Elk Knob State Park is one of the newest additions to North Carolina's state park system and as such it is not well known and in an interim state of development. From Boone, head north on NC-194 about four miles, then turn left on Meat Camp Road. Go about 5.5 miles and the park will be on the right. Keep a close eye out as the entrance is not well marked. From the parking lot, there is a new 2-mile trail to the summit, consisting mostly of switchbacks to reduce the steep climb. At the top, there are north and south view overlooks. From the south view, you can see Grandfather Mountain and other peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains in NC and Tennessee. From the north view, you can see Mount Rogers and other peaks in NC and Virginia.
Mount Jefferson is a state natural area with a few miles of hiking trails north of Boone. It is not well known, and as such, provides a nice hiking spot without the crowds of more popular locations. From Boone, take US-421 east, then take US-221 north past NC-163 in West Jefferson and turn right into the park. Mount Jefferson is a state natural area, not a state park, and so it is much smaller. However, there are some nice trails with great scenic overlooks. There are also two overlooks along the road leading up the mountain. The first overlook faces west and provides a view of the town of West Jefferson and mountains to the west, including Grandfather Mountain in the distance. The second overlook faces north and one can see Mount Rogers in Virginia on a clear day. From the parking lot the short Summit Trail leads up to the summit of Mount Rogers. There is a radio tower on the summit, which limits views. Following the Rhododendron Trail leads to Lost Province Trail and a path out to Luther Rock, which has much better views of the surrounding mountains. Altogether, the trails only total about 2 miles, but its a nice place for a short hike if you're in the area.
Mile Post 316.4
We drove to Linville Falls Visitor Center, which hosts about 350,000 visitors annually. Linville Falls is reportedly the most beautiful fall along the Blue Ridge area. The Ranger at the Center told us to follow the track to Erwins View Trail that will take us to four overlooks and that is exactly what we did. The 1-mile long uphill trek took us to a high overlook from where we were able to see the falls deep in the ravine below. We met many visitors here and befriended a number of them (picture 1 and 2).
While we were hiking back, we turned to our right toward the half-way point offering a closer view of the falls to our left and of Erwin Overlook high above us to our right. We saw some families who had descended down to the fall and were swimming or basking in the sun.
We continued back and took a last turn to our right to reach the rapids of the Linville River. The falls could not be seen from here as it was hidden due to huge boulders to our right.
Mile Post 243.4
We stopped here to look at the clouds over mountains and valleys and to hike on Bluff Mountain Trail. However, the trail was running precariously over deep ravines and my husband called it off due to "too risky" he said.
Mile Post 323
This was our southernmost stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We were able to see some photographs of wild Turkeys here, although the overlook is meant for observing that side of Humpback Mountain tat once sheltered a bear’s den, offering protection from both weather and hunters.
Mile Post 307.4
We stopped here very briefly just to have couple of pictures taken. This overlook sits on the western slope of Grandmother Mountain. This mountain can be seen from several places along the Parkway.
Mile Post 306.6
We parked our car in the parking lot and took some pictures. The foliage at this overlook has been cut to frame a view of Grandfather Mountain (elevation 5,964 feet). For details about our exploits on this Mountain please read our ‘Things to do’ tips on these pages.
Mile Post 304
We stopped here for a short hike. The 1,243 foot-long Linn Cove Viaduct, along with 12 other bridges, ended the winding, 14-mile detour around Grandfather Mountain and marked the official completion of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
There were beautiful views from over the bridge. Many cyclists were enjoying their rides on the strenuous Parkway.
Mile Post 296.4
We had our major stop at this area.
Price Park consists of 4,200 acres of mountain land surrounding Price Lake. The lake itself offers fly-fishing. From 1912 to 1930, lumber barons stripped this tract of virgin trees, primarily chestnut, hemlock, and yellow poplar. Today, a hardwood conifer forest is gradually returning. Park has become one of the most popular recreation areas on the Parkway. Picnic tables and a comfort station are available in the park.
Mile Post 293.5
We parked our car here and headed for the nearby Cone Manor House (Flat Top Manor) and Craft Center. Flat Top Manor, the summer home built by the wealthy textile magnate Moses H. Cone, now serves as a visitor information center and a regionally focused bookstore.
The estate included Flat Top Mountain and Rich Mountain, landscaped extensively with maple, hemlock, and white pine. The 23-room mansion was exquisite, filled with art and objects from Asia. The Cones were almost self sufficient, with their own dairy, vegetable gardens, carbide gas plant, and local employees.
The state includes about 25 miles of beautiful carriage path, which are popular with horseback riders, hikers, runners, and cross-country skiers.
Mile Post 266.8
We took a 15 minute long break from driving at this overlook. The reason is that we had driven under this mountain on Highway 211 to reach Boone from Virginia. There is an exhibit here on Mount Jefferson (4,683 feet). A cave near top of the mountain is said to have provided hiding place to slaves fleeing to Ohio before the Civil War. The mountain is now part of the 474-acre Mount Jefferson State Park. The mountain was renamed for the town of Jefferson in Ashe County when the park was created.
Mile Post 264.4
When we reached here we saw an airplane model lover flying his remote controlled airplane from over the hill. We were in a quandary as to whether we should cross the barrier and climb the hill as well. There is an exhibit here on Tom Dula, the inspiration for the song “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley”. Dula was hanged in neighbouring Wilkes Country in 1868 for the murder of one of his lovers. The Lump trail offered views of the vast panorama of the foothills and the Grandfather Mountain. Elevation: 3,465 feet.
Mile Post 260.3
There were two picnic tables adjacent to the parking area. An easy access to Jumpinoff Rock Trail and a half-mile moderately difficult hike led us to an overlook on sheer rock cliffs above a forested valley. The elevation here was 3,312 feet. The trek was on a steep climb for a stretch that turned out to be exhausting. We marveled at various shapes and sizes of mushrooms growing along the path.
Mile Post 242.4
This is the farthest north we went on BRP. The hill definitely resembles Alligator back. This overlook offers an exhibit on raptors and mammals of the area. Once called “varmints” and killed on sight, hawks, owls, bears, foxes and snakes are now recognized as an inseparable part of our environment. This is the best overlook to observe them.
Up the road from campus a little way is a swimming hole with a rope swing that a lot of people like to go to in the summer months. It's up Winkler Creek Road a short way and there is limited parking on a gravel shoulder beside the already narrow, winding road. To get there from 321 south, take a right on hwy 105 (at the double-decker Wendy's) and then take the very next left at the light by Peabody's. From this road take the next right, which is Winkler Creek Road. Follow it for about a half a mile or so. On a hot summer day, you will see cars parked at the spot, so you'll know it right away. On the left side of the road, hike down the path aways, watching for dog poop and the occasional broken bottle and the stream and swimming hole will open in front of you. Take care on the rocks as you cross to the rope swing. There is a sitting area, with wooden benches on one side of the creek and in the middle of the water are several huge rocks you can sit on. On a sunny day in August, it's the perfect way to cool off.