Blue Ridge Parkway
Known as “America’s Favorite Drive,” the historic, nationally renowned Blue Ridge Parkway stretches from Cherokee North Carolina to Virginia. Whether just taking a day trip up to Balsam Gap or using Bryson City as the first stop on the full 469-mile drive, you’re sure to enjoy unparalleled views of the natural wonderland we’re fortunate enough to call our backyard. If you’re visiting in the winter months, check the Parkway’s Road Closure map before you head out.
Blue Ridge Parkway Access Points
The parkway has several access points near Bryson City, including the one near the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
- Milepost 469.1 – Cherokee North Carolina – To access this entry way, look for signs on your right at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just prior to reaching the Oconaluftee Visitors Center.
- Milepost 455.7 – Maggie Valley (U.S. 19) – Head east on Highway 19 out of Cherokee. The Parkway entrance is about 10 miles from the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino.
- Milepost 443.1 – Balsam Gap – From Bryson City, head east toward Waynesville on Highway 74/23/441. The Parkway access road will be on the left about 12 miles after passing by Sylva
Any of these access points can be traveled as a one way drive to the access point, and a return to Bryson City via the Parkway, a one-way drive on the Parkway, exiting at an access point to return to Bryson City, or as an out and back drive.
Suggested Half Day Drives
Suggested half day trips would be to pack a lunch, and then access the parkway at Cherokee, and travel the Parkway to Balsam Gap, or make it a round trip on the Parkway. Along this route make sure to stop at Waterrock Knob at milepost 451.2. Features here include hiking trails, restrooms, picnic area, and a visitor center with wide open spaces to sit and enjoy the grandeur of the Blue Ridge mountains. Return via the Parkway by reversing your travel on the Parkway or exit the Parkway and head back to Bryson City via U.S. 74/23/441.
Looking for the road less traveled? Another half day trip would include a journey along the Heintooga Spur Road, mile marker 458.2. Also known as Balsam Mountain Road, this 9-mile paved road leaves the Parkway and loops back toward Cherokee and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Explore mile-high overlooks with gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and valleys below, hiking trails, picnic grounds, and opportunities to see elk as you get closer to Cherokee. This road is only open from May – October.
Full Day Blue Ridge Parkway Trips From Bryson City
Suggested full day trips would be to access the Parkway at Cherokee, and travel to one of three access points in Asheville. Along this route, make sure to stop at Richland Balsam (mile post 431), the highest point on the Parkway, Cowee Mountain Overlook (Milepost 430) for spectacular sunset views, Devil’s Courthouse (mile marker 422.4) Graveyard Fields (mile marker 418.8), and Black Balsam Knob (mile marker 420.2) the latter for a spectacular hike with 360 degree views. Exit the Parkway at one of four access points in Asheville and return to Bryson City via I-40 west and U.S. 74/23/441:
- Milepost 382.6: US Highway 70 crosses, the Folk Art Center is a short drive north.
- Milepost 384.7: US 74A.
- Milepost 388.8: US 25 crosses.
- Milepost 393.6: NC 191 crosses. The North Carolina Arboretum is located at this intersection.