Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway

9:42 PM


“A drive along the blue ridge parkway can be best summed up as a bundle of soft mist floating, rolling lush hills, scenic vista points and tunnels after tunnels. Known for its ideal sunrises and sunsets, is the Waterrock Knob, the Parkway's highest visitor center. Just beyond the southernmost end of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the states of North Carolina and Tennessee is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “ We drove from the Smokies to the Blue Ridge Parkway, a transition so seamless, that one may think perhaps they all are the same."

                          We loved the fog and the smoke on our drive! It was like poetry.

The route that we took was: Sugarlands Visitor Center -> Smokemont Campground -> Clingsman Dome -> Oconaluftee Visitor Center -> Newfound Gap -> Waterrock Knob Visitor Center.

                                        View from Newfound Gap on a clear weather!

Even though the route from Sugarlands Visitor Center to Waterrock Knob visitor center is 1 hour 20 minutes straight on Google maps, it takes almost 3/4 of a day to cover this part to - fro Sugarlands. Since there are many vista points for us to enjoy and driving is generally slow on the mountain roads, the estimated time is always more than the time taken.

Where should you stay? | Smokemont Campground

        What would be Smokies without the Smoke? At Bradley Fork River, Smokemont Campground

The best way to enjoy both Smokies and Blue Ridge Parkway in one day would be to stay on the southernmost campground of the Smokies - i.e Smokemont Campground. We did not stay at this campground, although we did enjoy taking a quick detour in the campground. We also liked how the river adjacent to the campground - Bradley Fork River, had smoke emanating from it. We also found out that in comparison with Cades Cove and Elkmont Campground, this had more vacancies.

                                                      Smokies can be dramatic at times.

Clingmans Dome | A half a mile hike to the Observation Tower

                               From Bottom to Top - The Wind multiplies multiple folds

At the end of twisting roads and roads covered in smoke we found ourselves at the parking lot of Clingmans Dome, which could have a great overlook if it was a clear day.

At 6643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The trailhead is pretty steep paved road, with benches on the trails to rest. I loved watching the snails on the log heads along the trails - I found them in brown but another visitor found them in Green.

     The trail also has a detour to Appalachian national scenic trail - the marked hiking trail in the eastern US.

    Meanwhile, a snail rests on the resting log along the trail. I wonder if he has camouflaged himself?

There is restroom near the parking lot and a small visitor center for information at the start of trailhead. As soon as we start climbing up the Observation tower even though the elevation does not seem to be much from the bottom, the wind multiplies itself multiple fold. My hubby enjoyed his airy misty windy encounter at the tower and so did I. We had to literally hold our feet to stop ourselves from flying - yes it was that windy. On a clear day, we could have seen 360 degrees panoramic views of the smokies. But sadly, Clingsman Dome was also zoned out in thick white smoke during our travels.


Newfound Gap | Mountain pass of North Carolina, Tennessee

One way to get a good idea on where we are geographically located, is by standing at Newfound Gap (a mountain pass) that is located on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee (Everyone gets a selfie here). Twice I have been there, and every time it has smoked out making the mountains and the valley disappear into a thick white smoke. I am not complaining because rains and fog seem to be usual in this area. The two times I have been taken this road, it has always rained or drizzled, especially as we come closer to Newfound Gap possibly due to elevation.

Tip: When in this area, carry an umbrella & drive slow.





Waterrock Knob Visitor Center

Waterrock Knob Visitor Center has the parkway's highest Visitor Center. It is a very small visitor center that has small store on one side and a ranger who can help you with information and maps. There is also a restroom near to the Visitor Center. There is also a short and steep hiking trail to the lookout at 0.5 miles.

Tip: Please do carry drinking water with you!

As soon as we reached at the top, the surrounding mountains were covered in fog. I recently read a blog and google reviews on Waterrock Knob, that there is a plane crash site if you hike further from the lookout towards Browning Knob (2.5 miles roundtrip from Visitor Center). Since we did not know and the weather wasn't as nice, we couldn't go there. But if you wish to do it, here's a blog that tells us that in detail. I was surprised to hear that there are close to 54 plane crash sites in the Smokies.










Oconaluftee Visitor Center

The Mountain Farm Museum and Oconaluftee Visitor Center are located at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park if you are driving from Cherokee, North Carolina. For us, it was an exit. We did stop at the center and walked by the river. However, since we were getting late, we skipped the Farm Museum.


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3 Comments

  1. Very beautiful and amazing natural scenery very clean without pollution

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  2. I must say the fog hanging over the mountain seems unreal. Even brook and trekking trails was so amazing. You might had a wonderful experience. Hoping to visit someday. Thanks for sharing the information.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The road is beautiful and so are you

    ReplyDelete

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