While in Asheville, North Carolina, my favorite activities were hiking, sight-seeing, and driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you’ve never heard of the parkway before, I strongly encourage you to wander over to the website by clicking the hyperlink above. In this blog, I will discuss our hiking and sight seeing experiences in Asheville, but please realize that the Blue Ridge Parkway has so much to offer, including fishing, camping, golfing, and more! The views from the roadway are indescribable. The road is long and winding, and taking a curve on the edge of mountain is no joke! It was extremely entertaining to scare the marbles out of Gina as she stiffened up and yelled, “Oh my god, Kez! You’re too close to the edge!” Uh, sorry, Gina, but that’s how wide the lane is haha.
Views from Blue Ridge Parkway
On our first trip to Asheville, we drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway and took in the sights. We didn’t really get around to hiking because we stacked our schedule with activities as described in my last post. Lesson learned: Give yourself a loose itinerary and some wiggle room! Even though we didn’t hike on the first go around, we weren’t disappointed by what the roadway had to offer. I estimate about every half mile or so there were places to pull over so you could enjoy the overlooks. Each stop had a sign naming the overlook and informing you of the elevation at that point. Every overlook provided a fresh new view; you wouldn’t want to skip a stop! Have you ever experienced a moment of pure clarity and calmness? A moment where you concentrated on the rise and fall of your chest, so very aware of your body and the world around you, yet totally thoughtless? If you’ve experienced that phenomenon before, (be it traveling, working out, meditation, etc) I’m willing to bet you spend much of your time chasing that feeling. If you haven’t experienced anything like that before, I’m telling you it is the greatest feeling, the greatest peace, that has ever washed over me. With the right mindset, these views can take you there. Your eyes will eat up the scene for your hungry soul. Pictures are great, but they are nothing compared to being present. Even on a cloudy day, the mountains from the Blue Ridge Parkway are a sight to see.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a hiker’s dream. With over 100 hiking trails off of the roadway scrolling through North Carolina and Virginia, you’ll never run out of places to explore. If you’re looking for impressive heights, or prefer to stand beside (or inside) of a waterfall, you will find a trail to take you there. The trails recommended to us by a local were Graveyard Fields Loop Trail and Shining Rock Trail.
Graveyard Fields Loop Trail
Graveyard Fields got its name from a time when the trees in the area were logged extensively, leaving behind a field of stumps. The area resembled a graveyard full of head stones looking at it from above. The land has since begun to regrow; therefore, it doesn’t look much like a graveyard anymore. If you take the trail down through the fields, you will find yourself at the bottom (or top) of a waterfall depending which way you take at the fork. There’s a small river that flows through the area, and we jumped from stone to stone up the river so we could create some distance between ourselves and the beaten path. As you may notice from the pictures, we brought our pups hiking with us. Roxi is the Golden Retriever, and Shirley is the rat, err—“Teacup Yorkie”. Up the river, we let the dogs off of their leashes. Roxi lost her damn mind. She was splashing, swimming, and having the time of her life. Roxi gallivanted around while Shirley stood on the tallest rock she could find, wet and shaking like a drowned rat. It brought me pure joy to see Roxi so happy.
We made our way back to the path and continued to the top of the waterfall. It was a pretty long hike on a steady incline. Surprisingly, Shirley kept up like a champ with her little legs. People we passed on the trail were very friendly and would give us a count down of the miles we had left to the top. As soon as we began to hear the falls, we all got an extra boost of energy. Even Roxi started practically dragging me toward the sound. When we finally made it to the falls, we hung out there for quite some time. It was so peaceful and beautiful. It was exciting to climb up the rocks as far as I could without slipping to my death. After resting, we decided to make our way back down to the fork in order to see the bottom falls instead of continuing on the loop.
Shining Rock Trail
Shining Rock Trail was actually recommended to us by a local who we spoke to while hiking the Graveyard Fields trail. He said the view was amazing, especially at sunset. We decided to hike the trail on the following day. Come morning, we filled our camel backs and packed up our bags with lunch, sunscreen, and bug spray. Even though the Shining Rock trail was only a mile or so further up the mountain from Graveyard Fields Trail, the hike was much different. Similar to Graveyard Fields, the trail was a steady incline all the way up. I suggest hiking this trail if you’re looking for more of a challenge. By the time we hit the first clearing/overlook, we were quite winded. The clearing was just a very hot massive slab of rock overlooking the valley. We rested for a bit and took some spectacular pictures. As I sat on the rock and admired the view, I noticed a teeny tiny bug crawling up my leg. At first, I simply brushed the critter off. Shortly after, I noticed another little bug crawling on my pants. This time, I examined the insect more closely…and of fricken course, it was a damn tick! I don’t do ticks. I panicked. I hopped up and started shaking my clothing and brushing every part of my body with my hands like you do when someone says, “Omg! You have a spider on you!” Yeah. That kind of panic. I told Gina I had a tick on me, and I asked her to check me over. As she did so, she gasped, “Oh my God!” They were EVERYWHERE. Once Gina realized we hit a swarm, she started panicking too. I looked down at Roxi, and I totally lost my shit because she had a few on her as well. We hadn’t made it to the top yet, but we didn’t want to make it all that way for nothing. We continued on the last stretch to the top of the mountain, constantly brushing ticks off of each other. At the top, the ticks let up slightly, but not much. We admired the view for like, 0.5 seconds, decided to forget about having lunch up there, and started booking it back down the mountain. The tick frenzy was too real. As we were running down the trail trying not to trip and die, Gina remembered that we had bug spray in the bag. We completely doused ourselves with it. It seemed to have worked as the ticks laid off of us the rest of the way. If only we would have thought of it sooner! Ugh!
Our last destination off of the Blue Ridge Parkway was Sliding Rock. Sliding Rock is a natural wonder in which a waterfall flows over a long flat rock providing the perfect conditions for a water slide. The area had recently been promoted a lot, so it was quite crowded. Admission was only $2.00 per person when we went, and our dogs were able to come in with us too (but they couldn’t slide. Darn lol). To me, the wait in the line was totally worth it…the slide was a blast! It was definitely a great place to have some child-like fun. I think the attraction is appropriate for any age! Watch our EPIC slides below (Gina’s reaction is way more entertaining than mine! Yep, all that girly screaming is her.)
*Don’t like ticks? Me neither. Put on some damn bug spray
*If you see a line of cars behind you while driving the parkway, be a doll and pull over to allow them around you. Also, pay attention to the road. If you want to see the scenes without stopping, then admire what’s right in front of you. The roadway is narrow and steep, and it is highly traveled by motorcyclists.
*Check/change your brakes before taking on the parkway (or anywhere near the mountains for that matter) If possible, use a vehicle that has engine braking so you don’t completely burn up your brakes.
Overall, the Blue Ridge Parkway was the perfect place to find beauty and adventure near Asheville. To this day, it is still one of my favorite places to visit.