A few weeks ago, in early October, my husband and I decided we needed a weekend getaway to escape the hustle of daily life. When we were researching different road trip ideas near us, we found many appealing options but ultimately ended up choosing to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.
The photos we saw of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall were stunning, with leaves in various shades of gold, orange, red, and brown. It was just the type of escape we were looking for. We’d also been dying to try out RV travel for some time, so we browsed Cruise America’s website for the best RV rental.
We rented the Compact Plus RV rental model from Cruise America because it was big enough to suit our needs, was pet-friendly for our new pup Sailor, and wouldn’t be too difficult to navigate the winding mountain roads in. This ended up being the perfect choice for the three of us!
Starting Our Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip
We started our road trip by picking up our RV rental at the Charlotte, NC rental location and headed out from there. We drove from Charlotte to our campground to check in before taking off on the Blue Ridge Parkway for the afternoon. We stayed at Julian Price Campground, which is close to Blowing Rock, NC. It offered us a great place to call home base during our long weekend getaway.
Our First Stop: Grandfather Mountain State Park - Milepost 305
Grandfather Mountain State Park was only about a 15-minute drive from our campground via the Blue Ridge Parkway. The short drive was so beautiful that I almost couldn’t believe it was real. We even got to drive along the Linn Cove Viaduct, which is the most photographed section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Instead of being constructed within Grandfather Mountain, the road curves around it, contributing to the preservation of the mountain's natural glory.
Once we entered the park, we listened to the driving tour in the RV as we made our way to the nature museum and wildlife habitats. The wildlife habitats featured elk, river otters, black bears, bald eagles, and cougars.
It was amazing to see elk up close during their feeding time. We were also lucky to hear the elk call to one another with their signature high-pitched screams. After we walked through the wildlife habitats, we continued on to the trailhead for the Mile High Swinging Bridge.
The Mile High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain
The best part of visiting Grandfather Mountain was, hands-down, hiking to the Mile High Swinging Bridge and walking across it. The hike was easy, at only 0.4 miles to get to the swing bridge parking lot area.
Once we made it to the top of Grandfather Mountain’s Linville Peak, we got 360° panoramic views of the area, and that day, there was a misty fog that lay low in the sky. The 228-foot bridge is America’s highest suspension footbridge and hangs at more than 1 mile in elevation, spanning an 80-foot chasm.
Walking across the suspension bridge was a bit frightening because I’m afraid of heights, but I still got to take a peek down below me. Although I walked slowly and kept my eyes straight ahead most of the way, the swing bridge experience was fantastic.
Grandfather Mountain uses a timed entry system to ensure that areas like the swing bridge aren’t overcrowded at any point. Also, I should mention that you do not have to hike to get to the bridge. You can also drive a two-mile scenic road to get to the parking lot instead of hiking.
Next Stop: Linville Falls - Milepost 316.3
Although we stopped at Linville Falls the next day, it would have been easy to just continue on the parkway from Grandfather Mountain if we had had time. At Milepost 316.3, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, lies Linville Falls — a three-tiered cascading waterfall. There are two different trails you can take to see the falls, and they both are about 1.5 miles.
This trail was more of a walking path than a hike and would be suitable for families with young children. We even saw toddlers on our way up to the viewpoints. The path was wide and mostly flat, with the exception of some stairs to get to the viewpoints. It’s also super dog-friendly, as well!
The rushing falls were beautiful, especially with the backdrop of fall colors. There were viewpoints from the top and the bottom of Linville Falls, and I recommend stopping at both. It was neat to see the waterfall from different angles.
Up Next: The Orchard at Altapass - Milepost 329
On our 20-minute drive to The Orchard at Altapass, we stopped for a quick photo at one of the scenic overlooks along the parkway. When we arrived at the non-profit 501 (c)(3) heirloom apple orchard, it was packed with guests.
The orchard is open Wednesday through Sunday, with no reservations required. The day that we went, there were York and Golden Delicious apples available for picking. It was a pretty simple operation that allowed us to walk in a group into the orchard and fill a bag of as many apples as we could for $10.
There was also a gift shop with tons of local products and souvenirs, along with apple-based desserts and ice cream. The on-site Apple Core Grill restaurant had a selection of meal options for lunch and apple green tea/lemonade. I recommend the Jumbo BBQ Sandwich with pulled pork!
Last Stop: Downtown Blowing Rock
After the apple orchard, we drove back about an hour via the Blue Ridge Parkway and US-221 North to get to downtown Blowing Rock, NC. This community is just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. The atmosphere was incredibly cozy, and there were tons of local shops and restaurants to choose from.
We also enjoyed exploring downtown’s Broyhill Park, which featured a walking trail around Mayview Lake and a beautiful gazebo. That evening, we picked up a candle from High Country Candles and stopped at several other local shops while walking in downtown Blowing Rock.
Our night ended with grabbing a quick bite to eat at the Town Tavern on Main Street.
A Trip Worth Taking
I loved getting to slow down and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life on this long weekend road trip. I highly recommend getting an RV rental from Cruise America and driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway when you get the chance.
An RV made the Blue Ridge Parkway road trip convenient and comfortable for our family, and our experience renting from Cruise America was extremely easy! We hope you get the chance to take an RV road trip soon — it truly is a trip worth taking.