Blue Ridge Parkway
The first road in the world designed for leisure travel, this 469-mile scenic highway hugs Jackson County’s northwest border.
Passing through 29 counties and 180 miles of national forest, Blue Ridge Parkway is a year-round sight to behold—from spring’s showy wildflowers and summer’s bounty of berries to fall's fiery foliage and winter's icy splendor. The ride-awhile, stop-awhile adventure offers panoramic views of Jackson County and numerous day-hiking opportunities.
The 470-mile linear parkway, of which Jackson County borders some 45 miles, connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with Western North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Construction began in 1935 at Cumberland Knob near the NC/VA state line; the final link was finished 52 years later when the Linn Cove Viaduct opened in 1987.
There are plenty of Jackson County overlooks worth a stop on the Parkway, starting with the Richland Balsam Overlook (Mile 431.4), the highest point at 6,047 feet above sea level. Other Jackson County overlooks worth a stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway include:
Mile 427.6: Bear Pen Gap. While there’s not much of a view, visitors can take a 2.5-mile round trip hike to scenic Wet Camp Gap, a high-elevation grassy area with long-range views. It’s perfect for camping and berry-picking. [link to Wet Camp Gap hike]
Mile 443.1: Balsam Gap. Parkway Entrance: At the US 74-23 Crossover. East 7 mi. to Waynesville, west 12 mi. to Sylva.
Mile 451.2: Waterrock Knob Parking Overlook. Has a visitor information center, and comfort station. The overlook offers a four-state view including a fine panorama of the Great Smoky Mountains. A short trail, with pedestrian overlooks, leads to the top of the knob.
Mile 455.7: Soco Gap. Parkway Entrance: At the US 19 Crossover. 12 miles west to Cherokee, 5 miles east to Maggie Valley.