Peaks and Gorges

grandfather mountainThe Blowing Rock is a rock formation that juts out over the John’s River Gorge at about 4000 feet above sea level. The views of the gorge and the Pisgah Forest are immense and breathtaking. The Blowing Rock is so named because of the constant winds that flume up from the surrounding rocky walls. The rock itself is also unique, and is a visual testament to the formation process of the surrounding mountains. This particular rock is officially designated The Blowing Rock Gneiss by Geological Survey of The United States. www.theblowingrock.com. Access to the Blue Ridge Parkway is just 3 miles from the Blowing Rock.

The Parkway was built to appreciate the surrounding beauty of the Blue Ridge, and the section between Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain is not a disappointment. Wide views are common and can be appreciated from the many overlook areas provided. Grandfather Mountain is just 17 miles from Blowing Rock via the Blue Ridge Parkway. www.nps.gov/blri When conservationist John Muir visited Grandfather Mountain in 1898 he described the experience as, “the face of all Heaven come to earth.” The mountain is home to 16 distinct natural communities that can be experienced through a network of trails. There is also a nature museum, animal habitats (for otters, black bears, cougars, and more) and the Mile-High Swinging Bridge. All the attractions, including the spectacular view from the top, are easily accessible by vehicle. www.grandfather.com

The Linville Gorge and Linville Falls are about 11 miles from Grandfather Mountain. They are most easily accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 316. There is a visitor center located here, and trails to views of the massive falls. Sometimes called the “Grand Canyon of North Carolina,” the gorge is one of only two wilderness gorges in the Southern US. The rough terrain is home to miles of old-growth forests and a diverse plant and animal community. The Falls mark the northern end of the gorge. http://ncnatural.com/Resources/Adventure/Gorge/Linville-Gorge.html

Linville Caverns is just another 12 miles from the Linville Falls Parkway Visitor Center. Located just off Hwy 221, the caverns are surprisingly accessible. They are the only limestone caverns open to the public in North Carolina. Visitors can take tours inside the mountain to see the beautiful formations and colors within the caverns. www.linvillecaverns.com