One of the favorite scenic drives in the United States snakes across the high ridges of the Blue Ridge near Sugar Mountain. In fact, this 23-mile section nearby is one of the most beautiful and includes the famous Linn Cove Viaduct around Grandfather Mountain.
The most direct route to the Parkway is about 8 miles from Sugar Mountain via NC 105 & US 221 (near Grandfather Mountain entrance). But we recommend the below 55-mile loop drive that includes 23 miles on the Parkway – from Moses Cone Park to Linville Falls. It includes other stops off the Parkway like wineries!
Directions for Parkway Scenic Drive
From the main entrance of Sugar Mountain, turn right onto NC 184 south. At the stoplight at NC 105, turn left and go about 6.5 miles and turn right onto Shulls Mill Road. After a short distance, take another right to stay on Shulls Mill Road. In about 5.5 miles (curvy road, so take your time), you will reach the Blue Ridge Parkway. Follow signs for North on the Parkway to reach the Moses Cone Manor. After your visit there, head south and look for other places to see by following the mileposts along the road. (Photo above, view of Grandfather Mountain from Beacon Heights overlook.)
- Milepost 294 – Moses Cone Park: Explore the former summer private estate with 25 miles of gentle hiking trails (including Flat Top and Rich Mountain), historic Mansion, Craft Center and horseback riding. Read more.
- Milepost 295.9 – Sim’s Pond: Hike the 2.3-mile loop to the top of Green Knob. Read more.
- Milepost 297 – Julian Price Park: This park centers around a beautiful lake. Hike around the lake or on Boone Fork Trail, rent a canoe, picnic or camp. Read more.
- Milepost 302.8 – Rough Ridge Hike: Look for a small parking area on the right for the trailhead to a hike to wonderful views on a boardwalk atop a rocky ridge along Tanawha Trail. Read more.
- Milepost 304.4 – Linn Cove Viaduct: Driving across the this engineering marvel is so much fun. Stop at the Visitors Center to learn about the construction and hike the Tanawha Trail underneath it.
- Milepost 305 – US 221 Crosses: Exit onto U.S. 221 south for the entrance of Grandfather Mountain or return to Sugar Mountain (8 miles) via Linville. See our Grandfather Mountain Guide.
- Milepost 305.2 – Beacon Heights Hike: An easy half mile hike takes you to a rock summit with multiple places for panoramic views and picnics. Read more.
- Milespot 308.3 – Flat Rock Trail: Stroll a 6/10 of a mile easy loop trail to a rocky cliff with gorgeous mountain views to Grandfather. Read more.
- Milepost 312.2 – Highway 181 Crosses. Take NC 181 south to hike at Linville Gorge. Take NC 181 North to US 221 to return to Sugar Mountain.
- Milepost 316.3 – Linville Falls: Take your choice of trails (easy to difficult) for 5 viewpoints of this well-known waterfall. Hike one to 5 miles. Visitors Center and picnic area. Read more. (Notes for Spring/Summer 2021: Bridge construction south of Linville Falls closes the Parkway, so turn around here and return to Sugar Mtn via NC 181)
- Milepost 317.4 – US 221 Crosses: Take US 221 North to return to Sugar Mountain (17 miles), passing Linville Falls Winery.
2021 Construction Update: The drive over the Linville River just south of the Linville Falls visitor center will be closed for repairs through summer 2021. So after visiting Linville Falls, head north to NC 181 and exit to return to Sugar Mountain. See route on Google Maps.
Blue Ridge Parkway Driving Tips
- Gas up before you hit the Parkway. There are no services or stores.
- The Parkway is open 24/7 and there is no admission fee.
- Check for road closures, especially in the colder months when the Parkway often closes for snow or ice. Go to the Parkway Website for updates or go to their real-time map of closures in our area.
- Since sections close frequently during winter months for snow and ice (the Parkway is never treated with chemicals or plowed), you can hike, snowshoe or cross country ski on it. Our favorite section is walking across the Linn Cove Viaduct. When the gate is closed, park on the Parkway at the US 221 exit near Grandfather Mtn and walk north 3 miles roundtrip to cross the Viaduct.
- Take a picnic.
- If you are driving late afternoon, reverse the trip above to have sun behind you more.
- Take your time! It’s all about the drive.
- Plan ahead for restroom breaks. On this Parkway section, find seasonal restrooms (closed winter months) at Moses Cone Manor and Linn Cove Viaduct visitor center.
- Stop at overlooks to take in the views and take photos there – not as you drive.
- Find many hiking trails along the way. Most are not marked, so do some research in advance so you know exactly where to go. See our hiking guides.
- The early mornings are late afternoons are the least traveled.
- Fall color peak on this section of the Parkway is early to mid October.
- Don’t depend of your GPS to find points of interest along the Parkway since there are no street addresses.
- Dogs are allowed on a leash at overlooks and on the trails. Watch for other wildlife.