1 Day on the Blue Ridge Parkway!

Photographing the Blue Ridge Parkway: 5 Locations. 1 Day. Endless Photos.

Do you ever find yourself driving through Asheville, NC and wish you could spend a day exploring and photographing the Blue Ridge Parkway? The only problem is that you are short on time.

There is so much to do on the Blue Ridge Parkway, yet it’s hard to choose the best places to explore with such a limited time to explore. Don’t worry! I’ve done the hard planning for you and put together a list of locations with amazing views to fill your day from sunrise to sunset. So pack your camera, hiking gear, lunch, and some snacks. Let’s go!

Note: While I have listed the following locations in a particular order, you may visit them in the reverse. It all depends if you start or end near Asheville. The guide below ends near Asheville. Also, for your convenience, I have provided links to all trail maps at the end of this post.

1. Rough Ridge

This short hike is thus far hands down my favorite location right off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s the perfect spot to catch a glorious sunrise or even sunset, although I prefer sunrise. There are so many spots and compositions to be had along this trail.

For sunrise, start by hiking all the way to the top of the trail, where you have panoramic views. It takes around 20-30 minutes to get to the top without any breaks. By the way, the top of the trail is not the boardwalk section. While this section has some good view, there are even better ones further up the trail. After catching that glorious sunrise at the top, hike back down the trail and stop at the Instagram famous rock for a selfie. Not a fan of the typical selfie? Try my selfie style instead. The golden hour is a great time to get a photo of this rock ledge.

Rough Ridge
Sunrise views from the top of the Rough Ridge trail.
Rough Ridge
Selfie on Rough Ridge’s Instagram famous rock.

2. Linn Cove Viaduct

After exploring Rough Ridge, Linn Cove Viaduct is just down the down the parkway. In fact, you can see it from the top of the Rough Ridge trail. The most famous photos of the Viaduct are taken from a top of a rock that can be accessed by a trail that starts at the visitor center. Alternatively, you can park in one of the pull-offs before the S-curve bend and hike along a path the runs with the road. This route is much shorter, but if you don’t know where to go, it’ll be hard to find the first time.

The morning golden hour shines brightly on the Viaduct and makes for a beautiful image. Just keep in mind that this spot is quite popular and the rock is quite small. You may have to get your shot fast and move on, especially when the autumn colors are at their peak.

Linn Cove Viaduct
Linn Cove Viaduct’s autumn colors basked in golden light.

3. Linville Falls

If you continue on down the parkway, you eventually come to Linville Falls. There are a few trails in this area, but since we are short on time, I would suggest only doing 2 of them. The first one begins at the visitor center and leads you to the base of Linville Falls. This trail is called Plunge Basin and is rated as moderate. Do some exploring at the base of the falls and don’t hesitate to get much closer to the falls. You may have to wade through the water or walk across a fallen tree to do so, but the images will be worth it. Check the water levels and be careful. Camera equipment isn’t cheap!

The second trail also starts at the visitor center and splits off from the Plunge Basin trail. This trail is easy and leads to Duggers Creek Falls, a small but very serene waterfall. When hiking back from the base of Linville Falls, take the last right turn you come to before exiting the trail at the parking lot.

After exploring this area for about 2 hours, you are sure to be hungry. There are picnic areas for you to enjoy a packed lunch just a few hundred feet down the parkway. You can also stop in the towns of Linville Falls or Little Switzerland where they have a couple of nice restaurants.

Linville Falls
Linville Falls from Plunge Basin Trail.
Duggers Creek Falls
Duggers Creek Falls.

4. Crabtree Falls

Haven’t had enough waterfalls for the day? Stop at Crabtree Falls. This waterfall is my favorite in the Blue Ridge. Although I have never been during midday hours, so I am not sure on how bad the crowds can be. Just hope for overcast skies and maybe some rain. This may scare people from visiting the falls and the lighting conditions will make for better photos. Bring an umbrella, rain jacket, and a plastic bag and you should be fine.

Crabtree Falls
Crabtree Falls.

5. Craggy Gardens

To finish off the day, spend sunset at Craggy Gardens. The pinnacle trail, just a few miles north of the visitor center, gives you 360-degree views. The trail isn’t too long but give yourself about 30 minutes to get to the top of the pinnacle overlook. If you have the time, get there even earlier to do some more exploring, since the trail has a couple short turn-offs for some different views.

Craggy Gardens
Craggy Gardens Pinnacle Trail.
Craggy Gardens Pinnacle
Sunrise from Craggy Gardens Pinnacle.

Now you have all you need for a day full of adventure. If you have any other suggestion on how you can make one day on the Parkway even better, leave a comment below. Please share with your friends and family who can benefit from an amazing day in the mountains of North Carolina. Finally, subscribe to future blogs filled with more adventure!

AllTrails Maps and Directions:

Rough Ridge

Linn Cove Viaduct

Linville Falls Plunge Basin and Duggers Creek Falls

Crabtree Falls

Craggy Pinnacle Trail


Hey Nate,
This is Merle Becker in Franklin, TN which is just 20 miles south of Nashville. I stumbled across your post on the Blue Ridge Parkway and wanted to express my thanks for it. We used to live in Memphis, (not sure if you are still there) where I worked in the healthcare field. I am pretty familiar with Asheville since my late son lived there. He was on Townsend going up the mtn. and not far from the BRP. I lost him in 2012 (32 yrs old) to cancer. Still know lot of his friends there and always trying to get back and visit the Parkway. I am retired now and focusing on my photography.
Hope to utilize your info soon.

I’m glad you came across this one! I do still live in the Memphis area. I’m sorry to hear about your son. It’s awesome that you still connect with his friends from the area and travel the parkway. If you’d like any more info on the area, don’t hesitate to ask!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Nate Bowery Ⓒ 2020