Scanning the Horizon from the Black Balsam High Country – A Photo Essay

When looking for some WNC high country scenery and perhaps refreshing cool air on a warm day, one of the first destinations I think of is the Black Balsam area at milepost 420 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are half a dozen mountains here that stand above 6,000 feet, with encompassing 360° views from their treeless summits. This land that lies between the Shining...

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Yellowstone Prong, Blue Ridge Parkway

Yellowstone Prong has some of the most rugged terrain in all of the Pisgah Ranger District. Paralleling the Blue Ridge Parkway from Looking Glass Rock Overlook at milepost 417, and climbing the drainage from Skinny Dip Falls to Yellowstone Falls, this hike in, along, and above Yellowstone Prong may be the most challenging mile I have undertaken. You will scramble over...

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Blue Ridge Parkway Announces 2017 Season Opening Schedule

Chances are that you, like many, have already been enjoying the Blue Ridge Parkway during this unseasonably warm winter. The park unit welcomed more than 1.2 million visitors in January and February of this year alone, that’s 400,000 more than the first two months of 2016! But the scenic route truly comes alive starting in spring, and the National Park Service has...

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Shut-in Ridge Trail to Ferrin Knob, Blue Ridge Parkway

The Shut-in Ridge Trail and the Mountains to Sea Trail are one as they traverse the Blue Ridge from the North Carolina Arboretum to Mt. Pisgah. Along the way, there are several jumping on and off points where you can access this trail from the Blue Ridge Parkway, enabling short day hikes. One of these short sub-sections is along Bent Creek Gap Road at BRP milepost 400....

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Volunteers clean up the view along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Federal funding for the Blue Ridge Parkway has been flat in recent years, making it tougher to keep up with maintenance and litter control along the 469-mile road that traverses the highlands of Virginia and North Carolina. “The focus is more about how far those dollars go these days,” said parkway spokeswoman Leesa Brandon. “That gap gets a little bit bigger and harder...

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Buck Spring to Pilot Rock, Pisgah National Forest

Starting at the former site of George Vanderbilt’s Buck Spring hunting lodge near Mt. Pisgah, this hike crosses the summit of Little Bald Mountain before dropping down the watershed to Pilot Rock, one of the many plutons found within the Pisgah Ranger District. The high country is home to thickets of mountain laurel and rhododendron, while various maples, oaks and...

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Building Bridges Together

Join the celebration for the opening of the Boone Fork Bridge on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in the popular Price Lake Picnic Area, milepost 297 Blue Ridge Parkway, this Saturday, October 22, 2016 at 10 a.m. This 80-foot pedestrian span allows hikers to avoid wading across Boone Fork as they trek from the Boone Fork Trail to Shulls Mill Road, where the path continues to...

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Fall Foliage Time on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

There aren’t many places in Western North Carolina better for Autumn leaf peeping than the Blue Ridge Parkway. On Monday, October 17, 2016 I set out to demonstrate that by taking a little tour between mileposts 410 and 420. But first I had to get there. I went up the Pisgah Ridge on Scenic Hwy 276, passing the Cradle of Forestry along the way. I arrived at the Cold...

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Foggy Morning on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

Every couple weeks or so during the green seasons I travel up to milepost 413 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Friends of the BRP has a volunteer program called Adopt-an-Overlook that I have participated in for six years. I am responsible for keeping Pounding Mill Overlook clean and green, trash free, and desirable for the tourists. Saturday, August 13, 2016 was one of those...

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Key tract protected near Pisgah National Forest and Blue Ridge Parkway

For many visitors heading to the Blue Ridge Parkway via the twisting, mountainous ribbon of road known as N.C. 80, the rippling ride and scenic views might satisfy their appetite before ever reaching the national park. But the land surrounding the switchbacks of N.C. 80 have all been privately owned, leaving it vulnerable to development or timbering, and diminished...

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Waterrock Knob Celebration

The Conservation Fund and the National Park Service will host an event to commemorate the National Park Service’s Centennial and celebrate the protection of lands surrounding Waterrock Knob, a major scenic destination on the Blue Ridge Parkway. An effort to conserve more than 5,000 acres in the Plott Balsam Mountains and much of the spectacular views from Waterrock Knob...

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Mountains to Sea Trail Near Old Bald, Nantahala National Forest

Love the high country in summer. It’s like getting an extra month of spring. For much of its length through the Western North Carolina mountains, the Mountains to Sea Trail parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is an area near mile marker 434 on the Parkway, beneath Old Bald, where the MST winds through mixed forest and high mountain meadows teeming with...

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Hemphill Bald Trail from Polls Gap, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

I have hiked to Hemphill Bald from the east along the Cataloochee Divide many times. However, this was the first time approaching from the west on the Hemphill Bald Trail from Polls Gap. This made my second foray into the Heintooga region of the Smokies in recent weeks, another beautiful piece of the national park that doesn’t get enough attention. This trail would...

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Flat Creek Trail to Heintooga, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This delightful forested trail in the Heintooga section of the Smokies follows Bunches and Flat Creeks up Overlook Ridge to a perch high above Cataloochee Valley and Cherokee, NC. Few short trails in the Smokies are as memorable. The pathway is carpeted with a charming wispy grass that waves in the breeze and tickles your legs as you pass by. What’s not to love? My...

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64-year-old Hiker Found Alive And Tied To A Tree

National Park Service Rangers are asking for any information about a possible assault after firefighters discovered a woman tied to a tree near Craggy Gardens along the Blue Ridge Parkway Thursday, May 12, 2016. In the early afternoon, the Reems Creek Fire Department had responded to a call for a lost person who was possibly having a medical issue, according to a captain...

