Blue Ridge Parkway

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The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway that is often described as “America’s Favorite Drive.” During the fall months, the Parkway can be particularly busy because of the brilliant colors of the changing leafs.

The Parkway makes its way along 469 miles offering scenic and breathtaking views of the Appalachian Highlands. The Blue Ridge Parkway, a unit of the National Park Service, enters Transylvania County at milepost 407.5 and exits at milepost 423.5.

Within the county on the Parkway is the Pisgah Inn, which sits 5,000 feet above sea level. The inn, which closes for the season on Oct. 31, offers lodging, while its restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. A crafts and gift shop and a country store are also available at the inn, as well as access to many nearby trails. For more information about the inn, call (828) 235-8228 or go to www.pisgahinn.com.

One nearby trail from the inn is Mount Pisgah. The 1.6-mile hike to the summit is demanding, but is worth the effort, offering spectacular 360-degree views. Heading south from U.S. 276 along the Parkway, travelers will come across Graveyard Fields at milepost 418. It’s a popular spot for picnics and a chance to dip one’s feet in a cool stream on a hot day. Berry pickers have also been known to scour the bushes that dot the area, but be wary of snakes. The site also offers walks along maze-like trails.

The Graveyard Fields Loop trail begins at the often-crowded overlook. Other trails will take you to waterfalls. The Graveyard Ridge trail ascends and then travels along Graveyard Ridge itself before ending at the intersection with the Ivestor Gap and Mountains to Sea Trails. The Graveyard Fields area offers a unique environment that was created by wind that blew over trees at the site. The remaining tree stumps were covered in moss, making them appear as thousands of headstones. In 1925, a major fire, which destroyed 25,000 acres, also destroyed many of the headstones.

At milepost 422, the Devil’s Courthouse is a stop-off point for a short, but slightly strenuous half-of-a-mile trek that ends with spectacular views into North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. There is no definitive reason how the Devil’s Courthouse got its name. According to information provided by the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, Devil’s Courthouse may have been named for the sinister aspect of the rock formation, or because, as legend holds, the devil held court in the cave that lies beneath the rock. In Cherokee lore, this cave is the private dancing chamber and dwelling place of the slant-eyed giant, Judaculla.

Just along from the courthouse, at milepost 420.2, is the Black Balsam area and its multiple hikes and great alpine-like views. Advance reservations may be made at many of the Parkway’s campgrounds at www.recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777. For more information, go to blueridgeparkway.org, or call (828) 670-1924. Visitors can also download the free “Blue Ridge Parkway – Travel Planner” mobile app available at www.blueridgeparkway.org.

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