Thursday, October 7, 2010

Buffalo Treks: Elk River Falls, Grandfather Mountain and the Blue Ridge Parkway

This post is written especially for Milligan College students who stop and ask me..."Where should we go this weekend?"  With fall break beginning today, I recommend a trip to Grandfather Mountain and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It's your best chance to find fall colors at this point in October -- and it's all within 60 miles! Click here for map.

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To get there from Milligan...
  1. First Stop Elk River Falls: Head through Elizabethton turn Right on 19E and follow this for 23 miles through the towns of Roan Mountain, TN to Elk Park, NC.  (Note that 19E becomes Rt. 194 in NC.)
  2. At Elk Park, turn left onto Old Mill Road (you'll see a sign to Elk River Falls), after a 1/4 mile, turn left again onto Elk River Road, and take this road 4.2 miles to the falls.  It's a short hike down to the falls. Click here for more information and discussion of this majestic waterfall.
  3. Next Stop, Grandfather Mountain: Once back out on Rt. 194 in Elk Park, drive 7 miles. At the town of Linville, NC, turn left onto Rt. 181 (you'll find a Subway and Flick Video on this corner) and drive 4.1 miles.
  4. You'll come to an intersection where you could turn left on 105 and go to Boone or drive straight, staying on 181, and head towards Grandfather Mountain. Go straight and drive 2 miles to the entrance to Grandfather Mountain. There is a $15 per person entrance fee to get into Grandfather. It's worth it because you can spend an entire day exploring the mountain. Besides the Mile-High Swinging Bridge and the Nature Habitats, there are also some amazing hiking trails there.
  5. Final Stop, Rough Ridge Overlook: After Grandfather Mountain Park, continue driving on Rt. 181 for 1 additional mile and you'll reach the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway take the entrance ramp and stop at the stop sign.
  6. From here, turn left and drive 2.7 miles, and you'll pass by Stack Rock Overlook (it's okay, but I'd keep going) and then the Visitors Center to Linn Cove Viaduct (There's a gift shop and restrooms there, and also a neat trail that winds around under the viaduct), followed by a couple more overlooks.  I recommend coming back to the viaduct trail if time allows, but our third destination is Rough Ridge Overlook.  The parking area for this will be on your left at Mile #302.8. Rough Ridge offers the best views of the viaduct -- as well as panoramic views of the mountains in every direction. A half mile hike takes you to a wooden platform, but don't stop there, go another half mile and the views keep getting better.  
  7. View of Linn Cove Viaduct from Rough Ridge
  8. Continue driving on the Parkway and you'll find more to explore....
Boone Fork Parking Area (the entrance point to many trails)
Price Lake (rent a canoe or hike the 2 mile trail that circles the lake)
Moses Cone Estate (miles of great trails)

Hope this helps you have a memorable fall break...have fun!

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