The Blue Ridge Parkway in Jackson County North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway travels along roughly 45 miles of the upper northeastern corner of Jackson County and follows the mountaintop ridge of the Balsam Mountains that form the very edge of the county's northeastern border. This section of the parkway also forms part of the border between North Carolina's Nantahala National Forest to the west and the Pisgah National Forest to the east. This celebrated scenic byway is the jewel of all parkways due to its scenic beauty, enormous length, and near impossible feat of construction. The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles in length, traveling along the highest mountain ridge-lines of the Blue Ridge Mountains. From the Shenandoah Mountains in Virginia to the southern gateway of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are no more outstanding scenic-mountain and valley views in the entire eastern United States than those which can be seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Milepost overlooks along the parkway offer views of the "natural wonders" mountain lovers so admire. Views of grand mountains and deep valleys enjoyed from inspiring scenic overlooks, delights of high mountain creeks and waterfalls, and sightings of wildlife and wildflowers on hiking and biking trails trails all leave you feeling as though you can just reach out and touch the heavens. There's a wonderland of nature with majestic mountain scenery along every mile of the parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway offers an experience that must be sought after and celebrated by anyone who loves to get out and see the wonders of these great mountains.In this writer's personal opinion, the Blue Ridge Parkway between milepost 390 and milepost 469 is one of the most spectacular sections of the parkway because of its towering heights and tunnels. It is an awe-inspiring wonderment of natural wilderness land. Along this particular 79-mile section of byway there are 45 miles cresting the northeastern edge of Jackson County with magnificent overlook views of the Great Smoky Mountains and all of Jackson County below and beyond. The highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway is at Richard Balsam Overlook, at milepost 431. This grand overlook into Jackson County, 6,047 feet above sea level, exposes tremendous, unobstructed views.
This section of the parkway includes the monumental bare rock cliffs of the Devil's Courthouse, at milepost 422.4 on the edge of Jackson County, and the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center, at milepost 451.2. A short upward trail leads to the top of Waterrock Knob, offering a rare 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding Great Smokies, Great Balsam, Nantahala, and Cowee Mountains. On clear days the Craggies Mountains and the Black Mountains can be seen, as well as the summit of Mount Mitchell along the eastern horizon. Mount Mitchell is the highest mountain in the Blue Ridge at 6,684 feet, in comparison to Clingmans Dome atop Old Smoky at 6,643 feet above sea level.
From the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center, the Blue Ridge Parkway begins its slow 18-mile descent to milepost marker 469 and the end of the trail, depending on which direction you began your Jackson County Parkway journey.The Parkway intersects the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along the north edge of the town of Cherokee, on the Qualla Boundary. Visitors can head into the national park and take the Newfound Gap Road across the park or head into the town of Cherokee for some shopping, a visit to the Cherokee Museum, or the Oconaluftee Village. The Fairgrounds in the town of Cherokee hosts numerous events and festivals. Cherokee also hosts the popular and authentic live drama performance of "Unto These Hills." There's also Harrah's Gaming Casino for those who would like to try their luck. No winnings guaranteed, although it might be easier than panning for gold in local "coldwater" streams beds.
More information concerning the location and whereabouts of several overlooks and trails along the Jackson County section of the Blue Ridge Parkway are located in the Blue Ridge Parkway Points of Interest section of this profile.
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