This summer we spent a week camping and hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. Prior to this trip I used to joke that the only place I camped was at a 5-star hotel. While it wasn’t all smooth sailing … it was a blast. Here are a few of the highlights.
Camping at Mount Pisgah
We pitched our tent at the Mount Pisgah Campground, which is the highest elevation campground along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The temperatures were amazing. It was the last week in July and the temperatures ranged from 52-70 most days. It rained off and on and we learned the first night to always, always put all your gear away before you walk away from the site. All our gear got wet the first night and we had to go hunt down a coin laundromat about an hour away the next morning. The showers were clean and hot water was great but there is no electricity or sewage hookups and virtually no cell reception – which was kind of our favorite part of the trip. But other than dinner and sleeping we didn’t spend much time at the campground. It was, however, very quiet and beautiful. Learn more about Mount Pisgah Campground.
Kayaking the French Broad River
We brought our new inflatable kayak along on the trip and tried it out on the French Broad River. We put in near Asheville and enjoyed a gentle two-hour float. Next trip we plan to camp at the Hot Springs Campground alongside the Appalachian Trail and a wilder portion of the French Broad River.
Blue Ridge Parkway waterfalls
While their are tons of breathtaking waterfalls in this area, these were two of our favorites:
Looking Glass Falls
This was the easiest to get to – you park along U.S. 276 North and walk a few feet to see this:
Learn more about Looking Glass Falls.
Skinny Dip Falls
This was about a half mile hike but so worth it. Located at MP 417 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we got some great pictures and really enjoyed the little hike. BTW, clothing is not optional here — no one actually skinny dips but it is a popular swimming hole.
Learn more about Skinny Dip Falls.
Hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway
We did a lot of short hikes including the one to Skinny Dip Falls (above). But the two most interesting ones were hiking Mount Pisgah (thought I would die I was so tired) and the “car hike” along the primative Heintooga Round Bottom Road.
Hiking Mount Pisgah
Seriously, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was our 35th wedding anniversary and we wanted to do something memorable. We had been camping all week so the plan was to hike to the top, take some pictures along the way and spend the night at the beautiful Mount Pisgah Inn.
It started off great, the deep green of the forest, a quiet meandering trail with amazing wildflowers. The first half the hike you gain about 200 ft. in elevation and yes, that is the easy part. No matter how many people coming down say you are almost there — don’t believe it. Ha!
The second half of the hike up is really steep – gaining another 550 ft. I remember someone saying near the end it is like stairs. As steep as stairs yes, but it is better described as rock climbing as I often had to grab a tree to pull myself up. Oh yeah, and the rocks were wet and slippery. This young girl and her dog were a few steps ahead of us — actually only for a minute as she sailed right past us.
We met some new friends at the top (who were even older than we are) and they snapped this anniversary picture for us. It started raining soon after we got to the top deck so we climbed under the decking and sat and chatted with our new friends. The hike down was slippery and while my legs felt a bit like noodles it was easy. Altogether it was about a 2-hour hike and well worth the effort.
It was so cloudy that the view from the top that day wasn’t great but you can visit this site to see what it looks like from the top of Mount Pisgah on a clear day. After the hike we checked into the Mount Pisgah Inn which has an amazing view of the mountains and a great restaurant on site.
The Heintooga Round Bottom Road
A popular scenic byway, the Heintooga Round Bottom Road is a very bumpy, one-way single lane road that meanders through the woods for about 18 miles, starting near the entrance to the Smoky Mountain National Park and ending at the Cherokee Indian Reservation. It took about an hour.
Learn more about the Heintooga Round Bottom Road.