Natural Features & Ecosystems

The obvious and most prevalent ecosystems on the Parkway are FORESTS. These range from those dominated by fir and spruce trees at the highest elevations as you might typically find much further north in the US, to mixed hardwood forests in the moist middle and lower elevations, to the hotter and drier oak-pine forests in a few areas.

Wetlands range from bogs and swamps to highland seeps and lowland floodplains. The southern Appalachian bog is a dwindling form of wetland that supports such rare species as Gray’s lily, the bog turtle, Cuthbert’s turtlehead and the large cranberry.

Mountains are another primary feature of the Parkway, with the Blue Ridge Mountains covering 355 miles of the Parkway. Other ranges that the Parkway touches on include the Craggies, Pisgahs, Balsams and Great Smokies.


There are many gorgeous waterfalls to be seen along the Parkway, although most are only visible by parking your car and going on a hike. When you look at the listing of hikes on this website, pay particular attention to any trails that have the words Falls or Cascades in their name, because those most likely lead to a waterfall. Here are some that you can see in North Carolina:

Hooker Falls, Triple Falls and High Falls are all not far from Asheville and can be accessed during a 3-mile roundtrip hike in DuPont State Forest.

In Pisgah National Forest you can access Looking Glass Falls, Moore Cove Falls, Sliding Rock (natural rock slide), Daniel Ridge Falls, Cove Creek Falls, Slick Rock Falls and Log Hollow Falls.

At milepost marker 417 you can hike to Skinny Dip Falls.

In Gorges State Park you can hike to the beautiful Rainbow Falls as well as nearby Turtleback Falls.

At milepost 316.3, you’ll want to take the time to see the most photographed waterfall in all of North Carolina, Linville Falls. There’s a campground, picnic area and visitors Center. The hikes are moderate, about a mile to a mile-and-a-half, that will take you to spectacular overlook views or down to the base of falls in Linville Gorge.

At the southern end of the Parkway, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and from its Deep Creek Campground you can find a hiking trail that will take you to Indian Falls, Toms Branch Falls and Juney Whank Falls.

And that’s just a taste of the waterfalls that can be found on or near the Blue Ridge Parkway!


Overlooks are one of the neatest things about the Blue Ridge Parkway. The stunning vistas offered along the way are amazing, and there are literally hundreds of them (somewhere right around 240 or so, give or take a few)


There are no fewer than 26 tunnels on the Parkway, but only one in Virginia. That means there are 25 tunnels on the Parkway in North Carolina. It’s important to know about the clearance on these, especially if you’re driving a big RV.