Click the map to make it interactive.

The Blue Ridge Parkway and Lake James Loop

Total Distance :: 89.7 miles

Driving Time :: 2.75 hours plus time for gas, food, photos, views and attractions

Ride Summary :

The Blue Ridge Parkway and Lake James Loop is an exceptional ride that starts and ends on the Parkway in Little Switzerland, North Carolina. It offers several challenging sections, awesome views, tight and sweeping curves on mostly low-traveled roads.

Ride Description

The first 10 miles of the ride is heading South on the Blue Ridge Parkway. In this short distance, you will encounter 3 Overlooks with great views and a fun tunnel. You will also enter Crab Tree Meadows Park where it is worth the time to view Crab Tree Falls.

This section of the Parkway has sweeping turns and great views even between the Overlooks. Go easy, feel the road, and enjoy the cruise.

You will exit the Parkway and go South on Hwy 80. This section of the ride is named The Devil's Staircase because of the steep grade and abundance of tight curves as you descend down off the Parkway. Get the feel of the road and go easy on the throttle, because this is a challenging road for about 6 miles. There is good pavement with a good guard rail system and plenty of turn offs if needed.

You will shortly encounter several Trout Farms and Campgrounds before cruising along Lake Tahoma, where you will see Lake Tahoma Casino (currently closed) in the middle of the lake. You will then have some straight-a-ways to open up a little.

At the intersection of Hwy 80 and Hwy 70, take a left turn and head towards Marion. This is the most traveled section of the ride. If you enjoy museums, The Historic Carson House Museum will be on the right. In a few miles you will come to the intersection of Hwy 70 and Hwy 221. Holly's Deli is located right before the intersection if you are ready for some great food. Go straight through the intersection for less then a mile and turn left on 221 B. Go about a half of a mile and turn right on Hankins Road.

You will be heading toward Lake James on a hilly and winding road until you come to a stop sign at a T-intersection where you will be facing Lake James at Burnett's Landing. Take a left turn and run along the North side of the Lake where you will encounter some nice sweeping turns. To the North you will see your first view of the mountain range that you will start climbing back up on your return to the Blue Ridge Parkway. On your right you will see Black Bear Access Area which is very nice with public boat ramps. This is a great place to stop and take in the Lake.

If you're looking for a bite to eat you'll see Marina Drive to the right after the Black Bear access area. Marina Drive will take you to Bear Creek Marina where you can grab a sandwich and take advantage of the deck views of Lake James.

After getting some fresh lake air, start riding and enjoy the sweeping curves and hills on the rural road where you may encounter some deer and wild turkeys. In about 10 miles you will take a right turn onto South Mountain Institute Road where you will pass by South Mountain Children's Home. The road will start to loosen up with some straight ways where you will get some wider views of the distant mountains you are heading towards.

At the intersection with Hwy. 126, go left where you are heading due North with a great view of Table Rock Mountain. Open up your throttle and enjoy the straight-a-ways. You will pass the Linville Access Area with a public boat launch and another great place to stop and take in the lake, especially if you did not stop at the last public access area.

Take a left turn onto Fish Hatchery Road where you will pass by the Fish Hatchery on your left. Turn left on Rose Creek Road which is nice dirt and light gravel back mountain road.

At the intersection with Hwy. 181 turn left and head North. This part of the three lane Highway has great sweeping curves and is an easy fun climb up to the BRP. You will pass by several campgrounds before seeing good mountain ranges on both sides. The range to your left is where you will be riding across the BRP once you reach the crest of this mountain. As you get to higher elevations the curves will tighten. This can be fun or grueling. Feel the road and let it tell you how fast to cruise so you can really enjoy this section of the ride.

You will come to the Brown Mountain Overlook which is a good place to take in some great views to the east or west. Your elevation here is 2760 feet. As you keep climbing, the curves keep tightening and your ears will start popping.

Near the crest of the mountain, you will take a left turn on Hwy 183 West toward Linville Falls. You are basically riding along the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area on a nice rural road in the Pisgah National Forest. At this point you have the opportunity to take a left turn onto a tough gravel road to go to Wiseman's View which has killer views—seriously! Your call. Then keep heading West on Hwy 183 until you intersect Hwy 221.

On your left is Spear's BBQ and Linville Lodge. A great place to eat and a nice lodge to stay the night. If you have not had lunch yet this will please your palate. At Hwy 221, turn right and in about a mile you will intersect with the Parkway where you will enter to the right. At the top of the entrance, turn right and head South on the Parkway.

If BBQ isn't for you, directly across Highway 221 is Famous Louise's where you'll find three meals a day featuring good old-fashioned southern cooking.

In about a mile you will come to an Overlook to the West with great views of the North Toe River Valley. You are currently at about an elevation of 3500 feet. As you continue riding you will encounter some great sweeping curves making for some fun and easy riding. Your views to the East are of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area including a profile view of Table Rock Mountain.

Soon you will be at the east-facing Chestoa Valley Overlook. This is a good place to stop if you feel like hiking a short trail to some incredible views. In the next three miles you will encounter 5 "C" curves. Feel the road, go easy on the throttle and enjoy the ride.

After these great curves you will come to the East facing Bear Den Overlook. This is a "must stop to take in the view". It is one of the best overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Relax, take in the wide view, and breathe the fresh air.

As you continue your ride you will come to the east-facing Heffner Gap Overlook. You are down to about a 3100 foot elevation. Soon you will be at the North Cove Overlook and can see the Orchard at Altapass which is a working apple orchard. If you want to pick some apples or hear some live music you will soon come to the entrance to the orchard.

