Off the Beaten Path

Off the Beaten Path: As visitation to the Blue Ridge Parkway reaches a record high, check out some lesser-known, but worthy, stops
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Evergreen Views - After record-high visitation in 2021, check out these 5 less-crowded views along the Blue Ridge Parkway perfect for a summertime picnic. 

Curving through the Southern Appalachian mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the few roadways in the country that displays exceptional views at every turn. According to recent data from the National Parks Service, more than 15 million people visited the Parkway in 2021, marking an all-time high record of visitation. Some of the most popular spots along the roadway have borne the brunt of this influx of tourists; according to Tracy Swartout, superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, overcrowding has become a real problem at some of the most popular spots. In our neck of the woods, posts like the Linn Cove Viaduct are among the most popular, but there’s more than 250 miles of road to explore, with plenty of outlooks scattered throughout WNC. To beat overcrowding and help with Parkway conservation, here are five less-trafficked spots that are equally worthy of checking out.

Beacon Heights - Milepost 305.2
A quick one-mile round trip hike will lead you to Beacon Heights (pictured above), an overlook covered in smooth rocks safe enough to climb and sit on. The trail to this lookout forks off the entrance to a 13-mile hike towards the Linn Cove Viaduct. Those in-the-know about this spot recommend a picnic lunch on the rocks for best enjoyment. 

Stony Bald Overlook - Milepost 402.6
This overlook’s name seems to be a misnomer, as the views from the overlook are filled with lush green trees and brush in the summertime. Located in a small community in Henderson County called Horse Shoe, this is the place to travel away from city life to experience a quiet stop on the Parkway. 

Cowee Mountains Overlook - Milepost 430.7
As one of the few spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway with a 180 degree panoramic view, Cowee Mountains Overlook is best enjoyed on clear days for an unobstructed lookout of the Nantahala National Forest. Looking to enjoy a sunset over the mountain range? Stop in for a high-elevation, high-reward destination.

Pounding Mill Overlook - Milepost 413.2
Named for the nearby historic corn grinding mills, Pounding Mill Overlook provides an unmatched perspective of Transylvania county. Onlookers can spot Frying Pan Fire Tower—a once-vital mechanism for protecting residents from forest fires—and Looking Glass rock, as well as clear views of the Blue Ridge Mountain range. 

Raven Rocks - Milepost 289.5
Located in Blowing Rock, Raven Rocks is one of the only northern-facing lookouts along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s also found along the growing Mountains to Sea Trail, a 1200 mile footpath that stretches from the Smokies to the Outer Banks. Drop in around midday for the best view.