Embrace winter activities on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Photo by Monty E. Combs

ViaductSkiTour credit Randy Johnson.JPG

Skiing the Linn Cove Viaduct Skiiers glide across the Linn Cove Viaduct. Photograph by Randy Johnson
January 5, 2017

There's no need to bid ado to the Blue Ridge Parkway come winter. Cross-country skiing, hikes, and a museum are still waiting to be explored.

Rock Out

If it’s just too cold to stay outdoors, make your way to the Museum of North Carolina Minerals, milepost 331, in Spruce Pine. Hundreds of the minerals that make up these beautiful mountains are on display. There are intriguing stories from the miners who pulled these resources from the earth, a machine that simulates the process of metaphoric rock formation, and insights into the birth of silicon chips thanks to Spruce Pine’s rich quartz deposits. Admission is free. (828) 765-2761

The Face of Winter

The starkness of winter simply adds to the dramatic scene at Linville Falls as ice coats the rocky banks below the plunge and evergreens provide the only remaining color. It’s best to leave the strenuous and steep trails to the basin for summer adventures, but the short trek to Erwin’s View is reasonable in the colder months. The trail is accessible from the Visitor Center (closed this time of year), milepost 316, and leads to four overlooks, Upper Falls, Chimney View, Erwin’s View, and Gorge View, which all give different perspectives of the ancient feature that marks the beginning of the Linville Gorge.

Pack a Thermos

Snow or no snow, a winter picnic is a creative way to embrace winter. Instead of packing lemonade and cold sandwiches, fill up your thermoses with hot cocoa or cider and chili or soup and head to Julian Price Memorial Park picnic area, near milepost 297. While you’re there, hike the Boone Fork Trail to see the new 80-foot pedestrian bridge completed this fall  with support funding from the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. If the kids are with you, check out the Kids in Parks TRACK Trail that provides fun activities to complete while walking the Price Lake Loop. The park asks that you leave only footprints at the picnic areas and pack out any trash because cleanup crews aren’t available during the off-season.

Alternative Transport

The carriage paths at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, milepost 294, aren’t just for strolling. When the 3,500-acre estate is blanketed in snow, visitors are welcome to bring their cross-country skis or snowshoes to explore more than 25 miles of trails. The loop around Bass Lake is a popular route, but all the designated trails are open to explore. Horseback riding is also offered on the year-round through Vx3 Trail Rides. The view from the saddle gives a whole new perspective rolling the landscape.

Walkway in the Sky

When sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway are closed due to snow they become winter playgrounds for cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and hikers, but perhaps none are more spectacular than the Linn Cove Viaduct, milepost 304. You can make your way there from the gate on U.S. 221 near Beacon Heights. The chance to trek the engineering marvel that traces the slope of Grandfather Mountain only comes during winter, so be sure to take it.

Stay informed. Stay safe.

  • For Blue Ridge Parkway road closure updates from the National Park Service, click here
  • For weather conditions and webcam images, visit www.brpweather.com.

This article appeared in the Winter 2016-2017 issue of Carolina Mountain Life magazine.