In the next two miles, you will go by two more east-facing overlooks. The first one offers views of the Loops and the second one offers another view of Table Rock Mountain.

Soon you will ride some more nice sweeping curves before coming to the Intersection of the Parkway and Hwy 226 at Gillespie Gap. At the bottom of this exit is the Museum of NC Minerals. If you are a rock hound you really need to stop and check this out. It is one of the best Mineral Museums in the Eastern United States.

In about 3 miles you will enter the Little Switzerland Tunnel which is about 2/10 of a mile long and less then a mile from the end of your ride.

At the intersection of the Parkway and Hwy 226-A, take a left turn into the Little Switzerland Inn and the Diamond Back Motorcycle Lodge.

Interactive Map

To use the interactive map, you can click on any of the waypoints for more information (see key below map for details on the different waypoint icon types). You can also click on the route segments for detailed directions. Since we use the Google Maps interface, you can pan and zoom easily. Also, you can drag the "Person Icon" above the zoom bar to the route for a 360° tour using Google Maps Streetview system.

Map Key: Start of Ride Start of Ride Intersection Marker Intersection Marker Scenic Point Scenic Point End of Ride End of Ride

Elevation Profile

Key numbers correspond to mile points as listed in the Mile by Mile Directions below.

Elevation Information

  • Lowest Point: 1092
  • Highest Point: 4096
  • Average Elevation: 2355

Grade Information

  • Max Uphill Grade: 12%
  • Max Downhill Grade: -10.6%
  • Avg Grade: 3.6%

Mile by Mile Directions

Mile 0 :: START at the Intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Hwy 226-A at Little Switzerland Inn. Go left out of the parking lot heading South on the Parkway.
Mile 2.8 :: Enter Wild Acres Tunnel.
Mile 3.1 :: Deer Lick Gap Overlook (East facing)
Mile 5.0 :: Three Knob Overlook (West facing)
Mile 5.2 :: Enter Crab Tree Meadows Park -- You need to check out Crab Tree Falls.
Mile 8.3 :: Black Mountain Overlook (West facing)
Mile 10.2 :: Exit BRP to your left at the Intersection of Blue Ridge Parkway and Hwy 80. There is an Overlook with a Parking area for the Eastern Continental Divide. Elevation 3350. Turn right to start your descent off the Parkway heading South on Hwy 80. This section is known as "The Devil's Staircase" because of the many tight curves.
Mile 13.8 :: Area of Trout Farms & Campgrounds.
Mile 18.5 :: Lake Tohama. There is a very interesting structure in the Lake with a walkway to the structure.
Mile 19.8 :: Dam on Lake.
Mile 22.3 :: Intersection of Hwy 80 and Hwy 70. Go left on 70E.
Mile 22.7 :: Historic Carson House Museum.
Mile 24.2 :: Intersection of Hwy 70 & Hwy 221 in Marion. Go straight.
Mile 24.6 :: Turn left on 221 B-North.
Mile 24.9 :: Turn right on Hankins Road.
Mile 28.3 :: Intersection of Hankins Rd. & Lake James Road. Turn left and ride along Lake James.
Mile 30.8 :: Black Bear Access Area. Nice public boat ramps and docks.
Mile 31.2 :: Black Creek Marina. Nice commercial marina with a store offering food and beverage.
Mile 33.5 :: Turn right on South Mountain Institute Road.
Mile 36.8 :: Turn left on Hwy 126 E. Heading North.
Mile 41.7 :: Linville Access Area with easy access to Lake.
Mile 42.7 :: Turn left on Fish Hatchery Road.
Mile 48.6 :: Fish Hatchery.
Mile 50.1 :: Turn left on Rose Creek Road. This is a 2 mile hard dirt back country road. Easy to ride.
Mile 52.1 :: Intersection of Rose Creek Road & Hwy 181. Turn left heading North.
Mile 61.4 :: Brown Mountain Overlook. Elevation 2760.
Mile 67.7 :: Turn left on Hwy 183 W. Heading towards Linville Gorge.
Mile 71.6 :: Entrance to Linville Gorge Wilderness Area.
Mile 72.3 :: Intersection of Hwy 183 & Hwy 221. Turn right.
 Mile 73.0 :: Intersection of Hwy 221 & BRP. Enter Parkway to the right. At the top of entrance turn right and head South on BRP.
Mile 74.0 :: North Toe River Overlook. (West facing) Elevation 3540.
Mile 76.3 :: Chestoa View Overlook. (East facing).
Mile 78.7 :: Bear Den Overlook (East facing). A must stop for view.
Mile 81.6 :: Heffner Gap Overlook (East facing). Elevation 3067.
Mile 83.0 :: North Cove Overlook (East facing). Elevation 2815.
Mile 84.1 :: Entrance to Orchard at Altapass.
Mile 84.3 :: View the Loops Overlook (East facing)
Mile 85.5 :: Table Rock Mountain Overlook (East facing)
Mile 86.7 :: Intersection of BRP & Hwy 226. Location of Museum of NC Minerals and Visitor Center.
Mile 89.1 :: Enter Little Switzerland Tunnel.
Mile 89.7 :: END of ride at Intersection of BRP & Hwy226-A. Turn left into the parking lot at the Little Switzerland Inn and Diamond Back Motorcycle Lodge.


Virtual Blue Ridge

Virtual Blue Ridge is the premier online resource for information about the Blue Ridge Parkway with an extensive travel planner aimed at taking the effort out of your travel plans and putting the fun back in!