We like to rank our favorite overlooks and views (as noted below with the itinerary), and sometimes we’ll pop back by the same ones on our return trip, since this itinerary is a roundtrip drive on the Parkway.

BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY ITINERARY

get off 321 just before Blowing Rock/start near Blowing Rock

milepost 302.8 – Rough Ridge – beautiful one mile mike

Julian Price Lake – gorgeous views, 2.3 mile loop around the lake

milepost 304.4 – Linn Cove Viaduct (bridge) – one mile hike above/below bridge – gorgeous views and hikes, the bridge is an engineering marvel and so beautiful

milepost 305 – Grandfather Mountain (exit onto US 221) and mile high swinging bridge at the top of the mountain (we had to purchase tickets in advance, and it was well worth the cost since we spent so many hours there)

milepost 305.2 – Beacon Heights (one mile roundtrip hike – rock platforms with a view)

milepost 308.3, Flat Rock Trail

milepost 316.4 – Linville Falls (11 miles from Grandfather Mountain) – one mile hike to waterfall, Erwins View, picnic, Visitors Center. When you turn down the road to Linville Falls (before you get to the main parking lot), there is a small parking lot by the bridge off to the left. We love this semi-secluded and seemingly undiscovered spot for a picnic lunch, river views, and quiet. This is always our semi-secret spot that we don’t miss!

milepost 317 – Linville Falls Winery (1-2 minutes off Blue Ridge Parkway at 9557 Linville Falls Highway) – beautiful vineyard and Christmas tree farm with pretty views, outdoor wine tastings, and snacks
milepost 320.8, Chestoa View – gorgeous view (one of our favorite spots!) down a set of stairs, plus some good trails

milepost 328.3 – Orchard at Altapass (apple picking, apple treats, general store, live music sometimes)

turn around after orchard & return on Blue Ridge Parking back to Blowing Rock

milepost 294 – Moses Cone Memorial Park (just before going to Blowing Rock) – white mansion called Flat Top Manor, hiking trails and beautiful views (you can see Bass Lake from the Moses Cone Park, and vice vera – hike between the two!)

It’s 74 miles roundtrip for this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and be sure you have a semi-full tank of gas before getting on the parkway for your drive!

One of our favorite days on this trip was spent at Grandfather Mountain, and we are so, so glad we went this year! Rob and I both hadn’t been since we were teenagers, and it was well worth the $22/person ticket (which had to be purchased well in advance) since we had so much more time than we would have during a day trip to the mountains. We got there at 9:30am and spent many hours exploring and soaking up all that Grandfather Mountain has to offer, which is a lot! It was wildly foggy (close to zero visibility) for the first half of our visit, and you couldn’t see but ten feet in front of you. It felt like we were in a dream, and it was such a cool experience. We drove to the top of the mountain, and the fog and clouds cleared a bit so that we could see a little of the view. With a bit of trepidation, we crossed the (icy!) mile high swinging bridge, hiked around the top of the mountain a bit, and enjoyed the stunning views from the top of the mountain as the weather cleared. It is incredible to think that there are 16 distinct natural communities on one mountain and to see the changes so clearly. It was icy and tundra-like at the very top, and bright yellow and orange closer to the bottom, and the weather could change in an instant. We enjoyed a picnic lunch (in the car, since it was below freezing!), wandered through all of the natural habitats and saw bears, elk, cougars, otters, and bald eagles from just a few feet away (a highlight of our day!), Rob got to run the infamous Forrest Gump curve (in honor of his favorite movie!), and we got to see so many breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and towns. We loved our experience and time at Grandfather Mountain and were so glad we made this stop!

Can we go back?! We were so, so grateful to be able to sneak away for a few days this fall to enjoy such a relaxing and rejuventating tip to the mountain together. As soon as we arrived, we knew we needed to make this an annual tradition, and it felt so luxurious to be able to spend several days soaking up the beautiful North Carolina mountains this year. From our little cabin on top of the mountain to rocking chair chats on the porch to Blue Ridge Parkway drives to delicious meals to long walks to colorful hikes and sweeping views… it was an unforgettable, gorgeous, and incredibly special getaway with my favorite guy to one of our favorite places!

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