The weather has been weird this fall, and that means you might not have had a chance to make it to the mountains to leaf peep. You need to fix this, and there’s no better day than today. Skip work and get yourself to the Linn Cove Viaduct before it’s too late.
What’s the viaduct? If you haven’t been there, you’ve certainly seen photos. This is the 1980s-era engineering marvel on the Blue Ridge Parkway that gives you unbelievable views of the valley below.
Peak colors are right now in the 3,000-foot to 4,000-foot range. The higher elevations are already barren, and the 2,000-foot elevations are still green.
Here’s the route
Basically you take I-85 to U.S. 321 North, all the way past I-40 and into Blowing Rock. Then you jump on the Blue Ridge Parkway for 10 miles south. Easy peasy. I did it on 2 hours, 10 minutes.
Make two stops on the way.
Three, if you’re hungry. The route will take you through downtown Blowing Rock, where there’s plenty to eat. But here are the places you really need to hit.
Julian Price Memorial Park
This is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Incredible lake views. There’s a 2.5 mile low-impact loop that goes around it.
This is another overlook off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’ll probably be crowded, but you should get a parking spot. There’s a moderately difficult half-mile trail up to a massive overlook. This is easy enough to bring your kids/dogs/etc.
Hey look, there’s the viaduct now.
If you go another half-mile, you can get to an even higher vantage point, with 360 views. Worth it. Don’t bring the kids on this one though since you have to go up stuff like this.
Stop first on the north side of the viaduct.
There’s an overlook parking area just before you get to the viaduct and a little path you can take to get your good views and photos.
Don’t worry, if you miss it there’s a turnaround close by.
Then hit up the visitor’s center and walk all the way up to it.
You can get a T-shirt, National Park Service passport stamp, etc. And bathrooms. There’s a pretty little path that takes you right under the viaduct itself. Kind of cool.
Feel free to continue down the Blue Ridge Parkway.
I chose to go another 25 miles down the parkway to the Orchard at Altapass. It’s still about a 2-hour drive home from there, so you’re not losing ground.
[Agenda story: Make this day trip to the Orchard at Altapass this weekend]
During the week, traffic won’t be too bad. You will see some fellow leaf peepers though.
You’re also going to be in the neighborhood of Grandfather Mountain. Here it is from afar. It’s $20 to get in at the top.