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Walking the Pisgah Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

Walking the Blue Ridge Parkway in winter is a great way to get a slow-motion view of the wonderful vistas that whiz by at 45 mph in your car. The Parkway is closed so you don’t have to worry about traffic. The only concern really is perhaps slipping on snow or ice. This latest in the Photo Essay series looks at a 4-mile stretch of the BRP between mileposts 412 and...

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Blue Ridge Parkway visits surpass last year

The Blue Ridge Parkway attracted more visitors through November, 2015 than it did in all of 2014. The parkway has logged more than 14.1 million visits in 2015, according to National Park Service estimates. That figure eclipses 2014’s full-year total of 13.9 million visits. This year’s total is the highest since 2012, when the parkway recorded 15.2 million...

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Waterrock Knob Across the Plott Balsams Range, Blue Ridge Parkway

Sometimes things just don’t go exactly as planned. But making the most of what’s available is what sets hiking apart. Everything doesn’t have to go perfectly to still enjoy the day. Such was the case with this hike across the Plott Balsams mountain range from Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’re in rarefied air here, with the entire...

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Black Balsam to Silvermine and Chestnut Balds on Mountains to Sea Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway

Looking for a short, easy, serene getaway in the high country that offers outstanding long distance views of the Blue Ridge Mountains? This is the trail for you. This little stretch of the famous Mountains to Sea Trail will take you from Black Balsam Road, through a dark and deep balsam spruce forest, across Silvermine Bald and on to Chestnut Bald to a splendid overlook...

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Blue Ridge Parkway High Country – A Photo Essay

Leaf peepers head to Graveyard Fields in late September for the annual ritual of Autumn color in the high country. Located at mile 418 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Graveyard Fields is one of the earliest locations to begin the chromatic display, as well as one of the most intense. From the bright red of the blueberry and sumac bushes, to the multi-colored hues of the maple...

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Crossing New Bridges

Piedmont Hiking & Outing Club steps up to support new span at Doughton Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Just in time for a fall hike or backpacking trip, there’s a new bridge on Doughton Park’s Grassy Gap Trail. In the past, the crossing at Basin Creek was often difficult, with only a long, precarious log spanning the waterway for hikers. Thanks to...

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80 Years Ago, Construction Began on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The project began when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited the newly constructed Skyline Drive in Virginia in 1933. Then U.S. Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia suggested to the president the road should be extended to connect with the recently established Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Roosevelt convened the governors of Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee...

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NC Youth Conservation Corps pick up on Parkway CCC work

Think the Blue Ridge Parkway is beautiful? Well, like many of us, it takes a lot of grooming to look that way. For the third summer, a group of North Carolina teenagers from ages 16-18 years old have been working hard to improve, restore, and preserve the natural and recreational resources of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone and Blowing Rock. The North Carolina Youth...

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Crabtree Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway

Crabtree Falls is a 70 foot cascade on Big Crabtree Creek, a short hike from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The creek drops over a black rock face with many small ledges, giving it a delicate web-like appearance. A trail descends 500 feet over the course of a mile as it leads to a footbridge crossing the creek at the base of the falls. In the Spring, an impressive array of...

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Black Balsam Knob and Sam Knob Summits, Pisgah National Forest

There is a notch between two wildernesses in the Pisgah National Forest high country. Shining Rock Wilderness is to the northeast, and Middle Prong Wilderness is to the west of this pie-shaped cut in the topology. In between are two bald mountaintops that exceed 6,000 feet elevation. To the locals the area is called simply… Black Balsam. The air is fresh (usually),...

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Ivestor Gap Trail to Shining Rock, Shining Rock Wilderness

Deep in the heart of Shining Rock Wilderness is the namesake, a mountain made of quartz, standing more than 6,000 feet. On bright sunny days you can see the white quartz “shining” from miles away. The Cherokee called it Datsu’nălâsgûñ’yĭ, “where their tracks are this way,” that refers to a white rock that is said to have tracks of Tsul...

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Short Stretch Of Blue Ridge Parkway In North Carolina To Close For Bridge Repairs

Bridge repairs will require a roughly nine-mile-long stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina to close for about two months beginning April 1, 2015. Parkway officials say the closure is necessary to to make critical repairs to Deep Gap Bridge at US 421. A detour will be signed in the area from Milepost 269.8, at Phillips Gap north of the bridge to Milepost...

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Blue Ridge Parkway Maintenance Trail, Milepost 420

There are lots of little maintenance trails alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway that don’t show up on any trail maps or have any signs to let you know they are there. One of those is a hidden gem in the high country at milepost 420 directly across from the Black Balsam spur road. It’s great for an hour stroll to brighten you senses, or if you’re looking...

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Forest Service Closing Graveyard Fields to Overnight Camping due to Recent Bear Encounter

PISGAH FOREST, N.C., Mar. 20, 2015 – The U.S. Forest Service is temporarily closing the Graveyard Fields Area at milepost 418 on the Blue Ridge Parkway to overnight camping. This closure, issued in consultation with the N.C. Wildlife Commission, has been implemented due to human safety concerns after a bear entered a tent and removed a hiker’s backpack. No...

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Blue Ridge Parkway Announces Temporary Road Closures for Routine Maintenance From Milepost 0 to 106

Beginning Monday morning, March 16, 2015,and continuing for approximately one month, Blue Ridge Parkway maintenance personnel will be conducting road shoulder and ditch cleaning operations along Virginia sections of the Parkway. Specific information regarding daily closures in these work zones will be available on the Parkway’s Real Time Road Map, found at here....

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