Leaf Peeping on the Blue Ridge Parkway – Blowing Rock to Asheville, NC

Columbus Day Weekend – time to go leaf peeping!

This year, we only had one day for a jaunt up to the mountains. One day – not even a night – so we had to make good use of our time.

Heading out of Atlanta at 6:30 in the morning, we arrived in Blowing Rock, NC around 11:00 am.

Blowing Rock

The town of Blowing Rock is quaint – I know that’s an overused word – but it describes the town. Shops and restaurants line the main street through the town. Side streets boast inns and Bed & Breakfast places.

A full selection of fresh apples in Blowing Rock

A full selection of fresh apples in Blowing Rock

One of the many B&Bs in the town

One of the many B&B’s in the town

A city park is located along the main street of Blowing Rock.

A city park is located along the main street of Blowing Rock.

We read about the Village Cafe so we decided to try it out. It’s tricky to find, because although the address is on Main Street, you walk through a narrow path between two stores. Nestled at the end of a lush garden, the historic house awaits. Although they were completely booked with reservations, the hostess was able to find us a table upstairs. It did not disappoint!

Try out the Village Cafe for an awesome brunch.

Inside the Village Cafe - we were lucky to get a table!

At the Village Cafe – we were lucky to get a table for brunch!

Blue Ridge Parkway

After loading up on waffles, pancakes and Eggs Benedict, we were set to get on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Near Blowing Rock, lies two adjacent parks. The 4,200-acre Julian Price Memorial Park offers a lake with canoe rentals and fishing, hiking trails and camping. The Moses H. Cone Memorial Park is the former estate of the Cone family. The 3,600 acre park offers horse-drawn carriage rides, horseback riding and hiking trails. The 13,000-foot estate home – Flat Top Manor – is now a craft center. Although I wanted to stop here, I was quickly out-voted.

One of our first views on the Blue Ridge Parkway after leaving Blowing Rock.

One of our first views on the Blue Ridge Parkway after leaving Blowing Rock.

 

Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain

Our first stop on the BRP was Linville Falls where we took a hike. We chose the Erwins View Trail which took us to several different vantage points on a little less than a 2-mile hike. At the Visitor’s Center, a trail map is displayed showing different options. We saw people hike to the bottom of the waterfall on a more strenuous hike.

A view of Linville Falls

Linville Falls

The fun part of the Blue Ridge Parkway is that it’s the journey – not the destination. Leaves were starting to change, the air was crisp, the day was sunny. Visitors flocked to overlooks, motorcycles roared in the distance.

Grassy Knob Overlook

Grassy Knob Overlook

Another stop for us was Mt. Mitchell State Park. At 6,684 feet, it is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. On the way up the mountain, a restaurant greets hungry travelers. As the car kept climbing the windy road, we drove through the clouds. Just when we thought we wouldn’t have a good view, we broke through the clouds – literally being above them.

Once we got out of the car, the temperature was definitely cooler and windy. The concession stand that sold hot chocolate was a welcome treat as we embarked on the 1/4-mile hike to the observation platform. If you go, don’t miss this ADA-compliant trek to the top. The views are outstanding and the pictures shown below can’t begin to show the splendor. A visitors center, including a small museum, gift shop and restrooms, is located at the base of the trail. For the more adventurous, there are many more trails to explore.

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Above the clouds at Mt. Mitchell

At the top of Mt. Mitchell

At the top of Mt. Mitchell

Our last stop was Craggy Gardens. The sun was starting to set and our crew was  hungry and cranky so we only stopped briefly. Locals say the best time to visit is in the summer when the rhododendrons are in full bloom – hence the gardens part of the name. We will definitely come back to hike the 1.5-mile trail to the pinnacle. More trails abound in this area as well.

Looking west to Tennessee at the Craggy Gardens Overlook

Looking west to Tennessee at the Craggy Gardens Overlook

Asheville

We headed into downtown Asheville about 6 p.m. Since we had the dog, we needed to find a dog friendly restaurant. Not a problem in this uber-dog-friendly town. We settled on the outdoor patio at Chorizo for an excellent Latin meal.

 

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Chorizo offers dog-friendly patio dining

Chorizo offers dog-friendly patio dining

Time to head home. We arrived bake in the ATL around 10:30 that night. Not bad for a 16-hour day!