The High Country of North Carolina is a beautiful area to visit year-round. I love the spring, when azaleas, pink laurel and rhododendron trees bloom and grand poplars rise from valley floors. But fall, when the Appalachian Mountains are ablaze in orange, red and yellow foliage, is extraordinary. The best way to behold the splendor of the landscape is to drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile route that connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the southern entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Roll down the car window and enjoy the sweet scent of the fall leaves in all their polychromatic glory.
The multitude of scenic overlooks along the drive offer views of forests, pastoral landscapes and mountains. Certain sections of the winding road are steep with hairpin curves, and the speed limit is 45 miles per hour. The highway’s many pull-off points also provide access to excellent hiking trails and historical markers.
Of the 252 miles of parkway that pass through North Carolina, my favorite stretch is between the towns of Blowing Rock and Asheville. You will cross through Grandfather Mountain State Park, a paradise for hikers, and pass over the Linn Cove Viaduct, which appears to be suspended in midair at an elevation of 4,100 feet. A leisurely drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway is a sure way to soak in the grandeur of the highlands and feel connected to the land and history of this part of the state.