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ROLL DOWN THE WINDOWS and take to "America's favorite drive" for long-range mountain views around every breathtaking bend in the road.

A masterpiece of the National Park System, the Blue Ridge Parkway skirts Asheville as it winds 469 miles from Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park along the highest peaks of the Southern Appalachians. This engineering marvel took half a century to complete, with every mile expertly designed to showcase stunning vistas once reserved solely for the most intrepid of hikers. Now you can pull off and park at any number of picture-worthy overlooks along the slow-paced roadway.

Start your joy ride at the LEED-certified Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center (milepost 384) in Asheville. Check out a 22-foot map and interpretive exhibits, watch a welcome video, and chat with on-site park rangers. You can also set out on foot from the parking lotto explore a portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which traverses North Carolina from the Smokies to the Outer Banks.

For a glimpse of mountain-craft heritage, continue to the Folk Art Center (milepost 382). See craft demonstrations and peruse fine pottery, hand-pieced quilts, turned wood bowls, and other traditional and contemporary pieces on display and for sale in the shop.

Drive north from Asheville to Craggy Gardens (milepost 364) for a spectacle of flora and fauna; pink Catawba rhododendrons burst into bloom mid--to late June. Regardless of the season, linger at the rocky overlooks here for panoramas that stretch for miles. For an even higher view, hike the short Craggy Pinnacle Trail just up the road; from the summit, the Parkway looks like a ribbon unspooling along the mountains.

South of town, the Parkway leads to Mount Pisgah (milepost 408), the 5,721--foot-high namesake of the eastern United States' first national forest-now a half-million-acre wilderness laced with endless trails, waterfalls, rivers, and streams at Asheville's doorstep.

If life is a highway, gaining perspective here is all a matter of course. Learn more at

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Title Annotation:VISTAS
Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 2019
Previous Article:A SUMMER OF GLASS.

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